Keep “Picnic” in Your Picnic!

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“Picnic,” as defined by dictionary.com is, an excursion or outing in which the participants carry food with them and share a meal in the open air.

But also remember the informal definition, “an enjoyable experience or time, easy task!”

This Fourth of July holiday, keep the process of toting that outdoor meal enjoyable and Fourth of July tinyeasy – make sure your picnic is a “picnic!”

If you google, “Picnic Essentials,” the first pass offers items to purchase for an Instagram-worthy picnic. Vogue, Lauren Conrad, and La Crema all weigh in with products and, I have to admit, the bamboo wine table for the sand is actually super-cute! There is an endless parade of “must-have” picnic gadgets and linens of red, white, and blue. Pinterest is practically exploding with festive inspiration!

The patriotic product possibilities and recipes are endless! For easy outdoor fun this summer you are going to want to narrow down your options. But how?

My advice here is simple. For every decision you make while preparing for your Fourth of July Picnic, you will ultimately be better organized if you remember these three things from the definition of the word, “picnic”:
1. Carry food
2. Share a meal
3. Open air

As you set about shopping and preparing for your picnic this holiday weekend, keep reminding yourself – your delicious fare is to be carried, shared, and eaten outside – with ease.

1. CARRYING THE FOOD – Most importantly, you will need something to carry the food. How far will you be carrying it? You have my permission to dispense with the traditional wicker basket in favor of a cooler on wheels, or a wagon and backpacks, especially if you will be toting heavier drinks, bags of ice, lawn chairs, and blankets. Use Instagram-worthy “picnic essentials” to tote smaller fare. As you decide on your menu keep thinking, “How are we going to carry it?”

How you carry your food also involves whether dishes need to be kept at a certain temperature to be eaten safely. Select a sweet, savory, crunchy, variety of foods, but simplify by choosing less delicate options. It is much easier to pack and carry picnic food if you aren’t fretting about it getting crushed or cooling off too fast. (Frozen water bottles keep food cold, but condensate as then melt, so be sure to wrap them! Prevent 7 Food Picnic Safety Mistakes)

On the back end, remember you may also be carrying leftovers back out. Anticipate the end of the night. What will you wish you had to help protect the insides of your bags for sloppy leftovers? A few garbage bags? Will you be packing up in the dark? Yes, you can use fireworks-804838_1280the flashlight on your phone, but it might also be better to keep that safely in your pocket and have a sturdy flashlight on hand as you wrap things up.

SHARING A MEAL – A picnic is about eating and drinking together, so whatever food and drink you are toting, keep in mind that it should be in shareable form. As you consider what to serve, anticipate how it will come OUT of the containers for more than one person! Make sure you pack enough serving spoons, forks, tongs, cups, etc. because you won’t be able to reach in a drawer or cabinet and grab them!

If possible, pack the food in the order it will be eaten, so you don’t have to take everything out at once. Keep the lighter pre-meal snacks on top and sturdy, simple desserts on the bottom. Think about where you will “stage” the food. Will picnic goers be filling their own plates? Do you have options for those with food allergies?

Also consider how much mess and sticky can you tolerate. For example, if you are doing watermelon, you may be better off cutting it up ahead of time and packing it into a container to avoid dealing with all the drippy rinds. However, this could lead to having to deal with drippy containers, so consider placing the cut watermelon container inside an extra plastic bag to catch spillage. Perhaps you will decide to forgo watermelon altogether and share grapes instead!

ENJOY THE OPEN AIR – Consider food that is comfortable to eat outside. From your lap! Skip the recipes that call for raspberries, spaghetti-type cold pastas, and runny sauces – stick with sturdier options.

What impact will the weather have on what you are carrying and sharing? Have a plan for keeping food cool and dry. Grab enough blankets to sit on and consider waterproof options. (Perhaps lay blankets on top of a tarp?)

Don’t forget the bugs! Because you will be carrying and sharing food outside, the bugs will be along for the ride. Have lids or wrap to cover food to keep those curious flies and bees away.

Also important about eating in the open air is COMFORT! Pack hats and umbrellas to keep off the sun while you eat and extra sweatshirts, blankets in case the evening air gets chilly. Pack mosquito repellent, moist towels for clean-ups, and even a small “first aid” kit.

I hope organizing your picnic is a real “walk in the park!” Please share your own tried and Hey+there+boo+boo+we+gota+steal+dat+picnic+basket+_f915f227aa49ce20918b687a7f67da32true “pic-a-nic” tips and recipes in the comments! Yogi Bear and Boo Boo will appreciate it 🙂

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National Moving (de-clutter) Day!

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The day after Memorial Day is the busiest day of the year for moving. Known as National Moving Day, it also jumpstarts the summer moving season.  ~ SpareFoot.com

Every once in a while, I am hired by a client who is already highly organized.  It is often due to a life transition that has pushed the client beyond his/her comfort zone.

Moving is one of those times!

Even with checklists, supplies, and ample time, starting off in a new home without getting bogged down in a myriad of stuff is super challenging.  The logical thing to do is go through every single closet, drawer, and nook and cranny in the home before packing it all up.  But who has time for that?

  1. Make time to go through your stuff!

Seriously.  The less you have to pack, the less you pay to move it.  The less you pack, the less there is to un-pack.  The less…well, you get the idea.  Moving is the perfect time to de-clutter.  And less is best.

It can be difficult for a highly organized person to live in the unsettled environment of a home in transition.  The key is to recognize that it is temporary.  Keep in mind that the goal of the mess on the front end is to be able to settle into the new home more efficiently on the back end.

  1. Start as soon as you can!

Start well in advance and start easy. Go through the closets, drawers, and nooks and crannies.  Look only for obvious “do not want to take to new home” items.  Keep at it as often as your can until you have been through every space.  Donate, discard, recycle and (if you have time) sell.

On the second pass through, it is time to start boxing up.  If it is summer, pack up the winter clothes.  Keep in mind what you will not need for the next few months.  Label it clearly.  As you go, really consider what is going in the boxes.  Does it deserve the time and energy spent to box it up, move it, and find space for it in the new home?

  1. Moving is the perfect time to de-clutter, so you may as well go for it!

Stop thinking of the home as a home.  It is now a staging area for the movers.  If you do not start disrupting the settled environment, you will be in for a rude awakening on the last day!

If you can, start emptying out entire closets, and then entire rooms!  Notice how often you have been saying, “I’ll do this one the last week.”  That is how items get lost in a move.  Waiting until the last minute to comb through too many things results in items getting shoved into boxes without proper labels.  Emptying out a refrigerator takes longer than you think!

  1. Consider Storage

Inventory your furniture.  As you do, move it out from the wall.  Look at it from another angle.   Do you really want it in the new home?  How many lamps will you need? Not sure?

One option is storage.  The following is from SpareFoot.com, “Each year, about 50 percent of SpareFoot customers book storage because of a move. It’s the number one reason people look for storage.”

What you may not know, is that storage has become an on-demand, service oriented industry.  If you are making good headway and do not have a need for an entire storage pod, or storage locker, on-demand storage may be an easy for those “in transition, tough decision items.”Spare Foot pic

Box or bin up those tricky items, or undecided furniture, schedule a pick-up, and get them out of the way!  When you are settled into your new home, schedule a time for the items to be returned.  You will have better perspective when things are settled and decisions should come easier.  Who knows?  You may even decide that storing your collection of holiday decorations off-site is a better solution!

  1. Hire one of NAPO’s Professional Organizers!

If you are feeling overwhelmed, hire a Professional Organizer!  Even if you are highly organized, a move can be overwhelming – even with checklists.  A Professional Organizer can fill just about any role:

Packing boxes

Assisting with decluttering decisionsbox

Taking inventory

Sharing tips and tricks

Removing donations

Keeping checklists on schedule

Being on-site the day of the move

And, of course, unpacking and breaking down boxes in the new home…

 

Now – get moving!

 

How to Whittle a Wardrobe Rotation

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Declare-Order-Logo-Concept-500px miniI get a lot of questions about how I maintain my whittled wardrobe rotation.  Here is a three-step synopsis!

Whittle: to reduce the amount of, as if by whittling; pare down; take away by degrees (Dictionary.com)

When I first started keeping fewer clothes in rotation, the process of whittling down involved PILES and PILES of clothes – so fret not.  You’ll get more efficient at it too!

Because I have been whittling for five years now, I realized I can fit all my options in ONE PHOTOGRAPH!  In fact, most everything will make the cut, because I own so few clothes these days, but I still take the time to think it through.

It is a little weird for me to place everything on the floor and not the bed, but I wanted to capture it all together.  Disclaimer: Some items were pulled from the laundry basket, so they look a little worse for wear!

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What you are seeing are the tops, bottoms, and dresses that I will be choosing from to wear for the next month.  I prefer to start with an empty closet space and hang only the clothes that I will be wearing in the closet.  Everything else I own fits into a six drawer dresser and one under bed storage bin!

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Ready and waiting!

Here is my three-step Whittling thought process:

  1. What will I be doing professionally in the month ahead?   

This month, I have a NAPO-Chicago chapter meeting, my current Declare Order clients, my current position with local elementary school kids, and the National Association of Professional Organizers Conference!  I want to keep this in mind so that have appropriate options for everything.

  1. What color story is emerging?

Based upon what colors I am seeing in magazines, on colleagues, etc. I have an idea of what I might want to be wearing, but it also depends upon what is revealed as I look at the options.  I am pretty sure that I will be using teal and tomato, but navy and white is appealing as well.

Sure enough, the tops divide pretty evenly into these two camps. I see “navy and white” and “teal, tomato, and olive.” So…

 

  1. How can I layer and combine what I have chosen?

Now the trying on begins.  Because of the crazy Chicago weather, as well as air conditioning vs. being outside, I have to consider layering.  I try various combinations to arrive at a decision.  I am going to eliminate any light blue, but keep teal.  I will keep one

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Process of elimination…

of the two trapeze neckline tops (the black because I have a Black and White party to attend).  I will keep the lighter weight of the two navy and white striped options because I can layer and still get the desired effect.  And I am not generally a “print” person, so I will remove two “print” tops.  My goal is to wear everything by the end of the week and have minimal laundry as a result.

In the end, my whittled rotation that has earned closet space for this month or so contains:

1 navy and white print dress

1 navy blazer

2 cardigans (navy and tomato)

2 long sleeve tops (teal and beige print) that have a ¾ sleeve roll-up option

4 short sleeve tops (2 black (not pictured), 1 navy and 1 navy print)

4 no sleeve/strappy tops (olive, navy and white stripe, black, beige and tomato floral print)

6 bottoms (3 navy, 1 dark navy and 1 beige)

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20 basic items TOTAL

The overall color story for the month worn on real people (courtesy of Ann Taylor Loft, Limited Express, and the Gap) is something like this.

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Black Lightweight Wool Two-Button Blazer - Black

Black Lightweight Wool Two-Button Blazer – Black

 

This rotation does not include the two sweaters I decide to keep handy for when I am cold (always) around the house.  Nor does it include pajamas or clothes to wear when doing yard work or walk/hiking.  It also does not include the two long sleeve cotton tops and two tank tops that I might need for layering.  Those live in the drawer.

Think you can do it?  You may have to start by just doing one type of top at a time if you have waaaaay more clothes than I do.  But just becoming conscious and considering the idea of keeping few clothes in rotation can change habits for the better in the long run!

Please comment below with questions and will be happy to help you!

 

Solving the Unwanted Gift Dilemma – With Love

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Several years ago, my family solved the problem of unwanted gifts…Declare-Order-Logo-Concept-500px mini

As is customary, we would gather at my sister’s house on Christmas Day to eat, enjoy each other’s company, and exchange presents. With the addition of new babies, the list of who to buy for was long and ever-expanding.  We amended the gift policy, deciding to draw names and buy for one adult, but still purchase for all the kids.

A few Christmases ago we further amended that policy and as a result, have solved the “feeling good while getting rid of unwanted gifts” dilemma.

Our gift exchange for the adults is now a festive pile of creatively wrapped “White Elephant” gifts!  We actually put as much effort into selecting which items make the cut as we would shopping for new stuff.  And it is an eclectic little pile.

For example, my husband is an Assistant Principal at a middle school.  At this time of year, he receives a lot of random small gifts. This year, amidst the little boxes of Turtles and Starbucks Gift Cards, he received a Karate Post-it Note dispenser.  We wrapped it with care (with  previously used holiday paper and saved up ribbons of course) and added it to our laundry basket of gifts to tote to my sister’s home Christmas Day.  When my brother-in-law picked that gift to open, my nephew went crazy for it!

My elderly mother wrapped a patterned black and beige cotton scarf someone had given her that she found never matched her wardrobe.  My daughter traded for it, put it on, and declared it perfect. It was!

My son, a budding fisherman, also traded over for a gift.  My mother had opened a cheap little pocket knife that my sister confessed to adding to the mix because she thought my son would want it.  She was right.

As these unwanted gifts and household items are opened, exclaimed over, and traded around, merry laughter fills the air.

In addition to recycled gifts, we have also been adding gently used clothing to our gift exchanges.  This year, I brought a tastefully wrapped red cardigan from Eddie Bauer that felt outdated on me.  I presented it to my mom who became quite excited, saying she really needed a cardigan like that.  I also brought a sparkly black Ann Taylor shell top that just does not fit me properly.  It think my sister grabbed that one.

The idea is that the items have new life.  If even just for Christmas day.  Yes, that re-gifted book might go unread, but it can be passed along in the next AMVETS donation box, or added to a Little Free Library.  It seems the guilt is reduced, because the original recipient is not the one doing the actual donating.

In addition, we are modeling for the next generation that there is already enough to go around.  You just have to look for it.  And present it with love.

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A white elephant, “White Elephant” gift!

 

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Coming Out of the Closet – Top 10 Reasons I Love My Capsule Wardrobe

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Coming Out of the Closet – Top 10 Reasons I Love my Capsule Wardrobe

IMG_5549Everyone is talking about capsule wardrobes! Included in the conversation are, “personal uniforms.” It simply means more people are wearing the same clothes all the time. On purpose!

I wear the same clothes all the time.

In fact, I have been living with very few clothes for several years. I kind of felt like I was cheating – especially when people didn’t seem to notice! For me, deciding to have fewer clothes in rotation was a combination of efficiency, frugality, and being picky about what feels comfortable. Having a set number of clothes was working for me, but I wasn’t sure other people would understand.

Now that the idea has hit mainstream, I no longer have to hide my habit in my mostly empty closet!

Thinking about giving it a try? Can’t even begin to imagine? Check out my top ten reasons and let me know what you think!

The “Top 10 Reasons I Love My Capsule Wardrobe!”

  1. EASY DAILY DECISIONS: I wear what is clean. No time is wasted deciding “what to wear.” The clothes mix and match, I am comfortable in them, and they fit. If I discover I don’t wear something, it doesn’t stay in rotation for long!  My daily decisions come down to  which accessories to use.
  2. CLUTTER-FREE CLOSET: Living without boundaries for stuff creates clutter. Putting a boundary on clothes reduces closet clutter and makes my wardrobe easier to manage. I keep a certain number of white hangers for tops and black hangers for bottoms. If I find I am in need of an extra hanger, I probably have too many items in rotation!
  3. PILE-FREE LAUNDRY: I run out of clean items about once a week. Most everything gets tossed together into a Cold/Cold wash cycle and air dried. Some items air dry right on their hangers. If I wear something for a few hours, I hang it back up inside out to wear again later in the week. No more piles of cast-offs withering on the floor too wrinkled and dusty to be worn!hanger
  4. EVERYTHING FITS: I gained a few pounds over the winter and changed the clothes in my wardrobe rotation accordingly. Experience told me it was a temporary gain, so I pulled my elastic waistband pants into heavy rotation. Now the winter weight has been shed (Whoot!) and my favorite jeans and summer capris are out of the drawer and back in the mix!
  5. CALORIE-FREE CHEATING: When I get tired of the clothes in my rotation, I “cheat” and borrow something – from myself or my teenage daughter. I pulled on a “trendy” cardigan of hers a few mornings this winter rather than purchase something new. Cheating helps to get over the blah days, or times when I need a change and accessories just aren’t cutting it.
  6. I LEARNED I DON’T LIKE TO WEAR RED: I like black. Or navy blue. Most everything in my rotation is black or navy blue. Whenever I have red in rotation, it tends to hang there all week. Over time, I just stopped including it. Even the smart red cardigan I grabbed for free at my SWAP party is back in the drawer and is probably headed to the donation pile. Who knew?
  7. BUYING SOMETHING NEW IS A “BIG DEAL”: I don’t shop for clothes very often and when I do it is with a purpose. Not just “anything” gets into my rotation. For Valentine’s Day, my husband bought what has become my new favorite thing. It is a BB Dakota Oliana French Terry Jacket that has taken me from February to June! I have worn it casually, or more dressed up with slacks and a scarf. My husband is pleased he found such a versatile addition! (Little shout-out to Jill over at Jeans and a Cute Top Shop for hooking him up!)
  8. OLD FAVORITES: Speaking of favorites, I have a pair of black elastic waistband slacks that my sister “donated” to me over ten years ago. I air dry them every time I wash them. These trusty slacks have been in active heavy rotation about four years now because they work with everything! I stitched together a few seams and recently purchased a possible replacement. They deserve to be retired!hanger
  9. THE JOY OF ROTATING: Ahh, rotation day! Rotation days happen about once every two months. I sort through clothes that are not in rotation and make the appropriate seasonal changes. I usually start with too many pieces and spend an hour or so deciding what I will wear for the next two months. I used to select a “color story” so it took longer, but I have become pretty attached to black, navy blue, and grey and my clothing inventory is at an all-time low.
  10. ONE LESS THING: Over time, I have developed more of a “personal uniform” and have purchased two of the same item (sometimes in a different color) when necessary. Not having to spend time on my wardrobe every day, frees up my time and keeps me on schedule. It is one less thing.

Clothes are actually really simple. We are the ones who make them complicated. Time to declare a little more LOVE in your basic wardrobe! Try it with your kids too!

Simplify – I Dare You

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Simplify – I dare you!

In theory, simplifying sounds easy. Get rid of the stuff you don’t need. Reduce your number of activities. Create a weekly menu plan. Take technology breaks. Budget. Get rid of MORE stuff you don’t need…

In his book, Simplify, author Josh Becker states: “Since becoming minimalist, we have saved money, reduced clutter, and removed distractions. Our home is cleaner. And three-day weekends are spent together as a family, not cleaning the garage.”

Sounds idyllic, right?

But it is HARD.

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We live in boundless times. The internet connects us to more information than we can possible use. With access, we can read, learn, shop, share, hire someone, meet someone, browse, work, stress over, and entertain ourselves at any hour of the day or night. We love this access. But, boy, do we have a difficult time managing it!

Errands are boundless too. We run in and out of here, and then in and out of there, swiping cards in a succession of mini-tasks. We eat meals in the car. A store “at the corner of happy and healthy” even welcomes us at 2am!

How, then, is it possible to put a limit on the boundless? The quantity of stuff in our lives, the number of activities we shuttle from and to, the amount and type of “food” we consume, the technology that connects us, the amount of time we work, and the more and more stuff we move from here to there and there to here is HARD to simplify.

So, how do we do it?

By being BRAVE.

By being brave enough to do without orange juice until a planned shopping trip. Even though it is easy to just “run out and grab some.”

By being brave enough to wear the same winter coat for a third year in a row. Even though having “the latest” style is super-tempting.

By being brave enough to admit that you will never actually scrapbook the early accomplishments of your three beautiful children and collect and preserve everything in a box – like your parents did for you.

By being brave enough to establish boundaries with your kids rather than defaulting to, “Text me…”

By being brave enough to say, “No.” to activities for your kids that require late practices.

By being brave enough to turn off e-mail and Facebook notifications.

By being brave enough to have people over.

By being brave enough to resist a sale. Or a discount. Or Kohl’s cash.

By being brave enough to let your kids stay home and complain about being bored – without “finding them something to do.”

By being brave enough to admire the display on the “endcap” without some of it ending up in your shopping cart.

By being brave enough to subscribe to fewer magazines.

By being brave enough to hang and use only a few of your favorite clothes at a time.

By being brave enough to purchase fewer clothes for your kids.

By being brave enough to ask for help.

By being brave enough to accept help.

By being brave enough to reduce, and reduce, and reduce, until you can take care of what you already have.

By being brave enough to let simple,

be enough.

Five “Real Simple” Organizing Ideas for the Not-So Simple Holiday Season

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giftsI turned the page in this month’s Real Simple magazine and read this:

“100 Inspiring Surprising Time-Saving Jolly-Good Ideas to Make Those Holidays the Happiest Ones Yet.”

Yes, this is the actual title of the article – “100 Inspiring Surprising Time-Saving Jolly-Good Ideas to Make Those Holidays the Happiest Ones Yet.” Kind of sums up the frantic nature of the holidays doesn’t it? Not really that simple!

Spurred on by the promise of time-saving ideas, I plowed through the list. It took two days, but I managed to read and consider all one hundred.   For the most part, it was as promised – a festival of merry options. Contributors offered mini-blurbs about their own holiday traditions, recipes, and offered mugs of good cheer.

Within the trappings of the 100 blurbs, I discovered a few organizing gems. I have shared five below to help make the holidays a little simpler, while maintaining the jolly. Perhaps you do one of them already? Or perhaps you will become inspired; not only during the holidays season, but into the New Year and beyond!

  1. Group decorative objects on trays to help holiday accents look deliberate and put-together

We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in our home, so I have always displayed our modest Hanukkah décor in a grouping. I would agree that it looks more put-together, is easier to clean around, and I can make an impact with fewer pieces. I tend to display the Christmas items in cheerful groupings too – all the Santas together, or snowmen, or certain shades of red.

On a practical note, I am a fan of using trays for a put-together look organizing everyday objects. Try one for those random items on top of a dresser, kitchen counter, or desk in the home office!

  1. Number holiday storage boxes in the order you need to bring them out

I don’t really need to do this in our home because there are so few containers (yep – real simple!), but outdoor lights would be my #1. I start decorating after Thanksgiving – as soon as there is an unseasonably warm day. The Christmas tree is small and less of a focal point in our home, so ornament containers would be last.

This year, I will make sure the lights are the last back on the shelves so they can be first out next year! Next November I will be patting myself on the back. If you do not already have your holiday collection contained and labeled, make this the year you do it before you put it all away for the season.

  1. Have a re-gifting party

My side of the family has a re-gifting “White Elephant” tradition on Christmas Day. We gather, open re-gifted gifts, trade ruthlessly, and have a few laughs along the way. Recycled wrapping paper is encouraged and wrapping gifts from largest to smallest works great because scraps from large gifts can be used to wrap the small ones. Last year, I received a wonderful book, “The Language of Flowers” and never-worn (I hope!) holiday socks!

Host a “Swap Party” any time of year and ask guest to bring excess home décor, DVD’s, sweaters, and/or accessories. Thrifty and entertaining!

  1. Ship presents on ahead unwrapped, then wrap when you arrive

Clever tip! No need to lug wrapped gifts while travelling. Something always rips, doesn’t it? I use several laundry baskets to organize gifts when travelling in the van, but it would be easier to wrap once we arrive. Or at least wait to put the finishing touches on. Definitely inspired to pack the wrapping and trims separately and try this one!

  1. Kids too young to read? Put their photos on their gifts to make them easier to find

Aww…we have done this. Highly recommend for those special kiddos on your list! Heck, why not do it anyway for anyone using goofy old photos from the piles you have in that back cabinet. Maybe it will inspire you to sort, organize, and contain your old photos!

BONUS JOLLY IDEA!!!

Serve caramelized bacon as an appetizer

Searched back up the 100 list for this one. I know, it is not an organizing tip, but – bacon. With brown sugar. I have yet to make a successful batch as compared to a friend’s version, but this reminded me to attempt it again. Because, bacon.

Wishing you a Simple Jolly Holiday!

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