Organize Your Holiday Gift-Giving

With less than two weeks left until Christmas, many people are starting to feel the stress of the holidays — especially if they still have gifts to buy. It was relatively easy to shop until this point in the season, but the pressure is now on to find, buy, wrap and give those special gifts for everyone on your list.

If you like to shop online (and who doesn’t?), you must allow time for whatever it is to travel from the warehouse to your door in time for you to get it under the tree. This year, Free Shipping Day — the day many retailers offer to ship purchases free of charge with the guarantee they will arrive in time for the holiday — is Friday, Dec. 15. After that date, shoppers will need to pay expedited shipping fees or brave the crowds in stores to get their gifts in time.

The organized giver, however, has a list of people for whom they will be buying. If you make such a list ahead of time and stick to it, says Step-by-Step Declutter, you can avoid overspending and slash the stress of shopping. Use a spreadsheet to track recipients, gift ideas, spending and progress, but don’t feel you have to buy for everyone. Sometimes, a thoughtful card will show you care without adding to the clutter.

Several apps can help you manage your holiday shopping. Santa’s Bag can track your shopping list and spending on the iPhone, while Christmas Gift List can do the same on the Android OS. Stuck for ideas? Invite the giftees on your list — especially the kids — to make their wants known with an Amazon Wish List, which functions like a bridal gift registry for any occasion throughout the year.

If you go shopping during the last two weeks of the season, get creative by going beyond the strip mall. Thrift stores — many supplied by generous donations to ClothingDonations.org — are a great place to find unique, vintage items at low prices. Or you can give a home-cooked meal, baked goods, fruit or flowers instead of something that just adds to the clutter, Cambria Mortgage’s gift guide suggests.

You can share your knack for decluttering and still score a gifting “win” by giving the people on your list an experience instead of a thing, says the Our Streamlined Life blog. Give an Airbnb gift card to inspire adventures for those who like to travel frequently, or sponsor an evening class to encourage someone on your list to build a skill that will last a lifetime.

Some people will want things, of course, and once you buy them, you can keep the household clutter in check by establishing a gift-wrapping station. Better still, keep those rolls of paper, tape and ribbons in a single storage bin that you can pull out and put away quickly for every wrapping session.

An organized gift-giver is a confident, successful and stress-free gift-giver. And who knows? Maybe your penchant for organization will spread, and the gifts you get will be great, too. Happy Holidays!

Buy Only What You Need During Cyber Week

The holiday season is in full swing, and retailers eager to end the year on a profitable note are publicizing deals by the boatload for Cyber Week — the busiest online shopping days of the year.

The deals are tantalizing. How could you not buy that toy/game/gadget when the price is so low? But if you let yourself get carried away with the perceived savings, you may just run out of money altogether — and the space to put those things.

As a busy consumer shopping for gifts and other goods, you should make every attempt to spend only what you need to spend during the holidays. Some of the deals online and in stores this week are truly once-in-a-lifetime, but you and your giftees may not really need whatever it is.

There are things to consider buying during Cyber Week, of course. First, Buzzfeed says, you should look for great deals on household items you already use, appliances you’ve held off on buying, electronics, shoes and more.

But approach your shopping with a focus on what you (and the people you buy for) can really use and appreciate. “Ask yourself whether you would buy it if it weren’t on sale,” Apartment Therapy advises. “Is it on your list? Do you need it? What makes it a ‘good deal’?”

Buy or receive too many things, and you may not have enough space for all of the junk (er, merchandise) changing hands during the holidays. If you’re a longtime reader of the Organizing Blog, you may have some room for new stuff, but keeping your life clear of clutter is an ongoing process.

Try the “one in, two out” rule as you accumulate things this season: For every new item you allow into your home, donate or trash two to make room. Even if you try to cheat the rule by balancing large items with small ones, you will eventually slash your levels of stuff.

Alternatively, try to buy yourself and others only “uncluttered gifts” that get used up fast, such as candy, wine or dinners out. Also good are gift certificates and event tickets; they show you care while creating memories instead of clutter.

Finally, today is Giving Tuesday — the annual event that encourages donations of money and time to nonprofit organizations and causes. Participate in it, and not only will you keep unnecessary stuff out of your life, you’ll get a warm feeling that lasts all season long.