This past Christmas, I spotted a Michael's ad in one of my magazines. Probably Better Homes and Gardens since that is the only one I subscribe to at present. The ad showed a wreath made of snowflakes. On closer inspection, the snowflakes turned out to be made with Martha Stewart paper punches. I fell in love. I went to Michael's. Apparently everyone else in my neck of the woods had also fallen in love with these paper punches. I found some other snowflake punches by other companies with snowflakes in 3/4" diameter and 2" in diameter. (Though there was a lack of anything in between those sizes.) I bought these "substitutes" anyway, but still wanted something in between. So I ordered two Martha Stewart punches from amazon.com. When I got the punches, I sat down while watching television with my daughters one night and with a few sheets of white paper, I punched a gazillion snowflakes. Well, maybe not that many. With some of these snowflakes, I made a "mat" for my resin and metal birds to stand on. I put a few here and there around the house for decor. But I have come to the realization that the best use of these punches was therapy! Punch! Punch! Punch! It was very relaxing.
A little closer to Christmas, I discovered rubber stamps. Now, to be completely honest, I have been fascinated for the past 30 years with rubber stamps. It is amazing how a backward design can look so good once it's inked up and stamped on paper. So I decided I would make our Christmas cards next year. I found a stamp for the front of the card and a stamp with a sentiment on it and bought a few embellishments. I was ready. But I decided perhaps I should get a magazine with some card designs in it for more inspiration. Oh, these cards were beautiful and made with rubber stamps! At Hobby Lobby's 40% off week on Stampabilities rubber stamps, I bought a few more stamps. Later, I bought a few more. I discovered the clear stamps and got some of them as well. Now my collection of stamps has grown enough to fill up 2 of those Rubbermaid sets of plastic drawers that you can put on a closet shelf. Oh, I did finally buy some stamp pads as well! I suspect that once I start stamping--Stamp! Stamp! Stamp!--it will also prove to be therapeutic.
Additionally, I found a book on rubber stamping and after looking at it, realized it had a "workshop" on stamping in it. The stamping techniques were reminiscent of art classes what with the decoupage techniques, the water color tips, color and composition lessons, etc. So now my two youngest daughters are going through this book as an art credit for homeschool.
Stamping is nice if there are also some other tools handy. So with a 40% off coupon, I bought a paper and card scoring "table" and bone folder. (Which is plastic.) With these you can score cardstock to fold into cards and score paper to fold into envelopes. Wanting to play with the scorer immediately, I grabbed some paper and made a couple of envelopes. But that wasn't enough, so I decided that I had some magazines with beautiful pictures on them, what would those look like? I've gone through a couple of Christmas magazines and made small gift enclosure-sized envelopes with ornaments, trees, cookies, and other Christmasy items on the fronts of the envelopes, made envelopes from home design magazine pages with wall art, flowers, and furniture on the fronts of the envelopes, and made envelopes from a Williams-Sonoma catalog--a beautifully set table, decorated cookies, colorful paring knives, peppermint bark, mugs of hot chocolate. (Just wait Pottery Barn!)
Now I'm interested in embossing. Anyone know anything about Sizzix, Cuttlebug, or the other embossing machines? If you aren't crafty, please tell your crafty friends to let me know.
So, I decided to type out everything that I had done in order to have a more organized Christmas in 2011 and it turned into about 3 pages of 12-point type! Let me point out that the reasons I wanted Christmas more organized were because there were things that we enjoy doing at Christmas time, but because of the lack of organization, were always undone or left until the last minute and squeezed in. Perhaps these things were forgotten, perhaps other things just seemed more important to accomplish, I don't know. I also wanted the list-making more organized. Actually I wanted to stop the constant list-making. Why make the same lists over and over? I wanted the decorating to be done before the week of Christmas. I wanted the undecorating to be done before FC's spring break in March. With all this in mind, I set out to organize Christmas.
Way back when, I read a book by Pam Young and Peggy Jones called "Sidetracked Home Executives." That book changed how I did things to and for my house and my family. Everything was so organized! My house, my cleaning and laundry schedules, even my purse. Unfortunately with the arrival of children, the system fell apart for me. It was years later that I finally figured out that as long as I was in almost complete control of my day, using index cards to organize one's self and one's doings worked great. But when children came along, it didn't work any more for me to reach into my box and pull out an index card to see what I was doing next. What worked for me was a master list for the day. These at-a-glance lists would allow me to choose something to fit the time I had between laying the baby down for a nap and her expected wake-up time about 20 minutes later. (I had one baby out of 7 that slept regularly beginning at about 4 weeks.) I did the best I could to create a new system, but there was always something lacking.
Until Marla Cilley came along with her book "Sink Reflections." Her system is a notebook system, but it is based on the SHE system by Pam Young and Peggy Jones. I am still working on making the use of the notebook which Mrs. Cilley calls a Control Journal a daily habit, but when I do use it, things run so smoothly. One of Mrs. Cilley's strategies is to make lists of routines such as a morning routine and an evening routine. There are things that you do every morning and things that you do every evening, so you list these and put these lists in your notebook. If you find yourself making the same list over and over again, make a master list and put it in the notebook.
So I decided to adopt this idea for a Christmas Control Journal. Now Mrs. Cilley has one of these in printable form on her website, but it didn't suit me. There are other websites with pdf files so you can create Christmas notebooks in order to be more organized, but these were not set up in a way that suited my family. So I made my own sheets. I think I finished the basic notebook, at least finished with what I thought I needed back in April and then I waited until this Christmas rolled around to put it to use to see how we did.
The results? Until my husband came up with some last-minute gifts to buy on December 24, I had all the presents for my daughters bought and wrapped 10 days before Christmas. This was outstanding considering I never even started wrapping gifts until the week of Christmas. To be fair, I will mention that husband wrapped the 3 last-minute gifts that that he bought.
Though we did not make all the Christmas cookies that we usually make every Christmas, we did make quite a few. I didn't hear any complaints about the lack of cookies. I plan on changing things for next Christmas, but I was pleased.
My whole first floor was decorated this year unlike last year. Still no Christmas village, but that is because I really don't have a place to put it. If there was an outlet in the stairway, I'd put it in the window seat there, but alas alack!
We watched more of the Hallmark-type Christmas movies that we recorded. There are still quite a few left in the list on our DVR, but we also watched quite a few.
Christmas dinner went very well as did Thanksgiving dinner.
The gingerbread house and the gingerbread trees did not get made. I think that two years in a row of this not getting done speaks to its overall importance to our Christmas activities. There will probably not be a gingerbread house next year since I'm not planning on buying one next year.
There are some things in my notebook that need to be revised, but generally I have organized Christmas for now. When our lifestyle changes because of changes in our lives, it may be work that has to be done again! No matter. I enjoyed it because I love to organize. I'm sure I'll enjoy it again.
Hoping everyone's holidays were quite wonderful!
Yes, unfortunately, I did write "Part One." That is because I know it will take me more than 3 days to figure out how to do it and of course, as I do, anyone who happens upon this blog will be the ones to suffer for it!
Just for your information, I used to be quite organized, both time-wise and space-wise. Even after having my first three children, the laundry was always done, the house was always clean, the groceries were always bought and put away on a particular day of the week, I sewed and did crafts, I wrote very long and handwritten letters to family and friends, my linen closet looked spectacular as did all the closets in the house. I think what happened is that on top of the accumulation of stuff that I eventually couldn't keep up with, we had a new baby and started homeschooling within two months of each other and I never did adjust to that. Now I'm paying for it.
Back to Christmas. I wrote in my last blog that the best time to organize Christmas was after Christmas because then you could tell what things worked and what things didn't.
So, what didn't work?
Buying presents 5 days before Christmas. Not that we bought all of our presents 5 days before Christmas, but that we bought any presents 5 days before Christmas, because, you see...
Wrapping presents 4 days before Christmas also doesn't work. Since I have a system whereby we (mostly me, but hubby approves) can organize the order of the unwrapping it necessitates that the wrapping be done all at once. So...
My system needs to be revised and updated so that I can wrap presents as they are bought and still use the same idea for organizing the order in which they are unwrapped.
Buying presents in December didn't work. Buying presents at stores necessitates that I get out of the house. Not that getting out of the house is a bad thing, but where we are currently living, just making a "quick dash" to Target involves a roughly 10 mile trip on very congested roads and so the "quick dash" is closer to a couple of hours. If I made quick dashes like that even every other day, my work time at home is greatly decreased. The basic upkeep of the home, the laundry, the meals, the regular errands must be done. But, alas, decorating can wait. Or, as it turned out, just not be done at all. So...
The decorating didn't "work" this year. My lighted village was not put out. My snowmen were not put out. Pretty much all that I put out was my decorations on the mantle. Obviously, one cannot start decorating for Christmas in the summer. Well, I know that some people who do these magnificent lighted displays in their yards probably start soon after that, but we're not talking grandiose decorating here. Lighted village, snowmen here and there, a mantle with garland and candles and a countdown house, small decorations on the kitchen bookcase, table centerpiece in the dining room--you get the idea. I do not want to decorate for Christmas until after Thanksgiving, so I must figure out when that can be done. So, if I do my shopping before December, then I can use the time I spent shopping for the decorating.
Doing crafts didn't work. Actually no crafts were done at all. I used to look forward to December when I was a girl in public school. I made "bell" ornaments out of those paper egg cartons, a wreath out of computer cards, angels out of styrofoam cones and balls and pipe cleaners--no I don't "do" angels at Christmas, but the public school sure didn't mind when I was a girl--lots and lots of crafts in school at Christmas time. I love crafts. Two Christmases have passed now and the craft I bought to do last year still sits in my crafts armoire waiting for a chance to be done. If I did less shopping for presents in December, I might have time for crafts, too.
The cookie baking didn't work as I had hoped either. Now the girls didn't want to have a list of stuff to do before Christmas, but I do love to have a nice big platter of cookies to munch on Christmas morning. Something my mother started at our house when I was a girl. You want breakfast? Here, eat some cookies. They have eggs and milk and sometimes fruit--what more could you ask for? The tradition has lived in my home as well. But this year, no big platter of cookies. If I didn't shop as much in December, then perhaps I'd have time for baking more cookies, too.
This is just a sampling of things I want to work on for organizing Christmas.
What did go well, you ask? (Well, we are going to pretend that you asked.)
Christmas dinner was great! Years ago, I simplified Christmas dinner. Baked ham, potato casserole, asparagus with hollandise sauce, cranberry-apple salad, homemade buttermilk biscuits and cookies for dessert. This year, I decided to throw in a pecan pie. This year we also prepared a good bit of the dinner on Christmas Eve. Prepared and baked the potato casserole, prepared and refrigerated the cranberry-apple salad, mixed up and refrigerated the buttermilk biscuit dough. On Christmas morning, when we got up to open the presents, I put the ham in the oven to bake. Afterwards, my girls cooked the asparagus (from the produce section, not the freezer section as they were last year for a lack of it in the produce section), cooked the hollandaise sauce, rolled out the biscuit dough and baked them and set the table. I put the water on to boil for tea. Then I took a shower. Yes! Christmas dinner worked just fine for me!
Christmas cards! I actually sent some this year! I didn't get everyone I wanted sent a card for lack of addresses. One of them got returned because the recipient had moved and I didn't know it. But I got cards sent out well before Christmas.
Ingredients for cookies and Christmas dinner worked out well. I listed all my ingredients needed for these back in November and divided the list up by how many weeks I had to buy the items. The only thing I left out was the ingredients for our Christmas Eve dinner. Christmas Eve is when we go on a drive to look at the lights and other adornments that people have used to decorate their houses outside. Years ago, in the poor days, one day we ate at Subway and my girls loved the "fancy" sandwiches. So, once a year, on Christmas Eve, I made room in our grocery budget for sourdough, Jewish rye, and some other kind of "fancier" bread, roast beef (Cajun back in Alabama, but unavailable out here); smoked turkey breast, and honey ham; provolone, Swiss, and some other cheese; olives and pickles, potato chips, maybe some dip, and soft drinks. (No, at one time we did not buy potato chips and soft drinks on a regular basis. Oh, the good ol' days!) The Christmas Eve dinner tradition has stuck. This year, because of the weather, we made our drive the eve of Christmas Eve and I was unprepared for our meal. Two of my daughters headed out at 4:00 in the afternoon to buy what we needed. Otherwise, there were no last minute trips to the store for any other food for special meals. (Oh, except the apples for Christmas dinner. I had forgotten to check them off on my list.)
Again, there is probably more, but these come readily to mind.
And of course, as always, I usually have some sort of spiritual application that I have made from some of the daily happenings in my life.
To better organize Christmas so that things will flow more smoothly, there will less mishaps and last minute trips to the store, basically so Christmas will be better next year, the first thing I realized I needed to do was to figure out what worked and what didn't. If something worked, keep it the way it is. But if it didn't work, figure out a way to make it better.
A lot of people are reflecting on the past year this week. Some of those are "studying" themselves to see how to be a better workman for God.* They are asking themselves, "What worked and what didn't work?" As I reflect on the much less important occasion of Christmas to see how to make it better and ask what worked and what didn't work, I realized that I must reflect on the much more important occasion of Christ's return. I must be ready for that. In my life, I must ask, what did I do that helped me to be a better workman for God? What did I do that did not help me to be a better workman for God? As we were reminded in our sermon last Sunday, it's not just things that we do that need to change, but things we don't do that need to change as well. It's also not just things we do, it's things we say and things that we think. What changes do I need to make to be a better workman for the Lord? The changes I hope to make to organize Christmas will probably help. But things happen and Christmas might come next year or it might not. However, Christ will most certainly return. I need to constantly ask myself, "What works and what doesn't?"
*2 Timothy 2:15, note the rendering in the NKJV or ESV.
"Organizing Christmas" sounds like a movie title. Was it by any chance?
Yes, I am organizing Christmas, or as the author of one of the Christmas organizing notebooks titles it: Simplifying Christmas. That makes it sound less heartless. I have decided, though, that the best time to figure out how to organize Christmas is actually after Christmas because that is when you figure out what you wish you had done or not done. You write it down and then try to find a solution to doing things the way you wish you had done it. Easier said than done.
As for "other things" I have been organizing "The Pile" of paper. Interesting and also humorous that "The Pile" was in capital letters in the authori's book. Oh, the book is "Getting More Done in Less Time" by Donna Otto. Lovely first name, don't you think? I have a pile of paper in a large plastic box and another one in a cardboard box near my desk. Yesterday I decided to tackle the smaller pile in the cardboard box. I read her chapter so I will know how to set up my "instant" file. (Not what she calls it, but what I call it. That would be a desktop file that you can instantly access to drop things into it and instantly access it to pull things out of it. You see, filing cabinets are "Black Holes." Once something gets put in the filing cabinet, it disappears. At least at my house it does.)
Okay, so I'm reading her chapter on "The Pile" and how to file it in the instant file. She talks about how after six months to a year, you decide that you are tired of spending at least 10 minutes several times a day to find something that you know you put into the pile and so you go through it and organize it. You end up tossing about 40% of the pile of paper. You vow never to let those papers stack up again. But you do.
It was the 40% that got me. I looked at my two boxes of papers. Would I really toss out 40% of those papers? I was highly skeptical. After all, those papers were put into The Pile(s) because they were important and I didn't want to lose them.
So, armed with my homemade instant file, some file folders, a pencil (for temporary labeling), and a good bit of The Pile, I set to work. When I finished, I looked at the small handful (not two hands, just one) of Post-It notes that I was going to throw away. I guess I showed Mrs. Otto, didn't I? Forty percent? Ha! More like 4%.
I decided to count what I had kept and what I had put in the "toss" pile on the table. (Yes, I know I should have brought a wastebasket with me, but I didn't.) Now you must understand that Mrs. Otto is talking about "items" not each separate piece of paper. So if you have an article that is two pages long, it counts as one item even though it's on two pieces of paper. Okay, I had 16 items in the "toss" pile. That meant that I should have had 40 items in the first place because 16 is 40% of 40. So, 40 - 16 = 24. I should have saved 24 things. Well, in my first file alone I had 10 items. No way was I going to have kept only 24 items with 7 more files to count! So I continued. 11...12, 13, 14...15, 16...17,18,19...20, 21, 22...23...24? I really had kept 24 items? I really had tossed 40% of The Pile? (So far at least.)
I will never let those papers stack up again like that!
I write that because I know there is supposed to be a box in all this blackness, but I cannot see it. I click all over where I think the box is until I finally see the cursor and type. Honestly, can anyone else see the box?
So. Why haven't I written any blogs to delight the reader/enrich the life of the reader / bore the reader (choose the appropriate one)? Simply put, my children seem to be on Facebook more. One good reason for any mother to be on Pleonast was so she could find out what was going on in the lives of her children when they are away from home. Then that mother could click on the friends that reply to their blogs because of course, that mother is thinking, "Okay, so who are you? You sure have an interesting/strange/weird--this is a multiple choice blog--pleo name." Then that mother could read some of the entries of her children's friends and decide that she would like to meet this friend because a) he/she seems like a great person, b) he/she is still an enigma, or c) well, I can't really think of a C.
Naturally, however, when Mom is away, the cat named Bocky will play! So I suppose I will have to add a note every now and again to keep the cat content.
But not today. I'm still organizing my house and we have to make room for the Christmas tree that we are going to put up in about 3 1/2 hours if all goes according to Mom's plan. But I must clear the area where the tree will go. That means I need to clean out a closet first. I don't know how the closet being clean is necessarily connected to the floor area for the tree being cleared except that it bothers me and I will not have a good time decorating the tree with the closet on my mind. So I have no time to write a blog today!
Except that it kind of looks like I already did.