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Melissa Schmalenberger, Published December 15 2013

Ms. Simplicity: One bite at a time best plan for organizing

I always explain the secret to staying organized by asking the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” Simply by taking one bite at a time.

The same is true for organizing. Tempers will be lost and tears will fall if you try to do everything at once. Or, on the other hand, you simply won’t start.

So look around your home for one thing you can do for 10 minutes today that will get you more organized for the future.

Here are a few examples to get you started over the holidays.

1. As you receive your holiday cards and aren’t too sure if you have Aunt Martha’s current address, simply rip off the return address and put it in an envelope clearly marked “check addresses.” Then when the holidays are over you have all of the addresses in one place and can sit with your address book and update all at once.

2. In order to truly see what you have packed away, you need to get clear plastic bins. It really is the only way. As the New Year approaches, you will see mark downs on these products. Try to get a good estimate of how many you need before you leave for the store so you don’t over purchase.

3. Clearly mark the ornaments and decorations you didn’t use this year. Set them all in a box and decide if you are ready to donate them this year or wait just one more year to see if “country Christmas” decorating makes a comeback.

4. Separate family members’ ornaments. My boys each have their own box of ornaments. I’ve collected ornaments for them for years, and I have them all labeled with their name and year on the box. Any ornaments they made in school or received as baby gifts also are in this tote. When they have their own home someday, their tote is all ready to go with them.

5. Take note of what holiday supplies you need versus want. If you have a holiday party every year and you need a supply of holiday paper products, by all means stock up at end-of-season sales.

But if you are stocking up just because it is on sale, that’s a bad idea. The same is true for wrapping paper. Say “no” to the good deal and “yes” to less clutter and a simpler life.

6. Make it easy for you and your kids to send thank you notes after the holidays by creating a thank you note writing center. Fill a basket with pens, stamps and stationary.

7. Create a file containing only the holiday recipes that people loved this year. You can simply go back to this same file for inspiration instead of having to try to remember where you put the fudge recipe. I have mine in a One Note file on my computer and I simply copy and paste my recipes I find online into that file.

8. Go through your gift-wrapping supplies, and get rid of the paper that is in bad condition or you know you will never use. Keep what you love, and try to keep it organized vertically so it easier to access and will stay in better shape.

9. As you decorate this year, take note of what you should be on the lookout for as the end-of-season sales start. Do you need new lights for your tree? Do you need extra hooks to hang ornaments? Did your tree fall over and your tree topper got crushed? Make your list and check it once.

Don’t try to make yourself crazy this season thinking that you have to do everything. Just take a few minutes a day and be intentional on reducing stress and making your life more streamlined and simplified. Pour yourself a mug of hot cocoa and enjoy the holidays.

Ms. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger, operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo. Email her at melissa@mssimplicity.com.