Organizer offers tips for making the holidays hum along efficiently

by Joni Astrup

Associate editor

Even as a little kid growing up in Marshall, Minn., Pamela Anderson had a place for everything and everything was in its place.

Pamela Anderson

“My mom did not have to tell me to clean my room because that’s the way I wanted it,” she said.

Anderson, who now lives in Elk River, has parlayed her natural organizational abilities into her own business, Green Leaf Professional Organizers. She works as a project manager in advertising and marketing as well — a career that also utilizes her strong organizational skills.

Anderson shared some tips for getting organized for the holidays, focusing on three key areas: meals, decorating and shopping.

Meals

For people who rarely or never host a meal, holiday entertaining can be stressful and a lot of work.

Anderson recommends planning the meal by writing it all down, from appetizers to dessert, and including the beverages.

Sectioned off containers are available for storing Christmas ornaments.

Use that menu to plan a grocery list. Go through each recipe, check what is already on hand and then make a shopping list.

As the big day approaches, Anderson recommends preparing as much of the meal as possible the night before. This could include peeling potatoes, trimming and cutting vegetables or making some dishes ahead of time.

Figure out and coordinate cooking times and temperatures before hand so there’s not a last-minute scramble, and set the table the night before.

Don’t like to cook or aren’t good at it? Ask guests to bring a dish to share.

Decorating

If you’re thinking about making the switch from a real to an artificial tree, Anderson said it’s worth the extra expense to buy a pre lit tree.

“It will save you a lot of time,” she said.

When taking down the tree and repacking ornaments, Anderson recommends having a system.

Buy sectioned-off ornament boxes or make your own using tin cans or small boxes lined up in a larger plastic container or cardboard box.

Organize light strings, garlands and beads by wrapping them separately around a piece of cardboard or by storing them in individual plastic bags or both.

“It will keep them from getting into a tangled mess,” Anderson said.

Put some thought into how decorations are stored, grouping them in the way they are put out. All garland and lights, for instance, should go in one box because they will go on the tree first, she said.

Shopping

“Lists, lists, lists.”

Those are Anderson’s three key recommendations when it comes to Christmas shopping.

For the high-tech approach, a useful smart phone app she recommends is “Evernote.” It also can be accessed online.

Anderson uses it throughout the year to make notes when friends and family members mention an item they like or a hobby they are interested in. She uses that information to build her shopping list for presents.

A low-tech option would be to keep s small notebook in your purse or pocket to make notes for gift ideas.

Anderson also recommends consulting with parents when shopping for nieces, nephews and grandchildren.

Ready to shop? Anderson suggests making a list before setting out. List people’s names and what you think you might get them. Plan your trip geographically by going to the farthest store first and working your way back home, or vise versa.

Consider shopping online.

“Shopping online has gotten better and better and better,” Anderson said. “So many sites now will offer free shipping, especially around the holidays, and it’s very easy to do price comparisons and make sure you get the cheapest price.”

She does a combination of online and in-store shopping for gifts.

Her one warning is to start early if you shop online because if you wait too long the gift won’t arrive on time or you will spend much more to have it delivered in a speedy fashion.

“If you are a last-minute shopper, you’re better off sticking to the stores,” she advised.

A classic idea that still has merit, particularly in large families, is to draw names, Anderson said.

Gift cards also remain an option. They are also available online and shoppers can do a mobile version or send the card via email, making them a wonderful option for last-minute gifts, she said.

For more information about Green Leaf Professional Organizers, go to www.greenleaforganizers.com or contact Anderson at pamela@greenleaforganizers.com or 612-454-6209.

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