10 great gifts that won’t clutter their house


Following up on my post from last month on minimizing the stress and excess of the holidays, here are my top ten favorite ideas for consumable (non-thing) holiday gifts.

1. For the music, theater or dance lover: Tickets to a live concert or performance from your local performing arts center.

2. For the busy mom or dad who never has time to think about what to cook every night: A subscription to a prepare-it-yourself meal service or fully prepared meal service.  Here’s a great compilation of the best prepare-it-yourself and fully prepared meal subscription services out there.

3. For the mom who never gets around to spoiling herself: A spa appointment or wellness class from SpaFinder, which offers gift cards to thousands of such services around the world.

4. For the new parents who never get a night out: An offer to baby sit and a gift card to a restaurant of their choice through OpenTable.

5. For kids and adults alike: Movie tickets from Fandango , AMC, or Regal.

6. For the streaming set: A subscription to Audible for books or Spotify for music.

7. For Japanophiles: A Japanese snack or candy subscription box from Bokksu or Japan Crate.

8. For the gourmand: An artisanal cheese selection or selection of craft beers.

9. On behalf of the altruistic person in your life: Consider making a real impact in the world for people who can’t get access to clean drinking water by donating to Charity:Water in their name.

10. For that person in your life who wants to get organized but never gets around to it: A gift certificate to an organizing service like Order Your Life! Or find an organizer or productivity consultant in your local area by going to the NAPO website.

If you want to give them a gift they’ll love without cluttering up their homes, these experiences, services, and consumables are among your best bets!





Minimizing Holiday Stress and Excess

I always struggle with conflicting feelings during the holiday season, as I am sure many others do. One the one hand, we are supposed to be thankful and appreciate all that we have, which is usually much more than we actually need. And on the other, there is so much pressure from the outside world to buy things that we don’t really need, especially during the holidays.

As a professional organizer, what I often see when I visit my clients during the holiday season is not joy and thankfulness, but stress. Stress about buying just the right gift. Stress about where to hide the presents. Stress about having to wrap everything just right. Stress about what to get rid of in order to make room for the extra things coming in. Stress about having just too much stuff in general and nowhere to put it all. And the worst of it is, when the gift gets opened, the recipient’s appreciation is usually so much less than what the giver had hoped and expected it to be. But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at the unenthusiastic reaction: everyone simply has too many things already!

This year, our whole extended family of 11 people and 2 dogs will be spending the holidays together at our family home in Rockport, MA. In order to minimize stress and accumulation of more “stuff”, we have decided that each adult will exchange a Secret Santa gift with one other person drawn randomly. The kids will still get gifts under the tree, but our true gift will be for all of us to be together, enjoying popcorn and games by the fire, doing puzzles, walking the dogs on the beach, eating heartily and drinking well, and creating memories for a lifetime.

This year, try to make your holidays easier with these few simple tips:

  • Give consumable or experience gifts to adults.
  • Give fewer and more meaningful gifts to children.
  • See if you can buy locally made or handmade items from small stores rather than large chains and malls.
  • Whatever you do, DON’T ruin the joy and beauty of Thanksgiving, a holiday which is quickly becoming overlooked in the mad rush to get out and buy, buy, buy on Black Friday (I honestly can’t think of a worse name for a day!)

I resolve once again this holiday season to hang out with friends and loved ones on the Friday after Thanksgiving and eat leftovers, go to holiday concerts and light shows, volunteer to help others in need, and truly appreciate my family and all that I have in my life already.

This post has been updated since its original publication in November 2013.


Penny and Grady will be attending the American Association of Daily Money Managers’ annual conference Nov. 10-12 in order to be able to offer you the most up-to-date financial organizing services.

Click to learn more about how Order Your Life can help you get your finances in order.




Create back-to-school order at home in October

Getting organized for back-to-school
I was thrilled to be asked to provide back-to-school advice columnist Deena Bouknight back in August. I only just realized that I never shared that advice with you here. However, as in all things organizing related, it’s never too late to get some helpful tips. If you started the school year a little more haphazardly than you would like, take a breath now and begin implementing organization that will make the rest of the school year run smoother.
(from Deena Bouknight, More Content Now)

If to you, back-to-school means a return to rushed mornings and piles of shoes and backpacks strewn around your house, take steps now to organize a flow. Otherwise, as Bethesda, Maryland, organizer Penny Catterall points out, the cluttered craziness will continue until the school year’s end.

Catterall owns Order Your Life. Her primary advice: purge and reuse. She advises families to take steps that worked for her when her sons were young:

1. Try on all clothing. Pass down or give away outgrown or out-of-fashion pieces. Pick out school clothes the night before — never in the morning.

  • Penny in the media

  • Find a blog post

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  • Did You Know…

    Getting rid of excess clutter would eliminate 40% of the housework in an average home? (National Soap and Detergent Association)

  • The average employee wastes $5251 a year in time searching for information. (ARMA International)

  • 28% of adults say they pay bills late (thus incurring late fees and interest charges) because they lose them. (Harris Interactive)
  • 80% of what we file is never looked at again. (The Leader-Post)

  • Employees spend 3.5 hours a week searching for information they cannot find. (ARMA International)
  • Americans waste 9 million hours a day looking for misplaced items.
    (American Demographics Society)
  • The self storage industry has been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the United States commercial real estate industry over the period of the last 40 years.
  • As of year-end 2014, of the approximately 58,000 self storage facilities worldwide, 48,500 of them are in the United States.
  • Almost 9% of all American households currently rent a self storage unit (10.85 million of the 113.3 million US HHs in 2013).