Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Countdown to an Organized Christmas - Day 14 - Decor Declutter

Article and Photo Courtesy of Organized Christmas

Who doesn't love the parade of autumn decorations?

From the first fallen leaves in September, through Halloween's jack o'lanterns, and on into Thanksgiving's cornucopia displays, it's glorious fun to mark the progress of the fall season with special decor items for our home.

But somebody better tell the retailers! This year marks the almost-complete extinction of Thanksgiving from the autumn progress.

At stores in my area, Halloween items were on clearance by mid-October and replaced with Christmas displays the weekend before Halloween. I stood in the decor aisles, shook my head and blinked rapidly as I realized that "Christmas creep" has finally overtaken Thanksgiving and eradicated it completely.

Not in my house! Thanksgiving is a beloved holiday, valued all the more because it's relatively isolated from commercial pressures. Yes, our family will roast a turkey, ice cut-out cookies in the shape of leaves and pumpkins, and display our cherished Turkey Toodles and Calico Cornucopia decorations.

Best of all? Our family will gather together three generations (and four dogs!) to give thanks for our many, many blessings. And if that's not worth celebrating, I don't know what is!

To Do Today

Print the 2 checklists:

Declutter before you decorate

The decoration tide sweeps in with September's falling leaves, breaks against Halloween's ghosts and goblins, and is streaming full-force by Thanksgiving's turkeys and pilgrims. Come Christmas, the average home is drowning in tinsel.

Do your visual field a favor: declutter tables, counters, mantels, shelves and the entire surface of your refrigerator before you decorate.

Using a sturdy box, corral all knick-knacks, photos, decorative items and mismatched socks, and stow the box in a dark closet. Don't even bother to sort your stuff--you'll do that when you return the items after the holidays.

Clear surfaces make a house look clean, and your decorations will shine in solitary splendor when they don't have to compete with ashtrays in the shape of armadillos.

Do your eyes a favor and store those knick-knacks . . . and get ready for Christmas!

Tabletop check

Perform a tabletop check. Inventory serving pieces, table linens, china and flatware. Print a free printable holiday tabletop checklist to make sure you're ready to set a pretty holiday table.

Scheduling appointments

Schedule family hair appointments, and review the calendar. Will all your loose ends be tied up in good time?

Inventory wrap and mail supplies

Today, cast a quick eye over the household's supplies of gift wrap, ribbon, bows, tape and postal supplies. Use a Wrap and Mail Checklist to be sure you're ready to dive in to gift wrapping chores. Add any needed items to the shopping list, to get organized for wrapping and mailing holiday gifts.

Whose House For The Holidays?

Family ties! The holidays can strain them to the breaking point. Judging from my e-mail, what's the single biggest holiday family conundrum? "Whose home for the holidays?" wins, hands down.

How do you negotiate the "whose house?" dilemma? It's vexing enough for new young families with a child or two; add effects of divorce and remarriage and the debate can come to resemble the floor of the United Nations!

Whether you long to stay home with your babies, or gather all your children and grandchildren under one roof, we've got help:

Judging from my e-mail, what's the single biggest holiday family conundrum? "Whose house for the holidays?" wins, hands down.

It's a universal dilemma for young parents. It's a universal dilemma for their own parents. Where will the "children" spend the holidays?

Shiny new parents of a baby or two yearn to create their own at-home holiday. Their own parents struggle to keep the family together, and preferably at their house.

My own chair sits smack dab in the middle. My children are grown, and I'm a grandmother of a young grandsons.

Yet I remember (far, far too well) the days of traveling 450 miles one-way in a rackety VW bus with babies in tow, to make the required (and resented) attendance at an in-law's home.

Add divorce, remarriage, step- and blended families, and this issue can become a logistical nightmare.

How do you solve the "whose house for the holidays" question ... and keep the cheer in the season?

For the Young Parent
If you're the young parent, what do you do? Take a look at where the conflict pinches, and it's likely to be a struggle to grow up. These are your parents, your spouse's parents! It's scary to do what you have to do: calmly tell them that you are ready to establish your own Christmas traditions in your own home.

But that is exactly what you must do. It's a rite of passage, and not an easy one. Take heart, though. No matter how much heat and light gets generated the first time you break away from your parents, a calm determination wins in the end. After the first year, you'll find the going much easier.

For the Parent of Adult Children
So you're the older parent? Reading this, you want to jump all over me! After all, it simply won't be Christmas without all your children under your own roof. Why shouldn't you want to hold on to the traditions you've created over many years?

Take a deep breath, Mom and Dad. Your child's desire to begin a family holiday shows that you've done your job well. Keep in mind that these are young parents, and they're going to be a bit protective and defensive about their natural wish to provide for their own babies what you provided for them.

It's a tense time, and you have to be careful. Remember that your children still hold you in great regard. Innocent comments may get mangled in translation and seem far more oppressive and dictatorial than you ever intended.

Add in the in-law situation, and there's even more room for misunderstanding. Not to mention that the children must deal with this issue twice: once with you, once with the spouse's family. Without even trying, the emotional waters can get very, very murky.

The bottom line is to make your children and their families spend time with you because they want to, not because they have to. You're the older party, and have more life-experience under your belt, so it's up to you to craft innovative solutions.

Can you visit your child's home, and share the grandchildren's special Christmas morning? Can you change the time of holiday dinners, gather the family on Christmas Eve, alternate holidays year by year or otherwise help the youngsters with holiday scheduling jams?

Another solution: create your own holiday alternative. My own mother is mistress of this technique, and her children bless her for it.

There's no pressure to drag small children from door to door on Christmas Day, because Mum's special day is her Texas New Year Party.

Held on New Year's Day for a huge flock of family and friends, it's a bonus holiday, and one that solves the generational problem quite neatly.

One inventive grandmother has earned the love of children and children-in-law alike: she gathers all the grandchildren at her home on the evening of Christmas day, and hosts a grand pajama-party sleepover. Tired young parents appreciate the post-holiday break, while the grandkids look forward to their special Christmas party at Grandma's. Grandma gets special time with her grandchildren, and gives the children's parents a much needed holiday break. It's win-win!

Whatever your stage in life, and whatever your solution, take heart. "Whose Home for the Holidays" is a sign that you, your parents and your children all value the special gift of the holiday season.

Keep the season's message in mind as you negotiate ... and make it an organized Christmas!

Today's Recipe

pumpkin bread recipe

Pumpkin-Nut Bread captures the taste of the season.

This generous recipe makes three large loaves or 6 to 9 smaller ones, suitable for holiday giving.

Wrapped in food storage wrap and placed in a freezer food storage bag, this recipe will keep in the freezer for 6 to 8 weeks. Make ahead and freeze for a quick kitchen gift!

Capture the tastes of the holiday season with this easy Pumpkin Nut Bread recipe.

Moist pumpkin combines with crunchy walnuts and zesty spices for a delicious quick bread recipe for holiday giving.

Bake ahead and freeze in small or mini-sized loaves. A great addition to holiday gift baskets!

Double-wrapped with plastic food storage wrap, and tucked into a freezer food storage bag, this quick bread will stay fresh in the freezer for up to 8 weeks

3 cupssugar, granulated
3 1⁄2 cupsflour, all-purpose
1⁄2 teaspoonsalt
2 teaspoonsbaking soda
1 tablespooncinnamon
1 teaspoonnutmeg
4 eggs, large
1 cupvegetable oil
2 cupspumpkin, canned
2⁄3 cupswater
1 1⁄2 cupwalnuts, chopped


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 3 large or 8 small loaf pans.

Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the eggs, oil, pumpkin and water. Beat well with an electric mixer. Stir in the walnuts with a wooden spoon.

Pour the batter into the loaf pans filling each half to two-thirds full.

Bake for 60-90 minutes for large pans, 30-45 minutes for small ones. Pumpkin-Nut bread is done when a toothpick in the middle comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for ten minutes, then loosen the edges of the bread with a knife and turn out to cool on a rack.

Makes 3 large loaves or 9 small loaves


To freeze, cool quick bread completely. Wrap each loaf in plastic wrap, then place wrapped loaves inside freezer food storage bag. Freeze up to 2 months.

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