Organized Christmas

Holiday Grand Plan Week 3: Entry / Foyer

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on September 15, 2014

Welcome to Week Three of the Holiday Grand Plan: Entry/Foyer Week!

This week, we tackle deep-cleaning and decluttering our entryway or foyer, to create a welcoming home for holiday guests.

Holiday prep chores focus on baking and kitchen as we plan our baked goodies and start stocking up for holiday meals. More printable forms help our Christmas notebooks grow.

Ready? Let's get organized with Entry/Foyer Week at the Holiday Grand Plan!

Entry/Foyer Week at the Holiday Grand Plan

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Puzzler Puzzle Mat: Make-It-Now Gift

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on September 10, 2014

Every parent knows the story: jigsaw puzzles are fun to work, but tough to work around. What's the solution to tying up table tops or floor space with a puzzle in progress?

Its a Puzzler! This one-seam easy-sew puzzle mat allows puzzles to be worked at will, then rolled up and stowed away between play sessions. It's crafted from a short length of craft felt and a recycled gift wrap roller.

Make them in multiples for the holidays. The Puzzler puzzle mat is perfect for teacher gifts. Paired with a new jigsaw puzzle, the Puzzler Puzzle Mat makes a special family gift.

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House and Holidays Plan Week 2: Calendar and Creativity

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on September 7, 2014

During the holidays, it’s easy to feel stressed and overwhelmed—and that goes double for those planning homemade holiday gifts! Time to tackle calendars and creative spaces in the House and Holidays Plan.

This week, the Plan’s holiday prep assignments focus on the bones for efficient holiday planning: calendars. We’ll work on time management and scheduling this week, as we put holiday prep chores on the fast track.

Our Houseworks focus: creative spaces. ‘Deck the halls’ is easier when you have an efficient work area for crafts, gifts and gift wrapping. What’s the state of your creative space?

Whether a sewing corner or a quilting room, a rolling crafts cart or dedicated arts-and-crafts closet, spend this week decluttering, organizing and cleaning out the creative spaces in your home.

Calendar and Creativity Week Assignments

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Holiday Grand Plan Week 2: Question Week

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on September 7, 2014

Week Two? It's all about questions during Question Week in the Holiday Grand Plan.

During this week, we'll continue making lists and planning our holiday. We'll get in touch with our values through important questions. In the cleaning component, we tackle the living room, decluttering and deep-cleaning to prepare for holiday entertaining.

Ready? Let's get organized with the Holiday Grand Plan!

Question Week at the Holiday Grand Plan

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House and Holidays Plan Week 1: Planning and Paperwork

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on August 31, 2014

Are you ready to make a plan ... to celebrate Christmas in a clean and organized home?

This week, we kick off the House and Holiday Plans, a week-by-week program to help you clean house, cut clutter, and prepare for the holiday season.

When it comes to moving toward better organization at home, one job comes first: organizing planning and paperwork. Where do you go to pay bills, keep a calendar, or handle the mail?

Whether it's a dedicated home office or a rolling file cart under the dining table, it's time to declutter, organize and clean the planning area.

A holiday prep bonus: we'll set up a Christmas organizing planning center this week, so we can move ahead with holiday season preparations. We'll begin printing a Christmas planner, and take the first steps toward a serene and stress-free season.

Ready? Time to tackle planning and paperwork in the House and Holidays Plan!

Planning and Paperwork Week Assignments

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Holiday Grand Plan Week 1: List Week

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on August 31, 2014

Week One is List Week at the Holiday Grand Plan!

During this week, we kick off holiday prep with lists, lists and more lists. We'll print helpful calendars and forms for Christmas organizing and begin to create a Christmas notebook.

This week's cleaning focus is the front porch: We'll clean and organize the area around the front door so that our home will be ready to welcome visitors during the holiday season.

Ready to jump into List Week? Let's get organized with the Holiday Grand Plan!

List Week at the Holiday Grand Plan

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Dust Pan Cookies

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on August 30, 2014

A sweet and simple gift celebrating friendship, Dust Pan Cookies are easy to make and give.

With a humorous poem and an unexpected presentation, this all-occasion gift is suitable for family, friends and neighbor gifts.

Free printable gift tags containing the Dust Pan Cookies poem makes it easy to share!

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Cut the Crazy: Choose a Holiday Plan

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on August 28, 2014

What's the best road to calm and joyous holidays? It's all about the plan!

Preparing for Christmas with the help of a step-by-step plan makes quick work of seasonal chores, and leaves plenty of time, energy--and money!--to celebrate the season.

Here at Organized Christmas, we're home to the Web's oldest holiday plans: the Christmas Countdown and the Holiday Grand Plan. We're also bringing you two newer plans for Christmas organizing: the House & Holidays Plan and the Rudolph Club.

Which plan is right for you? Check out these options to get ready for a stress-free Christmas:

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Adult Journal in a Jar: Make-Ahead Gift to Print

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on August 27, 2014

Looking for an easy make-ahead holiday gift? It's a journal in a jar!

Jumpstart journal writers with a quart-sized canning jar filled with folded strips of paper. Each one contains a single thought provoking journal prompt. Paired with a pretty blank book, a Journal Jar makes a great gift.

We've made it easy to craft your Journal Jar. Free printable journal prompts have colorful legends and graphics to make a pretty gift. Add a free printable gift tag for a professional touch.

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Too Early to Think Christmas? Starting Now Makes Sense!

Ah, September! The month brings brisk mornings, fall colors, back-to-school ... and deck the halls?

In a word, yes. Summer's end is the perfect time to think ahead to the holiday season; start Christmas planning now, and you'll reap abundant benefits come December.

Here at Organized Christmas we hear a deafening chorus of objection: "But it's too early to think about Christmas! I can't get ready until I feel the holiday spirit!"

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House and Holidays Plan begins on Sunday!

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on August 26, 2014

Labor Day weekend ahead! School bells are ringing, football fills the airwaves and September looms. Will the holidays be far behind?

Sure, you're dreaming of the perfect Christmas--then you open your eyes to reality. Looking around the house, it's hard to imagine how to cut the clutter, manage fall cleaning and prepare for Christmas all at once.

How will you bring the current state of domestic chaos into holiday readiness: clean, organized, prepared?

It's time to kick off the House and Holidays Plan! Week by week, we'll deep-clean, declutter, and prepare for the holiday season in small, sustainable bites.

Along the way, we'll create a personalized Christmas planner to simplify the holidays--and online HHP communities provide motivation, inspiration and fun.

The fun starts Sunday, September 1! Will you be ready?

House and Holidays Plan

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Make Confetti Bean Soup In A Jar

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on August 18, 2014

Savory Italian herbs spark this hearty, easy bean soup. Paired with Texas Cornbread Mix, this duo is just the thing for cold winter weekends!

Better, it's a good keeper, so make this gift-in-a-jar ahead for holiday giving. Unlike cookie jar gifts, Confetti Bean Soup won't go stale in storage.

Makes 12 gift jars at a cost approximately $2 per jar.

Includes free printable gift tags.

Make-Ahead Holiday Gift: Melt-and-Pour Soap

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on August 14, 2014

You've seen them everywhere from crafts fairs to bath boutiques: pretty handmade gift soaps. Clear and colorful or rich with natural additives for beautiful skin, they're a welcome holiday gift.

Best of all, they're easy to make using melt-and-pour soap. Heated in the microwave, clear or opaque glycerin soap base is combined with colorants and fragrances, then poured into molds to harden. When cool, soaps pop right out of the molds, ready to use.

Follow the soap-making tips and soap starter projects linked below to help you master this squeaky-clean craft.

Patriotic Gift In A Jar: Red, White and Blue Brownies

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on August 13, 2014

Three cheers for the red, white and blue ... brownies in a jar!

Looking for a quick summer gift with a patriotic theme? Try this recipe for Red, White and Blue Brownies In A Jar.

An easy-to-make holiday or hostess gift from Ball's summer crafts ideas, you'll be the hit of the Labor Day celebration with this sweet treat:

Red, White and Blue Brownies In A Jar

(In .pdf format; you'll need Adobe Reader to view file)

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Dreamsicle Cookies In A Jar

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on August 8, 2014Description

A favorite hot-weather sweet sparks a great gift in a jar: Orange Dreamsicle Cookies!

Taking the name--and flavors--of a cool summer treat, Orange Dreamsicle Cookies are punched up with vanilla baking chips and a burst of citrus.

Layered and decorated with a pretty gift tag, Orange Dreamsicle Cookies In A Jar are perfect "just-because" gift or gift basket item.

We make it easy with a free printable gift tags.

Ingredients 1⁄2 cup powdered orange drink mix (Tang) 3⁄4 cups granulated sugar 1 1⁄2 cup vanilla baking chips 1 3⁄4 cup sifted flour, all purpose 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda 1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder 1 canning jar, quart-size with lid and ringInstructions

Sift flour before measuring, then stir in baking soda and baking powder.

Layer the ingredients in a clean glass wide mouth quart sized jar. For each jar, layer 3/4 cup granulated sugar, then 1/2 cup powdered drink mix, then 1 3/4 cup flour (mixed with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder), then 1 1/2 cups vanilla baking chips. Tamp the first three layers firmly to compact ingredients.

Attach a copy of Orange Dreamsicle gift tag, or create your own tag using the recipe instructions below.

Orange Dreamsicle Cookies Recipe

Preheat oven to 375°.

Empty jar into a large mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 egg (slightly beaten)and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix until well-blended

Form dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until tops are lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack until completely cool.

Makes 2-1/2 dozen


More information: Tips to Make Gifts in a Jar

Printable Gifts in a Jar Gift Tags Orange Dreamsicle Cookies Gift TagHoliday Recipes: Seasonal Gifts & Crafts: 

Santa Saves: Six Back-to-School Bargains for Holiday Giving

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on August 6, 2014

With summer winding down, school is on the way--and so are rock-bottom prices on back-to-school needs!

During late summer, office supply stores engage in penny price wars, while discount stores bring racks of school supplies front and center ... and cheap!

Back-to-school loss leaders--products sold below cost to attract sales--are hot and heavy in the supermarkets these days--and even the crafts stores offer a variety of binders, stickers and backpacks at sharply reduced prices.

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Holiday Grand Plan or House & Holidays Plan?

Which Holiday Plan is Right For Me? Posted by Cynthia Ewer on August 4, 2014

The question has been asked about our Christmas organizing plans quite a bit in recent days.

What is the difference between the Holiday Grand Plan and the House & Holidays Plan ... and which one should I follow?

Right off the bat, I'd say there's no "should" about which plan to follow. Which plan, no plan, custom plan--it's all up to your personal choice. But I did want to write about what the differences are, so that each one of us can make the right choice for ourselves.

Unlike the Christmas Countdown, which covers only holiday prep chores, both the HHP and the HGP are ambitious, all-autumn Christmas organizing plans. Both of them seek to move through the house on a weekly basis, with decluttering, deep-cleaning and organizing assignments designed to bring the whole house to a ready state by the time December rolls around.

History of the Holiday Grand Plan

As many of you know, the Holiday Grand Plan is the Web's oldest Christmas organizing plan. It grew out of a very early online "get organized" community on the old Prodigy service: Homelife - Get O.

In 1993, our group worked together to create the Cleaning Grand Plan; but most of the authoring was done by my good friend Katie Leckey. When autumn rolled around, Katie added a holiday prep component to the Cleaning Grand Plan, and that became the HGP we know today.

This history explains why there are a few puzzlers when it comes to the HGP. For instance, the front door/entryway portion comes at the very start of the plan, and many people noted that, "Hey--my front porch needs cleaning AGAIN" by the time they made it to December. Other objections are that this plan presumes an average suburban home, and doesn't really encompass alternate living arrangements very well. Still other people wondered, "Why on EARTH are we spending two weeks cleaning the attic and garage right in the middle of the holiday season?"

Simply put, the HGP grew out of another plan, and wasn't designed just for the holiday pre-season.

Behind the House & Holidays Plan

By contrast, that's what I sat down to do when I wrote the House & Holidays Plan: create a more realistic cleaning focus and flow for the pre-holiday months.

I also wanted to break down the plan into "areas", rather than "rooms". Some weeks, like Bed and Bath week, the "area" may be spread across two or more rooms in the house--but the idea is that assignments are focused on a single function, rather than a geographic area. By thinking about ALL bathrooms at the same time, you'll find it more efficient to deal with the chores on the list.

So, rather than a pretty rigid "front door to back door" approach, I went for something of a spiral. The plan starts with planning, creative areas, and the master bedroom--all "personal" spaces. Tackling them first gives the planner a place to go to create, relax and rejuvenate as she works the rest of the plan.

Then the HHP moves into family spaces, such as kids' rooms, guest rooms or the family room, and only then begins to take on more public areas ... and we END with the entryway/front-door area. The idea is to start with yourself, move on to the family, and only then tackle those areas and functions that will see guests, visitors or entertaining.

The second goal I had with the HHP was a more realistic and natural pace to holiday planning. On the HGP, there are a LOT of pre-season assignments dumped in the first two weeks, and for many of us, that's just too early--not to mention that the first two weeks of both plans overlap summer's end, Labor Day and back-to-school. On the HGP, we had lots of second-week dropouts as people decided that this was just too hard.

Instead, I tried to space HHP holiday prep assignments over many weeks, letting people move into seasonal planning more gradually.

So we START a Christmas planner, but we don't print off the world in a day or two. We BEGIN making gift lists, but we won't complete them for several weeks. The idea is to have a lot more wiggle room for busy weeks, vacations or simple personal "I can't think about this yet!" preferences.

Finally, I looked at what a lot of people do, which is combine a longer-term plan like HHP and HGP, with the Countdown, once it rolls in at the end of October. Knowing that many of us fall off the rails on the longer plan, then catch up with the Countdown, I tried to make sure that there was an easy transition from where we are on HHP to where we start with the Countdown, to account for this.

The Choice Is Yours!

So, which one is right for you? It's all a matter of your own preference--but since some of you have asked, I hope I've answered questions about the "whys" behind both plans.

--Cynthia Ewer

Summer Craft Ideas For Gifts In A Jar

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on July 31, 2014

It's summer and canning jars, like fresh produce, are in season--but you can do a lot more with them than put up tomatoes for winter!

Savvy holiday planners know that gifts in a jar are easy, welcome and fun to make, so check out these summer-inspired gift-in-a-jar ideas from

You'll find a great round-up of gifts in a jar, mason jar recipes and crafts projects to celebrate summer holidays ... or for no reason at all. Check 'em out!

Summer Gifts in a Jar

Need more ideas? Visit our Gifts In A Jar page for recipes, inspiration and easy gifts:

Gifts In A Jar Index

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Cash In! Do-It-Now Ways To Save Money For Christmas

Posted by Cynthia Ewer on July 30, 2014

Think "Christmas" ... in July? Sure, if you want to make it an all-cash holiday!

Holiday spending can be hard on the pocketbook--and bought on credit, "Christmas Day" can stretch into the new year for weeks or months.

Ease the Christmas cash crunch with creative ways to save money for Christmas! Financial institutions offer dedicated Christmas clubs for the disciplined, but savvy holiday planners have found other ways to accumulate cash for holiday spending.

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