The holiday season is swiftly approaching, bringing with it great fun and family events. As you are preparing for this great season, it is important to plan accordingly. The friends and family you invite into your home bring plenty of warmth and cheer, but can also create quite a mess. For this …The holiday season is swiftly approaching, bringing with it great fun and family events. As you are preparing for this great season, it is important to plan accordingly. The friends and family you invite into your home bring plenty of warmth and cheer, but can also create quite a mess. For this reason, organizing your home for the holiday season is very important, to anyone who wishes their home to stay as clean as the freshly fallen snow outside.

Organizing your home entails assembling a good number of storage containers for everything from sugar cookies to Christmas lights and ornaments. The tree can create a mess as well, and if you choose an artificial tree, it will also need to be stored. When it comes to getting yourself and your home ready for this holiday season, challenges abound. Getting started early, even before Thanksgiving, is a good way to thwart the coming stress of December.

While one may not want to start decorating until after Thanksgiving, there is no real reason to not prepare for decoration. This is where organization can become an issue.

1. The first thing you need to do is to begin cleaning your entire house. All of your non-seasonal knick-knacks need to go. Throw rugs and blankets may need to be replaced as well.

2. Boxes of all sizes are invaluable for holiday storage and organization. This starts with storing your non-holiday items in order to make room for the Christmas tree and more. Label the boxes by room, and begin filling them up with the items that you are getting replacing. When a box is full move it into storage. Once your home is thoroughly desolate and devoid of decorative flair you can begin to think of your Christmas decorations.

3. Getting your actual decorations out can be a major hassle. This is the year to overhaul your storage system. Get rid of those cardboard boxes and replace them with plastic containers. Plastic is sturdier, stacks more easily, protects your items better and can simplify your storage process. Furthermore, plastic containers have been tweaked to fit any purpose. Many boxes can easily fit up to sixteen ornaments in safe individual compartments. The boxes come in three snap together trays that can, when put together, can safely store twenty-seven or twenty-eight ornaments. You no longer have to worry about losing precious keepsakes when you store your ornaments. Furthermore, you can avoid the waste of time that comes with wrapping ornaments in layer after layer of newspaper. These simple boxes provide perfect protection for all of your tree trimmings. They also can work wonderfully to stow bows, ribbons and other wrapping accessories.

4. Another frequent organizational nightmare associated with preparing for the holiday season is dealing with all of the wrapping paper and ribbon. Keeping these items stored without damage can be a significant challenge. It’s a good idea to store all your gift-wrapping supplies in one location. Hang them on a door for storage, so they don’t get crushed. This can help you keep the rest of your house organized for holidays.

5. A final crucial step for getting your house organized for holidays is to prepare your kitchen. The holiday season can easily be referred to as baking season, and if you plan on doing a lot of work in your kitchen, then you better be ready. Forget your spring cleaning routine, now is the time to get that kitchen cleaned out. Get your spice rack organized, move those pots to the most accessible location, and get your appliances reorganized to fit your baking needs. For most of the year your kitchen should be organized to meet your day to day needs. But during the holidays, your day to day necessities are thrown aside. Rather than focusing on the meat and potatoes of mealtime you may find yourself emphasizing the cookies and cakes during this time of year. One of the largest organizational disasters that come along with the holidays is trying to work around a kitchen that is not built for baking. You need to rework this room, or your sanity is going to be tested throughout the entire season.

Getting ready for the holiday season should start just before Thanksgiving. Even if you are one who refuses to decorate until after Thanksgiving, there is work to be done and the benefits can be very rewarding. Begin your organizational work now, and you can be well on your way to a more relaxed holiday season around the house or apartment. However, if you procrastinate, things can quickly become quite hectic and stressful. Invest in the proper storage materials, deal with the problem of wrapping paper and overhaul your kitchen. These steps should set you well on your way to a happy and peaceful holiday season.

Author: Get Organized

My daughters bought me a rock that says “Today’s crisis is tomorrow’s joke” engraved on it. I absolutely love it, and it’s displayed prominently in my home office. I look at it several times a day to remind me that while it’s certainly true that life is chock-full of dramas, it’s also true that dramas come and go, and come and go. They always have, and they always will.

Before I go on, please know that when I say “today’s crisis is tomorrow’s joke,” I’m obviously not referring to any of the hundreds of “life-changing” events that can be categorized as a true “crisis.” Instead, I’m referring to the virtually unlimited number of relatively minor events that most of us tend to stew about that, in retrospect, really aren’t that big a deal.

Have you ever gone to a family or high school reunion and listened to the conversations? It’s fun, in part, because the conversations sometimes tie into this bit of wisdom. So many things that used to be seen as “big, giant, huge emergencies” are now the topics of great jokes. They are funny because they are seen with a bit of distance. We may have been furious at someone, for example, for God knows what … and now it seems so silly and insignificant. So, while we used to get really uptight about it, we now laugh about the very same set of facts.

And I’m not sure about you, but when I think about the way I was behaving just yesterday–running around like a chicken with my head cut off, as if there were not enough time–it seems funny to me now. I see how absurd it was. The trick to getting to the point where life doesn’t seem like just one crisis after another is when we can see it as funny, not after the fact, but actually while we’re acting a little crazy and taking life a bit too seriously. I’ve obviously got a way to go, but I’m working on it!

One of my favorite spiritual teachers has a great line. He said, “If you don’t have a sense of humor, it just isn’t funny.” I think that says it all. Without a sense of humor, you’re in for a tough ride, no doubt about it. You’re going to be super serious. So lighten up, especially regarding taking yourself and others too seriously. Try to see yourself and everyone else not as people who should be trouble-free or perfect, but rather as “characters” on the stage of life. When people act strangely, or when you do, rather than take it personally, try to see the humor in it.

The world is a big, confusing place, and most of us are doing the best we can. It’s far easier to develop the perspective that people don’t have to be perfect or live up to some made-up set of standards than it is to get all uptight when things don’t go according to plan, or when life isn’t living up to our expectations.

Lighten up and live a little. It’s a heck of a lot more fun and an easier way to live.

Often, though, you might find it difficult to see the humorous side in certain aspects of life–particularly during times when you’re feeling harried, frustrated, or angry due to events beyond your control.

One of the most memorable self-help seminars I ever attended was way back when I was a teenager. Since I’m 44 years old now, that was about 30 years ago. One of the main topics the trainer covered was obnoxious drivers.

I’ll never forget the conversation because I’ve rarely been frustrated by bad drivers ever since–particularly those who tailgate and who are aggressive, two of the main components of road rage.

In the seminar, the trainer posed the following question: What would you do if you were being tailgated?

The answers were all over the map, but two that stood out were “I’d put on my taillights so the person behind me would think I was putting on my brakes” and “I’d put on my brakes so that the bad driver behind me would have to slow down.”

Both of these answers are terrible ideas in today’s world.

As we all know, road rage is a very real thing, and it’s very dangerous. The last thing we want to do is make an angry driver even angrier.

Actually, this is one of the simplest strategies I can offer you and one of the easiest ways to get rid of angry drivers who are tailgating you or putting you in danger.

All you have to do is this: simply pull over and let the jerk pass you by. Allow him or her to go and have an accident somewhere else. It’s that simple.

You’ll be safe, and chances are you’ll never see him again. Then let it go, and don’t spend another minute thinking about it the rest of the day. Be grateful it’s all over.

The best thing to do is to try and remember that while it’s true that there are many bad drivers and, in fact, many bad people, it’s important to keep it in perspective. I have no idea on the actual percentages, but I’d guess that for every angry, horrible driver on the road, there are probably 50 perfectly courteous and safe ones.

The same applies to people in general. True, there are jerks. But there are so many more nice people.

Try to focus on that instead. When you’re driving, notice the thousands and thousands of people who are following the rules and doing the best they can, given the circumstances.

Notice the people who do let others into lanes of traffic or move aside, even when it’s not convenient for them.

There will always be road rage, and there will always be jerks. However, there’s no rule that says any of that has to bother us one little bit.

So let the jerks–and all of those minor events–pass you by, and you’ll have a great day.

By Richard Carlson

Can you remember when you last felt happy, really happy? Would you like to feel steadier in a healthy, mind-body way that does not involve pharmaceuticals? Is straddling a teeter-totter the last time you consciously considered balance in your life?

Today’s topsy-turvy world has us all running madly in every direction. We often feel overwhelmed with what’s before us — and that is, even, before our feet hit the floor in the morning. We are losing our joie de vivre; there is precious little fun and almost non-existent downtime in our lives today. We are masters at multi-tasking; we excel at doing.

Perhaps, it’s time to rethink the ways we choose to have a life and the ways we choose to fill a life. The life you are leading now is the life you passing on to your children. Is that what you want?

Here are five strategies to help you re-find the happiness, steadiness, and balance in your life:

I don’t mean just get out of bed or off the couch, I mean become m-i-n-d-f-u-l. Happiness studies tell us that being mindful is the number one factor in creating a happy life.

If we are mindful, we are paying attention. We can savor every moment. We are no longer robots or automatons beating down the hours as the days slip by.

Remember the 80/20 sales rule. You get 80% of your business from 20% of your customers, but your spend 80% of your time on the 20% that does not yield the results you want. Apply that to your mind. Where do you focus your attention? Do you feed your time and energy into your priorities? Or, like most of us, do the shiny things distract you and you head off in your own trivial pursuit?

Discern what is important to you and place your powerful attention and intention there.

Choose one thing you will do differently. Commit to making that change every day for 30 days. Want to do even better? Extend that commitment to 60 days. Really go for the gold, make that 90 days. Seriously, you will be a changed person after those 90 days.

What happens when you commit to yourself and you keep that commitment? You learn to trust yourself. We are very good at giving our word to our boss, our family, and our friends, but what about ourselves? Do we keep our promises to ourselves? Frequently, we do not. Thus, it becomes harder and harder to trust ourselves.

If we want to be happier, we need to build up some energetic muscle tone and personal will power that says, in essence, I can do this: I want to; I am committed and I have given my word to myself. No matter how tiny the commitment, the faithfulness to yourself creates an avalanche of well-being.

Happiness is knowing that you can count on you.

I know, it’s a unique thought. To be happy and balanced, I suggest you need to stop and allow yourself to course correct and re-find your center:

May I suggest you take a few deep breath breaks during your day? You will bring yourself back to center, re-oxygenate your body, and tap into the here and now.

Ready for more ways to re-find some balance in your life and increase your state of happiness — and creativity, too?

• A few hours before bed, unplug all technology. Give yourself some time when you are not required to respond, react, or do. End the mental gymnastics for the day and wind down.

• Employ a daily ritual of quiet time. This can be 20 or 30 minutes of quiet time where you sit with yourself. You can journal, meditate, watch the flickering of a candle, listen to beautiful (melody only) music, and the like. Draw a perimeter around your sanctuary of quietude.

• Take at least one day off a week. Have a full non-work day where you can play, have fun, rest, relax, or just be a slug. We all need time to refill the well. If we run consistently on empty, our ideas, energies, and creativity become compromised. Be inventive, and find revivifying ways to nurture your overworked self.

• Say “No” — or, at the very least, “I will think about it and get back to you.” Ask yourself, does this request make me feel happy? Does it nourish or feed me in some way? Does it excite me? Think twice. Life is short. And you hold the key to your personal well-being.

Do you dance to the oldies in your living room? Do you like to create penguin cupcakes on your day off? Do you find great satisfaction in watering the garden and talking to the birds? Are you the queen of collages and vision boards?

What lights us up and turns us on is important. We all know that life does life. When we get exceedingly busy, those activities that feed, comfort, nurture, and soothe us can slip through the cracks.

It’s time. We all know it’s time, no matter how much we struggle, pout, and resist. It’s time to be pro-active and support our physical selves. So, let’s begin slowly and work ourselves up to a more optimum way of being. We know we will feel much better; we know we feel happier, stronger (in both mind and body), more productive, and balanced. Really, what’s to lose, outside of some old bad habits?

Here are a few reminders to help you kick-start some new choice points:

• Remember the importance of getting enough rest; going to bed before midnight really helps those adrenals. If your body continues to run on empty, you will eventually go clunk.

• Eat well and sensibly most of the time. Aim for 80%; it’s a good target. You know the drill: Remember to have some protein with breakfast; limit sweets to after a meal; limit caffeine; and choose colorful, whole foods. You and your blood sugar will remain steadier and more stable throughout the day.

• Move your body in any way that makes you happy; regular physical activity is a definite biochemical boost to happiness and balance.

• Make choices based on what totally resonates with you and your body. This requires that you become mindful of what energizes you and turns over your engine. It can be an “and and” not an either/or. In other words, you can have your cake and eat it, too — just not for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

• Create some space and time to treat yourself well.

The greatest gift we can give ourselves and model for our loved ones is a life well lived.

In today’s upside-down world, action is our primary modus operandi. Consider tweaking your idea of action and focus, and try these five strategies — maybe, one baby step at a time. They are proven techniques with big rewards. They cannot hurt, and they can clearly help. Your life will become happier, steadier, and more balanced — and isn’t that, what is all about?

Author: Adele Ryan McDowell

Never get around to straightening up your office? Never seem to have enough time for simple things such as preparing a meal or taking a break? To maximize your time, learn what you can do in small increments. What can you do with can you do with 15 minutes? Spend these small blocks of time intentionally on things that will make a difference.

1. Declutter Your Car
Are you early for a meeting and want to get something done? Declutter your car! Gather up all the recyclables, including plastic bottles, soda cans and paper, and put them in a bag. Put all trash in another bag. Use a damp cloth or disposable wipe to clean all surfaces. Group any remaining things that you need to remove from your car later, such as clothes and newly purchased items. When you leave your car, take all the trash and recycling with you. Remove the other items as soon as you get a chance. If you’re picking up clients for a meeting, they’ll appreciate the serene setting you’ve just created in your car.

2. Take a Break
Are you tired? Do you long to take an actual break? When you discover a pocket of time in your day, do it! Calm down. Re-center yourself. Get a cup of tea at the corner coffee shop. Sink your teeth into the first chapter of a new book. (Set a timer, so you don’t get swept away.) Browse the newspaper or a magazine. The point is to take a satisfying break that refuels you for the remainder of the day. One entrepreneur uses breaks as an opportunity to walk outside and say, “Thank you,” to keep her in a state of optimism and gratitude, even when work gets trying.

3. Do Nothing
How many times a week do you long for free time to do absolutely nothing? The key is to notice when this time actually arrives, and to fill it with… nothing. Rather than viewing every opening in your day as an opportunity to cram something in, practice doing nothing. Close your office door. Become aware of your breathing. Bring mindfulness to your current thoughts, the sounds around you, your environment. If you bring one moment of rich stillness to each day, you’ll notice more energy, greater clarity and decreased stress. You’ll be able to return to even the busiest of work days with ease and grace, addressing what comes your way consciously, without negative reactions.

4. Turn Your Mood Around
Suppose you need to get work done, but you’re in a funk. First, rate the level of your bad mood on a scale of 1-10 (1 being “minor,” 10 being “can hardly stand it”). Then ask, “What specifically led to this mood?” Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep, or you argued with your boss this morning. Pinpoint the facts of what happened. Then figure out if you’re making up anything about the incident that has very little to do with the facts. For example, “My boss doesn’t like me.” Then ask yourself, “What’s a more rational way of thinking about this?” Now rate your mood again. The number will probably be lower. Then get moving–work your way further out of the funk.

5. Make Plans
Do you like to do fun things at night after work, but don’t always get around to the required planning? When a 15-minute window opens, make a dinner reservation or look up the local movie schedule. Then call your friend, colleague or loved one to join you for your planned event. One of the keys to happiness is having something to look forward to. Now you do! Let the fresh enthusiasm for your plans also inspire you to dive into assignments when you return to work.

6. Sprint Clean Your Office
This is the opposite of doing nothing, but sometimes it has to be done! Scan your office. Pick the one area that needs the most attention first. Do you have folders stacked on your desk? Are there three coffee mugs from the past week? Your desk top may be your first target area for action. Remove what doesn’t belong there. Use a tissue to dust. Either file or put papers in your out-box for future organizing. The goal is to pick one area and clear it. Then experience a sense of calm and relief. Eliminating a mess you’ve been putting up with recharges your batteries.

7. Fix Something That’s Broken
You know all those things you think to yourself: “I have to change the light bulb,” “I need to get the latch on that window fixed,” “I have to let IT know about my computer glitches”? Use those 15 minutes to actually do something about them. If you’re handy, take that time to actually fix something simple yourself. For example, if the arm of your chair dangles, find the screw and bolt under the seat and tighten it up yourself. If you can’t (or don’t want to) fix something yourself, take the time to contact someone who can. Prompt your IT person to come assess your computer problems, or see if he or she can do it remotely. Call maintenance to repair your window. Take the first step, so you can stop thinking about it.

8. Walk Around the Block
Your tennis shoes smile at you from behind your office door. Go ahead. Slip them on and take a walk around the block. Or, jump on the treadmill. Clear your mind. Get your body moving. Taking a quick walk is easier than you think. You just have to “make” yourself go out there and do it. Once you discover when you tend to have open 15-minute time slots in your day, make that walk a regular routine. Your heart will thank you. Plus, as endorphins get released, you’ll experience greater joy. Be a role model for the rest of your office by taking excellent care of yourself, and let this newfound energy boost your productivity back on the job.

9. Prep for a Meal
Do you find yourself eating out every day? Do you want to eat healthier, but end up grabbing the quickest and most convenient food at meal times? When you have an extra 15 minutes at night or in the morning, use it to prepare a meal. Slice some sourdough bread and make your favorite sandwich for a bag lunch. Then enjoy more time at noon because you won’t have to run around and wait in line for your food. Or your meal prep might include tossing some meat, spices and vegetables into a slow-cooker or crock pot. Then you can return home from work to a nourishing, warm meal. You can sit down, relax and enjoy your food solo or with your family.

10. Prepare for the Day
Another thing you can prepare for is your day or your week. Do you rush around from one thing to the next, barely able to catch a breath? Use this easy prepare-your-day strategy to be more in charge of your time. Wake up 15 minutes early. During this “found time” visualize your day. Imagine traveling to work, your meetings, and accomplishing results with ease. Then add anything to your calendar you may have forgotten about, and include some reserve time for delays. Start by writing your three most important priorities first in your schedule, then add the things you’d like to get to but which aren’t as important. Time only offers 24 hours in a day to each of us, so use it wisely. Schedule it for what matters most. When you have another 15-minute opening in your day, use it to plan the whole week.

Whether you use these top 10 things you can do in 15 minutes to relax or to get something done, you’ll discover how beneficial these small blocks of time can be. Begin by noticing when you have a free 15 minutes. Then choose your action or non-action! Experience the rewards of greater time management as you intentionally direct each moment of your day.

Author: Sue Brenner