3 organization ideas for less stressful holidays

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | October 16, 2015

You may not have your Halloween costumes figured out yet and already the stores are stocking Christmas decorations. But while the leaves turn, so do your thoughts -- to the planning, shopping, cooking, wrapping, and overnight guests that accompany the holiday season.

If you've promised yourself this year that you're going to avoid last minute stress, these DIY home organization projects, remodel ideas, and tips on how to get organized now may help you cope before the holiday to-dos get out of control.

1. Put away the summer gear and declutter

Nothing hampers your fall holiday creativity quite like tripping over reminders of summer. Unless you live in warmer climates, pack up the lighter-weight clothes and the warm weather sporting equipment to make room for the fall and winter seasons' gear. If your garage, bedroom closets, and under bed storage have outgrown your family's clothing capacity, purge whatever you didn't wear or use this year -- and any other clothing, accessories, and playthings you or other household members routinely ignore. There is usually an underlying reason why you and your family no longer use those items. Listen to your gut and help those unwanted possessions find a new home with someone who can enjoy them.

Tips: Consider hiring a professional home organizer or coach who can help you cull through your possessions to keep only what really matters. If you can't bear to part with things you really don't use, home organization experts can be worth the $50 to $100+ per hour they typically charge to help you get over the "I don't know where to start" trauma. A remodeling contractor or custom closet professional can make remodel ideas an elegant reality. They can add a mudroom for outerwear or construct built-in garage cabinets, but custom closets and cabinetry may cost several thousand dollars. If you're handy, there are plenty of remodel ideas to build a mudroom on the cheap. You can install shelving, peg boards, ready-made wall organization systems and ceiling racks for garage storage solutions, such as Safe Racks overhead garage storage, $149.99 to $299.99 at Costco.

2. Set up a sewing, craft, or gift wrap area

Do you sew your own costumes and decorations, give home-made gifts, or just need a place to wrap presents? A room, emptied closet or a nook, and some cabinets or shelf space can keep your supplies and work area from migrating to the dining table, which you may need to keep clear for holiday feasts or even everyday family meals. If you have a spare room -- perhaps one you have been preserving as a shrine long after your teen graduated and moved out -- consider putting the space to better use as your craft or sewing room.

Tips: A home organization professional can help you physically and emotionally transition your adult child's room into your dedicated project area, working side by side and encouraging you for as long as it takes to choose what stays -- or to tell your kids what to come and claim. With as little as an empty closet, you can create -- or hire a remodeler to install -- a dedicated crafting, sewing, and/or gift wrapping space with plenty of storage for supplies. If you're a budget-minded, self-motivated DIYer, you can create your own designated craft area with truly inexpensive home organization ideas such as IKEA's $1.99 Variera plastic bag containers to hold rolls of wrapping paper and $3.99 Variera trash baskets to corral gift bags. Tension rods make handy hanging dispensers for gift wrap rolls and ribbon spools. For a more customized look without the custom price tag, Lowes, and The Home Depot offer off-the-shelf options like ClosetMaid. Martha Stewart Living Craft Space modules and cabinets provide an especially handsome alternative to home-made organizing solutions for craft and sewing areas.

3. Remodel: ideas for easier entertaining

Let the festivities begin. Food, family, and friends equal fun, but not if you're the one feeling stressed. Make your kitchen more convenient. Start by reorganizing it -- throw out expired goods and donate rarely-used canned goods and utensils, countertop appliances, and cookware so you can get as much off the counters and into the cabinets as possible and make room to work. Prepare for guests well ahead of their arrival by dedicating an extra bedroom or one side of your craft room for their sleeping quarters.

Tips: Lose the counter knife block and store cutlery on the wall with a magnetic knife rack like one from IKEA for $14.99. With an ingenious docking tray made of flexible cork and rubber dividers -- $39.95 from Williams Sonoma -- put knives safely in the drawer. Add pull out pantry storage between the refrigerator and the cabinets, interior cabinet organizers, another oven, or a more efficient, quieter dishwasher as individual upgrades or as part of a larger kitchen remodel. If you're doing a significant kitchen renovation, consider investing in refrigerator drawers you can program for the type of food you are storing -- such as frozen foods or fresh produce -- and smart appliances you can control remotely from your phone if you're delayed at work. Futons, click beds, air mattresses, and cots may work in a pinch for overnight guests, but some guests, like your in-laws or grandparents, may need a little better sleeping arrangement. Today's wall beds, or Murphy beds, fold up into the wall during the day without fear of folding up your guests at night. These space-saving beds can be fitted out with a custom mattress made of high-density and memory foam for a good night's rest. Typically, a custom closet professional can provide an estimate for wall beds, some of which are designed to double as storage.

Make the most of your holidays by organizing now and then enjoy your time with family and friends throughout the season with far less stress.

Photo credit to Myryah Shea

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.