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Holiday Answers
by Jill Ellen Shankar

Q. How can you possibly stay organized around the Holidays when everything is off schedule and there's packages and things all over the place. HELP!

A. The most important thing you can do to remain sane when stress is high is to breath deeply. Then, understand that you will be at your most productive and relaxed when you focus on one thing at a time.

To this end, take a few minutes to sit down and write out a list of your projects. Get everything down on paper, without regard to whether it seems feasible or not.

Once you have emptied your brain of all these scattered messages and musts, go back and prioritize by giving each task a number-one number per job, which means you can not have several # 1 items! (Sometimes the toughest part about keeping stress at bay is the decision making.) Remember that you can always re- prioritize if necessary.

Manage your packages and holiday clutter similarly: take it calmly, one thing at a time.

Assign temporary homes to all your stuff, so you can get it out from under foot. If you can't decide where to start, simply pick the easiest pile, or the one that is most annoying. And so on.

As with your time, the decision making can be tricky...don't agonize about whether you've created the perfect storage location, just do it. You can re-arrange as needed.

By doing one thing at a time, and making prompt and smart decisions, you can bring the fun back to your holiday season!

Q. My grandchildren come over for the holidays (they live out of town) and I must confess by the time they leave I am ready to see them go. (Of course I miss them right away). There are toys everywhere. I don't have a playroom, just an apartment for my husband and I.

There are only 3 of them, but they all bring a million things with them. Is there anyway to organize this time with them so I don't feel so drained and worn out while they're here?

A. 3 grandkids is indeed quite a handful!!! There are things you can do to manage, however.

Discounters and other retailers sell large plastic storage containers in which you can keep these toys. Purchase one or more containers per kid, and you can even work with each kid to choose a preferred color or size as is appropriate.

They key is in creating good organizational habits-each child knows where to go to fetch his or her toys, and where to put them away when the toys are done being used.

Also know that this is a great opportunity to teach kids how to clean up after themselves (do it with them, not for them) and to set up boundaries regarding personal responsibility in a shared space.

You are a grandparent, not a slave - it is quite fine to ask for age appropriate help with all clean up.

Lastly, next year before their arrival, discuss your space constraints with the kids' parents and set limits on the amount of toys and other personal belongings you want them to bring along.

Remember, this is your home and you are in control, not your adult children, and certainly not the grand children.

Be kind and patient, but firm; responsible, considerate children are a pleasure to have around, and they grow up to be responsible, considerate adults!



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Jill Ellen Shankar
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