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What to Do With All of Those Holiday Cards?

What to Do With All of Those Holiday Cards?

It is that time of year. Holiday cards are stuffing your mailbox and overloading the systems you usually have in place. These cards are emotionally charged so it helps to establish some rules to handle the influx at this already busy time. Use the five D’s to keep from getting overwhelmed.

Designate a drop spot for the cards as they arrive. I like to use a pretty bowl or basket. I separate them from the other mail and do not open them until I have time to sit down and really enjoy them. This system ensures that none will be misplaced around the house.

When I open the cards I try to immediately make a decision about which I want to hold on to for display, reuse for crafts, archive, or leave in the bowl to save. Ask yourself these questions to help make your rules: Do you only want to keep cards from certain families? Only photo cards? Only cards from relatives? Only the top ten of the year? Only your own cards? (TIP: If you are keeping your own cards a good rule of thumb is to keep a copy for each child. If you have 5 children, keep 5 cards) Keeping all of your cards is just a way to not decide. Making decisions on this small batch of emotional items is good practice for bigger jobs – like your photos. If tackling holiday cards is difficult for you, photos are probably even more of a challenge.

Displaying is generally for current cards. There are many different ways to display holiday cards, from clothespins to mantles and garlands to wall sconces! I usually display cards of the people closest to my family and me. A bonus is that when those families join us for holiday celebrations it makes them happy to see their card on display. Check out our Pinterest for more ideas on displaying your cards, you can buy or DIY.

Take down your display at the end of the season and decide how you want to document/archive your cards. Most of what I choose to display each year is what I end up archiving and documenting later on. Once you decide which cards to keep from past years, think about how to save them. Is it okay to just put favorite cards in a shoebox or does it have to be something more aesthetic? I have found that a nice photo box works well for me. I like to save certain cards to look at each year when we pull out our decorations. Also, this year I will be making a scrapbook of my family’s cards over the last 25 years using Shutterfly. I will share my scrapbook link once the project is complete!

5. DIY
This last ‘D’ is an option if you want to get more out of the cards you are not displaying or documenting by reusing them. The front of non-photo cards make great thank you notes if you cleanly separate the front flap. Most people do not write in that area so the back should be blank. Now just find an envelope of the right size or use it as a postcard! My daughter is really great at this! These front flaps can also be cut into smaller pieces and used as gift tags. This is something my sister does. She often writes heartfelt notes on these and attaches them to a satin ribbon as gift wrapping. Whatever is left over can be recycled.

Garage Storage: Lofty Solutions

November 19, 2012 by Leslie McKee in Garage, Organizing

Photo provided by Hyloft.com

We have been getting so many calls about garages this month. The weather is getting colder and people want to put all their summer outdoor items away to keep them out of the elements. Making a garage work can be key to keeping other areas of your home uncluttered and running smoothly. After you have decided on zones for things, added shelving and hooks for frequently used items- LOOK UP! There is a gold mine of space in most garages that are underutilized. We love this Hyloft Storage product. It is affordable, easy to install and much easier than crawling up into your attic for seasonal and infrequently used items.

So call us to get ideas on how to get your garage ready for winter and to see if Hyloft is a solution for you.

Holiday Stress: Worth It or Not?

Traditions change. Yes, it’s an oxymoron, but it’s true. If you think about it, year by year new traditions and expectations are added to our holiday celebrations. Relaxation and joy are sometimes replaced with guilt and stress while we try to keep up. Awareness is the first step to making a change.

If you want to make a change start by thinking about the details of your traditions and ask yourself these questions:

  • Think back on how many family traditions got started.
  • Think about the “why” behind each tradition.
  • Is the tradition aligned with your family values?
  • Is it something you “should” do or something you “want” to do?
  • Try to think about the joy/stress ratio for each tradition and ask yourself if the stress is worth it?

Slimming down traditions by asking these questions or at asking these before connecting to new traditions might be a great way to add peace to your holiday season.


Holiday Meal Planning Timeline

November 8, 2012 by Leslie McKee in Holiday Prep, Time Management

We are busy every day, so adding holiday food prep to the usual mix can really be overwhelming. When time is tight, quality suffers and then we make poor choices and get poor results. This year, plan early and make better choices by following this little guide.


  • Confirm your guest list.
  • Confirm any rentals or special arrangements.
  • Finalize the menu and try to incorporate lots of make ahead items.
  • Delegate cooking projects to guests.
  • Order the turkey if its fresh (1lb/person).
  • Compose final shopping list.


  • Buy hardy veggies and squash and heavy cream early.
  • Launder and press linens.


  • Thaw the bird in the fridge.
  • Think about the table setting and furniture placement.


  • Baking Day! Pies, rolls and bread.
  • Time to make those soups, dips, sauces and casseroles that can stay in the fridge.


  • Set your table.
  • Finish any final shopping.
  • Write up a timeline for the day in the kitchen including oven space planning.
  • Make all items as appropriate.


  • Prepare the turkey and get it in the oven as directed.
  • Reheat and/or cook sides and appetizers.
  • Delegate opening wine, setting up the buffet and other small jobs to guests.
  • ENJOY! and remember the cook never does the dishes!

Too Much Candy?

October 31, 2012 by Leslie McKee in Uncategorized

First of all, a pre-trick or treat plan might really help. Talk to your kids about what might be a smart way to handle all of the candy. Clearly, you are the boss but giving children options and deciding on a plan is always a good place to start.



At least have a FORMULA

First, what do they think is reasonable daily candy consumption at Halloween time? Something like 2 pieces at lunch, a piece after school and a piece for dessert might be what you could shoot for. That’s adding 5 pieces of candy a day. Once you come to an agreement, define how long Halloween season should last. Five, ten, fourteen days, a month? Now put this formula to work. Number of treats/day times the number of how many days the season lasts equals equals the number of pieces of candy you can keep. So after the candy comes in they can choose their 50 favorite pieces. In my world that would get rid of half the candy and it would put a limit on the time you need to police it. Feel free to adjust the formula!


Buy it back by the piece or the pound. This might help with the formula above. Just buy back the extra candy. Set a rate that is appropriate for your children and encourage them to save it or put it towards something they are already saving for.


Do a little math on the calorie count of what they are planning to add to their daily intake and plan out the additional activity they would need to engage in to compensate for that intake. It’s not intended to freak kids out about their weight or physical appearance. It’s just a way of helping them understand what digesting a pillowcase full of sweets can cost.

Make it positive and concrete if you can. An example, make a traditional Halloween hike or bike ride and be sure calculate how many calories were burned in that activity and what amount of candy that equates too. This is a good way to make it more real and it is easy for them to relate to.


We all know about a privilege or item that our kids really crave more than sugar and see if they may want to trade. Ten pieces of candy equals staying up ten minutes later. Twenty pieces of candy means they can skip a chore. Make it fun and be creative!

This should be discussed before Halloween and it is not an all or nothing proposition. Let them have fun thinking of alternatives and help them to decide when they should use this sort of alternative before you both are in the heat of the moment.


1. Donate to Troops,  VA homes, or Fisher Houses
2. Use in an art project
3. Use in baking
4. Dentist buy back
5. Nursing Homes
6. Homeless shelters
7. Food Banks
8. Freeze it
9. Re-use for Christmas or birthday piñata
10. Take it to work
11. HalloweenCandyBuyBack.com
12.  Learning Express in Mt Lebanon is also buying candy for store credit. Details.


Halloween: Trick or Treat Alternatives

October 19, 2012 by Leslie McKee in Fun, Go Green, Holiday Prep

It is that time of year again where ghouls and gluttony rule. The time any vague notion of nutritional plans are thrown out the window and are replaced with pillowcases full of candy and sugar. A glint of greed glows In the eyes of otherwise mannerly children. Parents begin to actually steal from their children when their backs are turned and the lights are out and some existing behaviors exasperated by all that goo sky rocket!

The alternatives? Can you bear to be the neighbor that is passing out granola bars? Would any fruit or homemade treat land in the trash in today’s suspicious world? It is a vicious cycle.

It makes me ask the question, what makes Halloween fun? Is it really the actual candy or is it the costumes, the interaction with friends and neighbors, the décor. Is it the feeling of just going door to door and be given a gift and coming home and just looking at all that candy!

Can you change what you distribute?

  • A toy – Not a plastic throw away. Something that might have longevity. One mom went through her son’s old beanie babies and action figures and set aside the best ones for Halloween.
  • Art Supplies – A little water color set , play-dough, markers, sketchbooks
  • Books – Activity books, little easy readers, comics, notepads
  • Coupons – McDonald’s and Wendy’s have them and I know they are still fast food but it at least its not plain sugar.
  • Money – How about a bowl of change! I always wondered if you offered the money alternative, how many kids would go for gold!

If you can’t commit 100% maybe you can at least start with providing a choice. Offer an alternative bowl, make it attractive and see what happens. I would love to hear from you and I would love to hear more ideas!

Keeping it Green: Halloween Costumes

Photo provided by Etsy seller PipandBean.com

What was your most favorite Halloween costume you ever wore? Was it one you bought or one you put together creatively? Sometimes the best memories are made when you just make do because the pressure is off and it’s time to have fun. Often when your creativity shines through, the costume becomes a real show stopper and the added bonus is no one will have the the same one as you!

The most eco-friendly suggestion is to use what you have or do a “costume swap”. You can organize this with friends, neighbors, or even schools. There is even a National Costume Swap day on October 13th and a website, www.greenhalloween.org that facilitates setting up your own swap. Also be sure to look at consignment and thrift shops. They often have costumes that are in perfect condition and ready to go at bargain prices.

Another great place to look for great handmade items that are clever and eco-friendly is www.etsy.com. We found these adorable ideas from Etsy seller Pip and Bean and they are absolutely adorable!

There is plenty of time to let your creative juices roll this Halloween and empower your kids to find fun and easy ways to get ready for their big night in a EEK-o-Friendly way!

Back to School: Organizing the Paper – Part Two


Let me start by saying I would like to pass legislation stating anything that comes home from school and needs my attention should be allowed to be returned to school the next day. It is usually the active papers that are the problem and having a guideline on what is active, what is reference and what is archive is crucial. Getting clarity on this from teachers and students will make all the difference. You will be able to have a streamlined system and you can help your child with this skill. Many times kids are paralyzed with paper too and tend to carry everything in oversized backpacks and overstuffed desks and lockers because they don’t want to be embarrassed by not having what the teacher wants and inevitably this creates a situation that papers get lost in. This skill takes time and support not just verbal instruction. Do it together to build better habits.

Every home needs a LAUNCH PAD or CONTROL CENTER for school papers.

Here are some components for a good launch pad:

  • A one step space for EACH child’s backpack

This will save the day for you. Have a place to hang that backpack and create a procedure for going through it after school. Make sure it’s loaded for the next day and many stresses will disappear with putting that one step into place.

  • A place for important ACTIVE papers

Use a red folder for active papers, I think of them as HOT. Everyone in my house knows where the HOT file is and that it is important and things that belong there are typically safe and not lost!

  • A work space for HOMEWORK

I am a big believer in the dining room table homework area. I like to have that activity under my nose because I have found it’s easier for me to answer questions and keep things on track if they are centralized in the home rather than hiding in a bedroom. So many parents think the answer to a distracted student is a desk in their room but 9 out of 10 times that desk is on Craigslist a year later because it becomes a clutter catcher and not a work space. Using the dining room or kitchen table has other added benefits, it helps to get homework done before dinner because things have to get put away in order to eat. I realize this won’t work for everyone, but take the ideas to your home and see what does work.

  • A place for SCHEDULES and INVITES

Along with the HOT folder I have a folder for soccer schedules the directory and invites. This is one clear plastic wall pocket that I nicknamed ”my brain” because when stuff gets in there I don’t have to remember it all. I put important info in my phone or on the calendar but I keep the details there until the event is over then I toss it.

  • ONE family calendar

Our family calendar hung above the wall pocket (my brain) and everyone could see it in my kitchen. It is where all the info resided for everyone. If you want your activity to be counted, it better be on there. I delegated a bit here because frankly I couldn’t keep it all straight.

As time went on smart phones came into play so the calendar on my phone was THE calendar and everyone entered info on that. I can remember the kids asking if they could do something and passing the phone to them so they could see if there was time available and what was going on that day. Like the HOT file, the calendar gets respect because if it’s not on there I can’t really get it scheduled or done, so everyone quickly knew to get on board and get their events in the calendar.

  • Night time routine for readiness

When you get this in place you will be a rock star! It is so easy to do, but so easy not to do. Think of it as PEACE for you and your students. Just take ten minutes to go over what needed to be completed that day, what is needed for the next day and put it away or where it needs to be for the next day. It will calm everyone down, and set the stage for a more relaxing evening or bedtime as well as a smooth morning exit.


For examples of launch pads or family control centers, check our Back to School board on Pinterest

Back to School: Organizing the Paper – Part One

Are you shuddering to think about those back to school papers? Is your child’s back pack from last year sitting exactly where they put it on the last day of school? If so, you need make a plan for handling the deluge of paper that is about to start flowing into your home again. Here are some ideas on how to get ready for the upcoming school year.


What to keep:

  • Report cards and official documents

Of course you need to keep report cards and official documents from school and they should be filed with your family documents for easy retrieval.

  • Academic paperwork

Keep things that show development. When you look at everything and notice papers showing an important highlight or lowlight, hang on to it. Keep personal writing, especially when it is about them, or about family. Ask your children what is important to them. It is a lifelong skill they need to develop and leaving them out of the process takes away an important learning opportunity. Listen to them! Generally toss spelling tests, worksheets and papers that seem repetitive or less student oriented.

  • Artwork

Keep what is pretty and makes you happy. Look for developmental leaps and write  the child’s name, date and any other notes, like why you kept it on the back. Look at previous items you kept and pull out what doesn’t seem important now. Have kids go through it too, sometimes they can identify items they truly engaged in rather than pre-cut crafty projects that teachers really did most of the work for them.

Where do I put all this stuff?

Decide what enough is. I like to use under the bed bins for art and a file box for papers. I keep it in the attic and I add to it through out the school year. At the end of the year I invite my children to look at all the stuff that is saved from previous years and add what is “worthy” from the current year. I am often surprised that the lid goes on those two boxes when we are done because we naturally get rid of things that just seem less relevant as time goes on. We then find things to scan, frame, toss, or give as gifts and it seems to work.

TIP: Both of my children took two AP art course in High School and the art got bigger and better as time went on. I often scan larger projects and frame the reduced versions to hang on an art wall I created for my kids work. I could recreate them in black and white and even hang similar project they each did side by side.

For examples of launch pads or family control centers, check our Back to School board on Pinterest

Do You Have the Oldest Refrigerator in PA?

June 28, 2012 by Leslie McKee in recycle

I am always looking for fun new ways to get rid of “stuff” and when I opened my Duquense Light bill today I found this fun challenge!  Just go to www.WattChoices.com and schedule a pick up of any refrigerator and its FREE!  You will receive a $35.00 check, save an average of $150.00 a year and if your refrigerator is the oldest one they collect you could win $1000.00 dollars! Sounds like a win-win-win to me. The icing on this cake is that Duquense Light has partnered with JACO Environmental and they recycle 95% of the components of your old refrigerator in an environmentally friendly way.

I do have an old refrigerator and have been considering the practicality of that now that my children are not at home.  It was in  my grandmother’s and I just think it is funky and cool. But after looking at all the information on http://www.WattChoices.com it may be time to retire that old fridge.  Check out the site for ton of great tips and money saving advice. You can also call 1-877-270-3521 for more details.

* Limit 2 per household:)

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