Free Printable : Holiday Shopping List

If I’m being honest, I’d love one more month before I have to start thinking about shopping and wrapping and all things Christmas but it’s almost here!  Last year I was frantically finishing up shopping and wrapping at the last minute and this year I’m determined to be done with the shopping before December 1st.  Wish me luck 😉 .

I made this Holiday Shopping List to help me keep track of sales and purchases for this year and thought you might want one too!  Simply go to the free printables page and grab it to make your shopping a little easier this year.

If you need a free printable to help you prioritize during this busy season, grab the Prioritizing To Do List on the free printables page too!

If you’re looking to simplify the holiday season, check out this post on how I avoid the holiday hustle….

Avoid the Holiday Hustle : Tips to Simplify the Season

With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it is easy to get overwhelmed and wonder how in the world you are going to get it all done while enjoying the holidays. Now is the ideal time to sit down and look at what you can cross of your list ahead of time in order to reduce your stress later.

Whether you choose to do all or several of these tasks, I can guarantee that each of these tips will free up some physical and mental space in your life so you can make room for the important things. Most of these tasks are relatively easy with minimal time necessary. Tackle them on a day when you have find you have a block of time or add a task a day to your planner. Ready to make this holiday season less stressful?

Begin your menu planning, recipe gathering and grocery list making.

Set aside some time to begin your menu planning and get your grocery lists started. I like to pull out my favorite cookbooks, my trusty recipe binder and do some Pinterest browsing. This free printable is a great place to start.

Clean your oven.

With all the use that your oven will get over the holidays, starting with it clean is so helpful. While it may seem a little counterproductive to clean it before all this use, it will be much easier to clean after the holidays when you have no buildup of grime to contend with. Check out my oven cleaning guide here.

Stock up on your paper products, ziptop bags and leftover containers.

Take stock of what you have on hand and what you need. I like to start the busy season with plenty of paper products (plates, napkins etc.), parchment paper, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, ziptop bags and reusable leftover containers on hand.

Take inventory of your spices and herbs.

This goes hand in hand with your menu planning. It is no fun to find an open grocery store on Thanksgiving when you realize that you are out of that key ingredient. Here’s how I organize our spice cabinet.

Clean your appliances.

It is not as time consuming as you may think and makes such a difference. I like to save this task for week before major holidays. Make the task quicker with this guide.

Stock your freezer with baked goods.

After you have done your menu planning, look at what you can make ahead of time and freeze. I like to get a head start with homemade rolls and quick breads, cookies and other baked goods that can easily be frozen.

Stock up on wrapping paper, tape, gift bags and tissue paper.

Sales have started, grab what you need now and wrap presents as you purchase them to avoid the all at one time wrapping session.

Start on holiday cards now.

I go even easier and use Minted.com (not sponsored) for our holiday cards – we take our family pictures in October and get the holiday cards ordered.  I keep our address book on their website and have them print the addresses and return address on the cards.  It’s a little pricey, but I wait for a coupon code and find that it’s definitely worth it.

Make sure you have enough towels for your guests.

I like to double check our linen closet and make sure that I have enough hand towels, bath towels and wash cloths for all our guests. Here’s how I organized our linen closet for guests. Costco and Target are my favorite sources for inexpensive yet good quality towels.

Clean out your refrigerator and freezer.

This is a task that I like to do on a regular basis and it gets a little extra attention around the holidays. With all the extra food on hand and stocked, it is important to start with a clean and organized refrigerator and freezer. Wondering how to go about this task without getting overwhelmed?  Here’s the best and easiest way to clean them out.

Start now with a task or two and you’ll find that by simply splitting these tasks up you’re drastically reducing your holiday ‘workload’.  After all, this should be a sweet time not a stressful one!  What do you do to avoid the holiday hustle?  Tell us in the comments!

8 Ways to Simplify the Holiday Season

simplifychristmas

Time flies and when we’re busy it really flies.  If you’re like me and long for a little slow down come December you know that it probably won’t happen with all that quickly appears on that December calendar.  Instead of wasting time complaining about it I’ve decided to figure out a handful of ways to simplify the holiday season. Simple ideas and simpler ways of completing them.  I hope that it’s helpful for you too!

  1. CLEAR THE SCHEDULE – Say no more than yes and definitely don’t say maybe because as my kids say, maybe means yes 🙂
  2. MAKE A LIST or TWO –  Putting those to-do’s on paper is essential when it feels like there’s so much to do.  Keep the list(s) where you’ll see them and don’t be afraid to not finish something or toss that list out when needed.  Need a good to do list?  Check out my free printables page!
  3. START A TRADITION or DECIDE WHICH TRADITIONS YOU’LL KEEP – decide on a couple things that you will do every single year and do those.  Keep the traditions simple and memorable.  Our favorites?  Decorating the tree and house (yes, that’s a tradition), decorating pre-made gingerbread houses, reading Christmas books, making cookies, going on a Christmas house tour, sending Christmas cards, driving through the neighborhood looking at lights….
    Christmas Book Basket - Clean Mama
  4. FOCUS ON SOMEONE ELSE –  Choose at least one thing to do for someone else and include the whole family so your kids know how it feels to give someone else a random act of kindness.  If you need ideas, you should get my friend Mique’s book (from the blog 30 Handmade Days), Make & Share Random Acts of Kindness  – it’s full of ideas AND tear out pages to make it oh-so-simple.
    Make & Share Random Acts of Kindness - Clean Mama
  5. MAKE AN ORNAMENT or DECORATION – This year the kids had the idea to make snow globes – I gave them each a jar, a little plastic snow, and the boys put in Lego guys and my daughter hand crafted snow people.  Simple and sweet!  We’ve made garland from old Christmas cards, painted the inside of glass ball ornaments and painted on the outside of them, and make ice decorations.  My kids love a good project so I try to have a couple simple ones ready for them through the month.  I’m not talking Pinterest perfect projects, just simple handmade ornaments and decorations that have meaning for us.  That’s what’s important!
    Outdoor Ice Decorations
  6. PLAY GAMES and WATCH CHRISTMAS MOVIES – We DVR movies all month long and love cuddling up on the couch to watch a good holiday movie.  I also make sure we have games accessible to whip up a batch of hot chocolate and play a little board game.
    Gingerbread House - Clean Mama
  7. SHOP ONLINE – We live near a small outdoor mall and I will do some specialty shopping there but for the most part it’s Amazon Prime for me.  It keeps it simple, I keep a running shopping cart and keep an eye on prices and make sure I have the shopping done no later than December 15th.
  8. DON’T OVERSHOP – Just a couple meaningful presents go a lot further than a huge pile of stuff.  I like to shop with this in mind – something to wear, something to read, something to do.  Come January you’ll thank yourself for keeping it easy.

8 Ways to Simplify the Holiday Season - Clean Mama

Need some more ideas for how to simplify the season?  Check out this round-up!
Simplify the Season via Clean Mama

Holiday Card and Thank You Note Caddy

Holiday Card and Thank You Note Caddy - main - CLEAN MAMAThe holiday season can feel so busy but taking a couple minutes to put together a mini system or two goes a long way to making things simple and easy.

Holiday Card and Thank You Note Caddy - CLEAN MAMA

I put together a little holiday card and thank you note caddy for the coming month or so.  This will save me time from searching out cards and envelopes and it also makes it easy to teach the kids proper thank you note etiquette.

Gather Your Supplies - Clean Mama

Here’s what you need:

  • caddy/box/bin – use something you already have
  • thank you notes and note cards
  • holiday cards
  • pens and pencils
  • stickers
  • washi tape
  • small notebook for keeping track of thank you notes
  • mason jars or cans to keep pens/pencils and washi tape separate
  • stamps

Gather your supplies, separate them in a way that makes sense for you and your family and put it in a convenient place so you can grab it quickly for notes and thank yous.

Notecards and Notebook - Clean Mama

 

Notecards with Rubberbands - Clean MamaI put rubber bands around the notecards to keep them separated and easy to grab.

Pens and Pencils in Mason Jar - Clean MamaSeparate pens and pencils and washi tape in mason jars – it’s a cheap and adorable way to organize supplies!

Supplies in Caddy - Clean MamaAdd the supplies to your caddy neatly so you can quickly find what you need.

Thank You Note Caddy - Clean MamaMaking a holiday card and thank you note caddy is a simple and easy way to stay organized this holiday season and it only takes a couple minutes to put together – make one today!

Cleaning and Organizing the Entryway for the Holidays + a Giveaway from The Organizing Store

Cleaning + Organizing the Entryway for the Holidays - Quick Tips You Can Use Today via Clean Mama

This post is sponsored by The Organizing Store.  I love what Deborah and Allie – the mother and daughter team behind The Organizing Store have created – if you haven’t ‘stopped’ by their shop, please do so.  I’ve met them in real life and they are even more wonderful than the shop appears. Rest assured, I only recommend products that I personally use in my own home and love.  You can see my full disclosure statement here.

The holidays are coming and now is a great time to prepare the entryway for the holidays.  Whether it’s just welcoming neighbors in for trick-or-treating or hosting a holiday with family and friends, there are a couple things you can do now to get your entryway ready for the holidays.

TIPS FOR A CLEAN + ORGANIZED ENTRYWAY

  • CLEAN IT UP: sweep the outside entry area first and shake out any rugs.  Then start on the inside by cleaning the rug or carpet at the door, wipe down the front door, clean windows, vacuum and wash the floor, and tidy up your coat closet if you have one.
    Organized Entryway via Clean Mama
  • ADD STORAGE: make sure you have a place to hang coats – add hangers and a coat rack if necessary.
  • CONTAIN: baskets and bins are great for storing items in a coat closet – take inventory and add baskets if necessary.
    Entryway Closet Organization via Clean Mama
  • GARMENT KIT: put together a kit for clothing and shoe care – perfect for any guest mishaps and it’s accessible for you as well.  I like to always have a couple lint rollers and sweater shavers on hand too.  Lint rollers aren’t just for clothing – I use them to dust lampshades and they work great on furniture as well.

Put Together a Basket with Fabric and Shoe Care Items via Clean Mama

  • SLIPPERS + SOCKS: have slippers and socks for guests to slip on – this will nicely ask your guests to remove shoes (without asking) and make them feel right at home at the same time.  I store this in my coat closet and pull it down when necessary before guests arrive.  (Slippers are from Target 🙂 )
    Put Out Slippers for Guests via Clean Mama

I put together a little inspiration board with some of the items I used to get my entryway ready for the holidays and a couple other items that might work in your entryway this season.

Ideas for Organizing the Entryway via Clean Mama

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How about a giveaway to get your entryway ready for the holidays too?  Today The Organizing Store is giving away 6 copper wire  baskets and a Murchison-Hume Dry-Cleaning Alternative kit!  Enter in the Rafflecopter below!

giveaway

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Make Your Home Smell Good : Fall Simmers

Make Your Home Smell Good - Fall Simmers via Clean Mama

I love the way a warm scent can conjure up memories or just make a smelly room smell better.  Want to invoke that fall feeling in your home? Try a little simmer – it will get your home smelling fallish in a hurry.  Gather any combination of the following ingredients – you only NEED one or two things, but you can combine to your heart’s content.

Make a Simmer via Clean Mama

Ingredient Ideas:

  • lemons
  • oranges
  • apples
  • cranberries
  • cinnamon sticks
  • whole cloves
  • fresh herbs
  • extracts – vanilla, and almond, etc.
  • essential oils (just a drop or two is all you need) – optional but a drop or two will up the scent-ification
  • 4 cups water

Here are 3 scent ideas to get you started:

FALL SPICE

Citrus and Clove Simmer via Clean Mama

  • lemons
  • oranges
  • cloves

THANKSGIVING

Thanksgiving Simmer via Clean Mama

  • sage leaves
  • cranberries
  • oranges

HOMEY GOODNESS

Homey Goodness Simmer via Clean Mama

  • vanilla
  • cinnamon sticks
  • cloves

Combine ingredients with water in a saucepan and put on your stove.  Set heat to low and let the ingredients simmer away as long as you’d like.  (Keep an eye on the water so it doesn’t boil over or scorch.)

Simmer on the Stove via Clean Mama

TIP: If you have a small crockpot you can combine the ingredients and let your simmer bubble away on low all day.

Make Your Home Smell Good - 3 Fall Simmers via Clean Mama

Easy Ways to Keep the Kitchen Clean During the Holidays

 Easy Ways to Keep the Kitchen Clean During the Holidays - Clean Mama
Love to entertain but dread the clean up?  Sick of being stuck in the kitchen while everyone is watching their favorite Christmas movies and board games?  This holiday season, use these tips to maximize the way you work in the kitchen to keep it neat and tidy.  You’ll spend less time working and more time enjoying family and friends.  Maybe you’ll even pick up a new trick or two that you can use year round!
Clean up spills right away - Clean Mama
  • Clean up messes right away.  That little spill on your stove is a lot easier to clean up right when it happens instead of waiting until the next day.

Get in the habit of wiping down the counters every night - Clean Mama

  • Wipe down the kitchen every night after dinner and put out a fresh dish towel.  Load up the dishwasher or wash the dishes.  You’ll enjoy coming into the kitchen the next morning without a pile of dishes waiting for you.
  • Empty the sink and dishwasher before guests arrive so you can put dirty dishes straight into the dishwasher during or after your parties and get-togethers.

Put Silverware and Serving Pieces in a Colander by the Sink for Washing - Clean Mama

  • Put a colander by the sink for dirty silverware – this is a quick trick to keeping silverware out of the sink and possibly down the drain or garbage disposal.  Once the colander is filled up, place it in the sink and rinse the silverware and wash or put in the dishwasher.
  • Before setting up for guests, put everything away and wipe down your island or that part of your counter you use to set out silver wear or food during the party. This will help make sure everything is ready to go for your party and is nice and clean to put anything down on.

Put Silverware in Mason Jars for Easy Access via Clean Mama

  • Gather silverware in a cup or pre-roll silverware in napkins to ensure that you have enough of everything and to keep it easy for your guests and family to locate that spoon.
  • Make a beverage bar so people can help themselves.  Hot cocoa, hot apple cider, and cold beverages can all be set up ahead of time to make grabbing a beverage easy for your guests.  Make sure to have a printed dishtowel or something close by in case someone spills!
  • Use a lint roller to give your dining chairs and/or furniture a quick once over to make sure your guests’ clothes don’t pick up any lint or pet hair.
  • Make ahead dishes that you can.  If you can purchase rolls, salads, and other items pre-made, do it!  It will save you prep and clean up time in the kitchen and chances are, no one will notice, or care.  Create a clean space to lay everything out while you’re setting up serving areas.
  • Use craft paper or chalkboard paper instead of tablecloths and let kids doodle on the paper.  No tablecloths to wash and a fun activity for the kiddos!
  • Make your own disinfecting holiday scented kitchen cleaner (safe on marble and granite) with 3 tablespoons rubbing alcohol, 2 cups water, 1/4 teaspoon castile soap and 1 drop each of cinnamon, lemon and clove essential oils.  (Feel free to adjust the scents or change to suit your taste.)  Spray on hard surfaces and wipe clean with a kitchen cloth.

It feels good to stay on top of the mess during the holidays and doing just a couple things to make a get together or just normal life run a little smoother is a win in my book.  A clean kitchen always feels good to me and finding a couple ways to keep it clean during the holidays is especially helpful.  A clean kitchen makes it easy to relax and enjoy family and friends without the worry of counters to clear and dishes to wash.  A clean kitchen in the midst of the messiness of the holidays is my #cleanfeelsgood moment.  Take a couple minutes of preparation and foresight and get your kitchen ready for new holiday memories to be made.  You’ll be glad you did!  If you need some great tools to get your kitchen (and house) cleaned up in a hurry, you’ll want to check out Scotch-Brite.

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This post is part of the #CleanFeelsGood Holiday Blog Hop – click on the links below to see the other bloggers’ tips for staying tidy this holiday season!  (This is a sponsored post from Scotch-Brite.  You can see my disclosure statement here.)

Homekeeping Gift Ideas for the Holiday Season

Homekeeping Gift Ideas for the Holiday Season via Clean Mama

The Organically Clean Home has been out for a little over 6 months, and just a year ago I was turning over the manuscript to the publisher.   Have you purchased it?  Do you love it?  How about giving it as a gift!  We’re heading into that busy holiday season and I thought I’d give you a couple ideas of ways you can use The Organically Clean Home as a gift.  Shoot, you should probably just purchase a few copies to have on hand for gifts (ha!).

I am a big fan of giving consumable gifts – gifts that get used up.  Fancy hand soaps and lotions, candles, food, spices, condiments and other items that the recipient will use and might not buy for him/herself.  No clutter left behind and a little something special for as long as it lasts.  So these cleaning-related gifts fit the bill for the consumable gift giver in me.  I have a handful of ideas, but all you really need are a couple foundation pieces and I bet you can come up with the perfect gift for your recipient too!

Disclaimer:  Cleaning products as a gift are not for everyone, but for that friend or family member that loves things like this, it’s a perfect gift.

Ingredient Ideas for Homekeeping Gifts via Clean Mama

Gather some of your favorite items to clean with and put together a unique and personal gift this holiday season!  Here are some of my recommended ideas (you’ll see links at the bottom of the post if you are interested in purchasing any of these items):

  • The Organically Clean Home (of course!)
  • caddy or container – the ones you see in my pictures are from the dollar section at Target – they were $3 and I just got them this week.
  • microfiber cloths
  • small dusting wand
  • sponges
  • dish cloths and dish towels
  • white vinegar
  • castile soap (bar and liquid)  – you can find the little travel sized castile soap in the travel section at Target.
  • spray bottles
  • essential oils
  • super washing soda
  • borax
  • epsom salts
  • small notebook (the one pictured is from Staples)
  • twine and washi tape for cute wrapping and details

Give the Gift of The Organically Clean Home this Holiday Season via Clean Mama

JUST THE BOOK – wrap with a little twine or in a dishtowel and you’ve got a fun little gift.

DIY Cleaning Gift Kit via Clean Mama

DIY CLEANING GIFT – mix up your favorite recipe and give it away with the ingredients you used to make it.

Great Ideas for Hostess Gift via Clean Mama

ULTIMATE CLEANING GIFT – put together your favorites tools and products in your price range.  Give a handful of ingredients that are needed to make some of your favorite recipes.  Put in a cute caddy or container and you have the perfect hostess gift or other holiday or birthday gift.  If you have a friend that enjoys homekeeping, this might be just the gift to give.

Ideas for Cleaning Gift Basket via Clean Mama

Most of these items can be found on my Amazon favorites pageGo here to see more DIY cleaning recipes and ideas.

Have another idea for incorporating The Organically Clean Home in a gift?  Share in the comments!

3 Steps to a Simple Fall Mantel

3 Steps to a Simple Fall Mantel via Clean Mama

I love seasonal decorating in magazines and on Pinterest, but in real life it has to be easy and simple.  Easy to put together and easy to put away, with a few permanent items that stay on the mantel year round.  Today I’m sharing 3 ways to get that simple mantel look this fall.

Simple Fall Mantel - asymmetrical balance - via Clean Mama

Use asymmetry or symmetry – keep it balanced.  You choose – repeat the same items on either side for symmetry or mix it up with different items for a little asymmetry.  I have always been an asymmetrical mantel decorator mostly because I just have one of different items, not two.

Simple Fall Mantel - permanent items - via Clean Mama

Have a few permanent items that you add seasonal items to like vases and pitchers.  This makes switching items out easy.  I have another candle set for spring and summer that I just swap out for fall and winter.  I switch out the flowers/leaves/cat tails and the gold acorns I’ll swap out for faux crystals. The pumpkin candles will get replaced for the next season and I’ll switch things around a bit, but this keeps it pretty easy.

Simple Fall Mantel - add something fun and unexpected via Clean Mama

Add something fun and unexpected – decorating doesn’t have to be serious.

Simple Fall Mantel via Clean Mama

And there you have it.  A simple fall mantel and a couple mantel tips you can use any season.  Best thing about this mantel?  It can stay up through Thanksgiving!  Any simple fall mantel fans out there?  What’s your favorite item on your fall mantel this year?

Quick Entertaining Idea – Hot Beverage Stations

Here’s a quick host with the most idea for the holidays or anytime.  Hot beverage stations are great for impromptu hosting events like sledding or being neighborly.  They’re also great for impressing your kids and making an afternoon a little special.  Having a couple hot beverage items on hand makes these a breeze to throw together.
Hot Chocolate Station
cake stand (optional, but so cute)
spoons in a small glass or mason jar
hot chocolate mix – I love these from Caribou Coffee
marshmallows in a bowl
Hot Tea Station
cake stand (again, optional)
tea bags in a cute container (I keep tea this way in the cupboard for easy access)
spoons in a small glass or mason jar
honey or sugar
   Simple, cute and at the ready for any hot beverage drinking.  What would you add?  Any other favorite fixings?
See you back here on the 26th for my ebook release!
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Little Handmade Christmas Gifts

I have a soft spot for little handmade gifts at Christmastime.  If you do too, you’ll appreciate this little round-up today.  Most of them are from my Pinterest boards, so if you follow me there, they probably aren’t new to you, but they are fun and cute!

 

 

 

 

Source: justsomethingimade.com via Clean Mama on Pinterest 

Any favorite little homemade gifts to share?  Of course, these were on my list to make early December, but we’ll see!  Isn’t that what always happens?

December 21st Ramblings

Can you believe it’s December 21st already?  Where has this month gone?  Need one last quick foodie gift idea?  I made this peppermint bark yesterday and it is divine!  Not cheap, but oh-so-good. 

I’d like to say that I’ll finish a couple handmade gifts for the kiddos before Christmas, but I can’t guarantee that.  I wish I had more time and could make each one of them one of these cute bags.

I think I’ll make a huge tub of this for after Christmas/January and February enjoyment.   (Anyone else addicted to Mel’s Kitchen Cafe?  Seriously, her blog has been my cookbook the past few months.)

I want to wish you, my dear readers a blessed Christmas.  I’ll be back on December 26th with a full Clean Mama Printables shop update for 2012.  I’ve been hard at work this month making some changes in the shop (some updates and additions are already in the shop, if you are interested).  And then on the 27th – next Tuesday, I’ll ‘unveil’  the cleaning and organizing party that I’m planning here on the blog for January.  It’ll be FUN – fun if you like to clean and organize, that is. 

Holiday Shortcuts – Gifts of Food

Have a holiday party to attend or need a quick host/hostess gift?  How about a gift of food?  Here are a couple ideas for food gifts to make….
Vanilla Sugar
Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Icing
 you can freeze these cinnamon rolls baked and frosted and the recipe makes a LOT of rolls!
English Muffin Bread
I love this recipe because it is SO easy – it makes 4 loaves – how about a loaf of fresh bread and a jar of homemade or store bought jam for a yummy gift?

Holiday Bark

Always a classic and loved foodie gift – wrap up a little in a canning jar with a ribbon and tag and you’ve got a delicious little gift.

Christmas Mantle

This month is all about Holiday Shortcuts, so in staying true to the ‘theme’, here’s my Christmas Mantle.  No garland, no lights, just a couple items added to the usual mantle.
all that I added is this simple wood tree
and a couple winter-y sprigs of fake greenery to this antique vase
And you want to know what?  I really like the simplicity of the arrangement and I won’t be going crazy on December 26th, ready to take everything down.  Less is more.

Holiday Shortcuts – Baking Ideas

If you’re following along this month, I’m talking about some simple Holiday Shortcuts that I’m making to make things a bit simpler this season.  Didn’t get the printable checklist?  Go here to grab one. 

Some baking shortcut ideas?
  • Make a list of all the things that you’d “like” to bake
  • Decide on your top 3-5 things on that list and bake those things first
  • Bake one or two cookies a week and freeze them
  • Host/attend a cookie exchange
  • Fill in the blanks with easy to make/assemble candy (like 5 minute fudge)
  • Get the kids involved – this might not be a shortcut, but it’s always a fun activity
Here are a couple of my favorite, must-bake December baked goods…

Source: bhg.com via Becky on Pinterest
Source: bhg.com via Becky on Pinterest

Source: bhg.com via Becky on Pinterest
Source: bhg.com via Becky on Pinterest
Do you have any must-bake recipes? 

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