On January 12th, I celebrated my twins’ b’nai mitzvah. It was magical and memorable, and 98% stress free. Yes, almost entirely stress free. And, whether you’re planning a wedding, a bar/bat mitzvah, or any other large party, you’ll be calm and collected too if you follow my tips for planning that perfect party!
Party Planning Tips
- Determine your budget. You can’t possibly make a single decision without knowing how much you want to spend.
- Assemble a guest list. Obtain all of the addresses you don’t have, and use a program like Excel to manage your list. Timing: one year in advance.
- Choose the venue. Make a list of your requirements in advance (e.g., how many people it needs to hold, where it needs to be located). Timing: a year in advance.
- Trust your friends’ recommendations. If you have friends that have hosted parties recently, ask them for a list of the vendors they used. There’s no need to recreate the wheel.
- Eliminate any non-responsive vendor. If your call isn’t returned within 24 hours before you’ve signed a contract, don’t expect responsiveness once you’ve handed over your deposit.
- Know your limits. If a party planner doesn’t fit into your budget, don’t pick a theme that will be difficult to execute unless you have the time and enjoy the creative process.
- Make big decisions early. Chose the photographer, videographer, and décor person at least 6 months in advance.
- Select pictures and videos. Anything you want included in a video montage needs to be given to the photographer/videographer digitally.
- Create digital folders on your computer. Save the best pictures from every vacation and event, separated by who is in the picture (cousins, friends, grandparents), so the process of selected pictures is organized.
10. Select invitations. Sometimes printing takes longer than you think, and you need to allot time for the envelopes to be addressed. Timing: 6 months in advance.
11. Limit group decision making. If you’re planning a bar/bat mitzvah, let your child make some decisions (from a range of acceptable options that you’ve already vetted) about what s/he really cares about (e.g., party favors, entertainment, their outfits), and you decide the rest. When planning a wedding, involve as few people as possible in the decision making.
12. Make a timeline. Write down everything you want to occur during the party and when.
13. Make a list of photos. Be very specific about the pictures you want the photographer to take. You don’t want to risk not having a picture of someone important to you.
14. Consider hiring a party planner for the day. It’s a small price to pay to be a guest at your own party!
15. The devil is in the details. Don’t underestimate the amount of time you’ll need to devote to details in the last month. You’ll need to finalize the headcount, select the menu, make sure your clothing is ready, and make table assignments.
16. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Something will go wrong, and no one will notice, and no one will care.
One of the most common New Year’s Resolutions is to get organized. Yet, it’s easier said than done, and getting organized can be a tall order. But, what if you could get organized in 5 minutes or less each day? Here are my top ten organizing resolutions you can actually keep:
- Memorize the credit card number you use most. You’ll be amazed at what a time saver this is.
- Register online with the Direct Marketing Association’s registry to keep junk mail to a minimum. Less paper clutter means less stress.
- Throw out any markers or pens that are out of ink…at work and at home.
- Throw out any mismatched socks. If the mate hasn’t shown up yet, recognize that it’s probably long gone.
- Throw away all expired medicines from the medicine cabinet.
- Throw away all expired foods from the refrigerator.
- Discard all of the unimportant receipts cluttering your wallet. Let’s face it; you can’t return the Starbucks latte, so why hang onto the receipt?
- Say no to the request that’s causing you the most stress. You don’t have to be a martyr. Save your time and energy for things you really want to do.
- Make your bed every day. Your room will look neater, and you’ll start your day feeling calm and collected.
- Throw away that box/bag of wires/chargers that’s been collecting dust in your closet for years. If all of your electronics are functioning, there’s nothing there that you need.
As a child, the whole concept of Halloween seems too good to be true. You get to wear a costume, knock on strangers’ doors, and ask them for candy. Then, you pretty much eat as much candy as you want for an entire night. As a parent, Halloween can be downright scary. Your pre-schooler changes his mind 4 times about his costume, your tween wants to trick or treat with friends (and no parent), and your teenager’s costume seems to be exposing an awful lot of skin. And, you haven’t even started thinking about the costume you’re wearing to your friend’s annual Monster Mash. So, how can you enjoy the holiday while making sure it’s fun? Here are some tips that are sure to help.
- Take out your Halloween decorations two to three weeks before the holiday. If you’ve gone to the trouble of buying and storing the decorations, enjoy them for a few weeks as excitement for the holiday builds.
- Begin to think about Halloween costumes as soon as the “back to school” fervor fades. If you’re going to order a costume online, leave yourself enough time for it to be shipped to you and returned if the size isn’t correct. If you’re planning on making a costume, start early enough so you can enjoy the process with your child.
- Buy your Halloween candy early. The prices for candy are the highest in the two weeks before Halloween.
- This is the perfect time to sort through your child’s dress up clothes. Maybe you can find a costume your child wants to wear or some accessories that can be used. It’s also the perfect time to purge the costumes that no longer fit.
- Sort Halloween candy by type and store in glass or clear plastic cylinders of different heights. You’ll be amazed at how pretty the candy looks when stored this way.
- After trick-or-treating, invite your child’s friends over for a cake or cupcake decorating play date. Unwrap the candy and place it in bowls in the middle of the table. Then, give them each several frosted cupcakes or one cake to decorate. The candy will stick to the icing, the children will have a great time, and you’ll be rid of the candy by the end of the afternoon.
- November 1st isn’t too soon to take down the Halloween decorations. All things Halloween related should be put away by the weekend following the holiday. Halloween books, pumpkin carving kits, Halloween decorations, and costumes should be stored in a clear plastic box with a lid (size and number of boxes depends on the quantity you have). This should be put away, out of the way, until next year.
- Be realistic about saving costumes. If you have a child that loves playing dress up, add it to the stash. However, if there’s little chance the costume will be worn again, donate it.
At least twice a week, I’ll find myself on a ladder in the uppermost recesses of someone’s coat closet pulling out a crushed shopping bag filled with the extra party favors from a party hosted five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years before. Now, it’s clearly garbage, but the interesting thing is that it was even garbage at the time the party was hosted. People are just too caught up in the moment to realize it.
Today, party favors have morphed into elaborate giveaways that cost way too much money and, in my opinion, are wasteful, not useful, and not necessary. Let’s take the trophy party favor as an example. It’s bad enough that children get a trophy for playing on a team or getting a haircut, but do we have to give them trophies for attending birthday parties? The trophy saying “I Had Fun at Ethan’s 6th Birthday Party” is definitely on my list of all time worst party favors. And it’s not just young children getting party favors. Bar mitzvahs and Sweet Sixteen parties now end with giveaways ranging from sweatshirts to pajamas to MP3 players. And, even adults attending benefits and bridal/baby showers receive party favors. Clearly, this trend has gotten way out of control.
Let’s end the trend of giving party favors. You can start by eliminating party favors when you’re the hostess. Or, at least think edible and/or easily disposable. A bag of candy or an iTunes or Starbucks gift card work for everyone. Then, when on the receiving end, leave the party favor behind. Only take the favor if it’s given to you directly by the hostess. Then, follow the 24-hour rule: the party favor leaves your house within 24 hours. In the case of children’s party favors, this is plenty of time for your child to have fun with it, but not long enough to become attached to it. And for you, it’s just enough time to realize that you don’t need a chocolate lollipop shaped like a pacifier, a cheap picture frame, or yet another tote bag monogrammed with the name of a corporation or club. So, you get the message. Don’t give or accept party favors. Just say NO to the unnecessary expense, unnecessary clutter, and unnecessary effort!
While it’s always nice to receive flowers and chocolate, here are some Valentine’s gifts you can buy yourself that will look great while helping you organize!
I love the red square lacquer tray from West Elm. Not only can it be used to serve cocktails and appetizers, but it can be used to corral remote controls, organize beauty products, or even hold a stack of reading material. http://www.westelm.com/products/square-lacquer-trays-c346/?pkey=chome-office-organization
The red Bisley® 5-Drawer Cabinet is ideal for organizing small items like pens, pencils, paper clips or small craft supplies. Each drawer has a label holder handle for marking the contents. Place it on a desktop or work surface for organization that’s chic and functional.
This red lacquered box is multi-purpose and super cute. It also comes in larger and smaller sizes, and even round boxes. Use this as a desk accessory, in a bedroom, living room or den to add storage that’s sleek and shiny.
Prop this red enamel bracket frame from Jonathan Adler in a spot where clutter typically gathers. This fun frame will prevent you from putting your piles where they don’t belong!
This red magnetic magazine pocket can be mounted on the wall or propped on a desk. And, because it’s magnetic, it’s a great bulletin board too!
You’ve been to the grocery store too many times to count, cooked for a small army, made small talk with the relatives, and you’re still standing! The problem is…now you’re standing in your kitchen, looking at your leftovers, and wondering how they will all fit in your refrigerator. Entertaining is fun, but, if you’re anything like me, you’d rather have too much food than too little food. So, inevitably, that means that when I entertain I have a ton of leftovers. And while my best strategy is to send as much as possible home with my guests, here are some of my favorite food storage products for what remains.
Pyrex, Bake-Serve’N Store Containers
The PYREX® Bake-Serve ‘N Store containers with glass and plastic lids may be the most versatile item in your kitchen. Use the glass lid for baking, reheating and serving. Then, when it’s time to store your leftovers, place the plastic lid on top and it’s ready for the refrigerator, the freezer, or to take on the go. This glass is microwave, dishwasher, oven, refrigerator, and freezer safe. I love that the containers nest, and rectangular and square containers take up less room than round ones. It just doesn’t get any better than this! As Pyrex says, “One dish, two lids, and so many uses.”
Tupperwear Vent’N Serve Containers
Tupperware’s containers have a unique venting system that allows steam to escape when reheating foods in the microwave. Like Pyrex, these containers also go from microwave to the refrigerator or freezer, just not the oven. And, the Tupperware plastic stays cool to the touch when being removed from the microwave.
OXO POP Containers
For dry goods, I love the POP containers. “They’re airtight, stackable and space-efficient, so your dry foods stay fresh and your kitchen stays organized. The Containers have a unique push-button mechanism that creates an airtight seal with just one touch. The button also serves as a handle to lift off the lid. The containers are designed for modular stacking so that you can efficiently organize your countertop and pantry. In addition, with their square and rectangular shapes, the POP Containers make the most of any storage space, while their corners allow for easy pouring. The POP Containers are available in 12 different sizes to meet your dry food storage needs. All POP Containers are BPA-free”.
Instead of piling up your breads and bagels on the kitchen counter, a bread box is a stylish way of containing your carb clutter. This one from The Container Store is sufficiently large, and the chrome is sufficiently neutral to look great in most kitchens.
Fridge Binz, Stackable Storage for the Refrigerator
If your refrigerator lacks enough separate drawers and shelves, you’ll love Fridge Binz. By stacking them in your refrigerator, you maximize the storage space that you have. When your refrigerator is organized, you won’t stand around with the refrigerator door open while you’re looking for that special snack.