It never ceases to amaze me how quickly we go from Fall to the Holiday Season!  I love this time of year; the changing colors, the crispness in the air, but it is also a bittersweet time for me.  My daughters and their families live in another state, as well as my parents, siblings and their families.  I haven’t been home for the holidays since I moved away some 10 years ago.  Every year at this time I long to go “home” to share the holidays with my family.  This year seems even more difficult now that I have a granddaughter.  I would love to share these special family holidays with her and the whole family!

I have begun to pull out the boxes of decorations; a whole collection of houses, shops and people – enough to create several “villiages.”  Christmas ornaments my daughters and I have collected throughout their childhoods.  Garlands of lights and swags of greenery, holiday “themed” dinnerware and linens, down to the guest fingertip towels to decorate the bathrooms.  No detail is overlooked.

With so much to do during this season, I decorate in stages.  After pulling out all the “stuff,” I start with simple centerpieces that I can change up.  The base of my centerpieces usually starts with a basket or tray, some candles, and other natural materials such as stones, shells, pinecones…  This Thanksgiving, I am going to use a black wooden tray filled with mixed nuts (the ones in the shell).  Pewter candle sticks placed among the nuts with pumpkin colored candles (not the scented ones, they tend to distract from the meal being served).  This a simple, but elegant look to a dinner table.  You could even go out to the garden and select a few branches or flowers (we live in an area where we have flowering plants all year long) and lay them among the nuts.

I have used wrapped candies at Christmas as my base; edibiles are something guests can enjoy to snack on before or after a meal.  Coordinate the colors of the candies, candles and tray to make another fun centerpiece.  Christmas bulbs in one color and various sizes, a white tray and clear glass vases with greenery or a string of lights looks terrific!  Fill a basket with pillow stuffing, looks like snow and place a Holiday figurine or little house decorated for the holidays atop of the snow, and add couple of candles makes a great coffee or end table piece. 

This year I am going to make centerpieces for my daughters; reminding them of holidays past and to cherish each year as they set up their own homes for the holidays.

I know what you are thinking; “How can you possibly be organized if you are always on the go?”  I think the real question is: “How can you not?”    To me clutter is a show stopper, I can not operate in a messy, chaotic place.   So I am going to give you some advice and it may take time to change your ways, but I think you will be better for it if you follow through.  Identify your clutter and determine the best way to manage it.

1)  Take the time (I mean the extra step or two) to put things in their rightful place.  The things you use daily should have a proper place, ie: car keys are always located in the dish next to the door you leave out of.  

2)  Junk mail should be discarded the moment you go through your mail.  Bills should be placed in the bill basket. 

3)  Shoes go to the closet, discarded clothes directly go to the dirty clothes basket.

4)  Unload the dishwasher of clean dishes every morning while coffee is brewing, throughout the day load dirty dishes into the dishwasher.  Run it every night and unload again every morning.

5)  Run a load of clothes daily; this way you never have to spend a whole day “doing laundry.”  Have a dedicated place where you fold items and everytime you pass this location on the way to a room where clean items need to be returned; grab them and put them away.

6)  Have a basket next to the door to place “errand” items in so the next day as you are running out the door you just grab it and go.

7)  Whenever changing out towels, do a little dusting on the way to place them in the dirty laundry basket.

8)  Keep a running grocery list on the frig, this way you won’t forget you finished off the last of the mayo when you need it in your salad!

9)  Lay out the kid’s clothes the night before, have them help pick them out.

Okay, you get the idea.  If you follow my motto; “A place for everything, and everything in it’s place.”  It will be so much easier on you!

Okay, did you think I would really stop before I reached 101 ways?  Sorry, not going to happen because I love baskets!  Let’s see, I think we are still in the kitchen: 

28 a long rectangular one will hold paper dinner napkins

29 another for beverage napkins

30 roll your linen napkins and tablecloths; place together in a  basket

Just a note: rolling your linens prevents those ugly creases that always need to be ironed out before you can set your table for a dinner party and your linens will last longer if rolled!

31  a large basket can hold a set of glasses; pull it out for Happy Hour

32 place several herb pots in a plastic lined basket and set on a window ledge

33 large ones can hide mis-matched planters to hold your larger house plants

34 pool side; a laundry basket will hold rolled beach towels nicely

35 another to catch wet beach towels

36 a large one turned upside down works great as a portable cocktail table

37 cassettes, CD’s and DVD collections

38 board games

39 a picnic basket works great for carrying blankets

40 craft supplies

41 pencils, crayons, and markers each in their own basket

Are you still doubting that I can list 101 ways to use baskets?  Or have I lost you again back there somewhere?  Catch up, we have a way to go yet! 

42 in the office, a picnic basket can double as a file cabinet – it’s portable!

43 a bill paying center

44 have a dedicated “In” basket

45 and outgoing mail

46 in the car (yes, in the car), a picnic basket can be a catch-all!

47 a large basket with a hinged lid can be a toy chest and double as a bench

48 put together a “guest” basket for overnight guests, toothbrush, travel sized toiletries, paperback book, pen and staitionary

49 another basket for individual sized snacks in guest room or media room

Have you noticed we are about halfway there!  Hey, are your eyes glazed over?  You will never look at a basket the same way and I bet you will think twice before throwing one away.

Did I tell you I love Baskets!  I’m not sure why… Maybe it’s the textile look, the range of colors, variety of shapes and sizes or is it the versatility?  The best part is that most of them are free or at least fairly inexpensive!  

I use them all over my home for organizing and decorating.  I’m sure I can list out 101 ways to use them, so here we go!

1 line your closet shelves with baskets and fill them with:  

2 scarves,

3 gloves,

4 belts,

4 photos,

5 hats,

6 sweaters

7 In the bathroom, place baskets under the sink, on the counter, around the tub, on the floor.  They can hold a multitude of:

8 roll your bath towels and set on end

9 magazines

10 cosmetics

11 on top of the toilet holds extra t.p.

12 one with a lid to hold female products

13 a flat shallow one works as a tray to hold your Mason jar collection (you know, the ones with the q-tips, cotton balls, brushes)

14 as a trash can

15 in the bedrooms; use one for all those remotes that lay on top of the nightstand

16 several on a blank wall for a visual effect

17 in the foyer under a bench or table to hold all those dog leashes, scarves, mittens, and hats

18 on top of the table or shelf to catch keys, phones, mail

19 in the kitchen… 

Hey are you still with me?  I think the ones in the kitchen are the best yet!

20  in the pantry closet to hold individual packets of cocoa, tea, oatmeal

21 sleeves of crackers

22 group your spices (so you can pull out a set you use in – say, your chili)

23 stack a group of them and display them on top of the cabinets or frig

24 use them to hold dishes when serving food to company 

25 keep your outdoor silver (or plastic) ware, napkins, dishes in a handled one

26 another to hold your ketchup, mustard, and relish – you can even leave them in the basket in the frig!

I think this is my all time favorite use of a basket yet!  Are you ready?  I feel like I’m talking to myself by this point!

27  a basket with a lid (a hinged one if you can find it) to use on the kitchen counter…

You know where you have all those cell phone chargers?  Place a outlet strip inside the basket and make a hole just big enough to pull the plug through it.  Are you beginning to picture this? Place a piece of cardboard or thin plywood on top of this to create a shelf to rest your cell phones on.  Close the lid and it looks so much better than all those cords and phones sitting there!

 Okay, I won’t bore you any longer.  Add a few of your own ideas to share… come on, I know you have baskets laying around.  Put them to use!