Christmas & Gift Giving

Festooning with evergreens has been done for millennia

Dear K & K: This is a tricky time of year for me with my in-laws. They’re super into Christmas. But, I am not. My family was very religious, from a different culture, and we didn’t grow up doing gift giving at Christmas. The vastly different ways that we approach Christmas wasn’t a problem when we first got married. But it has become one since I had kids. I’m a very logical person and am honest to my son (and soon to my other son) about Christmas traditions. But, my in-laws insist on Santa Claus etc. and giving too many gifts. I’ve asked them repeatedly to not give sp many gifts at Christmas but they continue to find a way to do so. I’m at the point where I’m considering no longer celebrating Christmas with them. Sincerely: Virginia in New York City.

Dear Virginia: What comes to your mind when you read this: 12 days of festivities, Yuletide, Yule logs, wreaths, gift exchanging, feasts, singing, evergreens. Christmas? Guess again. These are the traditions that almost all predate Jesus Christ’s birth. They’re what ancient Northern Europeans did to celebrate the Winter Solstice. The Ancient Romans also celebrated a holiday called Saturnia on December 25th to mark the solstice. What’s our point? You are fighting an uphill battle against millennia of humans marking the darkest days of the year. It’s a battle that Christians seem to have only won by merging Christmas into the existing Yuletide festivities. If the Christian church couldn’t get people to stop, you’re not likely to either.

Our solution is to talk with your in-laws. It’s your life. Explain why your position on Christmas is important to you. But, remember. One day, if you’re lucky, you’ll be an in-law too. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Then, set up Christmas boundaries you can live with and they can too. As usual, communicate and do lots of it. Happy Winter Solstice! Katie & Kelly

Solution to Plastic Grocery Bag Overflow

plastic grocery bag

Plastic Grocery Bag OVERFLOW!!

Dear K&K: I’m about to lose my mind with plastic grocery bags. I keep a small container in our kitchen to house extra bags for use around the house. When it fills up, my husband ignores that it’s full and continues to add bags. Then, I’m stuck with plastic grocery bag overflow. I feel badly throwing them out but it drives me insane. Please help, Pixies! Exasperated in Edgemont. 

Dear Exasperated: Plastic grocery bags are the bane of my existence for a multitude of reasons. We have actually written about this topic in a previous blog post titled Trashy Habits. Kelly’s husband is about as annoying as yours when it comes to bag hoarding.

In a perfect world, you should have reusable grocery bags on hand. The problem is sometimes we all pop into a shop without one. The easiest solution I have is declining plastic grocery bags when I can put things in my purse. The next easiest solution is asking if they have a paper bag as they’re easier to recycle and break down more easily. Last but not least, tons of stores recycle plastic grocery bags. This link will take you to a website where you pop in your zip code and it tells you the nearest place that has recycling bins for plastic grocery bags. Best of luck to you! Katie & Kelly

Rules for Keeping Kids Clothes

This cute outfit?? Already stained, ruined & at Goodwill.

Dear K & K: I keep important kids clothes like my kids’ home from the hospital outfits and first holiday outfits, but in general, should you keep your kids other clothes once they’ve outgrown them? Signed: Classic in Cleveland

Dear Classic in Cleveland: Yes and no. Kelly (also a Classic like you) has a few guidelines when it comes to keeping kids clothes. Remember, they will not likely be worn again so don’t go crazy.

Kelly recommends one or two iconic shirts or pants when/if they occur. For example, her middle son’s Lightning McQueen shirt that he wears 2x a week will get saved. Then she keeps anything truly classic that isn’t ruined or stained. By classic she means something so well made that it will stand the test of three decades. Finally, she keeps handmade items. It sounds like she keeps a LOT but you’d be surprised at how rough kids and laundry machines are on clothes. Only a few survive.

For those personality types who find the above list too restrictive, at a minimum, limit yourself to one example per category. For example, don’t save a bunch of onesies, save one per child (MAXIMUM) and pick the best one. Happy Purging! All our best, Katie & Kelly

Goodbye, Thanksgiving!

Dear K&K: My brother’s wife just announced that they were not going to come to our parents for Thanksgiving anymore but instead travel with their kids. They invited everyone to join them. My mom handled it so politely and said they appreciated the invitation but they couldn’t join as they were going to host a traditional Thanksgiving. Umm??? In what world, is this okay?? It is taking every ounce of willpower for me not to write her a nasty email. Please walk me back. Signed: Apoplectic in Atlanta

Dear Apoplectic: Something tells us this isn’t about saying “Goodbye, Thanksgiving!” Perhaps you and your “brother’s wife” don’t get along? First clue is that you don’t refer to her as your sister-in-law or heaven forbid, your sister! Obviously, the second clue is you even contemplating writing a nasty email. Take three deep breaths.

Kelly just heard how a mom friend does this sort of trip and even though Kelly likes her family (usually!), she thought this was a brilliant idea. Holidays with relatives who don’t like you (& vice versa) can be MISERABLE. As times change, more and more people are going to fly the coop rather than put up with it. And even if you DO like your family, Americans get such little vacation time to travel why not take this extra time to go somewhere fun instead of cramming into a relative’s house??

Our best recommendation is to skip the nasty email. Then call your sister-in-law and see if you can come up with a compromise. Maybe you guys all join them on their trip one time as a show of solidarity and then they join in the traditional way every so often. Our extended Breckenridge clan stopped doing family Thanksgiving when it got too complicated. Now, we do a family reunion at a different time of year.

Compromise is hard but it’s the key to happiness and unity. If only politicians understood this verity. 😉 All our best, Katie & Kelly

Easier Ways to Do Laundry

Dear K & K: I’m exhausted. I’m the mother of four children and I seem to spend my life doing laundry. My mother-in-law says that I’m OCD and I cause my own problems by washing towels everyday and changing sheets every few days but I can’t stand the idea of my kids sleeping in filth. Signed: Exhausted in Edmonton

Dear Exhausted: Sometimes you are who you are. We doubt you’re OCD but likely an intense Classic. But as us Pixies always say, “No Shame, No Blame.” We’ve got a few ideas. Here they are in order of ease for you:

  1. Get a housekeeper who will do laundry for you.
  2. Send out some of your laundry to a local Wash Club.
  3. Teach your eldest kids how to do their own laundry
  4. Wash towels every other day and sheets once a week (seriously, most people you know don’t even do it THIS frequently)

Ironically, you will notice that us telling you to CHANGE was listed as the HARDEST course of action. It will be even if it’s technically the cheapest and easiest option since it involves nothing besides inaction. Happy Laundry-ing! Katie & Kelly

Getting Kids Organized Shouldn’t Be Hard

Dear K & K: My son is always forgetting his homework or losing permission slips. He has a backpack and a desk in his bedroom but he never uses it. I want him to have a good start to this school year but already we’ve had a few slip-ups. Any tips on helping kids better organize their homework? Signed: Frustrated in Florida.

Dear Frustrated: Getting your kids to be organized seems like some gargantuan, impossible task. It shouldn’t be. Often, the problem is kids don’t know where to put things at home because things are often more amorphous there than at school. They need an Inbox for papers. Frankly, everybody in the house needs one. See-through is always better for kids. If you’re a Classic or a Fun and this visual clutter bothers you, hide them on the inside of a closet door.

The second thing that will be a game changer is making sure your son’s Inbox is incredibly close to where he drops his backpack etc when he comes in the door. The problem with making the desk in the bedroom into his “dumping ground” is that even grown-ups have a hard time transferring incoming papers into their desk area when they get home. For kids, it’s darn near impossible.

Finally, give your son a simple daily routine. For example, when he gets home, he needs to go through his backpack to grab his homework AND when he does so should drop in your Inbox any permission slips or school memos etc. The first few times, you will need to remind him and some personality types will need a reminder which you can set on your phone to make YOUR life easier. Hope that helps! Katie & Kelly

Bedding protectors are technically overkill

Dear K & K: My mother-in-law is obsessed with those covers you zip on mattresses and pillows to protect against bed bugs and other allergens. I can’t stand sleeping on them because they’re hard and plastic and crunch every time I move. Plus, it’s overkill! I say, replace your pillows every few years and call it a day. Right or wrong? Signed, Righteous in Redding.

Dear Righteous: Well, you’re both right and wrong. If you’re a Classic or a Fun, you’re dead wrong. Protectors are not overkill because you’re willing to do the extra steps they require to be cleaner and appreciate the thrifty aspect of delaying additional bedding purchases. As an aside, bedding protectors shouldn’t make noise. The one pictured above is “soft and silent” as they should be. Buy it here.

Let us be clear, however. No matter what your personality type, if you’ve got children, you need to buy them for all of their pillows and bedding. It just takes your kids first bout with the stomach flu to learn this tidbit the hard way.

NOW, you’re dead RIGHT if you’re an Organic Freedom or Smart Freedom. You guys need to get new bedding when you get to the point that you’re shocked by how gross your pillow looks when you change your sheets. Finally, Organic Structures and Smart Structures will be the wild card. Hope that helps! Katie & Kelly

Best Resource for Closets

Dear K&K: Wondering if you had any thoughts on the best resource for closets. My daughter moved to a new apt in Williamsburg last week. Great space, but bedroom has no closet. It’s not massive… 10×11, if even that. Trying to think out of the box a bit. Do you think there are options outside of IKEA that can work with someone’s small budget? I may help her out but as this is not her last dwelling, something practical would be best! She just moved in last Saturday but is surrounded by boxes. I think that novelty has worn off. Sincerely: Boxes in Brooklyn

Dear Boxes: Of course, we have a solution! Elfa’s basic closets are the bomb. Frankly, I’d probably install them in a permanent home too because they can change easily and I feel like my closet needs never stay the same forever. Anyway, you’d obviously SEE the clothes in her bedroom since she doesn’t have a closet but you could hang a top track on the ceiling for curtains like they have in hospital rooms for privacy.

Go to The Container Store (TCS) with the space dimensions including any architectural details or impediments. Next, tell them what you have clothes wise. I tell clients to literally measure the width (and length) of your hanging clothes to let them know how much long hang and short hang you need and what length each needs to be. Don’t forget to do the same for shoes. The closets are easily installed — I use TCS installation services but technically anyone can install them as it all hangs from one top track. The reason these closets are the bomb? TCS keeps a record of what you bought and when you move, you can easily bring the closet with you. I save whatever crappy closet the landlords had in there under a bed or in storage or back of a closet. After a move, you return to TCS with new closet dimensions and they can reuse a lot of what you already own. Hope that helps! Katie & Kelly

How to Put Clothes IN a Hamper

Dear K&K: How do I get my husband to put his clothes in a hamper. I think he’s a Classic Freedom based on the description on your website. He always puts his clothes on top of hamper or folds them neatly at the foot of our bed in our bedroom. It drives me crazy because it’s not that difficult. Or am I crazy?? Signed: Hampered by a hamper

Dear Hampered: Easy … and we are not trying to be glib … remove the lid from your hamper. You’d be surprised how much that one extra step hampers clothes going into a hamper. That’s step one. Now, if you’re in the market for a new hamper, get no lid hampers such as these Pehr bins. If that doesn’t do the trick? Then take his clothes and put them back in his drawers. Or, do as Kelly started doing when her husband does something similar which is to put those carefully folded clothes IN the hamper. She’s still waiting for him to notice and yell at her but hasn’t happened yet. All our best: Katie & Kelly


Best Storage for Kids’ Crafts

Dear K&K: HELP! We’re having a craft explosion. My kids love doing crafts but they’re always everywhere and a total mess. Any great craft storage solutions? Sincerely, Crafty in Cohasset

Dear Crafty: Crafts are like grown up tools. You’ve got to have lots of big containers that also house some smaller containers, i.e., how a tool box also has smaller compartments within it. Our favorite is the Smart Tote from The Container Store. Ziploc bags are good in a pinch and sometimes the best solution. You also need to make sure you’re creating enough ROOM for all of these containers. We suggest trying to create a craft closet — if you’re truly overrun by crafts — or perhaps a storage bench with crafts inside. Maybe you could even reserve a whole cupboard for crafts in the kitchen. Happy Crafting! Katie & Kelly