Organizando en Mexico

For the past 13 years, my husband Eric and I and our family have had the pleasure of working with Ciudad de Ángeles (City of Angels) in Cozumel, Mexico. Ciudad de Ángeles provides a home for orphaned, abandoned, abused, and needy children living in Mexico. It gives these children a safe & healthy environment based on Christian principles. Watching the girl we sponsor (Chanti) grow from a 7-year old just rescued from a dire family situation into a confident, beautiful young lady who is attending college and working part-time has been such a joy for our family. We visit Ciudad every year to spend time with her and to help at the campus.


Front Entrance to Ciudad

I was thrilled to be able to use my organizing skills at Ciudad again this year. Last year, I organized a small storage room for tools. This year, I worked in the storage room for clothing and linens. With a rapidly-changing population of growing children in 6 houses, the need to keep extra supplies and to stay organized is essential. I was very fortunate in that the room was in pretty good shape already. There was an abundance of metal shelving and storage containers in some degree of order. My challenge was to remove any stained or worn-out items and to make sure remaining items were organized for easy access. The fact that all of the current labels were in Spanish presented an additional challenge. I certainly learned a lot of new Spanish words! For example, calcetina=sock, sabana=sheet, toalla=towel. The other challenge was that I needed to use the materials they had on hand and couldn’t go and buy labels or more bins.





I realize now that I didn’t get pictures of my helpers! Eric and Chanti helped, as well as a few other construction team members from Canada who were there that week to help on campus. I was so thankful for their help and would not have been able to do all of the work myself!



During this project, I was reminded of several principles:

  • Basic organizing principles and steps are the same, no matter what or where you organize.
  • It is a joy to use your skills and passion to benefit others.
  • Any job is more enjoyable with friends, music, and snacks. 🙂

Organizing Gift Wrapping Supplies



Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

The holidays are officially here, bringing with them the accompanying merriment and good tidings as well as the decorating, baking, visiting friends and family, card sending, gift buying, and etc. Most of us are extra busy during the holidays. Even typing this list of activities stresses me out, much less doing them! I am always looking for ways to simplify my life and to be more organized, especially when it comes to the Christmas season. With that in mind, here are a few ideas to simplify your gift wrapping and to organize all of the supplies.

If you’ve read my columns in the past, you know that I am constantly preaching the fact that decreasing the amount of things you own helps tremendously with organization. This principle is also true with gift wrapping supplies. I have always kept a small variety of wrapping paper rolls, gift bags, ribbons, and bows, just as most people do. I just use a tall trash can to store the rolls of paper, a large clear bin for gift bags and another for the ribbons, bows, and other embellishments. I have always felt that the amount I have is pretty reasonable and doesn’t take up too much space, and it’s organized, so I was ok with it.

About a year ago, I was organizing with a client and came across her gift wrapping supplies. She had quite a bit of beautiful, good quality paper, gift bags, ribbons, and bows. She informed me that she didn’t plan to keep any of it because she was planning to start using the same gift wrap and bow for every single gift from here on out. I’m pretty sure I did a double take and said something like, “Did you really just say you are going to use the same thing for every gift including Christmas, birthdays, weddings, Mother’s Day, etc.?” She explained that she was going to pick something neutral that she could use for everything, perhaps champagne color gift wrap and black bows.

Ever since that day, I can’t stop thinking about that conversation. But I never took action on it until now. It only took a few minutes on Pinterest a few days ago (seriously, what did we do before Pinterest?) for me to realize that this was not only possible, but it was exactly what I wanted to do. Remember the line from the song “My Favorite Things” in the movie The Sound of Music about “brown paper packages tied up with string”? That’s my plan from here on out. I will use brown paper gift wrap and gift bags. I can change the color of the string, use ribbon instead of string, write on the paper, or add all manner of embellishments to make it fit the occasion. I will probably end up with with one small bin of embellishments and one roll of paper. And I am so excited to get started with this year’s Christmas presents!

I know what many of you are thinking: “I can’t possibly do that!” or “I love decorative wrapping paper, and I would never want to use the same kind for all occasions”. It’s all entirely your decision. We each have our own style, and this may not be for you. Understanding that most readers will prefer more variety, here are some practical suggestions for organizing your gift wrapping supplies.

  1. Gather all of the supplies, including wrapping paper, gift bags, tissue paper, bows, ribbons, gift tags, and other embellishments.
  2. Get rid of anything you don’t need. It’s very likely there are rolls of gift wrap that you really don’t like, and gift bags that have been used one too many times. No one needs mountains of gift bags. Besides, you’ll soon be replenishing them as you receive gifts. A good goal would be to keep one container of bags in a variety of sizes and patterns and a few rolls of gift wrap. Donate or recycle the rest, depending on what condition they are in.
  3. Choose the best location for your gift wrapping supplies. Very few of us have a big space available for a Pinterest-worthy wrapping station. We may be lucky to find one empty corner of a closet or some space under a bed. You don’t even have to keep the supplies near where you will wrap the gifts.
  4. Choose the best storage solution based on your chosen location. Specialty products for organizing gift wrapping supplies abound, and they just might be perfect for your needs. But if you want to get by with something you already have or use something less expensive, here are a few clever ideas. For pictures and more details, check out these 2 websites: and
  5. Ideas for storing wrapping paper rolls:
    1. Repurpose a garment bag and hang in the closet.
    2. Repurpose a hanging shoe organizer by cutting out the bottom of the middle pockets.
    3. Use an extra piece of closet shelving turned sideways or a simple tension curtain rod to keep the rolls standing up at the end of a closet floor. With the curtain rod, gift bags could also be hung on the same rod.
    4. Repurpose a pretty frame, teacup hooks, and cafe curtain rods (or wooden dowels) to hang up paper rolls. This can also be used for rolls of ribbon.
    5. Store the rolls in a folding chair bag, which can then be hung up on a hook or rod.
    6. Install rods inside a shelving unit to hold rolls horizontally. This can also be used for rolls of ribbon.
    7. Repurpose a tall laundry basket or trash can.
    8. Using dowel rods for support, store between ceiling joists in an unfinished basement.
  6. Ideas for storing rolls of ribbon:
    1. Use a plastic bin with holes on the sides. Hang the rolls from dowel rods hung in the middle of the bin, and thread the ends of the ribbon through individual holes. No more tangled ribbon!
    2. Use a pants hanger designed to hold several pairs of pants.
  7. Ideas for storing gift bags:
    1. Use magazine holders labeled with “Birthday”, “Holidays”, “New Baby”, etc.
    2. Hang bags from hooks on the wall that stick out several inches.
    3. Hook gift bags onto hangers.
  8. Idea for a quick gift wrapping station during the holidays: Keep all of your wrapping supplies, including scissors and tape, in a decorative basket that can be kept out during the holidays. I like to keep mine near the TV so that I can wrap presents while watching movies or binging on Netflix.

Happy holidays, and happy organizing!


Choosing Where to Donate


Happy New Year, readers! Whether or not you made New Year’s resolutions, you may have a goal to get more organized. I heartily endorse this goal! But I also firmly believe that for most of us, what we really need most is to declutter. If you’re ready to take a serious look at all of your belongings and shed the clutter, you will likely have many items to donate. This requires making a decision about where to take them. In order to help readers make a decision about where to donate their clutter, I sent the same questions to Goodwill Industries, Habitat for Humanity, and The Salvation Army. I have summarized their responses below.

Goodwill Industries  

  • What is your organization’s mission?

Our mission is to provide employment services for those in need.

  • What donations do you accept or not accept?  

We accept clothing of all sizes, household items, furniture, books, CDs, jewelry, linens, musical instruments, pictures, tools, small appliances, toys, office/school supplies, and vehicles. We cannot accept hazardous materials, large appliances, used carpeting, construction materials, wet/torn mattresses, water heaters, TVs, computers, monitors, auto parts/tires, car seats/baby beds/strollers/walkers, and pianos.

  • Are there ways that people donate that are problematic for you?

We ask that people drop off donations only during open hours.  If you have furniture or large items you wish to donate, please call to make sure we can accept your donation or to schedule a pickup.

  • If items are sold, how is the money distributed?

Donated items are inspected, sorted, and priced by our employees and then sold in our stores.  Ninety-three cents of every dollar supports training programs for people with disabilities or people with disadvantaged circumstances.  Program graduates gain new skills to become competitive, find jobs, and live independent, fulfilling lives.

  • What do you wish people knew about your organization?  Any common misconceptions?

Goodwill is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Charity Watch, an organization that evaluates philanthropic organizations, gives Goodwill an “A” rating. Occasional internet rumors sometimes surface with false information.  Goodwill Tenneva is an autonomous locally controlled non-profit overseen by a volunteer community board of directors. “Goodwill Tenneva is committed to operating with integrity and providing excellent stewardship,” said Wally Boyd, board chairman.  “Our local Goodwill dedicates itself to providing employment and support services to local people who need help, and always in an ethical and forthright manner.”

  • Why should people donate to your organization?

Goodwill believes that work enhances the dignity and quality of life, and that the power of work instills hope.  Donating to Goodwill will help local people in need of training and employment. Goodwill strives to handle all donations with respect, in an ethical and efficient manner.


Holston Habitat for Humanity

  • What is your organization’s mission?

Our vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live. OUr mission is to put God’s love into action. Holston Habitat for Humanity (Habitat) brings people together to build houses, communities, and hope. Habitat will serve our 300th family in 2019. Since organizing in 1985, Habitat has built, refurbished or repaired 272 homes in Carter, Sullivan and Washington Co, TN and Bristol, VA, providing 400+ adults and 600+ children the opportunity to live in a safe affordable home. With the financial support generated by the ReStores, Holston Habitat will build 6 new Habitat homes and offer up to 6 external home repairs in 2019.

  • What donations do you accept or not accept?

The Habitat ReStores in Johnson City and Kingsport accept household items (working appliances, furniture, home decor), building materials (cabinets, lighting, flooring, hardware, windows, plumbing) and tools. The ReStores do not accept clothing.

  • Are there ways that people donate that are problematic for you?

We request that people drop off donations only when the ReStores are open.

  • If items are sold, how is the money distributed?

All money generated by donations to the ReStores in Johnson City and Kingsport stays in Carter, Sullivan and Washington Counties, and Bristol, Virginia to underwrite construction costs.

  • What do you wish people knew about your organization?  Any common misconceptions?

Habitat homeowners buy their homes through our 0% interest mortgage. Habitat does not give away homes. A common misconception is that only Habitat homeowners can shop at the ReStores but ReStores are open to everyone who wants to shop, donate or volunteer.

  • Why should people donate to your organization?

The donations provided to the ReStores provide over 30% of the funding needed to build 6-9 new, energy-efficient homes each year. Each donation provides a hand up, not a hand out, that helps local homebuyers build a home for their family.

The Salvation Army

  • What is your organization’s mission?

The Salvation Army is part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible and motivated by the love of God. Our mission is to preach the gospel and to meet human needs in Jesus’ name without discrimination.

  • What donations do you accept or not accept?  

We accept just about anything, including the kitchen sink. We accept jewelry, stereos, lighting, car items, baby items, diapers, home health items, and vehicles. We cannot accept expired car seats, older cribs, or recalled items.

  • Are there ways that people donate that are problematic for you?

All items should be in working condition. If refrigerators and freezers barely run, tell us so we can price accordingly. Vehicles must be in running condition. We simply do not have room for large items like pianos and pool tables. We do not accept old televisions or hazardous products.

  • If items are sold, how is the money distributed?

We serve Sullivan and Hawkins County, TN and Scott County, VA. After overhead costs, we apply funds to social services. Last year, we provided 6,711 nights of emergency shelter.

  • What do you wish people knew about your organization?  Any common misconceptions?

When someone donates here, they are helping one of their neighbors who is hungry, homeless, in need of clothing, assistance with rent, mortgage, or utilities, or a child who needs help building character. Call for pick-ups in advance, especially during summer. Donations are generous gifts, but there is a cost to make those items available. We do our best to keep prices favorable.

  • Why should people donate to your organization?

We care for both soul and physical needs. We provide for the needy of every stripe. Everything we sell comes from donations. Our motto, “Doing The Most Good” means all our resources, money and time where they will be most effective. We also take donations in time from our helpful volunteers!