Archive for ‘Holidays’ Category

Posted on: December 26th, 2016 by Julie Bestry | 2 Comments

You’ve got boxes, right? After a weekend of giving and receiving gifts, you’re likely surrounded by boxes. Everywhere you turn, boxes. It’s practically a Day of Boxing! Well, actually…


Boxing Day, observed on December 26th, the day after Christmas (and this year, the second day of Hanukkah), is a holiday popularly celebrated in the UK and various Commonwealth nations, many of which used to be British colonies. The history of the holiday is complex and widely debated, but traditionally, servants and tradespeople were given Christmas boxes on the day after Christmas, when they were granted leave to visit their own families and did not have to work. How very Downton Abbey of them.

Before you move along to another post, affecting a posh accent and saying, “I’m going upstairs to take off my hat,” I’d like to suggest a much more rewarding way to observe Boxing Day.


Give Back Box®, through a partnership with Amazon,, Ann Taylor, REI Co-Op, and more than a dozen other retailers, has found a solution that allows you to encourage yourself to pare down your excess possessions, bless others with donations of your largesse, and get those cardboard shipping boxes out of your house, all in one fell swoop.



The purpose of Give Back Box® is to provide an effortless and convenient method of donating your used household items. Give Back Box not only provides an easy way to be part of a truly good cause, it also allows cardboard boxes a second life by recycling them and keeping them away from landfills to help improve our environment. So this is an all-round CSR & Sustainability solution that costs you literally nothing.


  • Take your Amazon (or any other retail partner’s box), and empty out the goodies you’ve received. (You can also use a plain cardboard box, if you like.)
  • Fill the box with donations of clothing, shoes, and various household goods. But please, no liquids, electronics, ammunition, or fragile or hazardous things! (And do check the pockets for any train tickets that might prove you innocent of murder.) Then seal up the package.
  • Print a free pre-paid shipping label from Give Back Box’s site and affix it to the box. The cost is covered by Give Back Box’s partner retailers, most of whom have special Give Back Box pages on their sites, too.

gbbneweggThere’s no weight limit, so you can fill the box to the brim — and print as many labels as you need.

  • Now, just send the package to Goodwill via UPS or the United States Postal Service at any UPS Store or post office, all at no cost to you. You can even request a free USPS pick-up of your package at your home, if the weather outside is not so delightful and you’d rather lounge about and have your lady’s maid, Anna, serve your meals in bed.


Give Back Box box has a variety of benefits — personal, social, economic, and environmental.

You’ll make donations more often — You know you’re busy. You know your house is full of things you don’t use, don’t wear, or don’t want. (Honestly, what was Aunt Rosamund thinking?) You want to donate more things and more often, but the truth is that every time you find something in your home that you want to donate, you set it aside and forget about it. Maybe you have a donation station in your home, with the pile getting bigger and bigger, but it practically takes an act of Congress to get the donations out of your house, into your car, and to whatever non-profit you choose.

By making it free and convenient, Give Back Box prompts you to think about what you can let go of every single time you receive a box from one of their partner retailers.

Boom! There’s your habit! Get a box of stuff? Give a box of stuff!

That’s good for you, and it’s good for all the work that Goodwill does, providing job training and putting people to work in the local community. And people who want and need what you no longer have space or time to manage reap the benefits, too!

It’s also sustainable. About 30 million tons of retailers’ cardboard box material is zooming around the earth each year. By following the principles of “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” Give Back Box and its partners are helping you clean out your house and helping us all clean up the environment.

Even the Dowager Countess would be excited!


Still have questions? Read through the Give Back Box page of frequently asked questions, and check out this little video.

Posted on: November 26th, 2014 by Julie Bestry | 2 Comments

It’s time for the seasonal shopping juggernaut. Usually, I’d focus on recommending holiday gifts of experiences and consumables (i.e., stuff to do and stuff to eat, rather than stuff to install, assemble, store, and eventually, dust), but you’re probably heading out into the fray, anyway, if not this weekend, then at some point in the coming month.

Before you risk sleep, life and limb, and your retirement fund to shop for your loved ones (and their loved ones, and piano teachers and soccer coaches, and the paper boy and the shampoo girl), and before you come home with twice as many gifts for yourself that you weren’t planning to acquire in the first place, Paper Doll has some research-based guidance for facing this shopping season.



In 1990, research on the Endowment Effect showed that the mere act of touching an object creates a feeling of ownership. This is why we professional organizers sometimes hold things up for our clients to make purging decisions instead of handing them over — it allows them to make a more dispassionate, less emotion-based decision.

Now, Professors S. Adam Brasel and James Gips at Boston College have found that touching things on a screen has that same impact, triggering the brain to spend, acquire and own. Their paper in the Journal of Consumer PsychologyTablets, Touchscreens, and Touchpads: How Varying Touch Interfaces Trigger Psychological Ownership and Endowment discussed their findings that if you’re using a touch screen, it increases the Endowment Effect almost as much as touching the actual item, and makes you less aware of factors like price.

So, if you’re shopping in the store, keep your hands in your pockets or wear your winter gloves. (Also, you’ll avoid germy germs!) If you’re shopping online, use your laptop or desktop to shop, or if you must use your phone or tablet, wait until you’re using a mouse or trackpad to make the final purchase.


Keeping clutter from building up depends not only on jettisoning what you don’t need, but also in keeping things from coming into your space altogether. To do that, beware of consumer psychology tricks that retailers play.

We’ve all heard of baking cookies during real estate open houses – it tricks the brain into thinking the house is more cozy. Consumer psychologists have found that our olfactory senses (i.e., our sniffers) impact the memory and emotion centers in the brain more than sight, hearing, and even touch, and controls our emotional reasoning, which is behind most of our purchasing decisions. (We may do extensive research before making purchases, but in the end, we buy what makes us “feel” best.)

If you find yourself making impulse decisions in stores that have lots of fragrant stimuli like lotions, flowers, or candles, consider these strategies. Whenever possible, shop online so you’re better able to limit sensory inputs to 2D visual stimuli, which tend to focus on facts (prices, features, measurements) rather than emotions. When you do shop in person, take along a friend who can help you avoid temptation. It helps if that friend has allergies, it’ll keep you out of the shops that practice olfactory sneakiness!


Have you ever noticed how, when the signs say “Limit: four per customer,” that people feel the need to acquire the absolute limit? In research published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Cornell Professor Brian Wansink and colleagues found that quantity limits imposed on purchases can tempt consumers to buy twice as much or more of any product than they’d otherwise have considered.

Scientists call this concept ‘Anchoring and Adjustment’ — with lower-priced items, most people see the limit as the optimum number or amount to purchase. If shoppers buy less than the limit, it still tends to be more than they’d originally planned to buy, if they’d planned to buy anything at all.

With higher priced or luxury items, like iPads or video games, a purchase limit implies that there’s some level of scarcity, and many consumers infer that scarcity means a higher inherent value, making them desire the item more. You’re not likely to buy more than one iPad Air at a time, even if the limit is, say, three to a customer, but somehow knowing you can ONLY have three makes the one you intend to purchase somehow seem more valuable. Pretty sneaky, eh?

How can you countermand these retailing tricks?

— For lower-priced items, decide how much of something you want or need before you leave the house, and put it on your list. Once in the store, ask yourself if buying three times as much as you planned will save you (and your giftee) more than the frustration of having no space in the kitchen or closet.

— For big-ticket items, remind yourself that the purchase limits are not just there to ensure equal access, but to boost consumer enthusiasm. That should make you resent the tactic enough to think more reasonably as to whether you want the item in the first place.


Whether you’re shopping for ingredients for the holiday open house or presents for Grandma and Uncle Joe, don’t shop aimlessly.

Have you ever come home from the grocery store to find you not only didn’t purchase everything you intended to buy, but that you’ve got oodles of things you hadn’t even planned to get in the first place? Or you tell yourself, “Oh, I’m sure that will be the perfect gift for … somebody.”

You already know that shopping when you’re hungry tends to make you buy more. But did you know that doesn’t just apply to food? Research shows that maintaining even levels of blood sugar helps us make better decisions – about what foods and products to buy, but also about the values of things and how much money to spend. But even if you are hungry when shopping, you can prevent impulse buying.

A study with the scary title of The Future Is Now: Temporal Correction in Affective Forecasting, published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, found that even if shoppers are hungry, simply shopping with a list helps consumers stick to purchasing what they intend. The lesson?


Your method of payment can actually help or hinder your ability to shop wisely (and thus limit your potential clutter). A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that paying with cash instead of credit cards decreases the number of impulse purchases consumers make. While the study focused on food purchases, anecdotal evidence suggest this applies to other purchases, too. Other solutions to organize against impulse buys:

Have a budget. Know how much you can reasonably afford and make a game of trying to stay within your target zone.

Use cash when you’re likely to buy small, disposable items like quick meals and items near the register (especially when you’re tired and hungry after a day of shopping).

Save credit cards for when you buy tangible items of significant value or “big-ticket” purchases like travel. Credit cards offer purchase protection and other advantages, but it can be a bit depressing to find that you’re paying for a mediocre meal you ate five weeks earlier.

Save up for moderate or large purchases. Your appreciation for something will grow if you spend months socking away the money; you’ll do a better job of researching features and the item is less likely to become clutter.


You probably didn’t need research to tell you that when big box stores come in to an area, the number of retail jobs actually decrease and that wages and benefits decrease.

We are all implored to shop small, and shop locally: to purchase from our neighbors, friends and members of our community, rather than chain stores. I really haven’t figured out what the excellent Simon & Garfunkel song “America” has to do with shopping at local small businesses, but Small Business Saturday is happening again this Saturday, November 29, 2014.

Yes, the song pulls at our heartstrings, and yes, it coaxes us to use American Express cards. Paper Doll is not eager to encourage you to amass shopping debt. However, if you do have an AmEx card, and are planning to shop at all this Saturday, you can take advantage of the opportunity at the above link to register your card (or all of your AmEx branded cards), and any purchases you make at local small businesses registered with the program will earn you up to three $10 statement credits per card.

So, instead of Starbucks, visit your locally owned coffeehouse for your mid-shopping break, and treat your companion (the one whose allergies kept you from overspending, up above), to a nice snack.


Paper Doll’s own non-academic research yields useful tools for organizing your finances so the shopping budget goes further.






Ebates rocks! Imagine if every time you walked into your favorite store, a doorman slipped you a tip.

Ebates began as a shopping portal. You clicked on the name of the online store, were taken to the store’s site, and any purchase you made gave you cash back. Now, it’s even easier with the Cash-Back Button installed in your browser. Shop online as usual, and Ebates gives you a little on-screen alert that if you make a purchase at that store, it’s worth 3% (or 5%, or whatever) back. Click, which reloads the page and through the magic of cookies (the non-edible kind), Ebates knows you bought something at whatever store, and then you get a cash-back check. Apple’s the least joyous — you only get 1% back; the magazine subscription company I use yields 15%. Most are anywhere from 2-10%, with all sorts of extra bonuses and discounts. The Ebates app for iOS and Android has deal alerts and scan-and-compare features.

I keep waiting to hear that there’s something secretly malevolent about Ebates, but after using it for years, it’s all still good. But here’s the main thing — there’s no work (beyond signing up for the account). How’s that for organizing your finances and time management?

Disclosure: If you use my affiliate link above to register with Ebates, I’ll get rewarded for the referral. If you have concerns about that, you can just manually go to and sign up all on your own.




Retail Me Not is another superlative solution for reducing online shopping expenses. Stores send out mailers and include discounts in catalogs, but if you’ve avoided paper clutter all year, there’s no reason you should be punished during the shopping season.

Whenever you’re planning to make an online purchase, go to Retail Me Not and enter the name of the online store at which you’re shopping. Chances are good that a discount code (or several) will pop up. Either click the link provided, or copy and paste the code at checkout to lower your cost.

Another solution is to type “[name of store] free shipping” into your favorite search engine to, yes, get a code for free shipping!


Know the return policies for the online and brick-and-mortar stores at which you buy presents. Check out Paper Doll Organizes Your Many Happy Returns for guidance. And be sure to request gift receipts from the cashier when you’re shopping in person.

Finally, whether you’ll be dozing on the couch, making snow angels or planning your holiday shopping assault strategy, I wish you all a happy, healthy Thanksgiving.

Posted on: June 27th, 2014 by Julie Bestry | No Comments

It’s not yet July, but some people are already thinking about the holidays! This tweet, from a fun-loving scientist I know, illustrates eagerness to get started on shopping and wrapping:

And though it turned out to be a mistake, a post office branch in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York actually started promoting Christmas stamps this week!

While it’s not a paper and productivity topic we touch upon often, eliminating gift wrap clutter and organizing your wrapping options is definitely something we’ve discussed previously:


Birthdays and holidays and baby showers. Oh, my!

Anyone who has ever tried to wrap a series of gifts of varying shapes and sizes knows that wrapping is not a one-size-fits-all experience. In the pre-gift bag era, I once tried to wrap an unboxed, stuffed lion for my best friend’s toddler, and there is photographic evidence (which I will not share), indicating that I failed wrapping school. A roll of shiny tape and perhaps two pounds of tissue paper later, it looked like a lump — maybe a soccer ball, maybe a chemistry set. Trust me, it looked better once unwrapped.


The options are almost endless. Wrapping paper comes in different lengths, and the volume on each roll varies. Sometimes wrapping paper comes flat, folded in squares, so that it takes up less space (but has an annoying crease, usually just where you wish it didn’t). And tissue paper is packaged altogether differently, folded like pre-GPS gas station maps. Sometimes, a gift bag is more apt, but bags come in multiple heights and widths, and then there are the ribbons and bows and furry/fuzzy/sparkly/twinkly stuff sold to adorn the gifts you give. (This is where Paper Mommy excels. All presents for children, and some for adults, are decorated with lollipops and similar candies. Twice the fun, none of the glitter.)

With so many different kinds of wrapping supplies, you end up needing different kinds of containers. Sometimes, an under-the-bed, flat-ish lidded bin will work, but it can be hard to find one to accommodate the longer rolls of wrapping paper. There are a variety of standing solutions that emulate trash cans, but unlike Weebles, when they wobble, they do fall down. I’ve seen many of my more artsy/craftsy clients peruse Pinterest for DIY-solutions to sew or glue or create themselves, but that can take a lot of labor.

Then there are the supplies. Tape — you want the non-shiny kind so that it’s invisible against the wrapping paper. Scissors. Those little noodle-y things that help you make ribbons curl nicely! Do you store them with your wrapping station (if you have a wrapping station more robust than “in the closet” or “under the bed”) or do you borrow from the office supply/school supply/miscellaneous drawers of your house? And if you can’t find what you need and end up buying duplicates, you’re worse off than if you hadn’t had any supplies in the first place!

It’s enough to make you want to give everyone a gift card and call it a day!

At this year’s NAPO Expo, however, a new product came to market for keeping all of your gift packaging supplies under wraps.



WRAP iT™, developed by New Yorker Adam Levine (pictured below), is designed to create a


solution for neatly organizing and storing all gift wrap supplies. I have to admit, I was dubious. I’d seen what amounted to zip-up garment bags for wrapping supplies before, and in the end, everything tended to fall to the center of the bag, like hockey sticks in a duffel. (Am I betraying my Buffalo, NY roots?)

But Wrap iT really is different.

Wrap iT comes in two color schemes (blue and copper) and two sizes: Deluxe and Original. The interior of both versions can hold 26 rolls of wrapping paper, up to half of which can be the extended-length rolls (in the Deluxe version (pictured below)), which are often too long to fit in any standard paper organizer. The wrapping paper is held in place with heavy-duty elastics. When you’re done wrapping, slide the roll into the elastic bands at the top and bottom, twirl your roll about one-half a turn, and the loose ends remain tucked in place. No straggling ends to rip or tear.


In addition to the interior section, the Wrap iT has multiple clear PVC pockets to accommodate folded wrapping and tissue paper, gift bags in multiple sizes, gift tags and greeting cards, bows, ribbons and wrapping tools, as shown below.



Wrap iT Deluxe


Wrap iT Original

Adam and his people refer to the Wrap iT as similar to an “Armored Gift Wrap Tank” made extra-sturdy to protect those delicate bows and frilly ribbons. In addition to the high-grade elastics, the clear PVC is water-repellent (in case you’re schlepping through snow to get to a gift-wrapping party) and has a heavy-duty, all-the-way-around nylon zipper. Velcro closures clasp the nylon flaps to the PVC pockets.

The Deluxe Wrap iT measures 44″ long by 19 1/2″ wide, and fully stuffed is 4″ thick. Empty, it weighs only 1.8 pounds, but has a maximum storage capacity of 22 pounds. (That’s a lot of wrapping!) The Original Wrap iT is the same width and thickness when packed, but a touch shorter at 33 1/2″ long. It’s 1.6 pounds empty and 19 pounds at full capacity.

Thus, storage is easy, as the bag lays flat enough to slide under a bed, but the build-in hanger lets you easily hang it vertically in whatever closet has four inches of adequate width and enough depth to handle a winter coat.


The Deluxe sells for $59.97; the Original for $54.97; you can also get a combo pack of one of each or a two-pack of either size for $99.94.

See the Wrap iT in action:

Paper Doll has to be honest. I’ve long since given up on wrapping presents. If it fits in a gift bag, I’ll surround it with some pretty tissue paper; otherwise, I’ll probably have it shipped directly from Amazon and that charming A to Z logo will serve as all the wrapping it will have. But if I were a wrapper, especially one with lots of tiny tot birthday and holiday gifts to decoratively wardrobe, the Wrap iT would be hanging in my closet.