By Mridu Parikh from StyleBluePrint
Isn’t it funny how the holidays come around the same time every year, yet the stress sneaks up on us each November? Before you know it, you’re drowning in lists, shopping and planning, only to think, Why don’t I have a better handle on this by now?
Taking the steps to get things in order ahead of time can help you avoid these dreaded thoughts and have much more fun during this otherwise-frenzied season. Here are five simple tips to manage your holiday mood and household.
1. Less is more.
I know, I know. You’ve heard it a hundred times. But how exactly does this apply when every part of your home and life is in overdrive during the holidays? Simple. By simplifying. For example:
- Less décor. Contrary to popular belief (or those in your head), every nook and cranny does not need to be dazzled in tinsel and spruce. Focus on a couple of key areas (maybe your entrance and family room). And even in these areas, don’t overdo it. Let yourself and others appreciate each unique piece of décor. You’ll also thank me when it comes time to unpack, set up, repack and put away.
- Less food. Make your holiday meal feel less like an all-you-can-eat buffet and more like the fine cuisine you were hoping for. While 10 dishes might seem like an impressive spread, guests can’t appreciate your individual dishes when their plate can only afford an appetizer portion of each one. Instead, let your family indulge in a few mouthwatering dishes they’ll still be talking about next holiday season.
- Less gifts. Oh boy! Don’t get me started on this one. When gift shopping has become something you have to do instead of something you want to do, it’s time to re-evaluate your intentions. Yes, it is a way to show gratitude for people in your life you don’t otherwise get to, like your mail carrier, kids’ teachers and the trash collector. But for those who are close to you, it’s time to reconsider quantity vs. quality. Teach your kids to value a few meaningful things instead of taking for granted many of them. Agree with family members that you’ll share an experience together — a dinner out or family vacation — in lieu of a gift exchange. Imagine your reduced anxiety with your lists, shopping and wrapping if you swapped out more stuff with more of your time and attention.
Let me leave you with this point. If these tips sound too Grinch-like, go over the top in one area and simplify the others. In other words, go crazy on the décor, but keep food and gifts simple. Or break the bank on presents, but minimize the Christmas light show and your culinary prowess.
2. Create your own traditions.
Don’t get caught up in the “I have to … ” or “This is how we’ve always done it … ” trap if it just doesn’t work for you. If running around between two sets of grandparents, your great aunt and your home is causing your kids to melt down (not to mention the adults), simply change the tradition. Do what works for you and your family. Have everyone come over in shifts, around nap schedule or make “dinner” at 3 p.m. The goal is to make the day memorable for its enjoyment, not for its anxiety.
3. Block your time.
This strategy is a year-round lifesaver, but it’s especially critical during this chaotic period. Work backwards from the holidays and block off time on your calendar to get specific tasks done. Here’s an important tip: don’t just block a day or weekend for “shopping.” Block an exact time frame, like 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on a given Saturday with specific tasks like, “Buy and wrap teacher gifts and write cards.” Be sure to block off preparation and cooking days, and factor in deadlines so you don’t miss anything. Remember, if it’s not on your calendar, it doesn’t happen. At least not without a lot of unnecessary stress.
4. Create a “pretend” deadline.
This might sound a little hokey, but believe me, it works! I do this with events that I know stress me out. Create a pretend deadline of one or two days earlier than the real one. If you’re used to pulling an all-nighter on Christmas Eve, pretend Christmas is on the 24th, so you get everything done on the 23rd (even if it takes all night!). That way, you’ll have some down time before the big day, cleared head space for what to expect and hopefully time to squeeze in a much-needed pedi.
5. Consolidate gift buying.
First things first. Don’t even think about going shopping without a list of specifics. Create one consolidated list of everyone you need to shop for, including the gift(s) to buy for each person.
Read carefully, because this is usually where gift shopping takes a turn for the worse. Don’t go to the store and window shop until something “jumps out at you.” We’re getting down to the wire, and this is simply a waste of your valuable time.
The brainstorming should be done at home, before you peruse the mall. Your time at a store (in person or virtually) should be spent on honing in on that item. For example, decide you will buy a cashmere scarf for your sister-in-law before you go shopping. When you get to the store, you can decide between the five different scarf options.
Next, consolidate your gift buying by grouping similar gifts by type and age. Here’s what I mean: If you’re shopping for four boys between the ages of 5 and 12, get them all Legos. Or shopping for teachers? Get them all gift cards. Or shopping for grandparents? Get them all a photo calendar of your family. Save tremendous time and energy by visiting one aisle in the store to purchase several varieties of the same gift.
If you think this sounds impersonal, it’s not. You can customize gifts, even if they are similar to others. Like, buy gift cards based on eating or shopping preferences, use specific pics by person for your photo project, choose Lego sets by age, monogram items with tailored initials, etc. Great to know you can simplify your options without forgoing personalized gifts.
Need more great tips for staying organized and on-task? Visit lifeisorganized.com.