Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It Is Not Too Soon To Think About The Holidays!

If your response to this headline was oh, please!!, you probably need to read on and consider my advice with an open mind, because the advice can help you keep your nerves in check when other people's go haywire. (For all of you who are by nature prevention-focused and therefore have a solid system in place for this approaching time, this article is not for you.)

In general, it does not take a psychologist to notice the high stress levels people experience preparing for A Peaceful Holiday Season, not least of all the birth of the “Prince of Peace” himself.

Seriously, it boggles the mind to think of all the work, down to the minute details, it takes to make it all come together in the end. Well, I have a solution for you that will help keep insanity at bay and have you actually enjoying the process. The secrets are organization and taking more TIME, and that means starting earlier.

Time management is a tricky thing for some, especially when the calendar tells you that you’ve still got four weeks before Christmas. Seems like plenty of time. In real time you do not have four weeks to get everything done -  with a full-time job and/or children to care for, you only have three weekends, or six days, with a few evening hours here and there. If you have an average-size family, having only so little time to get it all done will certainly make your blood pressure go up!

In addition, to borrow from John Lennon, "life happens while you're making plans.”  You must consider the possibility that you may get sick with a virus or a cold, or that a member of your family will, because it is that season, too.

So, for a few years now, I’ve been starting to prepare earlier - because all of the above has happened to me, almost spoiling my favorite time of the year.

There are many things that you can get done earlier than your friends may do them. I start entering my holiday “action items” into my calendar around October 15th each year. I never give myself more than one task a day. I do this in pencil, because inevitably things will have to be moved around for other appointments, school and activities for the children, and for the holiday parties we don't want to miss.

My secret for making shopping fun is to start early, and only shop for one member of my family at a time. The advantage is that you can really focus on that individual, their likes and dislikes, resulting in more satisfaction with your purchase. Also, you get to go home before you are exhausted. I do combine shopping for others when there are only one or two gifts involved. For books and CDs, I shop online.

I keep all receipts and tags with the name of the proposed recipient in an old shoebox decorated by my daughter two years ago, in case something needs to go back.

In the past, I have waited to wrap everything when shopping was done. It took too long, it was boring, and my back and legs ached miserably. Ho, Ho, for that routine. Now I wrap things as I buy them (and shop early for the wrapping paper). I lay out a sheet on the floor of a spare room, gather the wrapped gifts there, and cover with another sheet to keep the dust off. Bows go on the day I give them away. (Another thing to shop for early are the toys for the children's charities - those pick ups come fairly early.)

Here are some of the other things I deal with sooner than later so I can check them off the list:

·      Inspecting and trying on the outfits I would like to wear at the parties and the feast days at home. Dry clean now or buy something new? The children's clothes will surely be too small and there will be pictures, so I’ll have to get new outfits for them.  (My husband is on his own.  He prefers it that way.)

·      I buy holiday cards very early, along with the necessary stamps. The cards we received last year are still in a shoebox. Is there anyone new to join the list? I start writing a few every day, stamp them and pile them up on my desk until my daily calendar says “mail.”

·      I wash and iron all the holiday linen two weeks before Thanksgiving. All the wine and mixers to last through New Years Eve are in my cellar by that time also. Window lights and string lights get inspected after Halloween.

Having my calendar handy to see what is checked off and reassure me that I am right on track, gives me time to watch all my old favorite Christmas specials with my children, and keeps the stress and strain to a minimum.

So, have a Happy Season, spread out the work, and start now!

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