The holiday season is upon us and it will take some planning to avoid overwork and exhaustion.
Brace yourself. The holiday onslaught is coming.
In fact, the Halloween madness has been in full swing now for weeks. Soon we’ll start hearing Christmas songs playing everywhere. While the traditionalist in me shudders at the early appearance of holiday fare, the pragmatic organizer in me applauds the idea of planning far enough ahead so that you aren’t reduced to a stressed-out, screeching Grinch come mid-December.
The secret to keeping all of the warm sentiments of the holidays alive and well, without capitulating to crass commercialism, is to simplify. Before you dive headlong into “The Season,” take a few moments to consider ways you can streamline your to-dos, to-buys and to-makes.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
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Reflect on priorities. You don’t have to do something, like buy gifts for every colleague or bake cookies for all of your neighbors, just because you’ve always done it. Take a few moments now to outline what really matters to you this time of year. In other words, determine your true priorities for the season.
Go potluck. If you are hosting a big gathering, consider making the event a potluck. If you don’t want to leave the menu to chance, assign responsibility for specific dishes to guests.
Make a “day of” cooking plan in advance. At least one week before the event, sit down and map out the cooking schedule hour-by-hour. Put it down on a piece of paper that you can keep on your kitchen counter. As you put it together, look for ways you can pre-prep items a day before and delegate tasks.
Set the table a week ahead. The night before is fine, too, if you don’t have a separate dining-room table.
Don’t enter a grocery store without a list. Shopping lists help you avoid buying more than you really need. They also eliminate the predicament of having to run back to pick up an essential ingredient you forgot.
Assign family members to ongoing cleanup duty. Nobody wants to spend hours in the kitchen after a big celebration slaving away over the dishes. Keep a rotating team of dishwashers in the kitchen who can wash pots, pans and other cooking utensils as you go along.
Send an e-card. If sending out physical cards is stressful and unpleasant, consider making the switch to e-holiday cards.
Streamline gift-giving. You give better gifts to the people you love without going over your budget when you take the time to organize a gift-giving plan before hitting the mall.
Skip the mall; shop online. The great thing about doing your gift shopping online is that you can do it any time that works for you — and you can have items shipped directly to another person without having to schlep to the post office. It’s also easier to comparison shop so you get the best price.
Set a deadline for completing your shopping. A project will take up whatever time you allot for it. Simply set a date — say, Dec. 10 — as the deadline for getting through your shopping list this year.
Limit decorations. If you have ever been to Colonial Williamsburg around the holidays, you know the decorating wonders that can be accomplished with four simple things: greens, red ribbon, baby’s breath and candles (faux or real). Of course, don’t forget to exercise caution whenever lighted candles are involved.
Invest in an ornament box. These inexpensive bins make it much easier to take out and put away holiday decorations.
Plan ahead to use bad-weather days for crafts projects. If you stock up now on items like construction paper, scissors, spray paint, glitter and the like, you can whip up a crafty item, like spray-painted pine cones, on a dreary afternoon.
Skip the wrapping paper and gift cards. Instead, use old newspapers, outdated maps, cloth bags or even kids’ artwork to wrap presents. It’s better for the planet and easier on your wallet. Instead of buying individual gift cards for each gift, use free printable gift tags, which you can find online by the gazillion these days and print right from your own printer.
Limit commitments and set aside time each week to decompress. A few holiday events are essential but many are not. Discuss invitations with your family and outline your true priorities in advance. If you feel “guilty” saying you can’t make an event, try this RSVP script: “My heart says yes, but, sadly, our family calendar says no. Wish we could be there to celebrate. Hope you have a wonderful time!”
In addition, set aside one time a week, like Sundays after lunch, to relax, meditate and recapture a sense of calm.