14. December 2012 · Comments Off on Holiday Organization – 6 Tips For Keeping Your Sanity Through the Season · Categories: Home And Family · Tags: , ,

We all love the idea of the holiday season, right? We love the lights and the colors, the parties and the visits with family, the events and the ceremonies, heck – even the shopping and cards have their own flavor of nostalgia. But there’s just so MUCH!! Most of us pack an entire year’s worth of activity into a single month, leaving us frustrated and burnt out, instead of renewed and uplifted. Surviving the season doesn’t have to be a challenge worthy of reality TV. All you need are these six simple tips to save your sanity:

1. Prioritize. Make a list of the most important events, places, activities, and people that you absolutely cannot do without. Some examples might be picking out the tree, going caroling, the Johnson’s New Year’s Eve party, a sleigh ride with the kids, Christmas mass, or shopping on “Black Friday.” Put these items on your calendar FIRST, to avoid conflict. Now you can schedule around them, but make sure not to overbook yourself! Try to find ways to consolidate if possible. If several of your friends in the same circle are having soirees, attend one instead of all of them.

2. When it comes to decorating, open your decorations a week before you start, to review what you have and what you need. (Every year, I leave myself a note telling me what I need the following season – it’s absolutely priceless!) This is the time to test your lights! Make a plan for your decorating – how do you want it to look when it’s done? This will keep your home and yard looking fun and classy, instead of like a hoard of crazed elves descended upon your house! NOW go shopping, armed with your list of necessities to meet that plan. The major benefits are two-fold: First, you’ll get in and out of the store faster, and with more money left in your pocket, since there was no need for browsing / impulse buying. Second, on decorating day, putting up the seasonal trimmings will be the fun family activity you anticipated, and NOT a migraine inducing Rubik’s Cube.

3. Don’t make gift shopping a bigger hassle than it needs to be. I think we all have a tendency to blow this WAY out of proportion. Here are some great ways to simplify:

· Many credit cards offer double bonuses for shopping on their affiliated sites. You get everything done in the comfort of your home, plus you get a little something in return. · I’m a huge fan of theme gifts – in fact, I do it almost every year. This just means that you give everyone on your list the same thing, or some variation of it. It’s a great way to control your budget (which we’ll get to in a second), and there is no sense of “competition” between gift recipients! · Remember that the purpose of the gift (beyond religious symbolism) is to show your loved ones your appreciation… not how much money you have. · Decide whether you really need to get a gift for everyone you know. If you have a large family or circle of friends, consider drawing names instead of buying for everyone.
4. Make a budget… and stick to it. BEFORE you start purchasing, determine what funds you have available. As you find appropriate gifts, write down the price and subtract from your budget. Once you have a list of gifts that fits your allowance, THEN go shopping. (Note: If you’re buying online, don’t forget to include the shipping!) If you love the thrill of the hunt and the chaos of the malls (!), you can have your cake and eat it too, but you must resist the temptation to whip out the wallet on the spot. Carry a pad of paper and write down the gifts you find, then circle back to purchase when your list is complete. This also eliminates the problem of having to skimp on the last gifts you purchase because you’ve run out of money!

5. If you are hosting an event, one of the biggest hurdles is the always the food. Decide on a menu: formal or informal, catered or cooking? If you are catering, call at least three restaurants / services to get pricing and availability – there’s a lot of gouging that goes on this time of year, and you’ll want a guarantee that the food will be ready when you need it, especially if your event is ON a holiday. If there is one restaurant you prefer, but it’s not the one with the best price, don’t be afraid to ask if they will meet their competitor’s price (as long as you are comparing apples to apples, of course) – the worst they can say is “no.” If you are cooking, make a list of all ingredients for all the recipes. Cross off what you already have on hand, then take the remaining list with you when you go grocery shopping. This will eliminate the crisis of missing ingredients on cooking day!

6. Holiday cards are a staple of the season, and are truly a great way to keep outlying friends and family at least a little in the loop. Many people shy away from sending cards because the store-bought ones are too generic, and personalized messages seem like too much effort. Truly, sending a warm greeting does not have to take hours or cost a fortune! If you’d like to include a newsletter (always a nice touch!), make bullet points for each event you want to talk about – three to six points is plenty. Now just flesh out each point with two or three sentences, and just like that, you’re done! If writing isn’t your thing, you can certainly snap a photo of yourself or your family, or heck, even the dog! Then just use any of the huge number of online photo services available to create an instant card with a simple personalized message like, “Sending you all the warmth and love of the season from Bob, Cindy, Mike, Julie, and Barky!” I’m sure there’s no need for the trite reminder about keeping the spirit of the season rather than getting swept up in the commercial chaos, so just follow these guidelines, and you’ll find yourself sailing through the season with all the joy and gratitude that you’ve previously only seen in made-for-TV movies. Happy Holidays!
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