Photo by The Bee Paperie
Written by Steady Mom contributor Cortney of Praiseworthy.
I can’t believe November is halfway gone already! We’ve reached that time when it’s easy to be overwhelmed with family gatherings, party planning, shopping, decorating, baking...the never-ending list of holiday happenings!
And while I am enjoying all the fun ideas on blogs and websites for homemade gifts, recipes, and decorations, I am also trying to stay balanced and organized amid all these added tasks and traditions.
So, for the party planners, the hand crafters, the candy makers, and anyone seeking to make holiday plans perfect without the seemingly inevitable stress, I hope you find something in this post to help make this season a little more peaceful for you and your family.
Photo by Laura Moss
Shop to a theme. Whether you draw names or shop for every person in your family, shopping to a theme can make your decision-making easy. Instead of wondering what to get for each person, decide on a theme like “movies” or “beach” or “bath time.” Then everyone gets something to fit the theme--which reduces arguments and envy among the younger family members, while making it easier for you to choose the gifts. For example, if the theme is movies, maybe each person gets a DVD and their favorite candy to munch while watching it. Or if the theme is “beach,” everyone can get a new beach towel or flip flops in their favorite color.
Reduce excessive gifts by having a purpose for each one. I can come up with all kinds of excuses to buy unnecessary things for my kids even after their lists are checked off. But this useful suggestion is helping keep our gift giving within reason this year. It gives a purpose to each gift, limiting it to four: something to read, something to wear, something to play with and something to share. This has made me really evaluate what we most want our kids to have and what will best fit its purpose.
Give an experience. Rather than giving individual gifts, purchase passes to a children’s museum or buy them a membership. This is something the whole family can enjoy together, and more than once! Other options might include tickets to the theatre, favorite sports team, or a musical performance.
Keep a record. Have a book where you write down the gifts you’ve given so that next Christmas you don’t have to remember what you gave to whom. Also include details such as items that have been ordered, if they have arrived, and what has been wrapped.
Catch the sales online. Sale shopping might sound obvious, but if you want to reduce stress during the crowded and sometimes overwhelming holiday sales, one great way is to catch them online! Black Friday is not an in-store only event. I know my bank account appreciates the sales, but my nerves sure do appreciate the peace and quiet of shopping without all the lines and the chaos.
Have someone else do the wrapping. If you shop somewhere that offers free gift wrapping--do it! If you find a community organization doing gift wrapping for a fundraiser--do it! Or if you have a child old enough to handle the job, make gift wrapping a special holiday assignment that they can take pride in. Provide them with fun paper, scissors, tape and bows, and most kids are in heaven!
Photo by Julian Povey
Bake now. Almost everything can be frozen and pulled out when the time comes. Any dishes or food for a party that can be done ahead of time, prepare the day or night before.
Set the table a few days ahead of time. Make sure you have enough chairs, place settings, and serving dishes to accommodate your guests and your wonderful meal. Use post-it notes on serving dishes labeling what they will be used for to make sure you have enough for everything.
Have hostess gifts on hand. The last thing you want to worry about when you’re trying to get kids out the door in their crisp, clean Christmas outfits, and still arrive on time, is a hostess gift. And there always seems to be that last-minute party you may have forgotten to write on the calendar, so having a little stash of hostess gifts in the closet can reduce the stress when you’re headed out to have a good time.
Photo by Kiddley
Make lists--a master list and as many others as necessary! Include dates for completion and mark them on a calendar--a large calendar, as my grandma told me. :)
Start early and work on something every day.
Give assignments to others. You may find that the added tasks provide opportunities for new traditions that kids and spouses enjoy doing together.
Get your cards done early. If you send out cards with pictures and a family newsletter, begin early and have them done before the line at the post office is all the way out the door. My Christmas cards always seem to be New Year’s cards instead...but this is one place that delegation can begin to prove itself most useful. Let your husband write the letter, find time to watch your favorite holiday movie while you stuff the envelopes together, and let your children lick the envelopes and put on the stamps.
Use books and magazines or online resources to get ideas, and then gather them into one place. Make a holiday binder with sections for decorating, cooking, gifting, etc. This is something you can add to and use year after year.
Add ribbons, lights, or festive garlands to home decor that is already in place. Keep it simple.
If you plan to visit Santa Clause, make time to see him on a weekday. This will reduce time spent standing in line and help everyone enjoy it more. Go after the kids have been fed, while they are happy. And don’t worry about the expensive photograph, just enjoy the experience together.
Block out time for yourself. Do something you love to do at this time of year. Sit by a fire with a good book. Go for a walk in the fallen leaves. Call a friend you rarely talk to and wish them a Happy New Year. And bake your favorite dish. Make time to do things that really allow you to celebrate the season.
And finally, plan time for traditions. It seems to me that the most enriching parts of my holiday season each year are the ones that I can always count on--decorating the Christmas tree, dinner with family, receiving cards in the mail, caroling in the cold air and then warming up with a cup of hot cocoa--the experiences shared with loved ones.
Experience a more peaceful holiday--whatever you are celebrating--by planning ahead and staying organized. In the end, your preparations will enable you to enjoy it more fully.
**What's your key to stressfree holiday planning?**
Cortney is a young mother of two who seeks to bring beauty and love to her family through various creative outlets: photography, writing, sewing, cooking and entertaining to name a few. You can discover more of Cortney's creative ideas at her blog, Praiseworthy.