Well, it's officially the start of the holiday season, though some intrepid retailers had Christmas decorations for sale a few weeks ago. Geez.
So, after you've taken the family out for some good ol' fashioned trick or treating, wiped off the last of the glitter and makeup and brewed a cup of tea, join me for a few tricks to make your holidays a treat.
1. Gratitude: I'd say 96% of our holiday stress actually comes from being abundantly blessed. #firstworldproblems We are so blessed and so wealthy. Wrapping my head around how stinkin' lucky I am has made all the difference in my personal stress levels at both the holidays and beyond. Is there a way to reframe something about the holidays that usually stresses you out? Maybe the thought of relatives staying the night has you on edge, but there's only a finite number of years they will be doing that. Learning to appreciate the experience can make all the difference. Maybe you're afraid of the effects of the season on your waistline, but realizing what a blessing of abundance it is to have too much food might be enough to make you take a breath and enjoy it. Just take a moment to take a deep breath, and be thankful.
2. Sort Your Decorations!: Now's the time to declutter your decorations. As you bring out fall and winter decorations, see what you gravitate towards first, see what gets left in a box. Now's the time to keep just the ones you love. If you're not sure about an item, put it out this season and see how you feel seeing it everyday. If you're still not sure how you feel about it by the end of the season, put it in a box labeled "maybe". Next year, the answer might be more clear.
3. Finalize your Presents Plan: December 24th isn't the day to let the in-laws know you'd only like your kids to be gifted experiences this year or that you'd like a donation made to a homeless shelter instead of receiving new long johns. Many of you have expressed frustration at the influx of gifts at Christmas time and it's derailment of your organizing and minimizing plans; come up with a plan to nip it in the bud now.
4. Prepare for the Onslaught: Begin a habit of letting go of one item of clothing or a toy each week. If you can teach the kids, and yourselves, to get into the habit of letting things go, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the space created for any gifts that may be incoming. Reminding children (and ourselves!) that anything we donate can be used by people who really need it can be very motivating.
5. Connection: If that bugger, loneliness, is hanging around, I've found that it means I'm lacking meaningful connections both with myself and with those around me. Sometimes I get hung up on going from party to event to dinner and all of a sudden, it's January 2nd and I'm feeling a bit let down and depressed. Taking the time for meaningful connections, not just business and checking events off a list, can take some of the sting out of the end of the holiday season. And as stated, it has nothing to do with the number of people around. Even just checking in with myself can ease the loneliness.
6. Christmas Cards: Do them now. NOW. November 1st is tomorrow and that's only a few short weeks until they need to be firmly in your intended's mail boxes for any of the winter holidays you're choosing to celebrate. If you have them purchased/printed/made by the end of the first week of November, there's no rush or impending feeling of doom of having to fill out 50 of them in one evening. You can dedicate a few minutes a night to filling out 2 of them. By the end of the month you've filled out 40+ of them.
7. Crazy Calendar Capers: To avoid the burnout, be sure to schedule some downtime. Put it on the calendar, hire a babysitter and keep those hours holy. If you're feeling frenzied, just say no. Don't inflict unnecessary stress on yourself - you alone can control your calendar. (I'm saying this as a reminder to myself!). Also, "I'm sorry, I can't make it" is a complete sentence and an acceptable response to an invitation.
8. Signature Dish: Having a signature contribution to holiday dinners can be a huge stress saver. No new recipes to learn, no confusion over what to contribute; bam, you already know and you've got this. Personally, I don't often bring food to family dinners, but they know they can count on me to clean things up afterwards.
9. Potlucks & Cocktails: If you're hosting and having a mild panic attack as you think of everything that involves, consider hosting an appetizer potluck or a cocktail party instead of a full on meal. Your guests will probably appreciate the lighter meal anyway! Bring on the eggnog.
10. Gift Wrap Station: I keep all of my wrapping paper in one old cylindrical toilet paper holder (it's silver and it works!) and all the bags, bows, name tags and tissue paper, along with scissors and tape, in a plastic bin. The bin is on the small side, but I find I don't need many supplies on hand during the year. If I'm running low at Christmas time, I'll stock up on the multi-purpose brown bags I use. If you'd like something fancier for the wrapping paper, Target and Container Store have nice plastic ones for it. The key is keeping your wrapping supplies in one place with all the elements you'll need to wrap something.
What are your favorite tricks for keeping the holidays simple? Leave me a comment and let me know!