Get Organized for the Next Holiday Season by Debbie Williams
In January, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwaanza are over (sigh) and things will be getting back to normal. How on earth will we get through another holiday season? As I catch up on visits with friends, I hear a common thread in the conversations: we had a nice Christmas vacation; we didn't go anywhere. My goodness! I thought being with family was what the holiday season was all about. Or is it?
Time management and family counselors tell us that Christmas is a season, not merely a day. So slow down, time your visits, and perhaps spread them out over a few days. For instance, my husband's family celebrates Christmas each year as a family reunion. They rent a hall (no one has fifty grandchildren running through the formal living room), decorations are donated, refreshments are provided pot-luck style, and the burden of entertaining is not placed on just one person.
Another way to avoid the holiday blues is to set a gift budget. I won't go in-depth to teach you Accounting 101, but I do have some ideas of how to set a spending limit, shop year round, or make your own gifts. These are all great ways to keep from feeling so depress when that credit card bill arrives in January.
Below are a few tips I've listed to give you a jumpstart on the holidays NEXT season........ GREETING CARDS
My biggest time saver is ordering holiday cards the first week of October from a mail order catalog, then addressing them the week of Halloween. By November, you're ready for gift buying and have a major chore crossed off your to-do-list.
Buy holiday cards after Christmas when they are on sale, then stash them away for next year. I suggest you don't pack them away with other holiday decorations - you may forget about them, and you won't have easy access for advance processing.
Create a permanent record of sent and received holiday cards to avoid making one each year. This is especially important if you buy cards in advance. Make a list and file it in your file cabinet, on your computer, or in a dedicated Christmas Card Record booklet. (These can be found at stationery stores and bookstores, and from mail order catalogs.) This allows you to take an inventory of cards for the next year, according to your revised list.
Send Postcards instead of holiday cards. - it takes much less time to write a message, and requires less postage
Only send cards to out of town friends and family.
Send virtual cards electronically. Of course, this only works for those friends and family members on line, but it saves a lot of money and you can send more cards than you normally would.
Order postage stamps through the mail to avoid standing in a long line at the post office. (I do this year-round, and it saves me from hauling my son in and out of the car just to go into the post office for stamps!)
Don't send cards at all (this practice is becoming more popular each year)
GIFT BUYING Shop year-round. This not only budgets your time, but pocketbook as well. Make a mental note whenever a friend or loved one mentions something he or she would like to have. Pay attention during other gift-giving occasions, such as birthdays and anniversaries, and write their wish list notes down later. Not only will you save money allowing for a few gifts each month, but also you will give the recipient a gift they will enjoy for quite some time.
If you elect not to shop year round, choose less hectic times to do your shopping. Early mornings on the weekends, just as stores open, are ideal. You practically have the entire store to yourself. Another option is to shop during the week, rather than on weekends. You'll find easier parking, shorter checkout lines, and more thinking time on your hands by using this tip.
Shop online or from catalogs. You pay for shipping costs, but will save money and time. Sometimes you won't have to pay sales tax, and that justifies the shipping charge.
Opt not to give gifts at all, except to immediate family. There are so many variations on this theme, so it's a good idea to have a family meeting to discuss your options. Often you're not the only one feeling a monetary crunch, and often it's a relief to others as well.
GETTING THE HOUSE READY FOR THE HOLIDAYS Stock your freezer and pantry during the month so you will have fewer trips to the grocery and fewer meals to prepare. This might be a good time to cash in those pizza coupons!
Feel free to screen your phonecalls, then plan a time when you can return calls. Wrapping gifts or stuffing cards into envelopes is a good multi-tasking chore to do while you're on the phone.
Plan your parties and holiday meals well in advance. I'm a firm believer that you can never have too many lists. Being a mom means multi-tasking, and we're getting better every day at it, but we're only human. If it's not on the list, it probably won't happen!
Muster the troops, and decorate the house and trim the tree using all the help you can get. Have a tree trimming party. Invite friends or family members over, put on the Christmas music to set the mood, serve refreshments or order in. It's much less of a chose when everyone pitches in to help. After the holidays, you can do the same thing. No one really likes to undecorate, but if you make a party of it, to celebrate the New Year perhaps, time goes much quicker.
Lower your expectations: Don't feel you have to be ready for House and Garden Magazine to photograph your holiday dinner. Potlucks and no frill meals are wonderful, as most veteran moms will agree. New moms are so overwhelmed with schedules and their new job as a mother - the last thing anyone expects is a Martha Stewart presentation.
Let people help you. This was a hard lesson for me to learn, but as my son turns three, I'm a firm believer in this advice. During the holidays, those you love surround you and they are there to help when you need it. If you need help with meals, ask them to make their specialty. If you're a terrible cook, this can be a blessing. If you don't want anyone underfoot in the kitchen, let him or her baby-sit. Believe me, this is the biggest help you can get as your children grow.
Debbie Williams, owner of Let's Get It Together, is a personal organizing strategist, author, and speaker. She is the publisher of Organized TimesT ezine and website, sponsor of Organize Your Home DayT, and author of Common Sense Organizing.