With three holiday parties to attend just this week, a new book coming out, and two young kids to buy for, I guess I’m supposed to be stressed about the holidays. I’ve been swimming against the tide for many years now, and have a few holiday organizing strategies that allow me to be a little less stressed than some. Please borrow any of these holiday organizing strategies to make your December more peaceful.
Think hospitality, not perfection. Hospitality doesn’t care whether your napkins are ironed, your tree is trendy or your playroom is organized. Hospitality can be as simple as putting bottled water and grab-and-go snacks on your porch for delivery drivers (Amazon, Fedex, USPS, UPS), the latest trend I’m loving. Hospitality is sharing a simple bowl of soup for lunch instead of getting stressed out over a big fancy dinner. Hospitality is letting the neighbor kids eat popcorn on the sofa, knowing that you can always wash the pillows and slipcovers later.
Take shortcuts when you can. Although I love to bake, I just don’t have the time in a week with three company holiday parties. For just $30 I picked up a beautiful Tiramisu from my corner French bakery, Aux Petits Delices. I support my favorite small business and get to bring something way fancier than I can whip up at home, saving me time in the bargain.
Parents, the reason we have our kids write out lists for Santa is simple…it’s to share the load. You are NOT meant to buy everything on the list. Give aunts, uncles and grandparents a choice of items off the list. In fact, we keep our gifts to three items per kid. If it was good enough for the Wise Men, and it works for us, too. Generally, it’s a toy, some clothing and a book or game. Ideally, a few of the items can be enjoyed for hours at a time by more than one kid over the days off from school. With additional gifts coming in from grandparents and family, teachers and neighbors, there’s just too much. By the way, if this seems like it’s easy for me, it’s not. I’ve overbought, too! There have been Christmas Eves when I pull wrapped presents out from under the tree and stash for upcoming birthdays. It was just too much.
The biggest organizing tip of all is to prepare now for the incoming bounty. Ask your kids to pick a few toys that they don’t love or that they have outgrown. Donate them now. Actually get them out of your house to make room for the new. You don’t have to do a huge, methodical purging to make this effective. Even just a few items off your shelves and out of their closets means more room for the new things that are coming your way. Want an even easier way to move donations? Check out Give Back Box, where you can fill any box, especially those Amazon boxes that just landed on your doorstep, with donatable household goods and clothes, and ship them right back out again. No drop-off stop required!
Be very selective on the electronics you give your kids. You will have to charge, add batteries, troubleshoot, repair, and eventually recycle each item. Is it really something they will use and enjoy for many years? Does it require network access, a computer, or other accessories that your kid doesn’t have? If you do bring in a new electronic item, IMMEDIATELY label the cord descriptively with label tape (high end) or masking tape (low end), and collect accessories and instructions in a plastic zipper bag, also well-labeled. Don’t wait until you realize you are missing an adapter or charger.
We have always bought ornaments on our summer travels, and now our tree is entirely special ornaments, each with a memory attached. It’s made a huge impact on our kids, apparently, according to my ten-year-old. It’s a great way to remember special trips and places. Our tree is not large, live or trendy, but it’s very, very special. We have very few other decorations throughout the house, mostly ones the kids have made, which they love placing and moving around during the season.
I bought a remote control for the tree years ago. Tree lights plug into the controller, which plus into the wall. The clicker lets me turn the tree on at 4 pm (when it gets dark in our part of the country) and not worry about having to reach under or behind to turn it off at the end of the night.
Does the mess of Christmas wrapping make you crazy on Christmas morning? Wrap a medium-sized box in gift wrap, but leave the top open, and everyone can place wrapping inside the box as gifts are being opened. Not only does it keep the room tidy, but it’ll look better in your holiday pictures than a trash bag will.
Better yet, make the switch to reusable fabric gift bags, which you can now buy at places like Target and Amazon (affiliate link). They are more eco-friendly and easy to store with your gift wrap to re-use next year.
Remember to use the camera countdown timer on your phone or camera to get the perfect group shot without a pro photographer or equipment. Scout a good background ahead of time with a spot about 10 feet away for your camera or phone. Prop your phone in a plastic cup on the mantle and have everybody count down with the timer.
Eat before you party. You just never know what’s going to be served at your next fete, so prepare for anything by eating a little something to take the edge off. This is especially important for children, who will reliably become cranky without food every fifteen minutes. Eat a small plate of actual food before you go, and you’ll avoid a meltdown if the buffet is only sweets or allergy-triggers. You’ll also keep your appetite in check, allowing you to eat a few sweets without blowing all your calories for the day in one place. If you do have allergies in your family, grab your epipen right now, and keep it with you during the holidays. You just never know…
It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose steam, but remember, there is no perfect holiday. Soak in the season however it makes sense for you. “Borrow” your town’s light display. Cozy up with peppermint tea. Play Christmas music. Go window shopping at the mall and don’t come home with anything at all. 🙂 You don’t have to do it up in a grand style to be in the spirit.
Be kinder than necessary, to yourself and others. Pay for valet parking to make your shopping easier. Donate your extra change. Bring something for the food pantry/pajama box/coat drive in your neighborhood. Tip more generously than needed. These little things take almost no effort, but make the day better for everyone. Find ways to spread joy each day, and that includes making yourself joyful, too.
I wish for you peace, happiness, calm and at least a little organization sprinkled in this season.