It never fails. Each year around mid-September I make an announcement that we are going to have a holiday season this year that is relatively stress-free, is more organized, and presents more opportunities to just relax and enjoy each other. It seems though that no sooner do I say that than invitations start coming in, the dance recital is scheduled (with rehearsals, mind you!), family comes ‘a callin’, church events are put on the calendar, and more! My visions of sugarplums dancing across my line of vision as I listen to sounds of Nat King Cole on the BOSE, seems all but a distant dream. But while I may not have the Christmas holidays down to a science I have picked up a few tips and tricks to make it all seem a bit more organized. And who doesn’t want a more organized Christmas?
No matter what size house you live in or how many family members you may have under said roof, it is sometimes hard to imagine how you can cut the clutter, get everything clean, mark off your “honey do” list, clean up around the inside and out, and prepare for the day of Christmas. That doesn’t even take into account planning menus, baking, cooking, and the lot! However, if you devise a plan (or system) that begins just after Labor Day that makes checkoffs for cleaning-and-organizing, planning chores, pantry stocking, decorating, and general seasonal tasks, you can keep your house a home even throughout the sometimes stressful holiday season!
Stock Up On Freezer Meals
Funerals are not the only occasion when pre-prepared food comes in handy. Having a good stockpile of assorted frozen meals is a definite season stress-buster during the busy month of December. Some favorites and easy items are stews and soups followed by cream-based pasta dishes. Whether you opt for more traditional once-a-month cooking methods, buy pre-made meals at the Sam’s Club, or subscribe to one of the prepared food franchises (Dream Dinners is one example), setting aside a stock of easy family dinners will cut stress during the holidays.
Order Mailing Supplies and Cards
Over the past ten years photo-based Christmas cards have become increasingly more popular. Coupled with the formatted “family letter” or the ‘year in review’, there has been a bit of a renaissance for the Christmas card. With those cards though come a myriad of extra effort including:
- Taking THE photograph
- Having the cards designed/printed
- Writing a letter
- Getting stamps
- Organizing addresses and contact books
In addition there are those inevitable mailout gifts that need to be sent to Aunt Edna in Des Moines, little Ricky who is now off at college, and the occasional shoebox for this ministry or that one. Long lines and disinterested customer service personnel at the USPS are a holiday hazard though and can quickly turn any jolly old elf into a real grinch! You can shorten this time on queue though by buying stamps at the grocery store, drug store, or even online! As for shipping, plan to use the USPS Print & Ship online service to buy and print mailing labels and arrange package pickup right at your door.
Scale Back The Decorating
Living in a tiny house can be a way to minimize and prioritize as much as it can be a way to sacrifice and grow discontent. Instead of thinking about what you CAN’T have the emphasis should become more about what you CAN cherish and look forward to. Holiday decorating is a great example of such. Clark Griswold probably lived in about 1900 sq.ft. With three bedrooms and two bathrooms as well as a dining room, living room, kitchen, mud room, and garage, he had ample room to store his cosmic collection of outdoor illuminations, a life-size Santa, multiple extension cords, and more! But when living in less than 300 sq.ft., space is precious and less is more. Perhaps this year substitute a simple door wreath or natural garland around your door jam for outdoor lighting, a tabletop tree or 2-D vinyl decal for the 7 ft. Evergreen. Divide your space into three areas: the front door, the tree, and the focal point, and bring maximum holiday cheer to your tiny house without running up your electrical bill, running down your deep cycle batteries, or causing adult onset blindness.
Scale Back The Gift List
Christmastime can often be one of the most guilt ridden and obligatory times of the year. A small gift for this one, a special gift for that one. A last minute gift for him and a shallow gift for her, are oftentimes the extent of thought during the holidays. To reduce stress and plan a quality Christmas rein in on the gift exchange and limit what you give and who you give it to. Work out scenarios with your family such as gifts for the children only. Talk to your spouse about a “family gift” instead of trying to outdo the other. Perhaps drawing names for a gift exchange with siblings makes more sense and is less taxing on the budget. Whatever the case, the idea of scaling back is one that will put the jingle jangle back in your pocket for the new year!
Make A Planner
If scaling back or de-stressing is just not appealing then the Christmas planner may be just what the Doctor Clause ordered. There are a number of websites that provide free downloadable guides that will walk you through Thanksgiving to New Years outlining tasks and strategies. Making your own can be more personable and allow for more comfort in areas you especially like as well as keeping you focused on the important parts of the holiday that will keep you harking the bells all season long. Sections can include:
- Gift Lists
- Christmas Cards
- Recipes Decorating
What do you prefer? Does your family turn into the Griswolds? Does your tree rival that of the White House? Or do you prefer a more laid back affair with few gifts, a few friends, and perhaps a perfect glass of Scotch?