Jacket weather has arrived. Pull out the rain boots and bring on the simmering cups of hot cocoa laced with caramel and hazelnut and topped with a dollop of whipped cream. Give me a good book, some quiet time and a blanket to cover up with and I will be in heaven … sort of.
With the arrival of Autumn also comes the arrival of craziness. New schedules are being hammered out as kids begin school and other activities. Throw into the mix Fall carnivals, Halloween, Thanksgiving, the Festival of Lights and Christmas. Don’t blink, you very well might miss them all.
Although Autumn is my absolute favorite season, one of the things I detest the most about this time of year is being so harried, frazzled and over booked that I always feel rushed. As a result, I find I don’t get to truly appreciate the spirit of the season unless I plan ahead, stay organized and learn to simplify my life.
Since Christmas will be here in a mere 13 weeks, give or take a few days, I thought I would share some tips I have picked up over the years that have helped me to dispel some of the franticness of the season. These things definitely help me feel more relaxed and not quite as rushed.
1. Write on the calendar. Rule #1 – you don’t have to say yes to every, single invitation … do I need to repeat that? In fact, hold a family council and decide together which activities to attend and which ones can be skipped. Plan ahead for annual events you know always happen and try now to figure out the dates of those things. The Christmas dinner your husband’s boss always throws? I am sure it is planned more in advance than the night before it occurs, which is sometimes when your significant other first tells you about it.
Furthermore, make sure to literally write on the calendar, in pen, some days where you will “Stay Home.” Plan nothing these nights, or use these days to bake those sugar cookies with the kids you have been saying you are going to make for the last three years.
2. Christmas letters/emails. Start those letters soon. Since we are on tight budget while my husband is in grad school, we send out a Christmas/Holiday email to save money on stamps, cards and address labels. Emails also save a lot of time.
3. Convenient family photo. I always like to send out a current family photo with our email, but trying to find a time to get a nice picture taken sometimes seems impossible. Since we get dressed up to attend church every Sunday, I just take our digital camera to Church, arrive a few minutes early, and have a family friend who is handy with a camera snap a few shots. The kids behave remarkably well because they are excited to go to their respective kids’ classes.
4. Finish your gift shopping before Thanksgiving. Some people might argue with me on this one saying you will miss all the good sales, but frankly, I don’t mind spending a few extra dollars when my time and sanity are on the line. And this is coming from a very frugal minded person who is extremely budget oriented. To wreak less havoc on our budget, I also purchase things throughout the entire year and keep a birthday and Christmas stash hidden in my house.
Once you have the gifts, don’t forget to mail them off early. Remember any overseas packages need to be mailed by mid November. If you want to save money on shipping costs, give any gifts to family you might see at Thanksgiving time.
5. Keep a list of the gifts you have purchased. This helps ensure that equal money is spent on all the kids. It also helps to prevent overspending.
6. Keep a few extra, simple gifts on hand. Every year it seems like there is always someone you forget to buy a gift for – your daughter’s school teacher, your son’s soccer coach, the mail carrier, etc. To help you out in a pinch, always keep a few generic presents on hand – a scented candle, a mug full of treats, or a small box of stationary.
7. Purge now to make more room for new items. Before the holiday rush hits in full swing, take some time to help your kids sort through their things. Put away clothes that are too small, pack up toys that aren’t being used any longer, throw broken things in the trash and donate any unwanted items to charity. Don’t forget to purge your own things as well. If space is an issue, when out shopping, think small. It’s hard to find a new “home” in your house for large items.
8. Don’t be ashamed to buy a dessert. Many of us can bake fancy and gourmet treats, but the real question is do we have the time to do so? If you signed up to bring a sweet to the winter party at school, don’t stress yourself out about making something homemade. Costco cookies can be quite delicious.
9. Buy those black shoes now. If you know you will have a fancy holiday party to attend in the month of December, purchase those black dressy shoes and any other necessary accessories you have been meaning to get sooner rather than later. The last thing you need to be doing is picking over the leftovers on a display table in the mall the afternoon of the big event.
10. Enjoy all the Fall holidays. Sometimes all we seem to focus on is December 25th. Every other day is just a means to arrive at this date. Take some time to celebrate the beginning of Autumn, Halloween and Thanksgiving. However, remember to keep things simple.
11. Think outside the box. A successful holiday season isn’t measured by the amount of money one spends or the number of presents one purchases. Instead of buying big ticket items, get creative. Make homemade gifts if possible or write a thoughtful letter instead of spending money. If time is more the issue, utilize gift cards given with a sweet note.
12. Enjoy family time. In a few years time no one is going to remember if you cooked five different soups for the Fall potluck. However, your kids will always cherish the fun memories you created together.
13. Don’t sacrifice your alone time. It is so hard to give to and serve others when your own cup is completely empty. Take the time to adequately rest, exercise, read some good books and enjoy your hobbies.
What helps you to stay calm during the mad rush of the holiday season?