Plan Ahead for Calmer Holidays
For a number of years, I started dreading Christmas, oh, around October. I shared more of that story last year, and my 21 Days to a Peaceful Holiday class grew out of the things I learned as I found my way back to loving the holiday season. I can honestly say that when I saw the first holiday decor this year while shopping (even though it was the first week of October), I smiled in anticipation. Progress!This week I want to share with you a few of the more practical ways I prepare for the holidays before things get crazy busy.[Tweet "Plan now for a calmer holiday!"](For even more tips, join me for 21 Days starting December 1.)
Set Your Intention For the Season
To prevent going into reaction mode just to manage the busy, think now about how you would like to feel during the month of December and into January. What one theme would you like to feel running through the holiday? Family? Community? Wonder? Consider some of these questions:
- What is your most treasured holiday tradition?
- What holiday activities could you really live without?
- Where do you feel the magic? How can you find more of that?
- What are your family's favorite activities? Least favorite activities?
- Do you want to send cards? Or greetings in some other format?
- What is your budget for gift giving and entertaining this year?
Your answers to these questions will give you a framework to decide what you want to say yes to and what you want to say no to this month.
Prepare For Holiday Mail
Are you overwhelmed with catalogs yet? I am. Incoming mail around the holidays can get crazy. Just when you want to keep your house tidy for guests, your mailbox starts churning out the paper for you to deal with. And not just catalogs, but holiday cards, and possibly a lot of packages, if you do some of your Christmas shopping online. Here are some ways you can tame that mess:
- Make a place to stash mail-order gifts until wrapped. Designate a closet or out-of-the-way spot to stack those boxes until you are ready to open them and wrap the gifts. Ideally, do that the day they arrive, but if that's not realistic, just make sure you have a corner where they won't be in your way.
- If you get a lot of holiday greeting cards, set up a way to display them so you can put them out the same day they arrive. That can be as simple as making space on your mantle or hanging a length of ribbon and using clothespins to attach the cards to the ribbon.
- Make a plan for outgoing mail, too. If you are sending holiday cards, make it easy on yourself. Make a basket of all the supplies you need to write, address and stamp them so you can carry it to wherever you are working. If you are shipping gifts, make sure you mark on your calendar when everything needs to be in the mail to arrive on time and schedule a trip to the post office before that date!
- Make a thank-you card station. Once you are done with your holiday cards, recycle that basket into a thank-you card station. If you have kids who are old enough to write, check out these printable cards they can fill out themselves.
Re-Think Your Gifts
The most important thing I did to get my joy back in the holidays was change the way I approached gift giving. I cut my gift list down to just my immediate family, which freed up both time and money to really give thoughtful, heartfelt gifts. Sometimes those gifts are handmade, but not always. Re-finding my joy in giving really helped me re-find the magic of the holiday. If you struggle with gift giving because it feels overwhelming, costs too much, or just doesn't feel joyful, consider some of these alternate gift ideas (there is a lot more about intentional giving in the 21 Days class!):
- Give an experience gift. Sign someone up for a class, buy tickets to a show or a trip. Or just give the offer of a day spent together doing something you both love.
- Give the gift of time. Offer babysitting services to a family with little ones. Offer to help someone finish a project, or do some work around their house. Do you have skills that someone else needs? Offer them!
- Make a donation. I get the Heifer International catalog every year, and I love the idea of giving a pig or a goat in the name of someone I love. Another idea along these lines is to set up a Kiva account for someone and let them manage the micro loans as they wish.
Ease Up Your Schedule
This is where the month always falls apart for me. I have good intentions, but it is just so easy to say yes to everything that sounds fun! Resist the temptation. Say no to some things so you can enjoy fewer things more. Take a look at your December calendar now to make sure you preserve some room to breathe, rest, and celebrate. Here are a few things to consider:
- Mark your social engagements. What parties have you been invited to? Do you or your partner have a company party you should attend? Take a look at how these events fall, decide which ones you want to go to and which you want to skip and send in those RSVPs right away.
- If you have kids in school, mark school holidays and parties. If there are treats or cards you want to have ready, make sure you mark your deadline for getting those things ready, too!
- Fill in any traditional family events. Does your family like to go look at Christmas lights? Do you go see the Nutcracker? Throw a cookie party? Make sure you save room for those things, as they are likely more meaningful than that company party anyway.
- Are you traveling? Hosting guests or family? Mark out any travel dates and guest arrival dates.
- Mark out rest days! Is there any room left? Schedule yourself some down evenings to just be. If you got this far and find there are no gaps, go back and remove some things to make them!
What parts of the holiday season make you feel most stressed?