Reflections Of A Professional Organizer
Enjoying Hassle Free Holidays part 1
The first Christmas commercial I saw this year was on October 17th. There are many people who are appalled at this declaring that it is far too early to begin considering, much less commercializing, the season.
I was delighted to see it.
How can it ever be too early to begin anticipating something good, the joy of family, fun and food of the season? I have heard people lament after the holidays that they were so busy preparing for the special days that, as Max Lucado said, they “burned their fuel before they reached their destination.” And the simple fact is that for most of us time flies at warp speed and the events and activities of a season that should be savored are often lost in the frantic effort to enjoy them.
May I suggest that not only is it possible to have a pleasant and relatively hassle free holiday season, it is also possible to “enjoy the journey,” that is, the time and process getting there. Christopher Robin hits the nail on the head. The key is organizing our thoughts, time and actions.
So, dread or delight? Do you anticipate this time of year with joy and a sweet inner excitement or do you huff and puff through preparations, feeling overwhelmed with details and stressing over timelines and real or self-imposed obligations feeling so frazzled you’re just glad when it’s over? Bah humbug.
Often the great saboteur of a peaceful and enjoyable holiday season is our personal expectations. If I am striving for a Norman Rockwell Christmas or attempting to re-create the glories of holidays past, I am likely to exhaust myself in pursuing an unrealistic goal! Idealism, like perfectionism, is physically, mentally and emotionally depleting, and is one of the shortest routes to disappointment. In an effort to hold on to the past we are in danger of denying ourselves the ability to embrace and enjoy the present!
Many of us find change difficult. The truth is, however, that life evolves and if I am wise I will reframe my thinking about what my expectations should be as those changes occur. My family may not desire or expect all that I am in the habit of doing, cooking or preparing. I happen to be a serious traditionalist, but we often do things just because we have always done them. For example, I have always made seven different kinds of Christmas cookies. Perhaps, if I enquire, my family might only really care about three kinds.
If I have a clear idea of what I hope the holidays to be I am more able to allocate my time and energy only to those things that will accomplish that vision. What am I willing, able or unable to invest my time, energy or money in to make this happen? Is it worth the investment?
Now that I know what I want, mapping a plan helps me “download” things I need to remember or do. A plan on paper is half the task. It takes a lot of mental energy to remember things! Think on paper. Create lists such as guest lists, menus, grocery lists, recipes, timelines, special needs such as stamps, extension cords, candles, traditional treats, gift list and gift ideas, actions needed, such as ordering on line, household chores that need to be accomplished and so forth. No detail is too small to be captured on paper. The idea is to not have to use mental energy to remember everything.
Holiday stress management 101- Always allow more time than you think you will actually need. Allow extra time for holiday traffic and longer lines in grocery stores and bank lines.
When hosting an event, allow extra time for unforeseen last minute problems or for guests who arrive early. Pretend your company is arriving an hour before they are actually invited. Back your schedule up another hour to allow time for a hot bath and a glass of wine. Enjoy your festive preparations, the candlelight and holiday music for a little while before the activity of company. A relaxed host is a gracious one.
Use your address book all year long to make notes about things people collect, clothing sizes, preferences in stores or catalogs, grandchildren’s social security numbers (for savings bonds for example), a great gift idea you want to remember and so forth.
For a large family or office party a “stocking Christmas” is a fun and inexpensive alternative to gift swapping. Each person provides his or her own stocking. Depending on the number of people participating a price limit is established, for example, it might be determined that no more than a dollar can be spent on any gift. Each person provides each stocking one gift. Stuffers don’t necessarily have to be purchased. Mom might decide to give Susi the faux pearls Susi has always admired. Other ideas: one Godiva chocolate, a bottle of bubbles, a bar of perfumed soap, something that reflects the person’s personality or a hobby item, barrettes, certificates for baby sitting or a favorite dessert, packaged seeds for a gardener or a balloon with a dollar inside. Possibilities are endless.
Preparing for holidays is a lot of work. Don’t miss the reward. Early in the year schedule a day off in December to simply appreciate the season. This is not a day to power shop or bake ten dozen cookies! It is a time to reflect and enjoy the beauty of the holiday. Have a special lunch with a friend, attend a Christmas program, curl up in front of the fire and your Christmas tree and read George McDonald Christmas stories, visit a beautifully decorated historic home or whatever other holiday activity brings you pleasure. Remember, an unscheduled appointment more than likely will not happen. Mark a day off, advise your employer or staff, schedule a baby sitter and allow nothing in the day but beauty, enjoyment and reflection.
Only 364 days left! Get a great start on a simpler holiday next year. We tend to use our favorite decorations and tree ornaments every year. Before you pack away this year’s decorations purge old, squashed or broken items out of storage. Weed out old lights and extra stuff you don’t use and organize what is left. Some items are sentimental but too fragile or …sorry, ugly and old…to actually use. Create a special memory box to keep these safe.
Set a festive tone for your day. Enjoy breakfast on dark winter days with candles and holiday music.
Here is a truth: Life is hard, and time flies. There is comfort in the continuity of holiday celebration. Yes, it has become commercialized and yes, it does require life energy to celebrate. But perhaps if we reframe our thinking about our expectations and not allow it to get “all mixed up” as Christopher says, we can grab hold of something truly good and receive the gift of joy, peace and promise.