7 Steps to a Stress-free Holiday Season

bowsbrother_2Does the thought of your holiday to-dos cause you to break out in a cold sweat? With so much to do and such little time, how can we fit it all in? Even though Christmas is still about a month away, leaving everything till the last minute can cost you. A little advance planning can save you time, money and energy. The 7-Step Plan below will help you de-clutter, de-stress and simplify – so you can anticipate the holidays with excitement instead of dread.

  1. Create a holiday planner – Organize your to-dos and lists in a binder and use it yearly as a handy reference. Get a 3-ring binder in a holiday color and fill it with clear sheet protectors. Store schedules, holiday to-dos, gift ideas (along with sizes, color preferences and wish lists of family members and close friends), and favorite holiday recipes. Keep a page for inventory of what’s inside your storage boxes. As the contents of the binder grow, use labelled dividers to organize the various categories.
  2. Simplify Your Holiday Cards – Instead of traditional cards, consider sending an annual family newsletter copied onto seasonal paper, using computer generated address labels and return address labels from a charity – or sent by email. If you prefer cards, get them pre-printed. Consider sending them after the New Year or for Valentine’s Day instead.
  3. Shop Smart – Create a budget and track it as you shop. Shop early and from a list to avoid impulse buying (and allow for delivery time when shopping online). Record your gift ideas throughout the year. Keep receipts organized in an envelope in case of returns.
  4. Wrapping Made Quick and Easy – It’s  less stressful to wrap as you go along. Set up a gift wrapping centre in an out-of-the-way place in your home. You’ll need a table or counter and a bin with all your supplies. (In the photo above, I’ve used clear, stacked drawers to organize wrapping supplies.) Label gifts until you’ve had a chance to wrap and tag them. If you don’t have the time or talent for wrapping gifts or simply don’t enjoy it, most malls provide the service for a nominal cost, often with the money going to charity. Another idea is to purchase decorative gift boxes from the dollar store, which you can reuse when giving to family members.
  5. Cook and Bake Ahead – With all the extra errands you’ll have to run, it’s helpful to have some meals made ahead and frozen. Label the containers with the contents and the date – because it’s often hard to determine what’s inside once the items are frozen. Declutter your freezer to accommodate extras. Bake in batches. If you don’t like to bake, find a friend who bakes and do it together or take short cuts like using packaged mixes or ordering from a bakery.
  6. Simplify your holiday décor – Do your outdoor decorating early, while the weather is still good. You don’t have to decorate every room of the house. Nor do you have to use every decoration you have. Donate what you no longer use. Start using more festive items that don’t have to be packed away after the holidays: fresh wreath, candles, fruit in bowls, and fresh flowers. Take pictures to remind you where everything goes.
  7. Practice selective socializing – Have you ever attended a social engagement out of obligation, only to regret it later? Or have you said ‘yes’ to every party request and then felt overextended and too tired to enjoy yourself? Avoid holiday overload by accepting invitations to only the events you truly want to attend – and allow some downtime in between.

What do you find most stressful about the holidays? I’d love to hear your thoughts or any tips you may want to add. Please share in the comments below.

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