It’s the holiday season. Time for buying gifts, throwing parties and decorating your home. All that work can leave little time for enjoying what should be the most wonderful time of the year. So here are some quick tips to help make your holiday season merry and bright.
Make a list of all the people you plan to shop for with gift ideas that match their tastes. Consider gift certificates, which are easy to wrap and create less clutter. Be sure to set a gift budget for everyone on your list. Check weekly flyers for sales to plan your trip to the mall. The best times to shop are weekday mornings when there are fewer people shopping. Some stores have personal shoppers who can assist you in finding the right gift. And many stores have websites that allow you to save time by shopping from home online. Finally, set yourself a deadline to complete your gift buying so you have more time to enjoy the
Throwing a party
Planning a successful holiday party is much like planning any party. Start by selecting a date, preferably one
that doesn’t conflict with other holiday gatherings. Once done, determine where you want to host your party – at home, the office or at a favourite spot – and make reservations if necessary. Now you’re ready to draw up your guest list. For a formal party,
prepare and mail out invitations. For an informal gathering, email or phone invitations will do. If you decide to hold your party at home, develop a festive menu to serve your guests. If you choose a restaurant or club, ask them to suggest a menu based on
the number of guests invited and their tastes. Some seasonal music and a few carefully chosen decorations, table settings and centrepieces will help create a festive atmosphere.
Decorating your home
Before you drag out boxes of lights and tinsel, visualize how you want your home to look and make a plan. A good plan covers everything from your theme (such as ‘An Old-fashioned Christmas’) and colour scheme to the decorations you want to use and where you’ll place them. Now you can pull out the décor you want to use. Sift through it and donate or purge any outdated or unwanted items. Be sure to test your decorations to make sure they work properly. Replace all burnt-out bulbs and frayed cords. If you need to buy new outdoor lights, consider strings with built-in timers. They’ll save you time and energy costs. Here’s another idea that will save you time: Make a party of it. Invite family and friends to help you decorate, with the promise of eggnog and other holiday treats. You could even purchase some craft supplies and have your friends over to create some memorable tree
decorations. (And a few holiday season memories!)
Are financial worries leaving your holiday plans out in the cold? This year families around the globe are
finding ways to cut back, hold off and hunker down for the impending economic storm. While we may enjoy the rituals of preparing for the holidays, it can add up to a lot of emotional, physical and financial stress. Consider the joy of
eliminating those post holiday credit card payments by adding new traditions for a low-stress, minimalist Christmas that will save you big bucks.
-Think about getting a smaller tree which will mean less time, money and less lugging in and out of the house. If you usually get more than one tree or decorate the trees outside, consider scaling back.
-Get eclectic and let the kids help by can creating a themed tree using things you already have.
-Does anyone actually enjoy putting up lights? Spend your Saturday inside drinking a cappuccino instead of fearing for your life dangling from the roof. Think of the money you’ll save on energy!
-Consider re-gifting as a way to stick to your budget this year. Make sure it is something you would normally give to that person and ensure that it is truly appropriate for them.
-Do you find yourself returning half of what you bought? Treat picky teens to a shopping spree after Christmas (when the deals are on) and stick to a few gifts that are on their list that you know you’ll “get right”.
-Buy less. Look at your gift buying list. Maybe it’s time to send those cousins and niecesand nephews a card with money or a gift card. It can be difficult figuring out what to buy relatives you rarely see. Give co-workers and friends a card with a lotto ticket in it—it could end up being a very generous gift! Put spending limits on how much your spouse and children are to spend on gifts. Try doing a gift swap so children only have one gift to buy instead of 3 or 4. Do a cookie swap with friends trading recipes and sampling each others creations.
-Shop online. Finding parking spots and braving the crowds aren’t a necessary part of the Christmas ritual. You can find
more online than you can at the mall. Shop early and find good deals on Ebay. Most stores in your mall have an online store; at the very least you can comparison shop before heading out.
-Cut back on baking and cooking. Contrary to popular belief six kinds of dessert are not required. Do you really need a 20 pound turkey or is ten pounds really enough? We tend to overeat at Christmas, so think about what food you really need to enjoy the holidays and what is just too much.
-Are you running from house to house for back-to-back Christmas dinners? Try a quiet, “stay in” Christmas. Have supper with your immediate family and promise to visit other relatives another night for cookies and cider. This means less work and cost for them as well!
You may fear being labeled a Scrooge for changing traditions and cutting back during the holidays. However, you may also find
that family members and friends are happy to let go of some of the expenses and responsibilities that come with our traditions. Plus, if you are less stressed, you can spend more time enjoying time with your family instead of running around trying to get everything “just so.” Your family will agree that a minimalist holiday will make you a more relaxed and fun person to be around.
Be realistic. We often start off the holiday season with lots of great ideas for family fun, decorating, parties, gifts and crafts. Now is the time to take a step back and look realistically at the time frame you have remaining to get all these things done on top of your regular activities.
Remember that these fun ideas can become “one more thing” on your To Do list. Pick a few things you would like to be involved in and enjoy them. Save the other ideas for another year or as a way to ward off winter blues in the New Year.
Maintain your regular exercise routine. Don’t slip up simply because you have some extra errands to do. Don’t schedule your workouts around your other activities; schedule your other activities around your workout routines. Try to go
to the gym, swim or exercise at home at the same time each day. Give yourself and loved ones the best gift of all this holiday and take care of your health first.
Feel pulled in a million directions? If your children need you at school concerts, work has extra holiday hours for you or your friends need you to help plan a big holiday party, keep in mind that you won’t be of use to anyone if you over exhaust yourself. Take a break each day for yourself. Plan it in your calendar as you would for meetings with family and friends. Schedule “you” time for at least 15-30 minutes each day doing something that you enjoy. Whether it’s reading a good book,
going for a manicure or journal writing, take the time to relax and do things you want to do.
Learn to say no. Don’t take something on assuming you will find the time to get it done. Practice with your family. Separate
what really needs to get done from what would be nice if it got done. Focus on getting things that have to get done and delegate or hold off on the rest. The holidays should be an enjoyable time for everyone, don’t let yourself become a slave to the season.
Eat properly. Don’t use the holidays and stress as a reason to over eat. Although the holidays always seem to bring with them sweet treats and extra appetizers, don’t let them tempt you. Remember, just because someone offers you something, you do not have to accept. It is not considered rude to politely pass on a food. If you start something and know you should stop, pack it up and take it home for a snack or meal later. There is no rule saying you must eat everything on your plate or everything that is handed to you. Pick and choose the healthiest foods and indulge on those. Eat smaller portions of your selected treats.
Although some people think alcohol decreases your stress, it is only a temporary solution. Try to stay away from consuming too many cocktails as this will interfere with your diet and overall well-being. If you are careful with what you drink, you will also eliminate consuming too much at holiday parties which in turn could save you some added stress when you get on the scale.
Cut down your gift giving list. If you have too many people to buy gifts for this year, make a smaller list. Many people will understand and be relieved of the stress and pressure of time and money just as you will be. This works for especially well for larger families. Gather for a cookie or gift exchange where each person is only required to bring one item or send a thoughtful Christmas card instead.
Stick to a budget. Financial woes top of the list of relationship issues. Don’t put an extra strain on yourself and your relationship by running up big bills this season. You will decrease your quality of living by increasing stress: wondering how you are going to pay your bills, working extra hours to keep creditors at bay, and doing without things you actually need because you wanted to have the “best Christmas
Decide ahead of time how much you are going to spend on each person on your list. Remember that it really is the thought that counts, and not the size or number of presents.
**Content produced and provided by Professional Organizers in Canada**
Keep Your Cool during the Summer Sizzle
Are your kids talking about the summer yet? Are they getting excited? Chances are they don’t know how much more work it is for parents during the summer than it is during the rest of the year. To keep the kids busy with little effort, consider putting advance planning in place so that the rest of the summer can be more spontaneously enjoyed. Here are some ideas you can use to improve the summer months:
Create an activity list or an “I’m Bored Jar”
Get a large jar for the whole family to add ideas when one strikes. Have all family members write their ideas on notes and put them in the jar. Need some inspiration for summer activities? Organize a picnic dinner, swimming at a local pool, or camping in the backyard. If your kids are acting like wild animals, you might even plan a visit to the zoo.
Install a wall calendar and put the activity ideas on it.
Use some sticky notes and a marker and start by indicating the important dates, such as the first day of school or camp, or time that will be spent away on a vacation. Colour code the sticky notes by category which could make the board look more kid-friendly. Potential categories can include theme days, playdates, planned outings, and activities done at home.
Stick to a normal routine as much as possible.
To make life easier for yourself, make sure you write out sticky notes for your own well-being and apply them to the wall calendar. Write down your date nights, dinner menu plans and babysitter arrangements.
Pre-sort supplies for Grab and Go Bags
Pre-pack backpacks before an activity day. This will help you avoid the hour of preparation time before being able to leave the house. Some ideas for Grab and Go Bags are:
- Theme park bags
- Walking/hiking bags
- Playdate bags, picnic bags
- Library bags
- Pool days
If you’re going to the pool, have water excursion supplies pre-packed in a tote bag. Pack swimsuits and towels, as well as sun safety essentials including sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses. Don’t forget to bring a plastic bag for wet bathing suits!
- Road trip essentials
Be sure to pack items that will keep you and your family comfortable and entertained while away from home. Include essentials such as diapers, water bottles, snacks, and sunscreen. To avoid the inevitable cries of “Are we there yet?” don’t forget books, colouring books or clipboards with blank paper, and zippered pouches of crayons for each child along with the electronic device preloaded with learning games and movies.
There is nothing wrong with kids getting bored from time to time, as some ingenious and unique activities can result from that. Keep art supplies within reach in the craft cabinet, a few outdoor toys in the backyard, and fruit and sugar-free drinks in the fridge.