Friday, November 28, 2014

5 Tips for Simplifying Your Holidays

Life can be just plain busy most of the time.  Enter Fall and the busy-ness basically snowballs on through New Year's.  I've had years where I feel like I can barely catch my breath as I'm filled with a bunch of seasonal to-do's, on top of normal to-do's, all while trying my best to live in the moment and enjoy time with family and friends.  I've implemented some ways to simplify the to-do's and prep for the holidays throughout the year.  Even implementing just a few things can take your holiday season from hustle-bustle to easy-breezy!
1. Choose Your Favorite Traditions: 
With all the fun things on Pinterest, religious and family traditions of the season, throw in some things like parties, elf on the shelf, advent calendars, cookie exchanges and school activities, our calendars can certainly fill up fast!  Sometimes it's hard enough to just get our family fed, kids bathed and everyone driven to where they need to be, and now you have all the extra activities of the season to juggle.  I say choose your traditions wisely.  Keep it simple.  Only do what is truly important to you and what your family really enjoys.  Do a decluttering of your activities.  Make sure you have some down time and try not to schedule things back to back.  Block out events you know about on the calendar ASAP.  If it's something you partake in every year, put it on your calendar even a year in advance.  Have the courage to say "no" and confidence that you do not have to do everything and will be giving your family the gift of a less hectic schedule. 
2.  Have a Plan & Repeat:
Having a plan is key to having an organized, less stress holiday season.  One of my favorite holiday planning resources is  There are 3 plans to choose from, with a ton of free printable checklists.  I make a Christmas binder and simply print out the checklists each year.  If you celebrate Chanukah, or other holidays, you can  you can adapt elements from a system like this and make your own personalized binder and checklists.  You can print out the checklists again each year (I like to print mine in January while I still have some holiday spirit hanging around).  Scheduling routines for the months ahead can help simplify the prep work immensely.  For example, if you do family portraits every year, mark on your calendar an event to schedule portraits.  I schedule ours between late August and early October.  I also like to schedule reminders of when to purchase the stamps and greeting cards.  (Check out Costco's special in November!)  Another thing I love about the Organized Christmas checklists is that it includes tasks like cleaning the house and prepping food.  It's so nice to have a schedule to follow to keep me on track!

3.  Shop Throughout The Year:
I like to keep an Excel spreadsheet of everyone I need to shop for and keep it going throughout the year.  In January I do a "save as" for the next year and mark off people as I shop the post holiday and end of winter sales.  Keep a copy in your purse or car.  If I find things on clearance throughout the year, I make sure to mark it off the list.  Be sure to track money spent too for budgeting purposes, or even just to see how much you have saved.  By the time the holidays roll around, I usually only have a handful of gifts to purchase.  You may want to consider putting in columns for clothing sizes too.  For the gifts I need to store for Santa, I keep them in  a big bin in the garage. If you re-gift, be sure to keep a sticky note on the item with who gave it to you!  There are also some great apps out there to manage your gift giving.

4.  Write Everything on the Calendar:
I mean everything!  Family trips, annual events, even guesstimated dates of events you think might be happening, reminders of to-do's,  and don't forget birthdays! When there are Fall Birthdays in the mix, you've got even more planning to do!  Make sure you have a way to communicate your calendar with your family members.  Wall calendars or chalkboard/white board calendars are great.  I like to use Google Calendar.  We set it up so my husband and I share calendars with each other.  Everything he enters pops up on my calendar & vice versa.  I love the color coding option, and it syncs nicely with cell phones & tablets.  As the seasons events start to pop up, take a good look at your calendar.  Is it too hectic?  Do you have enough down time scheduled for your sanity?  You may even want to block off some down time to prevent yourself from scheduling something. 

5.  Letting Go: 
Ah yes, a reminder of the ever popular Disney song.  There is so much to be learned in just letting go of all the things we just can't quite get to and simply embracing our family, our beautiful messes, our unexpected happenings.  As hard as we may try, there is bound to be some things (or a lot of things!) we cannot control.  Let it go, make the best of things, and have an extra cookie or toast a glass of bubbly to a fabulous new start around the corner in 2015.  There's always New Years & Valentine's Day cards you can send!