Merry & Bright: A Sanity-Saving Guide to Survive the Holidays in Style
Organize the holidays and your life with a simple, achievable plan
The holidays are a magical season full of celebration, decoration, social obligations, and, for many of us, procrastination.
Look – it’s not that we don’t know that there’s an official deadline when it comes to Christmas; it’s that December 25 has a way of hiding behind party invitations, school recitals, wish lists, employee holiday parties, various sales, and that really long line at the post office.
Suddenly, it’s Christmas Eve, and you’re trying to convince the kids that Santa would actually love a glass of tap water without acknowledging that you’re out of milk. Again. And you’re wondering if anyone will notice that the gifts are all sealed shut with painter’s tape.
All right, maybe you’re not that disorganized (but hey, we get it if you are), but sometimes you’re so busy trying to enjoy the holidays that you’re not really all that sure that you’re even having fun.
Good news: you’re going to start 2020 off right – and you get extra credit for starting now. If you spend the holiday season feeling like a caffeine-fueled hamster on an exercise wheel with no emergency shut-off button, you can kiss your New Year’s resolutions goodbye before the clock even strikes midnight.
Treat the holiday season like it’s a dress rehearsal for a successful new year. Be the change you want to see in your life; this the year that you have enough tape to get through the holidays – sometimes it’s the little things.
OK, sounds about as realistic as a Hallmark Christmas movie, you may be saying, but trust us, you can do it.
The first and most important step involves having a plan. Don’t treat the holidays like a game of whack-a-mole, where you frantically strike out at each item that pops up as it happens. Although busy, the holiday season is somewhat predictable – in terms of its date range and accompanying expectations.
Take a moment to outline your needs for the month of December and create a to-do list of the tools, scheduling, and shortcuts that will allow you to maximize your merry-making potential.
The holiday essentials: meals, gifts, and memories
A key component to streamlining the holiday season involves making the regular day-to-day tasks of life easier to manage. Meal planning is a big one. Try to get a handle on grocery shopping, meal planning, and food preparation over the holidays with the following suggestions.
- Mark your calendar: Between holiday parties and community events, the holiday season involves a lot of evenings out. Keep your calendar updated with important dates and plan your grocery shopping and weekly meal plan around the nights that you’ll be home and cooking.
- Have a plan: Don’t just assume you can throw something together with whatever you have on hand; instead, know what you have in your pantry, what meals you plan to make, and which ingredients you’ll need. Create a meal plan and a shopping list that will help you navigate mealtime with ease.
- Be prepared: Meal prep isn’t for everyone, but it can be a lifesaver during the busyness of the holiday season. Find an extra hour or two each week to chop vegetables, prep sauces, pre-portion ingredients, or cook in bulk to help tide you over on busy nights. Get familiar with freezer meals and use these pre-made wonders to avoid the trap of costly dinners out or fast food this season.
- Keep it simple: Give yourself permission to make life easier for during December. Indulge in pizza nights, enjoy breakfast for dinner, and embrace leftovers. You can get back to (or started on) well-balanced and perfectly plated meals for the new year – strive for efficiency during the holiday season. The time you’d spend trying a new recipe may be better spent tracking down those gift tags that you know you bought.
Gift-giving is another holiday tradition that can quickly become stressful if you aren’t organized. Increase the joy of giving by eliminating potential obstacles. Consider the following to add more ease to the act of playing Santa:
- Shop thoughtfully: Create a list of everyone in your life that you’d like to share the holiday spirit with and assign a budget to each entry. Instead of randomly walking the aisles of Target or scrolling through Amazon (both fun activities, but this is not the time). Take a few moments to reflect on each person’s interests. Check their Pinterest page, social media, or recall conversations you’ve had and find a gift that truly fits their personality at a price point that you can feel good about giving.
- Account for the unexpected: You’re going to forget something or someone. This isn’t a condemnation of your abilities, just a symptom of the holiday scramble. Pick up small items that are widely appreciated throughout the year – aromatherapy, throw blankets, bottles of wine, candles, ornaments, or gift cards in small increments – and stock up on gift bags and tissue paper. You’ll be ready with an unexpected hostess gift or token of appreciation for a teacher, mailperson, or someone else who brings you joy year-round.
- Wrap it up: Buy tape; buy more tape than you think you’ll need. Keep the scissors in a designated area so you can cut down on search time. And last, but certainly not least, buy several rolls of plain brown Kraft paper and some simple ribbon or twine. It’s far classier than that patch-work job of the ends of various rolls of wrapping paper and can be used all year-round.
The easiest thing to forget over the holidays is self-care. When life is busy, we tend to put ourselves at the bottom of the list, but if you’re walking around like a wild-eyed zombie ready to snap, you’re not doing anyone any favors, even if you are bearing gifts. Make yourself a priority with these tips and tricks:
- Think ahead: When are your holiday parties? When is your next hair or nail appointment? If it’s not already scheduled, bookmark this piece and call your salon now. We’ll wait.
OK, back to the parties, have you checked your closet? Do you have at least one clean and pressed outfit? Shoes and accessories to match? Get it together now. I know it doesn’t seem urgent, but your future self will thank you for it.
- Make a date for fun: Making gingerbread houses, caroling, baking cookies, viewing Christmas lights, watching heartwarming movies, decorating the tree, and making memories; it’s what Christmas is all about. When you’re busy trying to conquer an ever-growing to-do list, the good stuff can start to feel like a chore. Set an appointment on your calendar and clear your schedule to accommodate it.
Sometimes we get so busy trying to stage the perfect holiday that we run out of time to have fun along the way. Get strategic about streamlining the holiday season with a simple plan for shopping and eating and carry those good habits into a happier and healthier new year.