How to Survive the Holiday Season
By Lindsay Palmgren,
Professional Organizer at 3e Organizing
A few weeks ago NAPO Austin invited me to guest blog on “How to Survive the Holiday Season.” While I brainstormed for different tips and strategies that others could employ in order to not feel so frazzled, I realized I needed to take my own advice. Between renovating our new home and packing for our week-before-Christmas move-in date I am overworked, overcommitted, and overwhelmed. I am just plain, over. Add to this my in-laws and my parents are coming for two weeks to stay at the new house… the one that doesn’t have flooring installed or all the walls painted yet.
And while I’ll be glad to see them, I’m also stressed at the idea that I still need to get floors and walls completed (and the toilet from the garage) in order to host a Christmas dinner that might resemble something like a Stouffers lasagna commercial. Oh, and the PTA is emailing me about getting involved with the school carnival. And there is a club I’m trying to set up at school. And I just found out that my daughter needs to make a dish authentic to Greenland to share with the class!?!? Greenland, really? Can she bring ice? #SnowConesAnyone #DecemberProjectsAreHard
Trying to balance all of this, while also keeping my own home organized (it’s not) and making room in my own schedule for clients. Is hiding from your family in the closet with a box of wine and chocolate a bad thing? If your to-do-list chaos resembles mine, then keep reading for some hot tips on how we can all get through this together.
Prioritize… prioritize… prioritize!
A calendar and to-do-list where you can prioritize action items can be your best friend this holiday season. Break down your list into an A, B, and C list. A is the most important action items, the ones that are time sensitive. The B list is things that need to be done, but maybe don’t have a deadline. The C list is for the things that are nice to get done, but can be put on the back burner if you run out of time.
The trick is you need to stick to it, no matter what. For example: feeding your family is crucial. That goes on the A list. Feeding your family a Pinterest-worthy dinner of toasted-walnut-stuffed-rigatoni made with the tears of unicorns, is not a priority. It’s on the C list. Simplify your to-do-list and you’ll simplify your life.
Streamline your Holiday Shopping
While I normally advise people to shop local, it isn’t always the most practical when you’re overwhelmed with a busy schedule. It’s not always likely that you can go to every mom-and-pop boutique in between boycotting your Pinterest pasta recipe, so therefore Amazon may become your best friend. #AddOnGiftWrapping (P.S. I receive no money or compensation from Amazon for this suggestion.)
Another way to manage your big list is to buddy shop with a friend who has a similar shopping list. For example, if you have to buy for kids in the same age range or same interests, you can trade lists and cut down on your brainpower. This can apply to groceries and other errands as well. This is a great time to hire a babysitter or do a child care trade with a friend. Nobody likes a screaming kid in the store, especially the parent that is trying to hurry. Two heads are better than one so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
It’s important to be mindful of your available time and energy and to know when to take action and when to take a backseat. If your kids are fighting and something’s on fire in the kitchen, you would obviously put out the fire and let the kids fight. Every day things, however, aren’t as easy to delegate and prioritize. You may be asked to head the committee to make authentic handmade glass blown ornaments for children around the world. While of course you may care a great deal about this cause, perhaps you could donate to your favorite relief fund instead? My suggestion is that the relief fund will not only get the most appropriate help to where it needs to go, but it will also be far less stressful for you, and more meaningful to the recipients.
Sometimes we need to be mindful of where our efforts are best spent to have the most meaningful impact. So be strategic about what you take on this holiday season, and leave room in your schedule for all of those inevitable house fires. Hopefully there won’t be real fires. #MicrowavesAreNotForPreschoolers #SpeakingFromExperience
Plan for Buffers
Speaking of leaving room in your schedule, here’s another important tip; give yourself plenty of time for travel. Holiday shoppers and travelers make the roads way more congested. Every-Single-Trip is going to take longer. The errands in the store will take longer. The phrase “stop in quick” will become an oxymoron. Nothing is quick in December. So leave a huge buffer for driving. If you get somewhere early, it's not a terrible thing. Heck, you can get yourself a coffee, power nap in your car, or review your to-do list while you wait in the parking lot. Just enjoy the peace of not feeling rushed. And no, this is NOT the time to scroll Pinterest for holiday ideas. Just say no; you do not need pinecone placecards. #LearnFromMe
Bend it Like Beckham…. or Just Be Flexible
Flexibility is the key to maintaining your sanity, especially this time of year. Things aren’t always going to go the way you planned. Checkout lines are longer, traffic is frustrating, and people are more frazzled. You may tell your well-meaning family that you don't want to receive a roomful of loud squeaky obnoxious toys, however you really can't control what they do buy. You can control the current toy collection by paring down on some of the things the kids have outgrown or no longer play with. If your schedule allows it, try to declutter some in your home before the holidays to make room. If you’re not able to, that’s okay, don’t stress about it. Really. There is always tomorrow. In the meantime, just breathe.
Take Care of Number One
The best way to reduce stress this holiday season is to take care of YOU. I know there's a ton of articles out there about how to have an easy Christmas or happy Hanukkah or a sensational season. I’m here to stress to you, that YOU are the most important person to take care of. Nobody knows you better than you. So whether you need a box of wine hidden in your closet, a bubble bath, a massage, silly YouTube videos, or heck, even a stroll through Walgreens all by yourself; do whatever it is that helps you be a little bit more human. I won’t judge – do whatever it is that fills your cup. When we give to everybody else and not give to ourselves, it's not a pretty thing.
Nourish yourself both metaphorically and literally – that is, don’t forget to eat! Stash a few granola bars in your purse if you need to. This is a lesson I am learning late in life: don't neglect yourself as a sacrifice for others. Make sure to get enough sleep instead of staying up until 3 AM wrapping gifts and then being exhausted and crabby the next day. This doesn't really benefit anybody. You're better off getting plastic bags with a bow slapped on top. Eat well, get lots of sleep, and do one thing a day that feeds you. Trust me, everyone else around you will appreciate this more. At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that you can’t give to other people without giving a little to yourself.
So there you have it – there are my tips to have a less stressful holiday season. I'm certainly not perfect, and I’ll need to re-read the list to myself. Many times. Even as a Professional Organizer. We all need to be reminded to take it easy on ourselves this season. Peace and love to you all!
#StouffersLasagna #Amazon #BoxWine #Babysitters #DropOffDaycare #TradeWithAFriend #Sleep #MyAuthorFriendHelpedMeEditThis