You always vow to get it right next year, after a few weeks of cramming, panicking and stretching too little money over too much holiday spending.
Next year, your plan is more organized. You will spend less, buy less, make more homemade, use more organic and eco-friendly materials and give more time to charity, friends and family.
A simple way to gain holiday clarity is create less clutter and confusion before the season. How do you get your life organized and create more holiday joy?
- Reduce filing by reducing paperwork: Important documents regarding your banking, bills, home, medical records, vehicles, appliances and insurance don’t need packing into filing cabinets, consuming space and time as you try to find one sheet when you need it. Go paperless: scan and save documents online, either to a computer hard drive or secure cloud service. Papers are safe from flood, fire, theft and accidental loss, and easy to retrieve with a phrase search.
- Your stuff: recycle, donate or toss: A New Year’s resolution: declutter your home one day at a time. Find one item to recycle, donate or throw away. Approaching the entire house with the mindset of clearing all your unwanted items is overwhelming and leads to quitting before your start. But the item-a-day system is less time-consuming and provides a sense of satisfaction, rather than a feeling of loss.
- To store offsite or not to store offsite: Offsite storage units work for seasonal items you use regularly. But moving unneeded junk from one pile in your house to another pile in a space you pay for means that while it’s out of mind, it’s not out of your life, or your budget.
- Do the kids really need/want this?: Don’t burden your kids, friends or neighbors with unwanted stuff from your house because “it’s too good to throw away or donate,” or “it will be useful someday.” Offer, but don’t insist or beg that they take your donations.
- Should I buy it, make it or compromise somewhere in between?: Homemade holiday gifts have a price tag, too. Sometimes the price is higher than the store’s version, depending on the time spent and ingredients or components involved. Sometimes, you’re not that good at homemade. Compromise with gifts you buy and add homemade touches: chocolate chip cookies in a decorated jar, soaps arranged in a handmade clay tray, T-shirts created and painted in an art studio.
- Have a holiday budget: Create a savings account separate from your other bank accounts; some financial institutions still offer these so-called “holiday club” accounts. Know who gets gifts, your spending limit and whether it’s an all-cash holiday.
- Stop buying for yourself, even if you “deserve” it: Your best gift to you this season is gratitude and it costs nothing. Use your holiday funds for others and avoid the “I deserve it!” mindset.
- Maintain regular workouts, sleep and meals: stick with a schedule, don’t overdo or overbook yourself into more stress than the holidays already provide. Keep the family on regular and healthy meals, out of the candy dishes, outside for exercise and inside for normal bed times.
- The “hostess with the mostest” is mostly just tired: Every gathering and social event at your house is not an attempt to recreate a page from a Martha Stewart tome. It’s a fun and festive time for family and friends to gather and celebrate the holidays and each other. Serve desserts or appetizers or a couple of entrees and a salad, but not every course, plus drinks. Enlist guests’ contributions or organize a “Santa swing through the neighborhood” dinner event, with each course at a different house.
- To travel or stay home during the holidays?: If you fly: avoid peak travel days (Wednesday and Sunday after Thanksgiving and the Friday and Tuesday after Christmas, since the Monday holiday makes it a long weekend), book your tickets now, fly early in the day (less chance of delayed flights if you are first out), choose midweek days (less expensive than weekends), pack light (gets you through the TSA and baggage claim faster) and fly with larger carriers to avoid cancellations and increase re-booking chances if a cancellation occurs. If you drive: Know the weather at your destination, and carry a small snow shovel and windshield scraper if appropriate. Check your vehicle’s tire pressures, brakes, lights, oil, wiper fluid, antifreeze and coolant levels. Pack emergency water, snacks and blankets. And regardless of transportation choice, let a friend or family member know your travel plans and how to reach you. If you stay home: Channel your holiday energy into family projects while everyone is home. Clean the attic or basement. Volunteer for charity as a family: serve holiday meals at a shelter, visit a veterans’ home or children’s hospital.
The material aspect of the holiday season often pushes gratitude to last on the list of considerations during the celebrations. But after the gift-giving, the meals eaten and decorating done, remember why you do it all. Because you have some time, desire and ingenuity to do so, when so many others do not. And you are grateful for these capabilities.
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