75 Ways to have a Stress-Free December

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Get back to basics this season. This Do-Christmas-in-a-Weekend plan will help your family get all the shopping, wrapping, and decorating done in just 2 and 1/2 days, leaving the rest of December free so that you can actually enjoy the season!!

Friday Night:
-Designate a holdiday communication centre. Post a calendar where it will be noticable by the entire family to record activities during the month so everyone knows what is going on. Attach an envelope to the calendar in which family members can deposit all gift receipts so you can keep tabs on money spent.
-Plan and divide responsibilities for the weekend over a takeout meal. Using everyone's input, make a list of essential gifts, food, errands and decorations.
-Talk about how much you want to spend this weekend and whether you will use cash or credit. Discuss realistic gift expectations to guard against disappointment.
-Compile your gift list. Keep it short and simple. List recipient, present budget and possible gift ideas.
-Next make a list of stores you want to visit. Make sure you checked store flyers and online sites to check prices. Also call the stores to make sure they have that particular item you are looking for. Why waste time going there only to find out they sold out 2 weeks previously?
-Determine your holiday cooking needs. Make a list of ingredients you will need to use in your recipes to eliminate trips back and forth to the grocery store for that "one more" item you forgot
-Go over last year's leftover wrapping paper, cards, bows and other wrapping items you already have so you aren't doubling up on items you already have. But make sure you have enough so you won't have to go run out just to buy a roll of tape
-After dinner, venture out for the Christmas tree and grocery shopping. Have one parent take younger children to the tree lot so the other one can make better time at the grocery store. (Pick up whatever wrapping supplies you found you might be needing while you are out.)
-Meet back at home. Unload your groceries and set up your tree. Save the decorating for tomorrow but you may want to unpack them to take stock what you might need to pick up tomorrow. We may have forgotten that we needed some new lights or that the tree top had broken last year.

-Eat a high energy breakfast like oatmeal with milk and fruit. This is not the day to skip breakfast especially if you will have children with you all day. Nothing eats away at nerves then whiny children AND adults from being hungry from lack of food or testy from sugared cereals.
-Divide gift list between parents and older children and be at the mall when the doors open. Plan to meet at a designated spot a couple of times to go over your plan and progress.
-When shopping with small children, one parent should watch them perhaps in the children's play area (most large malls have them) while the other one shops then switch after a couple of hours. This will allow secrecy as well as not having to stress worrying about children getting lost in the melee of other shoppers. Another idea if the thought of taking small children with you to a mall in December is to trade babysitting with another family so they can do the same thing
-To avoid long line ups, have your children's picture taken with Santa when the mall first opens. Most shoppers don't get there till closer to noon.
-When you return home set up a gift wrapping station. Stock it with paper, bows, ribbon, tape, tags and scissors. Begin to wrap gifts. Small children always love to help so rather then sending them away give them small items to wrap. Or let them put the stickers on the wrapped items.
-Fix a simple dinner; play holiday music and enjoy decorating the tree and home with your family.

-In the morning take a break from the to-dos. Listen to festive music, attend church services or visit with family. Take the time to have an enjoyable breakfast or brunch.
-Start baking some of the holiday food that you can freeze for later. When you are preparing supper, make enough to put some of it away for a couple meals worth in the freezer for another day when your time is limited.
-Put finishing touches on your decorations. Let the children decorate their rooms- perhaps by hanging green garlands on their headboards, ornaments on their drawer pulls, or mini stockings that they made earlier on their doors.
-Enjoy the outside air by going for a walk as a family. Now would be a good time to hang your wreath on your front door.
-Prepare any packages that will need to be mailed. They'll be ready for the post office whenever you are.
-Set up your Nativity scene. Over hot chocolate, tell the children the Christmas story and explain why YOU celebrate the season.
-If you find you still have a few gifts to buy, write down what you need to buy. Even if you didn't finish everything, you probably took a big chunk out of holiday chores this weekend. And being so organized, the remainder will be a cinch.

Now all you need to remember is your NOT-To-DO List:
Don't labor over Christmas cards if your time is limited. Consider a new tradition of sending out New Year letters instead.
-Don't overlook the pleasure of creativity. If you enjoy crafts, carve out time to make a few simple ones. Try a dried flower arrangement, or paint a clay pot and add a houseplant to it.
-Don't neglect the right amount of food, rest and exercise - for you and your children. Save diets for later; instead be mindful of small portions and limit the amount of rich desserts. Going to Christmas parties that have all you can eat buffets should not be a  challenge to eat all you can
-Don't spend so much money that you dread opening your bills in January
-Don't try doing it yourself. Remember you are a family-share in the work!
-Don't be driven by unfullfilled expectations and perfectionism. The holidays will be enjoyable because your family will be togther (I am stamping this one on my forehead!)
-Don't allow unsettled family squabbles to interfere with your holiday joy. Resolve them ahead of time.
-Don't pack your calendar with so many activities  so that there is no room for unexpected events or quiet time.
-Don't add to other's stress. Smile at salespeople, postal workers, bank clerks and other shoppers.
-Don't be tied to traditions outside of family ones. Rather then shopping for another gift for yet another work or friends event, try just going out together for a lunch.
-Don't leave relaxation for next year. Pop some popcorn, make some hot chocolate and watch your favorite holiday movie
-Don't wait till 1:30 Christmas morning to put together those "Assembly Required" items
-Don't underestimate the power of ambience. Whatever you are doing, keep candles lit, holiday music playing softly in the background and apple cider simmering on the stove.

Is your budget really tight this year? Here are a couple of ideas to still make it a great Christmas:
-Ask everyone to write a letter to recall their favorite holiday memories. Put these letters in a scrapbook or album for future use. You will be surprised that the memories your family have are usually the ones that didn't cost anything.
-Bring out old family albums and renew them, add some new pictures and make a new album to give to a family member
-For a precious keepsake, interview grandparents about family history and or holiday traditions. Record on video or audio tapes and then give as a gift
-Take time to make decorations with your children: a gingerbread house, bows for gifts and doors and ornaments for houseplants as well as the tree
-Turn off all the lights and eat a leisurely dinner illuminated only by candles and Christmas tree lights
-Read your children's old letters to Santa
-Teach children the meaning of giving by having them buy a gift with their allowance for an underprivileged child.
-Call a church or community organization and ask what your family can do to help someone in need.

Most of all , just remember to breath in breathe out.


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