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How to Have a Less Stressful Christmas
Avoiding the Christmas Crazies
The Christmas Crazies is what I call the condition where one runs around during the whole holiday season from December first each year until Christmas morning so frantic that they wonder where the holiday season went, and why they didn't enjoy it. For years I have suffered from this dreaded condition. Well, dreaded by me anyway. And every year, on the evening of December 25th, I vow that the next Christmas season will be different. I vow to be prepared earlier. I vow to find better presents, at lower prices. I vow to wrap those presents earlier than the wrapping marathon I usually have on Christmas Eve. I vow to shop all through the year. I vow to remember to bring the advent candles down before the first Sunday in Advent, instead of halfway through or not at all. I vow to be so prepared that I will have time to attend the Christmas Eve service at 11:00 p.m. at church, etc.
I make all these promises to myself and then once the new year starts, I tend to forget all about it. I do make some headway each year in various areas, but the best way to be prepared is to make an organized effort in all areas...baking, shopping, wrapping, cleaning, decorating, etc.
This year, I did the best and actually felt relaxed and happy on Christmas night as I sat on the couch with my husband and relived some of the special moments of the day. So I have devised this plan to avoid the Christmas crazies, and I hope it helps you as well.
17 Tips to Avoid the Christmas Crazies
1) Shop all year long for Christmas gifts The huge after Christmas sales start on the day after Christmas. You can purchase all wrapping paper, bows, tags, cards, and decorations all at 50% off, and sometimes more at most major department stores and pharmacies. Also at grocery stores. And you can also shop for gifts. If you have family gifts to give, Christmas decorations make wonderful gifts. Think about those families you give that type of gift to, and bring a list with you as you head out the day after Christmas. I have bought really beautiful Christmas tree ornaments, Christmas frames, nutcrackers, candle holders and the like for really great prices on the day after Christmas. Once you purchase these gifts, you must be organized enough to keep them somewhere that you'll find them, so...
The huge after Christmas sales start on the day after Christmas. You can purchase all wrapping paper, bows, tags, cards, and decorations all at 50% off, and sometimes more at most major department stores and pharmacies. Also at grocery stores. And you can also shop for gifts. If you have family gifts to give, Christmas decorations make wonderful gifts. Think about those families you give that type of gift to, and bring a list with you as you head out the day after Christmas. I have bought really beautiful Christmas tree ornaments, Christmas frames, nutcrackers, candle holders and the like for really great prices on the day after Christmas. Once you purchase these gifts, you must be organized enough to keep them somewhere that you'll find them, so...
2) Have a gift closet or container ready to hold your purchased gifts for next year
If you have a spare space at the bottom of a closet, get a large cardboard box and keep all gifts purchased throughout the year in that one place. Before you go out next December to do more Christmas shopping, take a look in that closet to see who you have already bought for. Keep a running list inside the box so you can just check whose gifts you have already bought, and cross them off your master list....
3) Keep a master list of who you need to buy gifts for
Keep it in your wallet so all year long you can just pull it out and cross off names as you find gifts for them. If you go on vacation to Maine in the Summer and find the perfect fishing equipment gift for Uncle Merle, buy it and cross him off your list. It will make things a lot simpler when the Christmas season rolls around again.
4) Speaking of gifts, find one gift that a lot of people on your list would like, and buy them in bulk
For example, do your Aunt Sandy, best friend Christine, and the babysitter all like candles? Buy them all a candle when you see them on sale during the candle of the month sale at Yankee Candle. That would take three gifts off your list right then and there.
5) Keep a Christmas only savings account
Use the money you save on groceries by clipping coupons, or whenever you work overtime, put part of your extra earnings in there to help cut down on bills at the end of the year because you went on a shopping blitz just before Christmas. By having an actual account at the ready, you can purchase the gifts year round and just replace the money in your checking account with money from your Christmas fund.
6) Keep a Christmas Countdown calendar
At this time of year, there are extra calendars floating around everywhere. It seems many companies want you to remember them year round, so they send calendars or have them available at their places of business. Pick one of these extra calendars up, and turn to October. Start choosing dates now to help you be better prepared for Christmas. Choose a Saturday to wrap any of the gifts you already have. Chose a few dates in November to start baking cookies that you can freeze and have ready to thaw and give out during December. Pick a day or night in December to have a gift wrapping party. Pick a day to do your Christmas cards and write it down. If there are any regularly scheduled events that are on the same day each year, such as a parade on the first Saturday of December, write it in now so it will be already on your calendar.
7) Have a gift wrapping day in October
To get yourself in the mood, enlist the aid of one of your children, a spouse or a significant other. Prepare a fire in the fireplace and some hot chocolate. Then pull out all of your discounted wrapping supplies that you purchased the day after Christmas, and any of the gifts you have already bought, start wrapping and keep a running list of what you have wrapped for each person. It will be a fun experience of Christmas in October and help you get more organized for the big event two months later.
8) Have a gift wrapping party in December to wrap the gifts you have purchased since the first gift wrapping day
Invite 4 or 5 friends and have them bring their gifts and wrapping paper to wrap them. Also, ask them to bring a light snack to eat. You provide tape, scissors, bow and tags for everyone, Christmas music, and some beverages. Everyone can get their gifts wrapped, and those who finish early can help others wrap theirs.
9) Clean your house to prepare for decorating
Make the first three weeks of November your house cleaning weeks. Wash curtains and floors, polish furniture and items that need polishing, etc. Not only will you be ready for Thanksgiving, but Christmas as well. I love to decorate for Christmas using teddy bears, and looking forward to decorating with teddies, and setting up our collection of Department 56 Christmas in the City buildings gets me motivated to clean first.
10) Right after Thanksgiving, pull out all your Christmas decorations and start decorating the house that next week
Make sure all outside lights are up by a target deadline...December first works well as then the electric bill will only be for December.
11) Take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales
Purchase stocking stuffers and other gifts you still need on Black Friday. Any items you need to purchase online should be bought on the following Monday, which is Cyber Monday. On Black Friday, the sales are amazing and usually better than you can find them throughout the rest of the season, especially on large purchases such as electronics. Also, the pharmacies such as CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens all have free items if you are willing to get register rewards where you pay for the item upfront, then get register reward coupons for the same amount, to be used on other items within the next 2 - 4 weeks. I have 3 young adult children that I can pretty much full stockings for based on the Black Friday sales. I get free razors, candy, gum, toothbrushes, toothpaste, stick dental floss, cough drops, medication, shaving cream, etc. all on Black Friday, and it's a big weight off my mind for the rest of the season. Keep in mind people you have to buy for and send through the mail or through a package delivery company such as Federal Express or UPS. Buy early so you can send packages out early.
12) Try to have all your gifts mailed out at two Mondays before Christmas
The post office states that the busiest day of the year for them is the Monday before Christmas. Aim to have your gifts mailed out one week before that. Then you will have a huge weight off your mind and you'll know that the recipients will have them in time for Christmas morning.
13) Send Christmas cards early, if you decide to do Christmas cards at all
Again, it would be a relief to have those Christmas cards out earlier than the busiest day of the year for the post office. If you have bought Christmas cards on sale on December 26th, you have a whole year to address them and write them out! You can do this over the Summer, or in October, or at the latest plan a day to do this in early December. Ask someone in your family with nice handwriting to address all the envelopes. Or choose to send your cards out during the week between Christmas and New Year's when things are calmer. It is still during the Christmas season, and people will be happy to receive something more fun in their mailbox other than bills.
14) Make sure your serving dishes are clean
One week before Christmas, check all your serving platters, silverware and Christmas dishes and run whatever needs to be cleaned through the dishwasher to have it ready for the big day. If you have paper goods, check them and make sure you have Christmas napkins, paper plates and cups that all match. If you still need something, you can run out to the store and get it in time for Christmas. Store them with your Christmas platters and dishes.
15) Make sure to carve out some time for yourself to rest and relax during the holiday season
Working yourself into a frenzy will not help you enjoy your holiday. One of my favorite personal memories of the Christmas season is when my children were little enough to take naps. Every afternoon after I would put them down for a nap, I would make myself a cup of coffee, lights the lights on the Christmas tree, and read from an Advent pamphlet I had gotten from my church. It had one reading for each day of the Advent season and was a nice way to remind myself what Christmas was really all about. You may take comfort in reading the Christmas story during the season so carve out one night per week, after the kids are in bed, or early in the morning to sit by the tree alone with a cup of coffee or tea and read your Bible, or write in a journal. Breathe in the scent of the tree, light a scented candle to enhance your experience. Just sit and contemplate the real meaning of Christmas.
16) Delegate, delegate, delegate
The closer you get to Christmas, the more pressure you will probably be feeling. Delegate whatever you can to your spouse or children. Can your spouse wrap the remaining gifts while watching a football game? Have him do it. Can your teen children make cookies/candy, wrap gifts or decorate? Enlist them to help and if they gripe tell them that the Christmas season will be much calmer for you if they help, and will make for a better holiday for everyone.
17) Food shop as close to Christmas as possible
This makes sure your refrigerator is not full too soon, and all your food is fresh. Make sure you have a complete list with you when you go to the store. Start your list a week early and add to it over the week as you think of things you still need to add to it. On Christmas Eve morning, the stores are quite empty early and it's a great time to shop before they get too crowded or run out of necessities.
With all of these things in place in advance, you should be able to enjoy your actual holiday a lot more. Hopefully, you can reach Christmas night without exhaustion and to look back and have enjoyed your Christmas season more than ever before.
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Collecting Christmas tree ornaments adds a special touch of memories during the Christmas season. Whether for adults or families with children, a Christmas tree ornament collection is a wonderful treasure for years to come.
© 2012 Karen Hellier