I feel the excitement in the air as Christmas gets closer.
Malls are filling up and it takes twice as long to find parking to do any shopping. Bells are jingling over radios and “Noel” is sung at school concerts. Trees are going up and being decorated as the aroma of cookies baking drifts in from kitchens across the world.
As ideal as these images seem, there are many who find this season so crazed they can barely think straight as they rush through their “to do list” in a panic because the countdown to Christmas has begun. “Only x number of shopping days left before Christmas,” we’re told by tv commercials and it strikes panic in all who hear.
There is a way to get through this season that brings both peace and joy. When the angels said, “Fear not!” they were talking to you. Yes, with just a little organization and planning, you too can feel the true spirit of Christmas that seems to have eluded so many. Following these three simple steps will put you on track to find peace in your home again:
1. Saying No is Allowed
This time of year often becomes overwhelming not because of the individual small things we all get involved in, but the accumulation of all of those small things together. It is time we face the reality that we cannot be involved in everything. Before the rush of December begins, I take a good look at my calendar and make priorities that make sense to my time limitations, budget limitations and emotional limitations. I do not miss my children’s school concerts, no matter what else needs to be put off. I do not step foot into a mall until after the New Year. I only book coffee dates with my very best friends, anyone else can wait until January. I avoid the post office at lunch time and weekends, making only one trip before the Christmas rush begins buried under a pile of packages to be mailed.
There are so many more example of things we could cut out of our schedules until after the holiday season to make room for the things that are non-negotiable priorities for us. The trick here is realizing that it doesn’t happen all by itself. Some of these choices will be hard to make, but make them we must to free ourselves up to thoroughly enjoy the activities we’ve chosen to participate in. We have come to expect too much from ourselves and I think it is time we give ourselves the permission to say “no.”
My hope is that be defraying some of the less vital activities, I can keep the main focus, the focus during this time of every year. Let faith and family come first.
2. Perfection is Not Required
Trust me when I say the perfectionist seldom wins. I believe there is a little bit of a perfectionist in every one of us. It takes a deliberate decision from me to hang up an “out to lunch” sign in my perfectionist window over the holidays. Sure, I could probably have done a better job decorating the Christmas tree. I could probably have wrapped those presents much neater, even put the ribbon on straighter. I would have hung the lights differently and not hung the stockings in random order. I would have written the Christmas cards much neater. Sure, I could have spent hours doing any one of those things, but I asked my kids and husband to help and then I got to sit back and watch as they giggled and laughed to the sound of carols playing in the background.
Now every time they pass the tree the kids check it to see if their favorite ornaments are still hanging on the carefully chosen branch they placed them on. They look at the stockings and dream about what treasures they’ll find contained in them on Christmas morning. By doing it all myself, I would have stolen the one thing we all need, that is: to feel that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. Christmas belongs to everyone and now my husband and children own a part of it, too.
3. The Less is More Principle
Lastly, let’s talk about gifts and gift giving. Why do we give them and how do we choose them? After spending many years like an absolute lunatic running around malls like the building itself was going to disappear into thin air come Dec. 24, spending way too much money only to find I had bought more things than I needed for some and completely forgotten to buy for others, I had to come up with a way to plan my gift-buying better.
I no longer shop in a frenzy from Black Friday to Dec. 24, along with the rest of mankind. The solution to this craziness that works best for me (and you may find a system that works better for you) is to draw up a list straight after Christmas, of all those I would like to buy gifts for. The list should include family, friends, the boss etc. I type this list into a notes page on my phone knowing I would seldom be anywhere without my phone. I include any information I might find relevant e.g. my husband’s shirt size or shoe size.
Throughout the year, I might have an ingenious idea for a gift that I’ll jot down next to that person’s name in my phone with a reminder to buy it for them. From January throughout the year, when I am out at a store and see something I know a person on my list would absolutely die for, I buy it then and there and make a note in my phone telling me what I bought and what price I paid. This not only alleviates the financial burden in December, but eases the time crunch as the holidays start looming ever nearer on the horizon.
As soon as I arrive home from the store and unpack the day’s purchases, I place a tag on each item with the name of the person I bought it for and place the gift in a transparent plastic trunk in the attic. The whole trunk comes down to the “wrapping station” closer to Christmas and I do not have to rely on my memory to tell me which gift is for which recipient, the name tag says it all. I find that buying gifts throughout the year makes me a more thoughtful giver. I am actually buying things that I know the person wants, needs or would love to own, instead of a rushed grab for something off the shelf with very little thought to the receiver.
I hope these tips have given you some seeds for thought and that maybe you can use some of these ideas in your home. The most important thing is to plan ahead so that the time leading up to the holidays is yours to spend with those you love, instead of fighting strangers in the mall.
Merry Christmas, peace and joy to you and yours!
Sharon du Plessis
Certified Professional Organizer