For many modern families, Christmas is magical, wonderful and also filled with stress. There are so many last minute things to do, traditions to uphold, expectations to be met and relatives to appease. But how do you minimize the crunch and pressures without sacrificing holiday joys? Here are ten tips to help you get there.
1. Start early. Most people don't plan an important vacation to an exotic locale right before they expect to leave on the trip. They realize to get the best reservations at a great price, they have to make arrangements in advance. Yet so many of us feel we can crowd all the holiday shopping, baking, card writing, entertaining, decorating and wrapping into a few short weeks. Give yourself more time to do these things, and it will automatically be less stressful.
2. If you're doing photo Christmas cards, eliminate the big picture taking session. Instead, look at some of the great pictures you have already taken over the summer or during fall excursions. If you don't have one fabulous group snapshot of the family, take advantage of the trend in multiple photo holiday cards and use individual pictures you like of each of your kids.
3. Make sure you get your Christmas cards early. You can find deep discounts right after the holidays on boxed greetings or you can order them in advance online. As soon as you get them, address all the envelopes, sign and seal and put aside to mail later.
4. Keep a gift idea notebook. All year long, if a friend or loved one mentions they like something or they have an new interest or hobby, jot it down. Keep lists of gift possibilities. That way, when it's time to shop for presents, you don't have to spend lots of time wandering around malls, wondering what to buy.
5. In fact, avoid the mall. Yes, black Friday deals can be very enticing, but that item will probably be long gone by the time you get there. Even if you haven't done much shopping online in the past, this is the time to do it. There are even better discounts in internet stores, some with free shipping, and you won't have to deal with the traffic, parking or crowds.
6. Instead of wrapping presents, use dollar store gift bags. Just add a bit of tissue paper and you're done. If you do decide to wrap your gifts, wrap them as you buy them or when the package arrives in the mail. That way you avoid letting them pile up and having to do it all at once.
7. Simplify your decorating. Pre-lit Christmas trees, wreaths and garland have big impact and are quick and easy to set up. But it might be time to consider cutting back on the little holiday knick knacks that take hours to place around the house.
8. Trade holiday tasks with a friend. If you enjoy baking cookies, but dread stringing the lights, and she hates the kitchen, but loves to decorate, then swap jobs. The result is that you're both doing a project you like and passing up one that causes you stress.
9. Lighten your holiday entertaining burden. If your entire family is descending on your house for Christmas, announce it's potluck this year and ask everyone to bring a dish. Or spend a little extra for once and let your favorite deli or gourmet food shop make some of the food. Remember, there's nothing wrong with slice and bake cookies or cutting other corners.
10. Make a list of all of the holiday things you feel compelled to do every year, and then go over it carefully and see what you can cut out or at least, where you can cut down. Then, find the one thing on that list that may take a lot of time and effort, but it brings you and your family joy. Concentrate on doing that with all heart.
If you plan ahead, simplify, ask for help and cut down, you'll be free to enjoy the family traditions you truly love. Instead of losing sleep, running around and rushing to make it through the holidays, you'll have some extra time to create wonderful new Christmas memories.
Linda Kling, as the owner of http://www.photo-party-favors.com/, has offered ideas to people planning celebrations since 1992. Besides unique photo Christmas cards and personalized holiday candy bars, her website offers free printable Christmas gift tags, party recipes and much more.
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