Thanksgiving came late this year, so we have less time than we normally to do get ready for the holiday season — organizational know-how is an absolute necessity.
We’re already beyond busy with work, school and the children’s schedules; add to that the hectic pace of the holiday season and you have a perfect storm for chaos and stress along with a huge potential for becoming overwhelmed. Following are some tried and true strategies my friends and I have honed through the years that can truly help diffuse the stress and put some much needed joy back into the holiday season.
Keep it Simple
It’s easy to expect too much of ourselves during this time of the year; there are a plethora of fun activities and ideas on Pinterest and other social media sites to try out/ But if we expect our homes to look like Currier and Ives Christmas cards we’re setting ourselves up for failure at colossal rate of speed, especially if there are young children in the home. They’re going to be hyped up, especially after school is out; the disruption of their schedules will leave them vulnerable to emotional meltdowns with very little provocation.
Maintain a Holiday Routine
Kids really do thrive on structure and routine; in her article on MentalHelp.net, licensed therapist Michele Happe (what a great last name for a therapist) reminds us that order and routine gives children a sense of safety and security. At no time is there a greater need for that safety net of predictability than during the chaos of the holiday season. Even though there will be various activities on the family schedule, it’s a good idea to keep their bath time, nap time (if you have preschoolers) and bedtime as consistent as possible. These constants can help them manage all of the excitement that comes with the season. An added bonus is that you’ll have more energy yourself if you keep the kids calm; nothing depletes parental energy faster than having to deal with tired and emotionally spent kids.
Keep Housecleaning down to the Basics
My friend Cheri makes sure she heads into December with a fairly clean house so that she can get by with a lighter housekeeping schedule for the entire month. Her minimalist holiday approach looks something like this: she spends 20 minutes cleaning the kitchen in the morning, then 5 minutes in all of the other rooms putting things away and tidying up.
Create a Holiday Calendar
Patti L prints off a calendar for November and December, then sits down and fills it in. First up are all of the “have-tos” such as Christmas shopping and mailing her annual Christmas letter. She also creates deadlines for baking, mailing gifts and Christmas shopping. Next, she jots down Christmas parties at school and work.
Only then does she put down “extras” that she and her family reasonably have time for.
In a 2010 blog post Markus Lefkovits suggests sitting down with your kids and letting them be a part of the planning process once they’re out of school. This gives the added benefit of having them practice planning their free time.
Make an Effort to Enjoy the Season
It really is possible to get so busy during the holiday season that all we want is for it just to be over. To that from happening, indulge yourself in some down time. Every year, I try to spend at least ten minutes in the evening with only the Christmas lights on, listening to Christmas carols. I’m always amazed at how much that little bit of down time recharges my batteries.