My Holiday Organizing Stress Management System

Ok, it's not really a formal system. But when you make a list, and implement the items on the list year after year...then you have basically created a system. Here I will outline all that goes into the holidays in our house, by me, in list form.

Let me start by mentioning that Step One of this year's Holiday Organizing Stress Management System was to get and decorate our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. The day of turkey was so early this year, I was hesitant to do this. I was worried that with so much time yet before Christmas, the tree would be crispy by then. Then it occurred to me that our tree is crumbling and brown every year by the time we drag it to the curb. This is because it's dead, and has been as long as we've known and loved it. After I accepted that, it was a huge relief to have it all done. And, of course, I'm watering it like crazy to prolong the bitter end.

So here's the list, probably not exhaustive, of what I need to take care of this month. I'm sure yours is similar, regardless of what holiday(s) you celebrate. (You're still battling the same crowds and holiday media frenzy.) If you don't have such a list, I suggest making one. It will help you get organized, but it's also pretty amazing to see how much more you accomplish this month! On second thought, maybe you should make this list AFTER the holidays, and take that time to reflect on work well done. Regardless, here's mine:

  • Decorate house - Complete. Yay.
  • Make gift lists - Family, friends, co-workers, service providers, coaches, teachers, pets, others I forget until the last minute, like the kids' piano teacher, who is fortunately here as I write, so I'll remember him this year.
  • Gift purchasing - Ugh. I hate shopping. Driving from place to place, waiting in line, wandering aimlessly or purposefully in ginormous stores. And see below.
  • Gift wrapping and sending - We have a lot of family far away. This time of year is when our Amazon Prime subscription really pays off. My mother-in-law laughs that I single-handedly drive those distribution center people crazy, because at times I'm placing several orders a day. To the same recipient. I don't think it's just me.
  • Order and send Christmas cards - Yes, we still send those out. I actually had a picture I wanted to use, so I ordered them weeks ago (I guess that was really my Step One). But they're still sitting in the box, so I'm not really ahead in this department anymore.
  • Party planning - We host a holiday "open house" most years. Somehow, if I call it an "open house" rather than a "party", I don't feel so much pressure to perform and provide. One of many sneaky stress-management strategies.
  • Food prep - Always a challenge, but thankfully Costco comes through for many needs. And I'm not afraid to shout, "it's pot luck!"
  • Travel plans - We like to ski. Or rather, my husband loves to ski, and we happily go along. This year our Christmas plans involve a ski destination that we can drive to, where we will be joined by family members. Bonus: fewer people to send gifts to. Amazon workers, stand down.
  • Make year-end charitable contributions - I admit, I respond to those last minute pleas. In fact, I depend upon them to ensure I'm donating to worthy causes. Keep that in mind if your kids have any school fundraisers going on.
  • Other - I know I'm forgetting something. That's the stressful part, isn't it?!

So in summary, to manage stress and stay organized this holiday season, make lists when you can. Rely on family and friends. Go potluck. Shop online. I didn't mention this before, but make sure you don't run out of wine. Forgive yourself. It will all be over soon.



Teaching Kids Time Management

The difference between managing your time poorly and well is the difference between reacting to events in your day and planning for them.

Children spend their entire days reacting to our prompts to do things: our “gentle reminders” to get up, get dressed, get in the car, pack up their things, get ready for soccer practice, do their homework, and go to bed. Giving them the means to plan their day allows them to practice time management skills. If we give them a chance to take control of their lives, they can demonstrate what they are capable of, to us and themselves. When people feel capable and responsible, they are happy and self-assured. The bottom line: kids are less defiant, disagreeable, and generally cantankerous when we aren’t constantly bossing them around. And so are their parents.

  • Time Timer is great for teaching and managing time (see the pic above). You can get it as an app, or buy a real Time Timer!
  • Post a calendar in a visible area of the home (kitchen) for all family members to see. Schedules are usually in our heads or on our phones, but this is one thing that children need to see to develop an understanding of time and schedules.
  • Let children develop their own schedules and work with them to decide when you AND they think they could complete homework and household responsibilities (chores).
  • Scheduling responsibilities makes it more likely that necessary tasks will get done with less nagging. When those jobs are accomplished on time or ahead of schedule, then the time left is for privileges (the activities that children want most to engage in), which have now been earned.
  • Teach your children to make lists of things they need and want to do.
  • Help your children identify “time wasters.” We know what the big ones are; consider holding off on TV or other devices until after necessary tasks are done. It’s easier to postpone our attention to them than it is to put them down.
  • Spend at least five minutes in the morning, over breakfast or in the car, discussing how the day will go in a positive way.

Lastly, be aware of your own challenges with time management, especially engaging in time wasters (social media?). Above all, kids learn most from what they see their role models doing.  Use them as a mirror to reflect your own time management, and you’ll all come out ahead.



From Mess to Makeover

Have you ever noticed that an accidental mess or mistake can actually create a cleaner, neater space? A kitchen floor dirty from daily use can long be ignored, in my house anyway, but spilled orange juice can’t. Left alone, it becomes a sticky ant magnet or worse. I can’t tell you how many times a child (or adult) in our home has spilled an entire glass of OJ or milk, prompting me to fly to the sink for a wet rag (or petition the offender to). When the immediate mess is dealt with, that floor is considerably cleaner than it was before the spill!

Similarly, I recently knocked a semi-full, open container of Bare Minerals powder – the bronzer, no less – into an open drawer in my bathroom while getting ready for a formal event. The drawer contained various open bags of hair accessories, a first aid kit, and old medications, and the powder snowed down and blanketed it all. I didn’t have time to deal with it then, but today (two days later) I returned with a vacuum to address the issue.

As I was removing the powder, I realized I hadn’t really looked in those bags recently, or even in the past year. The hair accessories...those plastic headbands always give me a headache! Am I saving them in case my constitution changes someday? The first aid kit: the items that hadn’t been pilfered already were fortunately never needed and had long ago expired. And those old medications were in a bag in that drawer for a reason…because I’d forgotten about them and had bought newer versions, which were now in the medicine cabinet where medications belong.

So I added 5 minutes of cleanup time to purge the old stuff from this drawer. Thanks to my carelessness with the makeup powder, that drawer got a makeover!