It's early November - are you already overwhelmed? Have the ads been stacking up with all of their pretty and perfect ideas enticing you to indulge in a little retail therapy? Are you tired of seeing holiday decorations for sale before Halloween, and hearing the latest cover of "Baby It's Cold Outside" in every store? Maybe you're just not feeling it because you've dealt with a lot of other stress this year - illness, a move, a loss? The time (and our money) seems to dissolve into thin air at this time of year.
Every year I grow a little more despondent about the holiday bombardment. I'm not Scrooge, but what do all of those plastic turkey figurines, electric light-timers and holiday doormats have to do with... with anything? Following are five things I've discovered or tried that make this time of year more manageable for me, and I would encourage all of you would-be Clark Griswolds out there to push your comfort levels just a bit while you consider each:
1. Choose a different meal. Who says you have to eat turkey every year? Or even cook? I sure can't remember all of the Thanksgiving turkeys I've eaten. They all blur together. I will never forget, however, the time our family ate Thanksgiving dinner at a Japanese restaurant at EPCOT in Walt Disney World a few years ago. Despite trying to make reservations six months ahead of time, all of the more "traditional" restaurants were booked, so we decided to just try something we liked. The kids got their meals served in these cool little boats (noodles, rice, tempura chicken - all stuff they loved), and we got to savor our dragon rolls and edamame. I still like to cook, but different is good once in a while - and many local restaurants are open on Thanksgiving. If you do want to cook, maybe try something less labor-intensive (salmon cooks in about 10 minutes on the broiler).
2. Skip Black Friday. The National Retail Federation says we will spend roughly $130 on ourselves on Black Friday this year - what's that all about? I get that the sales are good, but if you end up buying stuff you don't need is it really a bargain? There will always be great deals, and you can get them without having to get up at 3 am and set up a tent in a parking lot. Buying for the sake of buying is the root of much clutter. Instead of standing elbow-to-elbow in lines with the other crazed shoppers, go for a walk, play some games with the kids, or sit down with the calendar and plan out the next few weeks.
3. Buy local, or Fair Trade. Along the lines of skipping Black Friday, pick another time and visit some of the locally-owned shops in your area. Make a list first, and check out their websites so that you're prepared and less inclined to make impulse purchases you will later regret. You can also shop online at neat places like Ten Thousand Villages (http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/), or check out the Fair Trade Shopping Guide at http://www.fairtradeusa.org/shopping-guide. Most local stores are happy to offer gift cards as well. Donating to a local charity in honor of a loved one also makes a great gift.
4. Cancel the catalogs. Between early October and the first of the year, I used to get enough catalogs to make at least a 3 1/2 foot stack. Even if I had been interested in everything they were selling, there was no way I was going to get through all of them, and most ended up in the recycling bin. Enter Catalog Choice (https://www.catalogchoice.org/), a great way to cut down on the junk mail coming into your home. While it doesn't guarantee that every company will respond to the request, it sure has made a big difference in the volume of our junk mail. I'm also trying out the free app, PaperKarma (https://www.paperkarma.com/), which allows me to snap a photo of the pertinent info on the catalog and then submit it for opting out.
5. Nix the holiday cards. Each year I dutifully display the cards we receive from friends (and the accountant, and the bank, and the real estate agent), and each year I struggle a little with what to DO with all of them when it's all over. It's nice to receive greetings, but I hate the thought that the hours of work signing and addressing (not to mention selecting the perfect family photo) ultimately end up in a box or pile (and then shhh! - don't tell my friends - into that recycling bin). Don't get me started on the killing of the trees. For several years running we've used Smilebox (http://www.smilebox.com/) to create an email-able animated photo collage (customized with some good music) that shows what we've been up to during the year. I take my time to create it, load in all of the email addresses, and hit "Send". You can post it to social media, too. We've gotten some very positive responses to this method, and our friends and family don't have to throw anything away. I'm totally cool for them to hit "delete" when they're finished viewing.
Are you feeling it yet? Are you feeling the freedom that comes with flaunting holiday convention and taking things down a notch or two? Although it may be impossible to completely avoid scurrying around with a full schedule, it makes sense to control what you can. What are some ways your family keeps it real during the holiday rush?
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach®, wife, mom, and serial list-maker. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?