Ah the joys of the festive season. All those jingle bells, prezzie buying, food shopping, cooking, cleaning and carol singing. One or two at a time are fine, but put them altogether and you can get a total stress out soup that washes over you at this time of year and threatens to drown you completely.
It is time to stop and breathe deep, grab sanity with both hands and let go of the turmoil. Here are my Top Ten Tips For Surviving Christmas;
1. Forget location, location, location and think preparation, preparation, preparation.
Getting things done ahead of time is key to Christmas survival and enjoyment for the home organiser – you. What food can be prepared in advance and frozen? The freezer is your friend, use it. What can you do re any guests coming in the way of preparation and getting things ready ahead of time. Make sure you are up to date on your diary and know when carol concerts are and where they are located, when school parties are and when people are coming to visit. This is one time of year when procrastination can be a real killer, do what you can ahead of time and cut your stress load in half.
2. Shop local whenever you can.
The food will be fresher and taste better, you will be promoting and helping local businesses and farmers, cutting down your carbon footprint and thus doing your bit for the environment.
When it comes to doing things break it down into who can do what. I know it is all too easy to become a martyr to Christmas and try to do everything yourself, but honestly martyrdom is no fun at all and dragging that cross round throughout the holidays is a pointless burden. Nobody wins points for Christmas, there is no exam to pass here. Get help by asking the kids to do their bit, set the table, clean the kitchen, bring in firewood, wash the dishes etc. If you have guests staying get them involved too. Nobody likes to feel like they are doing nothing while you slave away all red in the face and stressy, guests will be only too happy to lend a hand even if it is just to take the dog for a walk.
4. Love Lists.
Get pen and paper to hand and write down everything you have to do or buy. Trying to remember what you need in the shops is a nightmare at the best of times, but when the place is heaving and you are short of time it is even worse. So write it down and try to stick to your shopping lists when out and about, this leads us on to…..
5. Don’t over spend.
Oh I know, I know we all are guilty of this one. You hit the shops intending just to buy this and that and a certain amount of food and by the time you reach the checkout you have an overloaded trolley and a credit card buckling under the weight of a lot of unnecessary purchases. Go back to number 4 and make lists and stick to them. Being tempted into over spending only leads to a horrible feeling of guilt and that leads to stress and you know the rest.
6. Get crafty.
Even if you have never lifted a pair of scissors or weilded a needle and thread in your life, there is no excuse for not having a go. Making really simple things like gift tags from coloured card and a bit of gold ink all helps keep the budget in check and every penny counts these days. Besides everyone appreciates something handmade. Try some of the Larder Love gifts on this blog and make up a few simple hampers for friends and family.
7. Think outside the box.
When it comes to wrapping prezzies don’t get all caught up in the fancy gift wrap and miles of wire edged gold embossed ribbon. Use old maps for big prezzies that are outwith the realms of the standard roll of paper. Or easier still is to buy cheapo paper table cloths for covering outsize items. Place the box in the centre of the ‘cloth’ and pull up all the corners and just tie a big bow on top to keep everything in place. Use newspaper (the pink financial times pages are great for this) and plain red ribbon for a stylish look. For kids use old comic book pages stuck together for a patchwork look, or wrap bottles in old scarves that you can pick up in charity shops for next to nothing (a post on that one coming up this week). Tea towels and music paper are other choices for gift wrap.
8. Rest & Relaxation otherwise known as Me Time.
Yes factor this in to your festive schedule. Stopping for a cuppa and a cake while you are out doing that mega shop can make all the difference to your stress levels and therefore how you deal with everything else that is happening. Calling it a day in the evening and going for a decent soak in the bath. Yes you know you still have to sort out that costume for the nativity play etc, but taking 20 minutes to yourself is well worth it and very important.
By this I don’t mean just give a present to your family and friends I’m quite sure you are doing more than enough of that already. I mean give something unexpected to someone who needs it. Maybe it is someone homeless on the street, carol singers collecting for charity. Every little helps someone somewhere. And don’t think of it just as monetary giving. Give someone a smile, you have no idea how that can make someone’s day. Give some time, even a few minutes to help someone shovel snow off their path, carrying groceries to someone’s car for them, or dropping in on a neighbour to ask if they need any shopping when you are heading out. This is what Christmas is all about, this is that elusive Christmas Spirit people talk about, it is just one word – Giving.
10. Keep It Simple, Keep It Real.
That Victorian picture of the perfect family Christmas is all well and good, but it isn’t reality. Nor is the cosy picture perfect family all sitting round the piano singing carols together and smiling at each other throughout the entire festive period. Reality is the dirty dishes, it is the screaming toddler, the pouting tean who wants to get out and be with friends. It is Uncle John who farts when he sits down and your husband who makes the big fuss about how you are doing ‘too much darling’ but doesn’t get off his arse to help. It is the dog throwing up the Christmas pudding he stole and your heartbreak at the crappy kitchen appliance you were given when you just longed for something nice for yourself. Christmas is about all this, it isn’t a Coca Cola advert we have to live up to. Accept this and enjoy what you have warts and all.
So there it is, a wee list of my Top Ten Tips For Surviving Christmas. Have a look at my ebook So Easy Christmas for more ideas and some super recipes and gift and crafting ideas too. Want to make some foodie gifts, then get my Gourmet Gifts For Christmas.