Where the heck did summer go? Well shoot, I blinked and those languid days puttering around my garden and savoring my dry morning walks dissolved into the bountiful leaf colors, grayer skies, and occasional precipitation. You know what that also means? Yep, the holidays are approaching full throttle. This is the first year that I realized that Halloween revelers would be at my door in days without having loaded up my pantry with goodies (doesn’t sound overly organized does it?). Someone was ignoring her calendar. Likely because of my reluctance to acknowledge that Halloween quickly diffuses into long, dark wintry days. My refusal to get real doesn’t preclude the trick or treaters from showing up at my doorstep, so I stepped into action with a quick chase to the grocery store.
And now my calendar pages are whizzing by with reminders that my holiday guests will be arriving at the airport in a matter of weeks. Are you hosting holiday guests or celebrations this year? Does thinking about that make your head spin? Even if it is simply children returning to the nest, there are rooms to prepare, spaces to clean, menus to plan, gifts to purchase, greeting cards and presents to mail. I don’t know about you, but I am getting weary just typing all that.
What is the best way to begin when sipping a hot toddy sounds much more appealing?
Schedule time on your calendar to begin holiday tasks (decluttering rooms, deep cleaning, recipe research, on-line shopping, grocery lists, and anything else you need to do to be ready when the doorbell rings or flights land).
Be realistic about how much time each task is likely to take
Running to the post office might be a 15 minute errand, but be sure to account for traffic, cash register lines, and fuel stop. So perhaps scheduling 45 minutes might be more realistic.
When you are sacking out in front of the tv, grab your electronic device and begin scrolling through relevant websites for gift inspiration. If you order online, you will save yourself those trips to the post office and long waits on line.
If you do have long wait times, use that time for catching up on emails, generating grocery lists, and spawning gift ideas.
Sad to say, but the last thing we want is for those gifts to disappear off doorsteps. Be sure to track deliveries, set up alternate delivery locations such as your office, or ask a neighbor to intercept if you will not be around. You might want to check in with those with whom you do an annual gift exchange to work out arrangements so that boxes do not linger on your doorstep for more than a few minutes. We’ve all seen the videos where thieves are following delivery vans and boldly snatching the cartons.
Keep it Simple
When tasks seem complicated the brain can go into overload and motivation drops so it is best to keep things simple.
Break the jobs down into manageable pieces to avoid overwhelm
Plan for at least half a day or more to remove all the boxes, file folders, and excess linens stored in the guest bedroom. Then dust and vacuum on another day provided your schedule allows.
Keep in mind that unless you are super in the flow, work for 90 minutes max then take a 10-15 minute break for water, protein, stretching, etc. to allow your brain to reset and your energy to rejuvenate.
Make a list of all the things you need to do in a way that suits your style
If a categorical list is enough to toss you over a cliff, then try using Apps such as Habitica. Schedule and track your daily to-dos while making it into a game complete with productivity rewards. Word of caution, be mindful not to get so caught up in the game that you forget why your are using it.
Planning Makes Perfect (Well Sort of)
Be sure to consider contingencies.
If you have to get packages into the mail, work your timeline backward. When will they need to be purchased and mailed by?
Does your grocery list include ingredients to accommodate Aunt Beth’s food sensitivities?
Will your guests need reservations at a local inn? How about a rental car? A lift from the airport?
Will you need to reserve a table at your favorite restaurant for a special gathering? Remember tables book up quickly around the holidays.
Do you have enough bed linens, towels, blankets, pillows to comfortably satisfy all of your guests or do you need to borrow or purchase extras?
Will your returning kids bring along guests? Where will they sleep? Do they have specific needs?
Out With the Old, In With the New
If you missed my recent Practical Tip of the Week, check it out here for suggestions where to take common household items that may no longer be useful as part of a pre-holiday purge. Also, if you store excess linens in a room that you might need for guests, check with a friend or neighbor or advertise on NextDoor.com to see if anyone needs loaners. Unless you are loaning to your bestie, before letting your possessions out the door:
Inventory and take photos to record the condition of the goods.
Set a return date
Ask the borrower to sign the agreement.
Conversely, rather than purchase something for a one-time use, check with others to see if you can borrow.
If it is time to ditch some of the old toys, stuffed animals, and games that your on-campus college kids have outgrown, line their old playthings up and shoot a photo. Send the image(s) to them for a yay or nay before loading the car to prevent some hard feelings. Speaking from personal experience, getting pre-approval can sidestep some heartache. However, you might have to set a limit on nays vs. yays.
And, before you get into your car, contact the charitable organizations to ensure that they still want your discards and check their operating hours and location as these may have changed since your last visit. The goal is to save yourself hassle.
Not Feelin’ It?
If you are like me and fall allergies make you sluggish and miserable, check with your health practitioner to see if they can prescribe some relief. Be wary of antihistamines as they can zap your energy. Beyond seasonal allergies, if you find that your mood seriously needs a lifting, try some peppy or spiritual music, phone a friend that you have been meaning to catch up with for ages, treat yourself to a hot cup of energizing tea or kombucha (yes, this is Portland after all), or do some stretching or head out the door for a brisk walk. If it is raining, head to an indoor mall, and do laps around the perimeter on each level. Maybe you can knock out some holiday gifts as you window shop. It is advisable to set a timer so that you stay within your budgeted timeframe. If none of these suggestions work for you and you suspect that the doldrums are more serious, then speak to your health practitioner about your concerns. The longer you let it linger, the harder it can be to address and little will be accomplished which could lead to a sense of guilt and frustration.
Grandma’s Famous Stuffing
Begin scouring your cookbooks, recipe card files, or cloud storage for your trusted holiday recipes or enticing new concoctions that will wow your guests and satisfy their tummies.
Can’t locate Nana’s famous stuffing recipe? Contact relatives who are sure to have a copy (hopefully!)
Store holiday recipes in one location sorted by event so that you can quickly grab what you need (i.e., Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Brunch, Easter, Hanukkah, Passover, Kwanzaa, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day). You get the drift.
Start holiday grocery lists to stock your pantry.
Grab those cans of pumpkin pie filling, sweetened condensed milk, cranberry sauce on your next grocery store visit, then it is one less thing you will have to remember down the road or when shelves have emptied.
Stock up on pie shells and store in the freezer.
Check your spice rack for cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla extract.
If the idea of holiday prep is akin to having root canal and your calendar pages are flipping by way too fast to get a handle on things, contact ThePracticalSort.com and together we will figure out the best way to get you sorted for a season of celebration.