Tips for a Stress Free Christmas

Here we are at the most wonderful time of the year.   According to Andy Williams, anyway.  Yet, every year we seem to get over stressed with the many added activities.

Baking, shopping, card writing, parties… the list goes on.  While I won’t guarantee that you will have a completely stress-free season, I found ways to help reduce stress, which – let’s face it – is the ultimate goal for the final month of the year.

#1  Impulse Buy

Okay, before you shout me down, I only do this for Christmas gifts. Since I have a pretty good idea who is on my list, I  am on the look out for gifts while I do my normal grocery shopping. You would be surprised what you start to notice when you heighten the senses. Then, the minute a thought comes that says, “I think that would be a good gift for…”, I grab it.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen something that I thought might suit someone on my list but didn’t buy it. Then, when it came time to shop for gifts, I either couldn’t remember what it was, or if I could remember what it was, I couldn’t remember where I saw it. Or, the worst case scenario? I remembered what it was and where it was but when I went to get it, it was gone. When it comes to gift giving, at any time of the year, if I see it – I buy it (as long as it is relatively within the budget).

#2 Have a Stash

I used to have a bin on a shelf in my basement that, when I bought something ahead of time, I would stash it. That way, when it came time for Christmas shopping, I would check my stash to see if I had already purchased something for that individual earlier in the year.  This works great for birthday gifts as well. Checking my stash has eliminated at least one or possibly several items off the list before I even walk out the door. It has also worked well as a money saver because I purchased things when they are on sale instead of being pressured to pay full price when I needed it.

#3 Wrap Ahead

I have a friend who brilliantly came up with the plan to wrap each gift as she bought it. She would stock up on wrapping paper during the after Christmas sales. Each time she purchased a gift, she would wrap it and add it to her stash. Gone was the last minute rush that entailed barricading oneself in the bedroom with toddlers screaming for attention on the other side of the door. The ultimate hack for this procedure? She attached a tag with the recipient’s name on it and added a sticky note to remind herself what was inside. Great idea for not buying repeat presents if they happened to be purchased throughout the year.

#4  Stock Up

Once the beginning of November rolls around, I begin to add the extras to my grocery cart. For instance, if I see butter on sale, I will pick up a couple of extra pounds knowing I will need them for the added baking. Chocolate chips, cream cheese, the ingredients I don’t often purchase throughout the year. I also stock up on small generic items that can be used as a last minute hostess gift.

#5   Bake once and forget it

If I’m going to make a huge mess anyway (which is inevitable when I bake), I would rather do it just once and clean up only once. I bake out of necessity, not choice. For me, there are no rules. Once I baked 5 recipes at the same time. Two items were the same Magic Cookie Bar recipe but I swapped out a couple of the ingredients to change the taste. Instead of plain chocolate chips, I used mint, butterscotch or peanut butter flavored chips. For the graham crust, I substituted Oreo cookie crumbs. Since I melt the butter in the base of the pan as the oven is heating, I started 2 pans at once. When the day was done, my Christmas baking was finished and all packed away in the freezer.

#6 Have Extra Clothing on Hand

I have 3 teenage boys. One of the best tips I ever implemented was to buy formal clothing ahead and keep it in my closet. This has spared me last minute anguish time after time. One year, I bought 3 tuxedos when they were clearing out Christmas stock. They each wore one 4 months later when their step-brother got married. This year I had a collection of dress shirts in varying colors, an assortment of neckties and 3 pairs of men’s black dress socks. Sure enough, when Graduation season rolled around, I had several panic knocks on my en suite door. “Moooommm, I have no …” I was able to outfit them all without leaving my room.

#7  List of Decorations

Years ago, I began to input my Christmas decorations into a spreadsheet. {Yes, I’m a computer geek.} I had, by then, accumulated a number of big plastic bins that housed my decorations for 11 months of the year. The trouble was, I didn’t know what was in them.

So, one January as I was leisurely packing everything away, I began to list the contents of each bin. I typed it all into my computer and matched the contents to a number that I scrolled on the outside of the bin. Every year after that, I modified the list as I repacked and this has worked now for a decade. {I know, I surprise myself, too!}

# 8 Pass It On

My mom is now close to 90 years old and lives a 2 days drive away. I try to have her Christmas parcel boxed and ready to ship the first week in December. Part of the reason is to help eliminate some of her stress as well. When I pack it, I add extra unwrapped treats to fill the gaps between the wrapped gifts. This can serve several purposes. Sometimes guests will show up unexpectedly so an extra package of Christmas shortbread can be cracked open to accompany a pot of tea. More than once, she has wanted to take a hostess gift when asked to an event without much notice. Since she lives in a rural area, last minute shopping is not always convenient. A small pack of chocolate treats often does the trick.

#10 Schedule Fun Time

Too often I have been so caught up in the preparation of Christmas that I did not even enjoy it.

Now I write it in my calendar. Movie with my boys.

Coffee with a friend. Playing carols at a near-by Retirement Residence. Every time I step away from the preparations and allow myself some ‘me’ time, I actually become more energized. That’s when I can start another task without the daunting feeling of being overwhelmed. After all, what good is a holiday if you don’t enjoy it.

The best way to have a stress free Christmas, though is to remember what the season is all about ~ Jesus. He is truly the reason for the season.

I hope this has inspired you to have a  Merry, Stress – Free Christmas.

To all a good night!

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