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Create a Sane Holiday in 10 Easy Steps

I bet there are things about this time of year that you relish and aspects you’d like to throw in the trash bin forever. Friendships are strained and Heaven knows family can be difficult on a warm sunny July afternoon, much less during the busiest month of the year. My goal is to have you wake up on January 1st thinking: ‘Wow! What a fabulous holiday!’ We’ve all experienced that other reaction: ‘What the heck just happened!?’ Without further delay here are my 10 steps for a sane holiday experience:

  1. 1. Take care of your body. Guard your sleep like a precious jewel. Be mindful of every bite you eat. Food, water, sleep and basic vitamin supplements will help keep you strong this season especially if you plan to wade into stores and fight the crowds or attend several social gatherings like a party, movie or the theater. These are great ways to catch the holiday spirit. They are equally great ways to catch a cold or the flu. Don’t forget to exercise: I didn’t say ‘train for a marathon.’ Do something easy like walk 10 minutes a day or take the stairs at work. Movement is key.
  2. 2. Before you decide to give or attend any parties or do any gift exchanges, craft a realistic budget. It’s your foundation for financial sanity. Waking up in a New Year knowing you’ve incurred credit card debt you can ill afford is not the way to go. Anyone who truly loves you would rather forego a gift than see you in debt.
  3. 3. Make a list of the people you wish to remember with a gift. Have 2 or 3 suggestions next to each name. Note an amount of money you can comfortably spend on each person. Add up those figures and see if you are under or over budget. If you are under take the difference and put it in the bank. If you are over you’ll want to noodle some gift ideas and amounts until you are safely within your financial comfort zone. It’s OK to eliminate a few folks. You can catch them next year or on their birthday.
  4. 4. Whether it’s TV, the newspaper, the Internet or your best friend, keep your eyes and ears open for sales and bargains. Shop like it’s a military mission: don’t waste time, money or transportation costs. Plan your expeditions and hit as many stores in one location as you can. Repeatedly returning to the same mall or store is a waste. If you have a smart phone, use shopping apps like RedLaser and TheFind to save big bucks. For an annual fee Amazon Prime lets you send most purchases without paying shipping and handling costs and you get 2-day delivery. I use it all year long.
  5. 5. If you plan to wrap your presents and/or mail them be sure you have the price of paper, ribbon, cards, mailing supplies and postage in your budget. It may be more cost effective to make your purchases with an online retailer and pay them to do the honors.
  6. 6. Whether you’re a guest bringing expensive bubbly to the party or the host, be sure you have an entertainment budget as well as one for gifts. Too often these big-ticket expenses get overlooked and slapped onto a credit card. Make no unconscious or convenient purchases this year. Only charge items you know you can pay off in full when the next bill arrives. It’s a good idea to get online and check your credit card(s) and bank account balance and activity to be sure you haven’t become a victim. In fact this is a good weekly habit to develop.
  7. 7. If your circle is open to the idea, give money to organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Heifer International in their honor in lieu of a traditional gift. I’d rather receive a notice that another person’s suffering was reduced in my name than have more stuff in my life.
  8. 8. If you have a spouse and older children delegate some of the holiday responsibility to them. Maybe dad can bring home the tree and set it up while the kids unwrap and lay out the ornaments? If you have teens who drive they can help with shopping for groceries and gifts. You can do everything for others but if it makes you cranky, exhausted and sick they aren’t going to enjoy a single minute of the holiday. It’s not fun being around a holiday martyr.
  9. 9. Traditions are wonderful but if something has taken on the feeling of a burden simply opt out. Yes, family and friends may be cross with you but you aren’t responsible for their happiness. Your actions might even inspire them to be more honest in the way they celebrate the holiday. Next year the whole lot of you may be on a cruise!
  10. 10. Finally I want to encourage you to have as conscious a celebration as is comfortable for you. Do you need turkey or ham for the big holiday meals or could you go vegetarian or vegan and save money, calories and a life? Do you need a live tree in your home or would lights strung on an outside tree (or your balcony railing) lift your spirits? Add compassion and gratitude into your plan in whatever way works best for you.

With a little planning, a dash of elbow grease and a dose of determination this can be your best holiday season ever. From holiday meals and gift giving to travel and New Year’s Resolutions, you’ll find detailed instructions in my New York Times bestseller One Year to an Organized Life.


Regina Leeds
‘The Zen Organizer’

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