Bonus task: Update your holiday planner.

A few months ago, I recommended setting up a holiday planner.  Now that the holidays are just about over, sit down and contemplate what you can do next year to make the holidays less stressful.  Some examples:

  • Maybe you want to change your menus.  My husband and I do a traditional meal on Thanksgiving, but one month later is too soon for us to do it all again, so we have steak or London broil or pork tenderloin on Christmas Day.  We enjoy it more, and the work is less–especially with pork tenderloin!
  • Maybe you want to focus on acts of kindness next year rather than gifts.  Make a note.
  • Maybe you want to establish a new tradition.  Make a note.  Perhaps you want to do a book advent calendar with your little ones, but you need to buy the books.  (I suggest buying them over time from a thrift store or a yard sale; 24 Christmas-themed books can cost a lot otherwise!)
  • Maybe you and some adult loved ones could decide to donate to charity rather than buy one another gifts.  Perhaps you will need time to suggest the change to make it go over well.  Make a note.
  • Maybe you didn’t get to attend one event you wanted because you were at another and perhaps you want to change that.  Make a note.
  • Maybe you just want to rest more next year at home and bask in the glow of the lights on your Christmas tree.  Seriously.  Make a note.

Time required:  15-30 minutes.


Put away your Christmas decorations.

I don’t take down my Christmas tree until after January 1st, but I do start putting away Christmas decorations sooner if possible.  (Last year I could not because I was sick.)  Today is a good day to start putting away your decorations, sifting through what you can part with and putting it in a donate stack.  As an example, a few years ago, I decided to stop tying small bows on every set of kitchen cabinets, and I donated the bows I had been using.  This past year, I decided to dismantle the fragile ornament wreath I made a few years ago–but had nowhere to display.

As you are putting away your Christmas decorations, make notes of what you want to buy or replace next year.  For example, last year, I noted that I wanted to replace our Dollar Tree stockings and Walmart circa 1994 tree skirt next year.  Also make notes of how to store items.  For instance, I make a note every year to remind myself to pull my Willow Tree Joseph out of the box very carefully so that his staff does not break.

Unless you watch your Christmas movies year-round, consider storing your Christmas movies away, too, and even your Christmas music.  For me, there is no need to have these cluttering up our entertainment area when they can be stored elsewhere for the year.

One word of caution:  Don’t store your pine-scented and cinnamon-scented candles in your attic.  They will melt.  Ask me how I know.

Time required:  90 minutes for me, but I have a lot of Christmas decorations.

Clean out your child’s “idea box.”

Christmas is coming.  My preschooler has tons of toys, books, crayons, etc., and she will inevitably get more toys, books, crayons, etc. for the upcoming holiday.  So I decided to use the next week or so to clean out her stuff.  And it’s Saturday, so I opted to start with something simple.

My daughter watches “Creative Gallaxy” on Amazon, and that show encourages kids to have an “idea box,” which is basically a box of scrap items to craft with.  My daughter’s idea box had mostly oatmeal canisters, wrapping paper and other cardboard tubes, and Pringles canisters in it.  And these had all been hanging around for a year or more.

So I decided to declutter the idea box.  I discarded all but two of the oatmeal canisters, one of the Pringles canisters, and two of the tubes in recycling–and then something strange happened!  My daughter discarded the rest in our recycling canister herself!  We still eat oatmeal; my husband still eats Pringles chips and work; and I will use more wrapping paper this Christmas.  We can replenish the items later if necessary, but in the meantime, we’ve cleaned out clutter.

Now I need to figure out what to do with the plastic crate that was holding these items.  (Coming soon!)

So if your child has an “idea box,” declutter it today.  Get rid of things that have been hanging around unused for a while.  And decide whether you can replenish the items you have left at some point in the future.

Time required:  5 minutes.

Bonus task: Create a holiday planner.

If you celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas–and especially if you go “all in”–you know these holidays can be stressful.  So before the holidays get into full swing, grab a binder or a folder and create a holiday planner.  I have five dividers in mine:

  • Tips:  I make notes in this section immediately after Christmas, ones that I will never remember the next year if I don’t put them in writing.  For example, I bought my daughter’s Christmas pajamas for 2017 in December 2016.  I needed a reminder; otherwise, she would have ended up with two pairs.  And while that isn’t a catastrophe, I do want to be a good steward of our Christmas budget.
  • Calendar:  In November, I make a calendar that includes “bucket list” items such as a local church’s living nativity, the night we will go view Christmas lights, the local symphony’s Christmas concert, etc.  I don’t discard the previous year’s calendar until I make sure I’ve transferred everything over with its current-year date.  Otherwise, I could miss a tradition.  I’m that scatter-brained some days.
  • Cards:  I have a list of all persons to whom I send Christmas cards as well as their addresses.
  • Gifts:  I keep a list of everyone we are buying gifts for, what the budget is for each person, and any gift ideas I have.
  • Menu:  I keep menu ideas and trial recipes for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.  I also have a “Twelve Days of Baking” calendar that I’ll tell you more about later.

Include whatever sections or pages that are relevant to you.  Figure out how you can use a planner to make your holidays easier.  Then incorporate those ideas.

Time required:  30 minutes to update mine this year in January.  I spent about 90 minutes creating my holiday planner in 2011, and that time included looking up the current addresses for all of our family members and loved ones.

Bonus task: Get your flu shot (if your doctor recommends getting it).

If you’re an anti-vaxxer, stop reading right now, and go on about your day.  But if you typically just forget to get yours (or get sick in October and stay sick through December and cannot get yours), put a note on your calendar to remind yourself to get your flu shot.

Apparently studies have claimed that getting the flu shot too early can be bad.  And I’m not a medical provider, so talk to your doctor and find out if and when you should get the flu shot.  And then follow his or her directions.

Again, I’m not a medical provider.  And I’m not giving you medical advice.

But seriously, I had the flu in 2015, and I lost days of time because of it.

Time required:  2 hours, but that included travel time and an actual trip to the doctor for another purpose, too.

Sort through paper products.

Monday is Memorial Day.  While it is a solemn holiday, it is considered the kick-off to the barbecue and cook-out season.  So today, sort through your paper products.  Take inventory of your paper plates, plastic cups, plastic silverware, and paper napkins.  Don’t buy more this summer if you don’t need to.

I actually did this about a month before my preschooler’s birthday this year.  I realized that I had white plates, black plates, white and black damask plates, pink plates, and red plates, all from my preschooler’s previous birthday parties.  (I also had red Christmas-themed cups and plastic Solo cups and a slew of white paper napkins.)  And then I didn’t buy any paper products for her birthday this year because I had enough that matched the theme we went with.

One more thing:  If you can avoid using paper and plastic disposable products, please do so.  Not only are reusable products better for the environment than disposable products, but also you can save money over the life of the reusable products.  I bought some gorgeous melamine, dishwasher-safe plates and bowls earlier this year from Big Lots for $2.50 each, and I love them.

Time required:  Less than 5 minutes.

I had a miscarriage.

I’ve been quiet for a while.  My silence was certainly unplanned; my goal on January 1st was to blog every day.  But life happens.

In March, I discovered I was pregnant.  My husband and I hadn’t planned this pregnancy, but we were overjoyed.  The day after the two positive home pregnancy tests, I opted to take my daughter to her last dance lesson of the spring.  She and I both picked up bronchitis there.  (I do wish people would stay home when they are sick.  No dance lesson or Sunday school lesson is worth making other people sick.)  I went to the doctor, but my recovery took a while.  Unbeknownst to me, sometime during my sickness, my baby died.  I didn’t find out about the possible miscarriage–called a “missed miscarriage”–last week, and actually, it won’t be confirmed by my doctor until Thursday.  But I feel certain the missing heartbeat isn’t the result of a dating error on my part (uh, I’m pretty organized, folks, and I keep a pretty accurate calendar), and I believe the symptoms I’m having now are the miscarriage finally taking place rather than a subchorionic hemorrhage, which I was previously diagnosed with.

I’m devastated.  I’m depressed.  I’m self-blaming.  I’m also exhausted from sickness and this pregnancy.  I can’t tell you when I’ll start blogging again.  I’m sorting through old e-mails on my phone while watching old episodes of “Big Bang Theory” and “The Middle” and rewatching “Desperate Housewives.”  I want badly to feel well enough to work on scanning and shredding some paperwork.  Who am I kidding?  I want to feel well enough to make dinner again, although I’m so thankful for the friends who have brought meals.

I wanted to let you know why I’m not posting, but thank you for allowing me to grieve a bit here.  It may be a while before I post regularly.  I thank you for your understanding in the meantime.  I’ll be back.  I just need some time.