November 09, 2009

Cut the Chaos: Getting a Jump on Holiday Madness

Making Life Better

Parenting contributor Lian Dolan on the virtues of holiday preparation.

Here we are in that sweet lull between Halloween and the holiday chaos that hits mid-November. We can choose not to think about what obligations lie ahead in the next six weeks (food, family, frenzy) or we can do a few items on our annual Holiday To-Do List and breathe easier come December. I’m a big believer in working ahead so you can enjoy the moment. When I was pregnant with my second child, I went into preterm labor at 30 weeks over Thanksgiving weekend. Bed rest was the best thing that ever happened to a Holiday Over-Achiever like me. We had a scaled-back but meaningful Christmas season that still stands out as one of my favorites. (And I had a healthy baby boy on Groundhog Day.) So whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or the winter solstice, here are my tips to cut the chaos and get a jump on the Holidays.

Take the family photo now! Really, stop reading and start clicking your digital camera. If you take a nice, tight headshot of the kids and dog, you don’t even need to buy matching snowflake sweaters. Forget about art-directing the perfect image of the perfect family. Your kids are cute; any photo will do. Snap it, order the cards, and start addressing those envelopes.

Think theme gifts. Organize gift-giving around a single theme. One gift does fit all, especially your budget and your time. Make it the Year of the Gourmet Brownies! Or Wool Socks! Or Personalized Tote Bag! Last year, I gave everyone in my family-man, woman and child-a reasonably priced down vest in eye-catching colors. One store, one hour, all the shopping I needed. My brother declared it “The vest Christmas ever.”

Display only half of your decorations. Breathe deeply-you can do this. You can leave some of the artificial gourds/holly-berry wreaths and talking reindeer in the basement. You don’t need a menorah in every room or the best lights on the block. Nobody will notice but you. Prevent holiday stress by spending half the time decorating, half the time putting away, and you’ll double the time enjoying your family.

Plan on skipping one big event. It’s okay to say no, even to a “holiday tradition.” Nobody needs more stress, especially this year, so don’t let the annual cookie exchange add to the chaos. Take this year off. Instead, celebrate the season with calm reflection and simple joy, surrounded by the people who really matter to you.

Get help managing your holiday calendar, to do lists and all your holiday lists with Cozi, the free online family organizer.

More on the Holidays

About the author: Lian Dolan is a writer, mother, Satellite Sister and creator of The Chaos Chronicles, a podcast, blog and website about modern motherhood.

MakeLifeBetter MakingLifeBetter provides tips and smart strategies to help you feel good, look good, and get more out of life.



Love the ideas. I usually never use all my decorations anyways. Maybe it's time to get rid of some of it. Less clutter, less stress. I love the theme gift idea. I'm doing an initial wreath for each family to make it easier for giving the gifts this year.

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