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A Merry Season with Choices

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I love November: the falling leaves, the cooler days, my birthday, memories of celebrating with my sister Terri (also a November baby), and our annual Thanksgiving vacation on the coast. I spoke with a client about her plans for Thanksgiving, and she replied regretfully that she wasn’t particularly looking forward to it as it meant the beginning of the holiday hype.

She’s not alone. The day after Thanksgiving signals the official kick-off to the holiday season, which many people dread because there is just more of everything: more mail, more shopping, more cooking, more crowds, more traffic, more places to be and people to see. In between decorating the tree and wrapping gifts, some also have the pressure of overtime at work to make their year end numbers and close out the business year.

It helps me to think of the holiday season as a buffet line with choices. Your plate (time) is limited, and you can’t go back for seconds (stay up all night). In other words, you only have so much time and energy, and pulling all-nighters throughout the month of December is counter productive. You’ll burn out and be cranky or worse yet, get sick and no one will want to be around you. But even at the holidays we have choices: get help, do it easier, do less, prepare in advance.

Get help
Two years ago, taking note of the cards we received–many with photos of kids–Jacey asked why we didn’t send cards. I explained that my plate was too full, and had to eliminate some things from my holiday to-do list. I had started sending New Year cards—when things slowed down a bit. However, since Jacey wanted to take on the card project, we selected a spot in our neighborhood for an outdoor photo of her and Haley. We developed the photo the same day and Jacey addressed, stamped and mailed the cards just before Christmas.

Do it easier
When I was growing up, Mom was like a machine in the kitchen; she could cook a delicious holiday dinner with her eyes closed. She did all this after working at the bank, rarely taking any time off since it was a busy time of year. She did however, depend on Dad—the grocer–to stock the pantry, and my sisters and me to help with clean up. Mom cooked most everything from scratch, but she took it easy with dessert, buying pies from the local bakery.

Today, my sisters and I take turns doing the holiday dinners at our homes. The hostess makes the main course and the bulk of the meal, but the other sisters help out by bringing side dishes. Mom still likes to bring her homemade rolls, and we sisters like making pies, so you can always count on several varieties.

Last year it was my turn to host Christmas dinner, and I surprised everyone with a Greenberg smoked turkey from Texas. It arrived a day or two before Christmas ready to serve–just add side dishes. You can get your own hickory flavored bird by calling 903-595-0725 or visit

Do less
Having abandoned gift giving in our extended family years ago, I’m always surprised to hear about frantic December 24th shopping. Also, if my client base is any indicator, we don’t need more stuff. I encourage everyone to rethink their shopping and do less.

Has a large, horizontal surface in your home become a clutter magnet? Fire up the stereo with “Jingle Bells” and power organize your dining room and table. By clearing the table and dining room of all clutter, you’ll be ready for holiday meals and entertaining before Jack Frost nips your nose. Sort by where each item is generally used. Then put the items for each room into your sled, shouting a triumphant “ho-ho-ho” as you dash around the house distributing “gifts” to their various rooms.

Want to keep the table clutter-free after the holidays? Cover it with a beautiful table cloth, and a decorative centerpiece. A centerpiece can easily be made by filling a clear glass container with items you’ll find at the grocery store. Use multiples of the same fruit or nut such as apples or walnuts. (I saw this in the Real Simple magazine.) When the table looks attractive, you’re less likely to mess it up with clutter. Other measures to guard the table from clutter are to keep it set with plates, and to use it more often. Who says we can only use the big table for holidays?

In addition to the dining room, I challenge you to organize one spot in your home before year-end. Give yourself the gift of organizing. You’ll feel more jolly and hopeful without clutter stealing your life energy.

Here’s a suggestion: mail order catalogs. Our mailboxes are full of catalogs this time of year, and you probably have duplicates stashed away. Rein in all catalogs, saving only the most recent copy. If you’re feeling brave, ditch them all–they’ll always send more. I like to use a container for catalogs, such as a crate sized file box with hanging files to separate the catalogs. To maintain your merry little system, just toss the old, and add the new as they arrive.