Here we are at the start of another new month and it is generally the time to announce a new theme. As I was thinking through the themes I had planned for October, November and December, however, I realized that soon (and perhaps already) general holiday busy-ness/craziness is coming. So, rolling with the punches, I am going to loosen up my themes for the next three months. There will still be three themes but I am going to mix and match them together as needed. We will mix fun things with the things that just have to get done.
The three general themes are: emergency preparedness, holiday celebrations and entertaining. So, by the end of 2010, I aim to help you prepare at a basic level for the most common emergency situations while enjoying your holiday celebrations with less stress and more joy.
To kick off the month, I want to talk for a moment about holiday stress. I can hardly believe that on October 4 this topic is even necessary but if laid-back me is already feeling some of the stress, I assume other people must be as well. It’s the subtle cues that are throwing me off….the radio announcements about Christmas events, the displays in stores, the people who already have their Halloween costumes and are visiting the pumpkin patch.
Did you know, for instance that the folks at Organized Christmas already started their Christmas preparations August 29? You can attempt their Holiday Grand Plan calendar now but you are already a month behind! You have even missed their sister site, 101 Days to Christmas which started September 15. Does reading this get your blood pressure rising? Do you worry that everyone else must know something you don’t?
While being prepared is a good thing, there is such a thing as being too prepared. Too much preparation breeds perfectionism, ridigity and oddly enough, stress! Yes, the stress you are trying to avoid by planning ahead can sometimes increase with too much planning. How? Perhaps you are becoming frustrated that other people are not also planning ahead like you are. Last-minute changes/emergencies? What a disappointment! You’ve been planning this for months! Perhaps you are making things excessively complicated because you tell yourself that you need to spend three months on something instead of one week, a day or a few hours. Perhaps once the big day finally arrives you are so tired of celebrating that particular holiday that you just want it over with (or you are preoccupied with whatever is the next holiday/to-do item) rather than just savoring the moment.
What is overplanned to one person is last-minute to another. Your priority is to do what makes YOU happy taking into account the needs of the people closest to you. If everyone else around you plans 8 months in advance, you might have no choice but to begin at least some of your holiday decision-making in April. If they all wait until the last-minute, your best course might be to simply announce what your plans are as soon as you know them. If you can be flexible, you might invite people to join you and have one plan for last-minute arrivals and another for last-minute cancellations.
It might help you to look at the holiday worksheet I posted last year to plan out how much time/money you will likely need to get through the holidays. Thinking about your higher level life goals a la Stever Robbins may also be appropriate here. Focus in on what is most important and put all the other activities in the “optional” column.
Once you have in your head the plan that makes YOU happy, then step back, relax and let everyone else do what makes them happy. Perhaps the person Christmas shopping in July really enjoys starting that early. If so, let them have it! I won’t start until after Thanksgiving. And both of us can have a wonderful holiday!
I thought a few personal anecdotes would bring home the diversity of holiday preparation strategies out there:
“Rule #1 of being a crafty chick: NEVER volunteer your services for the holidays.
My room has turned into freaking Jo-Ann Fabrics after offering up knitted accessories for Christmas gifts.”
–Brittney in Chicago, “Never Again: The Christmas Saga (To Be Continued),“ Standards Are For People Who Have Options blog, October 4, 2010
“I have officially declared that THIS year is the year of “handmade Christmas” and got all excited and started making IMMENSE plans. I mean, we are talking EPIC.
And thus I have begun.
Please spare me the discussions of, ”But it is October!” and the infamous, “You’ll have a two-week-old at Christmas!”
I KNOW! That is why it is vital that I have already begun my preparations. DUH!”
–The Ing Family blog, “Christmas Part II,” October 4, 2010
“About a decade ago, I was the perfectionist Christmas fairy. I started mailing out cards before Thanksgiving. I made dozens of batches of rolled-out sugar cookies, so that I could choose the most symmetrically shaped ones, scraping off the excess frosting with the back of a spoon to keep it all smooth. And I spent so much money on gifts for everyone I had ever met —just to make sure I didn’t miss one — that I mostly ate rice and beans all of January. . .
The thing is — I didn’t really enjoy those Christmases past, when I gave my spirit to the season so entirely that I nearly passed out. It all felt so obligatory. . . .”
– Shauna James Ahern a.k.a. The Gluten-Free Girl, “Quiet on Christmas Eve,” December 24, 2007.
So, whatever you decide to do (or not do) about your holiday preparations this year, I hope that Ruly can be a place of refuge for you where you can get some fun ideas, some organizing help and useful advice, and some motivation and share your own projects, to-do lists and stories. If I start stressing you out, please let me know and if you have any suggestions or specific questions you would like to see addressed, please let me know in the comments or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Breathe. Relax. Enjoy October!