Despite loving how New York City looks this time of year – the gorgeous store window displays, lights twinkling on the bare tree branches and building fronts – I really don’t look forward to the holidays. Tourists pour in, making the streets even more crowded than usual and you end up needing a mace and some armor if you dare to brave a store for your holiday shopping.
That said, the holidays don’t have to send your stress levels through the roof. Whether you’re still pulling everything together or already fretting over next year’s festivities, here are a few ideas for making your holidays more jolly.
- Make a list of your holiday activities. This means shopping, any cooking, parties….anything and everything you plan or need to get done. Once you have your list, see if there are any activities you can combine – can you snag that quick gift on the way home from your doctor’s office? Do you really need to stay for the entire office party – or even go at all? A list will give you a big picture of what’s on your plate.
- Make a schedule. Yeah, okay, that sounds really boring and stressful in and of itself, but setting aside time to cross off your to-do list can save you from running around, trying to do it all. I always use a month-by-month planner, so I can balance out my weeks – if one week ends up looking way too crowded with chores, I see it coming ahead of time and can try to shift some errands to a slower week.
- Do you have to? Prioritize. Save your energy for the events that really matter to you and skip or limit your time for the ones that don’t.
- Host a potluck. If the party’s at your place, don’t drive yourself crazy trying to create an immaculate meal for them. Ask your friends and family to bring a dish to share. On the plus side, you can live off the leftovers after the party’s over.
- Don’t be perfect. Your house does not have to be dripping with tinsel and 100% dust-free to be a warm, fun environment. Stop trying to impress people. If you have a relative who’s going to fuss, don’t invite them. If you have to invite them, then consider hiring help (a cleaning person for one hour can make a huge difference) or just tackling the main areas that people will be in.
- Have a signature dish. In my family, a lot of members have signature holiday dishes we make. One of my aunts makes an awesome coquito, while I bring my grandma’s empanadas (little hot meat pies). On the negative side, these aren’t always the easiest to make – especially in family-sized servings. But on the plus side, I never have to worry about what to bring and I break up the cooking over several days (one day to make the filling, another to stuff the shells and one to just fry everything) and they freeze and travel very well. So, find something that you like and can make without too much hassle and make it your own – experiment, have fun and make that a dish everyone looks forward to, so that nobody even thinks of asking you make anything else.
- When in doubt, order out. If you’ve been so swamped that you don’t even have a can in your fridge to serve guests, break out those take-out menus and start calling. But be warned: you won’t be the only one, so have several back-ups in place in case your first choice is already slammed with orders.
It’s Better to Receive than to Give
- Re-gift is not a dirty word. I’m all for tasteful re-gifting. If I have a piece of jewelry that I haven’t worn in ages, is in great condition and would suit someone else’s taste (or is in their favorite color, etc.), then I’ll find a great box for it and give it as a gift. If you’re missing stocking stuffers or last-minute gifts, this can be a way to find them. However, if it’s something in obviously worn shape, or something that you’ve worn a lot, you can expect to get called out on it, so gifter beware.
- Flex your creativity. Hand-made gifts are not just for kindergarteners – grown up details can make them sophisticated as well as unique. Crash a thrift store and snag some vintage glass jars for a homemade sugar scrub in your mother’s favorite scent or make you man a mini-relaxation kit packaged in a rugged wooden cigar box. Have a fashionista on your list? Dreamcatcher bracelets are hot on the web right now and there are tons of tutorials to show you how to make one yourself. Present your re-gifted jewelry on a rack made from an old photo frame. When it comes down to it, would you rather be shoving your way through a store or warm at home decorating your own customized gift wrap?
What’s the Status Quo Done For You?
Of course, nobody says you have do what’s expected over the holidays. You can always buck the chaos and do something that might have more meaning to you personally. For example, you can:
- Spend the holiday volunteering.
- Spend the evening in quiet contemplation at your favorite place of worship.
- Use the time to plan out your goals for the New Year.
However you choose to spend the holiday season, always use common sense, listen to your body and tailor your schedule accordingly.
What other holiday survival tips do you have?