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Say ‘no’ to Christmas stress!


Published: 12/02/2013

by Hellen Buttigieg

Does the thought of your holiday to-do’s cause you to break out in a cold sweat? With so much to do and such little time available, how can we fit it all in? Even though the holidays may seem far away, leaving everything till the last minute can cost you. A little advance planning can save you time, money and energy. This seven-step plan will help you declutter, de-stress and simplify – so you can anticipate the holidays with excitement instead of dread. 


1. Create a holiday planner. Organize your to-do’s and other lists in a binder and use it yearly as a handy reference. Get a three-ring binder in Christmas colours and fill it with clear sheet protectors. Store schedules, holiday to-do lists, gift ideas and favourite holiday recipes. Keep a page to list the inventory of what’s inside your holiday storage boxes.


2. Simplify your Christmas cards. Instead of traditional cards, consider sending an annual family newsletter copied onto seasonal paper, using computer-generated address labels and return address labels or send it by e-mail. If you prefer cards, get them pre-printed. You might also consider sending other cards after the New Year or for Valentine’s Day instead.


3. Shop smart. Create a budget and track it as you shop. Shop early and from a list to avoid impulse buying (and to allow for delivery time when shopping online). Record your gift ideas throughout the year. Keep receipts organized in an envelope in case anything needs to be returned.


4. Make wrapping quick and easy. It’s less stressful to wrap as you go along. Set up a gift wrapping centre in an out-of-the-way place in your home. You’ll need a table or counter and a bin with all your supplies. Label gifts with sticky notes until you’ve had a chance to wrap and tag them. If you don’t have the time or talent for wrapping gifts or simply don’t enjoy it, most malls provide the service for a nominal cost, often with the money going to charity. Another idea is to purchase decorative gift boxes or bags from the dollar store.


5. Cook and bake ahead. With all the extra errands you’ll have to run, it’s helpful to have some meals made ahead and frozen. Declutter your freezer to accommodate extras. Bake in batches. If you don’t like to bake, find a friend who bakes and do it together, or take shortcuts like using packaged mixes or ordering from a bakery.


6. Simplify your holiday decor. Do your outdoor decorating early, while the weather is still good. You don’t have to decorate every room of the house; nor do you have to use every decoration you have. Donate what you no longer use. Start using more festive items that don’t have to be packed away after the holidays: a fresh wreath, candles, fruit in bowls and fresh flowers. Take pictures to remind you where everything goes.


7. Practise selective socializing. Have you ever attended a social engagement out of obligation, only to regret it later? Or have you said yes to every party request and then felt overextended and too tired to enjoy yourself? Avoid holiday overload by accepting invitations to only the events you truly want to attend – and allow some downtime in between.  


Hellen Buttigieg, CPO, is a Certified Professional Organizer, life coach, TV personality, author and speaker. For more information, visit

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