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A Simple Little Holiday Plan

The Thanksgiving leftovers have all been eaten and the gift-buying season has shifted into high gear. Remain calm and prepare yourself for the most jam-packed month in the calendar year. There are a small percentage of you who may actually have completed your to-do list long before everyone else. (If this is you, then kick back and relax.) The rest of you needn't despair! Just read on for the essential steps in holiday preparation. The key to preparing yourself for all the craziness is a well thought out plan. Believe it or not, the simple act of putting it down on paper can give you some peace. I am not sure why seeing my obligations and tasks in black and white are more calming than letting them race through my mind, but it really works.

During December, the holiday plan that I depend on is divided into four separate sections or categories. They are:

- Cards

- Gifts

- Social/Community Obligations

- Decorating

(Keep an extra copy of your gift list in the car, because you never know where your daily travels will take you.)

Holiday Cards

This year, if you have not already, transfer all of your names and addresses from your address book to a word processing file so you can easily print labels. My recommendation is to use clear labels, because they go with any choice of envelope color. Tip: if you are mailing over-sized envelopes, go to the post office early to have a sample weighed so you can purchase the necessary postage. (Don't forget about adding those new friends and purging the ones that drive you crazy. I especially like to purge those who can only talk about themselves and their stuff, how boring!!)

Presents, presents, and more presents

Make a list of all the people that are going to be the recipients of your hard work. To minimize some effort, consider different options. If individuals are in the same household, consider a group gift. If you have children to buy for and their parents don't have any suggestions (because Tommy and Susie have every possible toy out there), offer to pay for a special activity or a couple of lessons of their choice. Last year my parents picked up riding lessons for our daughter and it was a great gift for all. Our daughter loved it, my husband did not have to open his wallet, and I did not have house more "stuff".

Social and Community Obligations

'Tis the season to be merry and party ? but my suggestion is not to overdo it. Our daily routines are so overscheduled anyway that the extra commitments can make it difficult to juggle everything. Attend the parties and social gatherings that are truly important to you and politely decline the rest. (Sorry, but this does not apply to family functions!). The season is too short and busy to spend an evening watching the clock.

Community or charitable contributions are important during the holiday season. There are many people in your community that are less fortunate, so as a family or as an individual make some extra time for those in need. There are many local organizations that would be happy to guide you as to what is needed. I believe this is a wonderful opportunity for people to make a difference and experience the true holiday spirit.

Indoor/Outdoor Decorating

Last, but not least, make two separate plans for attacking decorating: one for indoors and the other for outdoors; and remember this does not need to be accomplished in one day. My husband and I allow significant downtime between the two tasks. Decorating should be a fun family event and if you get stressed out and exhausted the enjoyment will disappear.

Pick a theme for your outdoor display: all out, Clark Griswold-style or a more elegant approach, such as a simple wreath with a spotlight on your front door. Anything goes, so make it a reflection of how you and your family celebrate the holidays. Have fun with the indoor decorating and remember to take a quick inventory of what you have so there is no duplication. Light a fire and put on your favorite CD and let the decorating begin.

Good luck, relax, check those lists twice and remember what the season is really about.

©2003 Bridget Messino

About the author: Bridget Messino is a Professional Organizer, speaker and co-owner of Clutter Free Living, Inc. Her work frequently appears on many Internet sites, on her own organizing site Clutter Free Living (http://www.clutterfreeliving.com), as well as in her monthly Home Organizing Newsletter How to Be Clutter Free. Subscribe to the FREE monthly e-newsletter by sending a blank e-mail to mailto:cflnews-subscribe@topica.email-publisher.com

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