How to Simplify Your Holiday Season

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Waking up first thing on Christmas morning, running to see what Santa left us; going over to my grandparents for Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas lunch; yummy cheese fondue on Christmas Eve; these are my memories and family traditions of the holidays when I was growing up.  Life was simple.  Life was good.  And I was oblivious to everything my mother did for our family (on our tight budget).

As I got older, I attempted my first Thanksgiving gathering and realized how much work it really took.  As years passed, I was invited to more and more holiday parties.  I was amazed by the hostesses and their perfect homes.  I always wondered their secrets.  How did they seem to have everything so together?  How did they seem to be having so much fun at their own party, while looking truly stress-free?

I finally found the secret behind many of these people's ability to manage the holiday season, and do it with such style and grace.  While it seems as though these parties are just thrown together (or at least that is what the host always says), it actually takes an immense amount of planning.  Even if you are not the Martha Stewart hostess of your social circle, planning is the key to surviving and flourishing during the holiday season.

I think I knew a long time ago that I needed to be more of a planner, and boy did I try to. With all of my effort, I was still a mess and running out to buy last minute gifts every year.  My best of intentions constantly seemed to just fall flat.  But then one day I was reading Simplify Your Life: Get Organized and Stay That Way by Marcia Ramsland, and she opened my eyes to a better way to do things.  She seemed to have the secret to a stress-free holiday season.  I highly recommend this book for Ramsland's methods and specific devotionals.

What is the secret to her simplifying the holidays?  The Eight-Week Holiday Calendar is the answer. Below is a sample calendar.

For me the Eight-Week Holiday Calendar begins the day after Halloween.  Follow Ramsland's four steps and three phases, and you will be amazed how much more enjoyable your holiday season will be.

Step 1: Fill in all the important dates like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, etc

Step 2: Write in holiday celebrations that you plan to attend

Step 3: Highlight vacation days for kids and parents

Step 4: Number the weeks in your personal calendar as a countdown

These four steps help to get the basic planning down in writing.  After that is done, it is much easier to plan all the other stuff that needs to be done.

Phase 1: Gift Shopping and Wrapping

Phase 2: Decorations, Cards and Mailing

Phase 3: Celebrations, Cooking and Cleaning

Going phase by phase, scheduling each one of these tasks into the Eight-Week Holiday Calendar will help to give order to the crazy holiday season.  I know it might sound a little funny to schedule gift wrapping and cleaning, but it's amazing how much more seems to get accomplished when things are scheduled and written down.

This calendar is not written in stone.  Life is constantly changing, and we need to be able to adapt for sanity, if nothing else.  Also, it is not necessary that the eight week calendar is beautiful either.  My calendar is hand written in the back of my paper planner, and I love it.  I like using pencil for my holiday planner because I am constantly rearranging and rescheduling.  Here is an example of a recent year's holiday calendar.  It may not be pretty, but it's very user friendly.

I like to have the eight week Christmas calendar close by.  The back of my daily planner seems to fit perfectly into my life.  This way, when a new event comes up, I actually know if I am available or not.

After using this calendar, I actually sent out personalized Christmas cards for the first time in over 10 years.  This may not be a big deal for some people, but I gotta admit I was really proud of myself.  Like with most calendars, things come up and changes needed to occur, but for once, it was easy to adapt because I had everything I needed to do directly in front of me.

Marcia Ramsland has many other great ideas, and even came out with a book specifically for the holiday season, Simplify your holidays, a Christmas planner to use year after year.  Check out her advice for organizing gift giving, menu planning and even stress reducing tips.

With the tools that I have learned, I am thankfully able to enjoy the holidays more than I even thought possible.  And it is very important that we remember the reason for the season.  It is not a time to try and keep up with "the Jones", but a time for friends, family and faith.  It is a time to be thankful for everything we have.  It is a time to gather and enjoy each other.  It is a time to love and to Thank God!

 

Dear Lord, I never would have believed it was possible to survive the holiday season without a complete and total breakdown, but now I know it's possible.  Thank you for the leading me to find the answers and to never give up hope.

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Stop Stressing and Tidy On

Stop Stressing and Tidy On

When I take a hard long look at my life there are a few undeniable facts that I can’t ignore.  I have a loving family and a beautiful home.  Overall, I am an overwhelmingly lucky woman.  But when I look around at my life, I am constantly stressed out.

In my post “Let it Go“, I went room by room and purged.  I was amazed by how much stuff I had.  But when two homes are combined, you realize how much stuff you have and how much stuff you have been hiding from yourself.  We made several trips to Goodwill, Salvation Army and Dress for Success.  I have also earned money through a garage sale, consignment shops and selling to Thredup.  But even though I thought I had everything under control, I did not truly learn to “let it go”.

So now I jump forward to today and what has changed?  Not much.  I am constantly picking up stuff in every room.  Each day I think I can find a better home for my possessions.  And at the end of the day, my home is a mess and I am exhausted.  And the one place that is supposed to give me solice, my bedroom, is the worst place in my home.  I wake up every morning, looking around and instantly feel stressed and exhausted by the appearance of my bedroom.  I can’t even imagine what my husband thinks (I guess I can because at times he just can’t hold in the stress it causes him as well).

There are two types of stress: 1) stress I can’t control and 2) stress that controls me. There is no reason to even discuss stress I can’t control, but it is exactly that, out of my control.  But, stress I can control, now that’s a totally different subject.

The areas that give me the greatest stress are my cluttered home, my appearance, my health and finding my purpose in life.  I can give you every excuse in the world for why all of these things aren’t better, but when it comes down to it, it is me.

One of my favorite hobbies is to learn more about organization.  I have read so many books, but seem to enjoy the excitement of reading the books and the passion of the author rather than fully following through with organizing my life.

When I finally read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, one book finally addressed all of my stresses.  Marie Kondo talks about the power of tidying your life and the overwhelming impact it can have on every aspect of your life.  One of the first steps I am embracing is picturing what I want my life to look like.  This does not mean picturing things but picturing how you want a space to feel like and how you want to live your life.

This idea has given me hope.  The process is basically simple but oh so indepth.  What sparks joy?  Over and over, that is the ultimate goal of the KonMari method, to fill your life with only things that spark joy.  When I read this, it speaks to me.  This is what I have been searching for.

The six basic rules of tidying with the KonMari Method are as follows:

1. Commit yourself to tidying up

2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle

3. Finish discarding first

4. Tidy by category, not by location

5. Follow the right order

6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy

 

Now that I have my blueprint, where do I start?  The KonMari Method recommends a specific order: clothes, books, papers, miscelllany and finally sentimental items.  I, like many people, tend to hold on to things longer than I should.  I don’t know if it’s the sentimentality or the idea of wasted money but I have a hard time getting rid of things.  I think it’s finally time to let go of a lot and move forward.

I read an amazing quote recently from The Tidy Mom that was just the kick in the pants that I needed to start this journey.

When we look ahead instead of behind, we’re creating space for life to be lived instead of holding on to a part of time that can never again be more than a memory.  – the Tidy Mom

 

Davonne Parks, thank you for bringing motivation and inspiration in my battle to tidy my life and get rid of the stress.

I am ready to look ahead and am tired of holding on to the past.  The past holds jobs I hated, jobs I loved, friends I’ve lost, family I’ve lost, lost loves, a thinner self and the sadness of divorce.  I am ready and just need to look forward and embrace what I have, what I love and the life that is directly in front of me.

My journey to remove the bad stress from my life starts with using the KonMari blueprint to decluttering my life, toddler in tow.  The toddler part will definitely add a degree of difficulty to the task, but I’m up for it.  With added guidance from Organizing Moms, Realistic KonMari for Moms, it’s now or never.

 

 

KonMari step 1

 

…to be continued (10 bags down and many more to go)

 

ThredUP Inc.

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