I generally consider myself to be a well organized human. I keep my home clean and tidy, I color code my calendar, and I’m particularly good at organizing and managing my time to accomplish a large “to-do” list and meet deadlines in my professional life. Yet somehow, all those skills are fruitless when it comes to the holidays. (I don’t even have kids and I constantly feel like I’m scrambling). I personally credit a lack of holiday organization for the reason it took me four years to actually send out holiday cards after deciding I wanted to. It’s the reason I end up baking Thanksgiving pies at midnight and running out of Halloween candy half-way through the night. And it’s the reason why holiday decorating plans tend to just stay a collection of ideas organized on my Pinterest board. (I still decorate for the holidays. It’s a yearly goal to make the inside of my house feel like it’s vomiting holiday cheer, but using any sort of theme or any plan to replace the now-slightly-crummy paper decorations I made years ago goes out the window once the holidays arrive.) I love the holidays to a fault, but even I’ll admit they can be a hectic and stressful time.
But not this year! This year, I’m going to apply all my organization and time management skills to have a relaxed, stress-free, beautifully decorated holiday season… or at least that what I keep telling myself.
I know what you’re thinking. It’s not even Halloween and I’m talking about the holidays? Isn’t that a little early? Nope! (Unless, maybe, if you happen to be a total grinch—cramming all your grinchiness into that window of time between Nov. 1 and New Years when you can’t walk into a shop without hearing a Mariah Carey Christmas song. Though …even then, it’s not a bad idea to pre-think out your holiday heckles). So how exactly do I plan on accomplishing my stress-free holiday season? Mainly by chunking, planning ahead, and sticking to a fuck budget.
- Holiday Cooking: There are a few things I know I can prepare for. I always bake 2-4 pies for Thanksgiving and I always bake an ocelot of Christmas cookies. I’ve already started to gradually stock pile ingredients I use a ton of during the holidays: butter, flour, sugar, almond, etc. By grabbing that extra bag of flour when it’s on sale in October, I’m eliminating the need for late night runs to the store when I’m half a cup short for my pie crust, as well as spreading out the expense of all that holiday cooking. Most years, I host a Spiced Wine party in December and a “Fakes-giving” potluck in November. Pretty much yearly, I’ve found myself frantically cooking way more food than I told people I would and spending three times the amount on groceries than planned. Never again! (I proclaim optimistically). This year, I’ve already preset my menus, capped my budget accordingly, and promised myself to not worry about having enough food (if we run out, I’ll light a cranberry scented candle and open more wine… it’ll be fine.)
- Themed Holiday Decorations: My current set of Christmas decorations include a bag of paper snowflakes I made about five years ago, colored christmas lights a roommate picked out the first year we got a tree, a plastic ornament wreathe from an estate sale, and hand-me-down garlands. (The only time I’ve had a color themed Christmas was in China, when I bought a small plastic tree and ornaments from IKEA). Don’t get me wrong. It’s cute and cheerful, and I get plenty of compliments for my decor every year. But I dream of changing it up. When it comes to actually buying all new Christmas lights in white, new garlands, and replacing my paper snowflakes, I get overwhelmed or I run out of time and end up telling myself “maybe next year.” This year, to make the prospect less overwhelming, I’m picking up/making as many new decorations as early as I can. I discovered the joy of pre-ordering fresh wreathes. I spent hours researching ideas, narrowing down what I actually want my color theme to be, and finding the most affordable ways to make those ideas a reality. (These are the things I do when I can’t sleep at night.) I’ve set specific days aside in my calendar for decorating plans – with reminder alerts– with the hope that my schedule will allow me to easily transition from fall to winter decor. By the time December rolls around and it’s time to decorate a tree, I plan on having a relaxing afternoon of tree trimming, with the rest of my holiday decorations already in place.
- Holiday Shopping: When I was a kid, I enjoyed going out on Black Friday and last minute Christmas Eve shopping with my dad. As an adult, I plan my present shopping out and am usually finished with shopping and wrapping by the first weekend of December (this use to be because I didn’t go home for Christmas and would need to have all my presents ready for my dad to take during his annual early December visit). I found that having all that shopping finished during the first week of December allowed me to relax more and better enjoy my free time. No more running around, shelling out hundreds of dollars doing last-minute shopping. (This year, if you spring needing a present from me last minute, you’re getting a plate of cookies).
- Creating a Fuck Budget: This concept comes from the book The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck by Sarah Knight. As a human, particularly a busy one with only so much time and money, there is a limited amount of things I can actually care about, thus the Fuck Budget. I do care about Halloween costumes, pumpkins, and consuming my allotted yearly amount of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in a single week; I don’t care about actually going out to a party, pumpkin spiced lattes, or people’s opinion on candy corn. My holiday fuck budget will naturally be different than yours (and that’s okay), but with family obligations, friends and work holiday parties, or any other number of things thrusted upon me this holiday season, having a clear idea of what does and doesn’t deserve my time and energy can help me focus on the parts of the season bring me joy and avoid the parts that are an unnecessary headache.* Want to create your own fuck budget? Take a moment before the holidays to mentally sort out your holiday obligations. Maybe it’s having fresh, homemade whipped cream for pies or writing a long holiday newsletter. What ever the holiday tradition is, if it’s causing unneeded stress each year, leave it behind with zero apologies.
*It’s important to note that when sorting your holiday obligations, you can decline to participate in ones that don’t fit into your fuck budget but that doesn’t mean to be a jerk about it. There is a polite way to opt out and a rude way. Try not to burn bridges in the name of decluttering your holiday obligations.