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Holiday Hacks

The holidays are almost here. Are you filled with joy or dread? Don’t fret. We’ve got 12 solutions on how to stay organized and not lose your mind from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

Article
Michele Chiappetta
Photos
Courtesy
Posted
October 29, 2017

The holidays are upon us. And while Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve are fun, they can also bring on stress. Add to that the demands of coordinating your end-of-the-year job assignments, charity work, vacation arrangements, and school projects, all while juggling family needs and holiday parties, and you may find yourself wondering whether you can just skip sleeping for the next eight weeks.

There’s so much to plan, so much to do, so many places to go that managing everything can easily be overwhelming. Unless, of course, you plan ahead to make the most of the season while avoiding the holiday madness that seems to infect people left and right at this time of year.

How do you stay on top of everything you need to do during the holiday season, without losing your sanity? Simple. You follow the tips we’ve gathered here to make the next couple of months a breeze. Our 12 tips will help you save time and money, keep you de-stressed and sane while everyone else around you seems to be losing their minds, and make you a holiday survival champion!

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Test out the decorations early
You may not want to put up the lights, deck the tree, or put out the menorah too early. But it’s a good idea to gather your decorations and look through them a few weeks before you plan to put them out. Plug things in to see if the bulbs are working. Examine items to see if anything is broken. This gives you plenty of time to hit the store and buy replacements without the need to rush.

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Order groceries online
Let’s face it — the Internet is magic. Take advantage of that magic by ordering everything you need for the holidays online. Many businesses these days will deliver gift items, of course, but there are other services too. Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart let you order groceries online; their staff gathers your order for you, and you simply pick it up, ready to go.

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Start a gift stash early
Unless you’re an adrenaline junkie who loves crowds, there’s nothing worse than trying to get your shopping done right before a holiday. Lessen your stress by shopping for and stashing gifts early. Make a list throughout the year of gift ideas, and as you find the items, buy them and store them in an airtight plastic container in a lightly used closet, attic or crawl space until gift time rolls around.

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Give an experience, not an object
Many of the moments we recall most in life are the times we spend with loved ones, doing something special. Instead of loading your family down with lots of boxes of “things” that will break, grow obsolete, or be exchanged, splurge on one or two exciting activities that everyone can enjoy. Tickets to The Nutcracker, a trip to Branson to see the holiday lights, and hitting a concert in November or December are all good options.

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Craft simple decorations
If you like to make your own decorations, it’s easy to find ideas online. With a short Google search, you can find homemade decorations that are inexpensive and fast to make. Sew small Christmas stockings from cut-out felt. Glue two candy canes together to make festive place settings. Cut a branch from your Christmas tree to serve as table decor. Choose crafts with just a few steps and minimal components.

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Do some research
Want to make your holidays easy? Get on the Internet and search the topic. These days, there are countless holiday tips for saving money, installing decorations in a snap, making easy hors d’oeuvres and a whole lot more. Check out the many listicles available, and you’ll surely find some creative ideas perfect for your needs.

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Hire some help
One of the biggest stressors during the holiday season is having an extra-long to-do list. Hack that by bringing on some extra help to handle the additional tasks. A virtual assistant can handle scheduling and other tasks. Local teens in the neighborhood may be glad to help you decorate the house or rake leaves for a little spending money. And consider hiring a cleaning service to help you prepare for family gatherings or spruce up your house afterward, so you can rest.

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Take a holiday vacation
Who made up the rule that you have to go (or stay) home for the holidays, anyway? Why not take a cruise or hit the beach? Once you get used to the idea that you won’t be doing the same old, same old, a holiday vacation can be a lot of fun. The holidays are a great time to see someplace you’ve never been, enjoying special decorations, activities and foods you won’t get any other time of the year. And you can always do a traditional holiday celebration with the family when you return home.

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Set a budget
You might think the stress of the holidays should end on Jan. 1. But that’s not the case if you run up your credit cards and go overboard on your spending. Head that particular bugaboo off at the pass by setting a budget that won’t break the bank — and then stick to it. Even better, agree with your family and friends to spend no more than a small amount on gifts, or find ways to have fun for a low cost, like driving around to look at Christmas lights, followed by a small hot chocolate somewhere.

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Keep up your daily rituals
It’s tempting to let go of your regular routines during the holiday season, but don’t do it! Those routines help you stay sane and take care of yourself, which alleviates stress. Make your trips to the gym, evening reading, morning journaling, or afternoon coffee break nonnegotiable. Keeping up these activities will help you stay centered so you can tackle more of that holiday to-do list with renewed energy.

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Deliver gifts the smart way
If you’re traveling to visit family, you’re facing the challenge of how to take gifts with you. Opt for small, unbreakable gifts that fit easily into suitcases, and don’t wrap them until after you’ve cleared airport security. Or, ship them ahead of time, though be sure to hit the post office at least a few weeks before the holiday to avoid long lines. You might even order the item online and have it shipped directly to the recipient, a great option for relatives who don’t live in the same town as you do.

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Focus on what matters most
With all the excitement and busyness of the holiday season, it’s easy to get distracted or feel overwhelmed. Don’t let that make you forget what it’s all about. Whether it’s family, friends, giving, serving, spiritual celebration, or something else, be sure to savor each moment, be grateful and joyful, and make memories.

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