DO Holidays – Start Spreading The News!

Let’s talk about holiday cards.  We love to get them.  We love the idea of sending them.  What we don’t love… paying for them, ordering or making them, trying to get our kids to all smile at the same time for a decent picture, addressing envelopes & buying stamps.

Being honest… holiday cards (Christmas cards for most of us) are a real pain in the, well, you know.  Purely from an organizational standpoint, it might make sense to cut them off your to do list in order to free up your holiday time.  But I just cannot bring myself to recommend that.  I love them too much.

And let’s look at it from another perspective.  Yes… we should be keeping in touch with our friends and family all year.  Yes, we should be sharing pictures of our kids and our pets and ourselves regularly.  But we don’t.  Some of us are better at these things than others, but in general, when it comes to navigating through the daily routines, sometimes staying in touch with those people you really adore but who aren’t in your immediate area gets pushed to the bottom of the list.  The holidays give us a chance to take a break and acknowledge those people and let them know that even though we may not have a chance to talk as often as we’d like, we’re still thinking of them.  In that way, holiday cards are actually a bit of a solution – send a little “love note” to all those you care about but save time by buying cards in bulk!

But if we’re going to do it, let’s make it practical.

1.  Review your list. 
You don’t need to send a card to every person you’ve ever met.  You don’t need to send a card to everyone who attended your wedding.  You probably do need to send a card to your best friend from college, your favorite aunt and your grandmother (even if she lives next door – grandma’s never get tired of getting cards from their grandkids!)  Feel free to pare down the list.  Decide on a number that’s practical for you (for me it is 75 – for you it might be just 10 or 20) and make your list fit that number.

2. Be flexible with pictures. 
Don’t have time to snap a family photo in front of the Christmas tree?  Dig out one of those pictures you still have stored on your camera (but haven’t uploaded to the computer) from your summer vacation.  Let your friends see your family on a day when your family really was having a great time.
And yes… your friends really do want to see a picture of YOU – not just your kids. 

3. Skip the picture! 
If you really don’t have any family pictures, just skip it!  Even a simple postcard that says Merry Christmas! and has your signature and a personal note will be appreciated.  Or you can add the kids school pictures to the envelope.

4. Get the kids involved! 
Now moms… I know you want to do it all yourself because your 4 year old just wouldn’t get it right.  But please give yourself a break and delegate.  Got a budding artist in the family?  Let them design the card.  Scan it in to your computer and have it printed.  
Or at least let the kids help with addressing the envelopes.  This year my 2 & 3 year-olds put the return address labels on the cards (so if you are getting one from me, don’t be surprised if the label is askew or upside down).  They don’t look as neat as if I’d done them myself but it saved me probably 5 minutes of time and they had a lot of fun.
(Tip… if you’re worried they won’t get the return address in the upper left corner, have them put in on the back flap of the envelope.)
Kids also like affixing stamps.  Just make sure you have them put it in the right spot.

5.  Divvy up the writing. 
Do you send cards to both his side of the family and hers?  Let your husband write/sign the cards for his family.  Or… let the kids help.  I bet your great aunt would love a personal note from your 10 year old.

6. Order your stamps online. 
Yes, you can buy stamps at every grocery store these days.  But most stores only carry the standard Liberty Bell Forever stamp.  If you want a special stamp – like Evergreens or Madonna & Child – you have to get them from the post office.  But don’t make a special trip.  Take 3 minutes after you read this and hop on over to USPS.com and order them.  For $1 shipping and handling they will show up in your mailbox in just a few days.

7.  Have FUN with it. 
Make the holiday card process fun.  Pick a night and have the family gather at the table to do the cards.  Make cocoa (or uncork a bottle of your favorite wine for you and your better half), pop some popcorn (unbuttered – you don’t want buttery fingers on your pretty cards!), turn on the Christmas music and enjoy thinking about all of those people you care about.

Want more?

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DO Holidays – Give It Away!

You’ve heard it before but it’s worth repeating.  One of the best ways to stay organized it to keep only what you need or you love.  Everything else is clutter.  It may even be very well organized clutter.  But it’s still clutter. 

So this holiday season as you are working on your charitable giving, consider how your clutter could be someone else’s blessing. 
Do you have coats that are still in great shape but not the right size (or style) for anyone in your family anymore?  There are many homeless shelters looking for coats.
Do you have diapers that your kids have outgrown but you can’t bear to throw those last 10 away because someone “might need them someday”?  Give them to your neighbor who just had a baby.

Do your kids have so many toys that anything Santa brings won’t have a spot in the toy bins?  Have them help you pick things that another child might love.
This is one of my favorite suggestions.  In fact, my kids and I did this a few weeks ago.  We have two boxes of toys and books that are still in great shape but just not of interest to them anymore.  The hardest part of this exercise for me was allowing them to decide what stayed and what went.  They chose to get rid of things that I loved and they chose to keep things that made me scratch my head.  But I kept my mouth closed and encouraged them to find those things that someone else might love.  And today we are heading to the donation center to drop them off.  This is an important step in my opinion.  Usually I have the truck pick my stuff up during the day right from our front porch.  But I want my kids to experience the actual giving away of the items.  I want them to hand them over and get that “Thank You” back from the man or woman collecting the boxes.  I hope they will come to learn that our stuff isn’t what defines us and that giving it to someone who could love it better than we can will set us free to enjoy new blessings.

DO Holidays – Making A List!

Santa does it, why don’t you?

Make a list & check it twice!

The holiday season is filled with things to make lists for.  Here are the ones I make each and every year.

1. Christmas cards
I start my list with the one from last year.  I cross off anyone I no longer want to send a card to (such as relatives who are no longer with us or people I just don’t keep in touch with anymore).  And I quickly write down anyone new to add (new friends from playgroup).  Next I do a quick look through my address book and make sure I haven’t missed anyone. 

2. Budget
I actually don’t do this at the holidays.  I usually do it in January so I can plan how much to move to my special Christmas savings account each month to meet my goal.  But that total dollar amount is divided up into categories and within the categories, into individual pieces.  My categories are: travel, tips, gifts for our kids, gifts for ourselves (my husband & I), gifts for family, shipping (our family lives out of town), and decorations.  I need to add a category for food.

3. Gifts to Purchase
Once you have a budget you can have some idea of what kind of gifts you want to purchase.  This list is best maintained throughout the year.  When you think of someone on your list, jot it down here so you can come back to it in November or December.  Write down the name of every person you plan to buy gifts for and next to their name your budgeted amount for them.  As you purchase things.  Write those down underneath their name and adjust your budget down.

4. Wish List
This is a fun list to make.  What do you want?  Write it down so when people ask you remember what to tell them and don’t just say “oh, I don’t need anything.”  They know you don’t need anything but they want to get you something.  And they want to get you something you’ll like.  So be kind and give them suggestions.

5. Decorating Planner
This is for your base decorations.  The things you plan to put up and leave up.  As you put things away this year, make a list of what you need to buy for next year’s decorations.

6. Party/Event Menu
Hosting the family New Year’s Eve party?  Make your menu early and buy things while they are on sale.

7. Advent Activities Calendar
Many families like to celebrate the coming of Christmas by planning a unique activity for each day in the month of December.  Write them down.  Have your kids help make the list.  This can also turn into a great craft if you (or the kids) want to make it something that can be interactive.

One great place to look for all the lists you didn’t know you needed is List PlanIt.  Their Holiday ePlanner is a great way to get started if you feel a little overwhelmed.  At just $7 it is an inexpensive investment in your sanity!

Quick Tip Thursday

Do you have an artificial tree that comes in multiple pieces?  Is it a challenge each year to find the cords and get each section connected correctly?

This year, when you are putting up (or taking down) the tree add labels to any cord that needs to be plugged/unplugged.  Labels can be in many different forms

  • printed labels from your trusty label maker
  • handmade adorable tags that look like ornaments
  • old bread bag closers that you write on

The keys to making it work are:

  • Make the label easy to see/find amidst all the branches
  • Make the label hard to remove (so it doesn’t get knocked off)

Next year when you drag that tree up from the basement you’ll get it lit on the first try (assuming you didn’t break any bulbs!)