For all the joy and magic of this festive season, there’s no doubt that Christmas brings with it a good deal of extra work and things to do. There are the parties and visits to and from friends and family… Then there’s all that present planning and buying, wrapping and giving… There’s all that extra food shopping and cooking and baking… And on top of all that, there’s also a considerable seasonal serving of extra housework.
Now, before I get all Ebenezer on you, let me just stress that I am a huge fan of Christmas. I absolutely love it. I think I enjoy it even more now than I did when I was a child. Having two small children of my own definitely adds to the magic and sense of excitement and wonder, but even in the quiet moments of planning and organising, the Christmas season always makes me smile.
This is in spite of the extra work, though, rather than because of it.
So, in my attempt to get maximum enjoyment from the festivities with minimum amounts of stress and frantic frenzies, I have a few ideas for a Calmer Christmas Karma. These are lessons I’ve learnt about what makes for a happier time for all concerned – not least, myself. (And why not, Christmas is for grown-ups, too!)
THE MPWH Guide to Calmer Christmas Karma
At Christmas time, the contents of most homes are swollen well beyond the norm, as we haul various trees and trinkets into our living space. These can be a source of great joy for the family. (My most cherished decoration is the twinkling wreath on the fireplace mantel, which I love so much that it stays in place well beyond Twelfth Night.)
However, to get full enjoyment from this festive festooning, it makes sense to clear some space for it beforehand. Christmas is going to bring a lot of extra ‘stuff’ onto the premises; cards, decorations, presents etc… Planning ahead for this invasion of good will and goodies, not to mention callers and carousers, will make for a less stressful and overcrowded backdrop for all the fun and frolics.
So now is one of the best times to deal with extraneous clutter. Alternatively, if we’re too far into the schedule to squeeze in that extra effort, another great option is storage. Removing, even temporarily, anything that will be in the way over the next few weeks will work wonders for your sense of calm, not to mention your enjoyment of your bedecked and bejewelled home.
(If you need some inspiration in this department, my current favourite read will provide that in gorgeous designer spades and that is Terence Conran’s book, Storage. Tis a joy to behold, packed with exquisite interiors and some great tips for getting a grip on what you give houseroom to.)
Christmas can become quite a large and demanding houseguest. Simply anticipating this and allowing or creating some room for it will help to ensure that its brief stay is a happier one.
Permission to slack
I love this idea which I found over on The Retro Housewife blog by Jenny Conlon, (a lady with a very grounded and realistic love of happy homemaking). Jenny gives an account of the joy to be found in ignoring the washing up and just reveling in the rituals of the season (ie curling up on the sofa with your loved ones and watching TV). Let’s hear it for this sense of reason amongst the onslaught of pressures to be perfect.
Whilst it’s true that some of the demands that Christmas brings are too important to ignore, (for example, no parent wants to see disappointed faces on Christmas morning), there are still many minor, self-inflicted chores which would not be too disastrous if left.
I believe my Libran mantra for life is particularly applicable at this time of year; Balance is Key.
If we start to think that Christmas is a headache or a bind or just a source of extra stress, then we’re missing out on the potential fun and joy to be had. It’s a time for celebration, not commiseration. Yes, there is work involved but that’s true of most things worth having.
So after a number of grueling, overworked Christmases, I have decided that this year will be different. And my solution for a happier time of it is to manage as best as I can without slipping into exhaustion, resentment or despair.
Tis, after all, the season to be jolly. So if jolly seems a long way off, see if you can let go of a few pressures that no-one will really miss. It also helps to bear in mind that ‘The Big Day’ doesn’t have to be a solo production. There’s no rule that says you must shoulder the entire burden on your own. Which brings me nicely onto…
Ask for help
We all like to appear capable and on top of it all. Which is great – if you are capable and on top of it all. But if you feel as though you’re fighting a losing battle, the most sensible thing to do is call for reinforcements.
Let’s face it, in many families, it’s quite often down to one person to think of everything and that may well be you. But think of everything does not necessarily mean do everything. Take a tip from some of the world’s most successful managers and achievers and… delegate.
You may even be doing your family and friends a favour. If you have guests, they would much rather be given a small task than feel guilty about doing nothing whilst you have a minor breakdown. Most people would prefer to help out. This way, they feel useful and part of the proceedings, as opposed to an additional burden.
Alternatively, if you’re feeling the strain of organising all the gifts, enlist any passing family member in collection or delivery or wrapping or hiding or assembling (whichever is appropriate). If you know what needs to be done and are wondering how to do it all, asking for help can be a surprisingly simple way of relieving your workload. Leaving you with a little breathing space to inject some enjoyment back into what is, after all, supposed to be a joyful experience.
Plan, plan, plan.
Yes, it is a busy time and sitting down with pen and paper (or laptop, if you prefer) may seem like an indulgence but it will, without a doubt, make you more efficient, organised and less-stressed than if you wing it from one chaotic flurry of busyness to another.
You’ve done Christmas before. You know the drill. You know the flash-points and the areas that lead to panic-inducing mania. Take advantage of your hard-won experience and use it to sketch out a calmer way this year. Picture a more serene and happy scenario, then plan ways to make that happen.
Getting ahead may sound boring and unexciting but it will free up so much more time and energy that you’ll be more able to find your fun and excitement in the magic of the season.
Turn chores into joys
What’s your least favourite Christmas chore?
For me, it’s wrapping. I find it monotonous, joyless and endless. So after too many years of approaching it as a necessary unpleasantness, I have developed a little plan:
I co-ordinate some time alone in the house (hooray for grandparents!), I stick on a favourite chirstmas movie, I stoke up the fire and arm myself with the relevant sustenance for the task (either Warnink’s or Nigella’s Santa’s Little Helper), et voila! I have turned a dull and boring task into something of a seasonal highlight. I’ve actually come to love this period of relative calm before the storm, happy in the knowledge that I am getting on with what needs to be done in the true spirit of Christmas: home, family, warmth, nostalgia, generosity and a cheerful tipsiness.
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So, there you have it, my little guide to staying sane and smiling amidst the festive madness. I hope you find it useful and as always I would love to hear what you think, especially if you have any tips of your own you’d like to share.
And finally, before I leave you and surrender to “the long, hard, glorious slog that is December” (as summed up so beautifully over on Brocante Home), I’d like to wish much peace and joy to you and yours over the festive season.
Have yourselves a merry little Christmastime.