Ditch the seasonal stress and become an oasis of calm and festive cheer this Christmas!
I’m every woman. No, really, I am. I’m a wife, I’m a mother, I’m in charge of cooking, cleaning, ironing, ensuring homework gets done, lunches are made, bags are packed, I’m responsible for running the varied family timetable to precision with all its different—and frequently overlapping—activities day in and out. Oh, and did I mention I work? Plus we have pets. So, you see, I am every woman.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas; but it does stress me out. It’s a logistical nightmare. Presents, activities, present wrapping, food shopping, keeping the kids (and the relatives) entertained in the run-up to the Big Day, let alone when they’re all together… It’s hard work. Time is of the essence if, like me, you haven’t got enough hours in the day even before the Christmas madness truly hits.
But over the past few years, I have perfected the system for taking the stress out of Christmas, at least where the logistics of present organising and wrapping are concerned. This year, I set a personal record of getting it all done in a total of twelve hours over two days. And if I can do it, so can you.
Day 1: Preparation and Online Bonanza
1. Make a list of lucky gift recipients (15 minutes)
I know it’s obvious, but a list has to be your starting point. Without a plan, this whole operation won’t work. Make an honest and exhaustive list; put everyone on it who you will want to shower with gifts. Kids, husband or wife, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, aunties, uncles, friends, long lost relatives in outer Mongolia, the old lady up the road who always takes in your parcels. Leave no one out.
2. Brainstorm (45 minutes)
Once you’ve got your list, populate it with ideas. The children will have given you a wish list—transfer all the items on your list mercilessly. (This doesn’t mean you have to get all of it, but at least you won’t forget any of it!) Think of things your husband would like, your parents-in-law, your own parents… No holds barred. Allow yourself to be creative.
At the end of this stage, your list must show ideas for everyone, however small or general the idea may be. For example, for the lady down the road who always takes in your parcel, “a nice Poinsettia” will be a good placeholder until you get shopping. For your five-year-old glitter-obsessed niece, “glitter art” will be a perfect reminder of what to look out for. You get the idea.
3. Go online (2 hours maximum)
Now you’ve got ideas brimming over, go online and go crazy, especially for the Big Things. A well-known search engine will pull up for your convenient comparison all manner of online retailers with their respective prices if you simply type in what you are looking for. When you see something that suits your budget, pounce. Buy it, and have it delivered to your house wherever possible. Don’t spend hours dithering and ensuring you get the absolutely best possible deal to the last penny; there simply isn’t time.
Right. Well done. You’ve got the big pieces in place. Cross them off your list and breathe. You are done for today.
Day 2—Real life shopping
This is crucial final stage of your new grand master plan. You need to set aside a day to bite the bullet and Get It Done. Also, you want to think of the one store that will satisfy at least ninety percent of your outstanding shopping needs. In my case, that store is a local independent art and toy shop that also sells magazines, calendars, knick-knacks, stationery, and haberdashery. It’s a veritable treasure trove, and the prices aren’t too different from online retailers. (I know. I checked).
4. Go shopping crazy (2 hours)
So, pick one shop, and go for it. Grab a basket or a trolley and pile in items from your list, but also other items that inspire you. The beauty of going into a small(-ish) store with a varied but manageable stock is that you get loads of new ideas. The important thing is to put things in your basket when you see them, even if you’re not quite sure how you might use them. What’s in your basket, you don’t have to hold in your head. Simple.
After an hour or so, take stock of what you have and allocate items to the people on your list. (You remembered to bring your list, right?) Write down who might like what; this is important because in four hours, you might not remember who’s supposed to have the Tattoo Art. You’ll find that some of the New Things You Found Along The Way will fill some amazing gaps on your list. And if there are any items in your basket that on reflection you don’t want after, you can put them back on your way out.
Continue browsing until you’ve got everything and everyone covered. If you’re finding that to be impossible, keep going until no more than three or four items/people remain unaccounted for. Your goal at this stage is to Get The Bulk Of The Presents That You Didn’t Order Online, but remember, two hours is the max. Then: Brace yourself and pay.
5. Have a break. Lunch, or a nice slice of cake (30 minutes)
Retire to an eatery and take stock. Work out where you can get the remainder of the presents that you need. For example, this year, I frequented a local bookstore. If you have to resort to multiple mini-buys, think strategically about where the shops are and write out the order in which you want to visit them. Ideally, this will be working your way back towards the car park or, in my case, the bus stop. Then: ready, steady, go!
6.Get the rest of your presents (1 to 2 hours max!!)
7. Go home
Wahoo! Home-time. You’ll be filled with the “oh wow, I did it” glow, and the sense of relief will be overwhelming. But calm yourself, the day’s not done yet.
8. Make a strong cup of tea or coffee and put the Christmas music on
If you don’t have to drive again today, you might also treat yourself to a mug of mulled wine. This is important because next you will…
9. Wrap the presents (1 to 2 hours)
Yes. You must wrap the presents. I know, I know. You’ve worked hard, you’re tired, your feet hurt, you just want to chill. The wrapping can wait.
Not! No no no no no. Give yourself a pep talk and get on with it. Of course you’ve bought wrapping paper, labels, and ribbons. (Add them to your list now). So: just do it. This is the final frontier. Belt out the Christmas tunes as you go and munch on some mince pies for sustenance.
Watch the pile of festive goodies grow as you work, and feel the magic seep through your bones as you realise you are on the homestretch. You’ve done it. You’ve conquered Christmas. Hooray! Now all you need to do is hide the presents, and then you can put your feet up. Tomorrow, you’ll be the smug one ambling to the school gates and going to work in a state of unprecedented, zen-like calm. You are the Festive Goddess. You are in control. Everything else is a doddle.
And why does this work? The secret is all in the prep work. The list, and the ideas, and the grand plan for shopping.
Well done you, and Merry Christmas!
Psssst…. Don’t forget to come back and tell me how you got on!