Don't look now, but most of October is already behind us, which means that Thanksgiving and the December holidays will be in our laps before we know it. That little reminder is meant not to send you into a haze of early holiday prep tasks, but rather to encourage you to look for ways of making this year's celebrations more relaxing, more meaningful, and less overstuffed than in years past. Here are five things you can start thinking about and planning for now.
1.) Focus on quality over quantity. Instead of buying more gifts, how about more personalized, more thoughtful, and more interesting gifts? Better yet, why not give experiences--dinner at a favorite restaurant, a night at the theater, a manicure and pedicure--instead of stuff? The same holds for other things that are abundant this time of year, like food, parties, and trips. Decide what's truly meaningful and special, and don't sweat the rest.
2.) Budget, budget, budget--and I don't just mean money. Sure, it makes sense to decide how much you want to spend on gifts and then to stick to your financial guns. But budgeting can also apply to time, effort, and other limited resources. Is the fleeting pleasure of handing someone an exquisitely wrapped package really worth 30 minutes of your life? Will trying to keep up with Martha on the cookie decorating front really make you happy? Budget what you're able to give in terms of cash, effort, and time, and commit to honoring your plan.
3.) Keep yourself sane by calling in help. Even the superwomen among us (and, really, who are they?) can't do everything on their own. This holiday season, give yourself the gift of hiring a sitter for an evening so you can simply have some downtime, ordering parts (or all!) of your holiday meals from a caterer to cut down on your time in the kitchen, or hiring a bartender for your party so you can focus on enjoying yourself and spending time with your guests.
4.) Take stock of what you have. Before you bring home batches of holiday essentials--a roasting pan, wrapping paper, Christmas tree ornaments, menorah candles, and so on--take the time to find out what you already have. Yes, this might mean doing battle with the clutter lurking in the attic or the hall closet, but you might just find that a bit of searching unearths a holiday goldmine, leaving you with more cash to sock away or spend on a stress-buster like a massage or lunch with friends.
5.) Get organized! (You didn't think I'd skip this one, did you?) Organizing your space, stuff, and schedule helps you save time and money, keep stress in check, and enjoy yourself more year-round, but especially at the holidays. Late October and early November--before the true holiday rush begins--are great times to get in gear on those organizing projects you've been planning to do. You don't need to overhaul every system in the house; focus instead on those that will have the most impact in the coming months. Set up a mail processing center, de-clutter your kitchen cabinets, tackle the hall closet, or clean out the guest bedroom. The time and effort you put into organizing now will save you lots of both a few months down the line.