How to save time this holiday season
The holidays are one of the busiest times of the year. There's so much to do, between shopping, planning, baking, wrapping and hosting, that fitting it all in can seem next to impossible. Before you panic (and vow to spend next Christmas on a deserted island), we have some simple time-saving tips that will help take the edge off your anxiety and ideally leave you more time to relax and enjoy the festive season.
Edit your must-do list
First things first: Take a long, hard look at all the tasks you've laid out for yourself. Are all of them absolutely necessary? Chances are there are at least a few you can cross off. We all tend to get ambitious at the beginning of the holiday season, but do you really need to make your own wrapping paper? Does your gingerbread house really need a three-car garage and a wraparound veranda? Getting into the festive spirit is great, but don't take on more than you have time for. Keep your must-do list to the necessities – buying gifts, decorating the tree, getting the house ready for guests, etc. Anything else can be slotted in if and when you have time.
Ask for help
There are no rules that say you need to do everything around the holidays. You might take on more seasonal tasks because you love this time of year, but all of that joy goes out the window when you barely have time to breathe, let alone enjoy the season. Avoid trying to tackle your entire to-do list alone. There's no point in running yourself ragged, and the more you involve your family, the more festive you'll feel. Create a list of tasks, and divide and conquer. If your kids are old enough to help out, give them age-appropriate jobs. If they're too young, think about getting a family member to babysit one evening a week so you and your husband can hit the mall, decorate, clean or do whatever you have to do more efficiently.
Try a bake swap
Instead of baking 10 different varieties of cookies, organize a bake swap among your friends, family members or neighbors. That way you only have to bake one big batch of one type of cookie, which is a lot easier than trying to keep multiple recipes (and ingredients) organized and at the ready. Have everyone choose a recipe, send around the list via email so there are no doubles (or food allergy issues) and choose a date for the swap. Everyone gets several tasty treats while only having to bake one kind. It's win-win!
Wrap as you buy
It can be so easy to simply stash gifts as you buy them – until you have a mountain of presents that all need to be wrapped on Christmas Eve. Rather than leave yourself with such a daunting task, wrap gifts as you buy them. Have a table or small work area set up with all of your wrapping paper, tape, gift tags, scissors and bows so that every time you bring a gift home, it's easy to get it wrapped. That way you won't be scrambling to get everything in a box or a bag at the last minute.
Draw names for gifts
If you have a particularly large family, drawing names for gifts (like a secret Santa scenario) can alleviate a lot of shopping stress and financial strain. You can buy for all the kids, but the adults should draw names a month or so before Christmas and whatever name you pick, that is the one person you buy for. Having an endless pile of gifts under the tree is always nice but buying dozens of gifts for your dozens of aunts, uncles, cousins and everyone in between can feel overwhelming – and isn't necessary.
Make dinner a pot-luck
Planning a menu, shopping and cooking for a large group can be stressful, especially when you already have a never-ending holiday task list. If you're really feeling squeezed, why not make your holiday dinner a pot-luck? You can supply the turkey and stuffing (or whatever main course you choose) and then get family and friends to contribute appetizers, sides and desserts. This is also a fun way to get everyone involved in the meal, rather than one person flitting in and out of the kitchen the whole night.