Christmas planning

Reduce your mental holiday clutter


When people think about staying organized over Christmas, more often than not they focus on physical clutter, like organizing presents and decorations. However, over the busy holiday season, people can develop mental clutter that can make it difficult to truly enjoy the season. Many people have a lot to do over the holidays in addition to their regular jobs or tasks – there’s visits with family and friends, holiday parties, gift shopping, gift wrapping, decorating, and plenty of other obligations. This holiday season take some time to organize your mental clutter to avoid feeling stressed and overwhelmed.


Remember: you’re not in this alone

If you’re hosting a meal for family and friends, don’t think that you have to do everything yourself. Ask your guests to pitch in and help with the meal by bringing a side dish or beverages so you don’t have as much to do. Cooking a turkey and bringing it as a guest can be difficult, but if you handle the turkey, it is easy for someone else to bring a salad or vegetable. Desserts and appetizers are also easy to delegate to other guests.

 When you’re assigning items for guests to bring, be sure to write down what each person is bringing so you or another guest don’t accidentally make the same thing or forget to bring a dish. Make sure you know what everyone is bringing, and if they will need to heat up their dish or keep it in the fridge until the meal is served. This way, you can plan your own dishes accordingly.


Change your gifting habits

A lot of mental stress during the holidays comes from having to buy gifts for your friends, family members and co-workers. Not only is it difficult to come up with ideas, but shopping can be very time-consuming and financially draining. Consider reducing your gift consumption without sacrificing the fun of giving and receiving gifts. Instead, try drawing names for “Secret Santa” or hosting a gift exchange with a lower budget. This way, everyone still gets a gift, but you won’t have to spend the same amount of time or money.  

Gifts don’t have to be expensive, and they don’t have to be a tangible object either. Consider going out for a nice meal with friends instead of buying each other gifts or take a loved-one to an activity or performance. These “clutter-less” gifts don’t have to be enjoyed during the holiday season either – they can wait until sometime in the New Year, so you aren’t scrambling to fit everything in December. Postponing your gifts will also help keep your spending down during the holidays.


Take time to relax

There may be a lot you want to do over the holidays, but it is important to make sure to do set time aside to relax and spend time with friends and family. Plan on meeting with friends for lunch or set aside time for after-work drinks. If you really want to relax, a trip to the salon for a quick pedicure or manicure with friends might also be a good way to unwind. It doesn’t have to take up a lot of time but getting together can be a great way for you to take a break while spending time with your loved ones over the holidays. Finding time to get together can be more special than just sending them a gift.


Purchase supplies ahead of time

It’s not too early to start purchasing your groceries for the holiday meal. Start looking for sales on cranberry sauce, condiment spreads, crackers, pickles, and other non-perishable foods. Turkeys, hams and other meats and fish can also be purchased in advance and frozen – just be sure to give yourself enough time to safely defrost them before preparing. Some desserts and baked goods can also be made up ahead of time. You can start baking simple bars, dessert squares and cookie dough now and freeze them. Whenever you have people over or need a dessert, you can simply pull them out of the freezer before the meal, so they are ready to go when you need them.


It can be hard to have fun over the holidays when mental clutter is weighing you down. Take time to relax over the holidays and make visiting family and friends a priority. Do what you can ahead of time but remember that you don’t have to do everything on your own. Giving gifts is a popular holiday tradition, but it doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time or money. With these simple steps, you can enjoy the holiday season!  

Stay on track during the busy holiday season


Having a hard time keeping track of everything in December? The holidays are a busy time for many people, with parties, activities, and usual appointments and errands – and that doesn’t even cover everything that needs to be done! For many people, their “to do” list can be never ending. While you may have tasks written down or programmed into your phone with reminders, it can be easy to ignore them when times get busy and stressful. Here are some suggestions on how you can stop ignoring your to-do list and keep on top of all your tasks:

Use a calendar

If you have any appointments or events coming up this month, make sure you book them directly into your calendar, whether it is electronic or manual. With an electronic calendar, you can email yourself reminders in advance, so you won’t forget about them or double book yourself. By using a calendar, you can also get a good view of what other activities you have coming up in the week or month, so you can plan ahead. Don’t be afraid to use your calendar for smaller reminders as well, like when to defrost the turkey, when to wrap gifts, and when to go shopping.


Organize tasks into categories or projects

If you have a big project to work on or have multiple tasks that fit into one category (like “holiday meal”), only set one reminder to review the project or category. In your reminder you can list all of the tasks that need to be completed, but don’t set a reminder for each separate task. This will quickly fill up your calendar and can make you feel overwhelmed. By setting up only one reminder, you can keep all the tasks related to that one project or category together. When you categorize tasks or activities, you can focus on the big picture and stay on track..


Use a digital app for your lists 

If you prefer checking off tasks on a to-do list, consider using an app on your phone that will help you keep track of what you need to get done. Apps like ASANA and Wunderlist have robust search features and a great task list that can help you record everything. They even let you categorize tasks into separate folders, so you can keep all related tasks together in one place. With a digital to-do list, you can also set reminders to be emailed to you or sent to your phone. You also don’t have to worry about losing or misplacing your list if you keep it on your phone – some apps even have the option of exporting your list or accessing it on a desktop for added security.


Make it visible

When you’re figuring out what you need to do, make sure you record your tasks or events in a place that you are sure to check regularly. If you have a calendar in your office but you never go in there, then you shouldn’t use it to record your holiday events and tasks. Instead, use your phone or electronic calendar, which you may be more likely to check regularly. For families, it is also important to make sure everyone is on the same page. Consider syncing your online calendars together or setting up a large format calendar in your kitchen or family room where everyone can see it and stay up to date on what is going on and what needs to be done. You can also use it to delegate tasks to each person, so everyone knows what they are responsible for doing.


Don’t take on more than you can

You can only stay on track of your holiday tasks if you have a manageable number of tasks to complete. If you try to take on more than you are actually able, you will have a much harder time trying to get things done on time and done properly. Don’t be afraid to get help from family and friends for holiday tasks like preparing for meals, decorating, and shopping for gifts. It’s also okay to say no to events or activities if you can’t make room in your schedule. Instead, try and plan get togethers after the holidays, so you don’t have to worry about making time for everyone.


If you have a lot that needs to be done during the holidays, make sure you take the time to properly plan and organize your tasks, so you can stay on track during the busy season. Find a method that works for you – one that won’t let you ignore or forget important appointments, events, and tasks. During the holidays, you can stay on top of everything and still have time to enjoy the season!

Skip the holiday shopping rush!


It may only be October but before we know it, the holiday season will be here! In order to avoid the long line ups and last minute shopping in cold weather, try out these five suggestions on how to beat the holiday rush this season!

Order online

The easiest way to avoid the holiday rush is order your gifts from the comfort of your home - no need to worry about making it out to the mall after work or over the weekend. Instead, take time whenever you’re free to browse different retailers on line, and take advantage of sales or free shipping offers. If you aren’t always home during the day, you can have the items shipped to work. Some retailers will even let you ship items to the store, so you can pick it up during non-rush periods or whenever you have time.

Don’t wait around

Just because you’re shopping for the holidays doesn’t mean you have to wait for the holiday season to start shopping. You can start scoping out products or thinking of ideas year-round, as early as January! Whenever you get an idea or think of something that might work, write it down or purchase it in advance - don’t wait until the last minute. When you shop during non-peak or seasonal periods, you can often get good deals on popular items and cut back on your spending for holiday gifts. Just keep in mind that if you do start shopping earlier, you’ll need to have a place to store your items that is out of reach from prying eyes!

Make your gift

If you have a talent or hobby, put it to good use over the holidays and make your gifts from scratch! Not all gifts have to be extravagant and purchased from a store - homemade gifts are just as good, and even more special, because of the time you spent making it for your friends and family. Consider baking holiday treats and chocolates, and putting together gift baskets and boxes for friends and co-workers. If you like doing crafts, make a wreath or holiday centre piece that family can use to decorate their homes. If you have people on your list that are always busy or are going through a difficult time, consider pre-making frozen meals or putting together a meal basket with all the items needed to throw together a quick meal. Homemade gifts can be beautiful and practical!

Give an experience

What’s the best way to avoid the holiday rush? Don’t give a gift at all! Instead, give your friends and family the gift of an experience. Set-up a time to go on a movie night, participate in a cooking class, or go see a concert coming to town. This way, you don’t have to worry about making it to the store on time and wrapping a gift to give. Even better, experiences can be fun and memorable, without adding more clutter or objects to our homes and our lives. Going to a paint night or treating people to a nice meal out is something you can both enjoy together. It doesn’t have to be during the busy holiday season either. Make plans to go during a time that works best for everyone involved so you truly enjoy the experience without having to squeeze it in between other holiday events. A gift doesn’t always have to be a physical object.

Change your gift giving strategy

Shopping during the holidays can be stressful especially for people that have a long list of gifts to buy. Starting early and following the previous suggestions may help relieve the stress, might still doesn’t help the financial strain. Why not try changing the way you give gifts? Consider hosting a “Secret Santa” gift swap, or holding a gift exchange so each person involved is only responsible for buying one gift. Not only will it alleviate the time and money spent on gifts, it can make for a fun activity during the holidays! Also consider going together to buy one large group gift for someone. For example, if you’re buying a gift for your parents, decide on a larger item as a gift and go in together with your siblings. This way, everyone only needs to worry about one gift and you can share the responsibility of buying it, picking it up and wrapping it.

The holidays are supposed to be a peaceful and relaxing time, but end up being stressful because of the amount of events and tasks we “need” to do, like shopping for gifts. This year, skip the rush of holiday shopping and make sure you can actually enjoy the holiday season.