10 tips for a holiday without hassle

The holidays are a wonderful opportunity to see old friends, enjoy time with family, celebrate the events of the year past and dream about the year approaching. But it’s also hectic, with shopping, wrapping, travelling, entertaining, and cleaning up after it all. The worst thing that can happen is to wish it all away, thinking you’ll be happy when it’s all over. It’s a lot of work, but these 10 tips will help keep you organized – and sane – putting the pleasure and joy back in this time of year.

1. Create a gift-wrapping zone

Save time and make wrapping presents a pleasure by transforming a spare room (or part of a room) into a gift-wrapping centre for the holidays. Set up a table or use a rolling cart to put out your supplies (gift wrap, scissors, tape, pen, cards and bows) and keep everything you need in one place. Create the right atmosphere by adding some festive music, a scented candle and a cup of hot chocolate to get you into the holiday spirit.

2. Store items near their point of use

Save steps and precious time by storing things close to where you use them. For example, save yourself a trip up the stairs to the linen closet by keeping your tablecloths in a drawer, cupboard or chest in the dining room. It makes entertaining a breeze!

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3. Repurpose your gift-wrap tubes

Use your empty gift-wrap tubes to store mini-lights. Put a slit in each side of the tube. Insert the plug at one end and wrap the cord all the way around the tube, tucking the bottom of the light strand in the slit at the other end. Store the tubes in a garment bag hanging from a hook on the wall, or the ceiling in the basement or garage.

4. Run errands efficiently

Keep a collapsible crate in the trunk of your car for easily transporting items to a dinner party or for things to return like library books or store-bought items you want to take back. It folds out of the way quickly when not in use.

5. Get unplugged to create more time over the holidays

Do you feel like there’s so much to do and so little time? Challenge yourself to unplug the TV for one full week and notice how much more you can do in all the free time you’ll have.

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6. Let go of the excess

You don’t have to keep decorations forever! When you are unpacking your holiday decorations, consider letting go of the items you no longer enjoy looking at. Our tastes change and styles come and go. There’s no rule that says you have to keep every decoration forever – especially that tacky plastic flower arrangement your ex-mother-in-law gave you 20 years ago! Give some away to charity, or if you have family or friends who have recently moved into their own place, ask if they’d like to have them until they accumulate their own collection.

7. Keep track of your gift certificates

Gift certificate? What gift certificate? Gift certificates are easy to give and great to receive, but are often lost and forgotten until they expire. Keep your gift certificates in an envelope in your purse or your car and put a reminder on your calendar one week before the expiry date so you can use and enjoy them.

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8. Return unwanted items

Return items in a timely fashion to save money and space. Whether it is buyer’s remorse or dissatisfaction with an item after we’ve brought it home, we all have things to return to the stores at some point – especially after the holidays. A problem arises when these “to be returned” items accumulate in every part of our home and we forget we have them. Most store return policies only allow seven to 14 days for a full refund. To recoup money and reclaim space, designate a small area (preferably near the exit you use most) to place things that are on their way out. A box or basket may be helpful if you have several items. Tape the receipts to the purchases and schedule a time in your planner to take them back before it is too late.

9. Pay yourself first

Block time now to give yourself a break later. Choose a day (or at least half a day) during the holidays to do what’s fun for you. You can spend it skating, relaxing at the spa, or taking in a movie. The important thing is that you feel renewed and refreshed because you gave the gift of pleasure and relaxation to yourself.

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10. Avoid holiday over-load

Limit social engagements to only those you truly want to attend. Book some downtime between social events so you don’t feel overextended. Schedule only 75 per cent of your day to allow for traffic delays, long line-ups and other unexpected occurrences.

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