Thursday, 25 July 2019

Stress-Free Guide to Festive Planning

Say the word 'Christmas' outside of December and it really divides people. In fact, a few weeks back I started talking about Christmas on my Twitter account and I lost a dozen followers in the same hour. Coincidence? I don't think so. But to hell with the naysayers and Scrooges of the world, I love Christmas and I'm going to talk about it right now.

stress-free Christmas planning
Paige Weber | Unsplash

Note: Thrice Upon a Dream has now moved to Wonder and Grey!

When I first heard of Christmas in July, I knew that I wanted to do some kind of blog post but I wasn't sure what direction to take. Ultimately I've decided to share my Stress-Free Guide to Festive Planning and talk a little about what I do to help alleviate the stresses of the holiday season.

Even though Matt generally handles all of our family's admin stuff, the Christmas planning falls on my super festive yet somewhat weary shoulders. It's great fun but it's not without its challenges and stresses.

Christmas 2019 is already set to be the most stressful Christmas of my life. Not only do we have limited time and resources as a result of having our wedding, honeymoon and Mini's birthday in close succession in the two months leading up to the big day but I'm also still coming to terms with my life as a "spoonie" and what I can realistically achieve without causing myself to burn out. There's also a high chance that my laparoscopy will take place in December which will take me out of action for a week while I recover so... yeah. It's going to be a fun one!

How to Have a (Relatively) Stress-Free Christmas

If you also find the holidays to be stressful, the best advice I can give to you is: start planning as soon as possible. 

If you start now and do things in bite-sized tasks, it will be a lot less stressful than having a massive to-do list in December or even worse, trying to get it all done on Christmas Eve.

Write a list and check it twice

The best place to start when Christmas planning is to make a master list of everyone that you're buying presents for or sending Christmas cards to. Make note of any ideas or budgets you have for each person next to their name. And then do this - take a photo of the list using your phone and place the original in your purse/wallet. If you forget the list, you can refer back to the photo you took on your phone!

Whenever you go out shopping, consider the names and ideas on your list and if you stumble upon a suitable gift that you can afford to buy immediately, do it. I can't tell you how many times I've seen the "perfect gift" for someone only to forget what it was or where it was from. You also run the risk of never finding it for the same bargain price again.

Top Tip: If you've got the time and access to the internet, a quick Google before buying the item will give you an idea of if it's the best price available.

Once you've bought a gift, make sure you highlight that person's name on your list so you know that their gift is sorted. Then make sure you put the list back in your purse/wallet. Repeat until every name on your list is lit up like fairy lights on a Christmas tree.

If you're more "DIY" than bargain buys, check out my Pinterest board for fab Christmas DIY gift ideas! Be aware that if you opt to go down the DIY route, you'll want to start making your gifts as early as you can possibly can to avoid it all building up later on.

Wrap as you go

You've bought the gift and now it's out of sight, out of mind until closer to the day, right? Wrong! Wrapping presents is a tedious task whether you've got one present or thirty but encouraging yourself to wrap as you go means you won't end up forced to wrap everything up in one sitting when you'd much rather be doing something fun with your family or friends.

Just take five minutes, wrap up that gift and don't forget to write a name on it!

Buy gift wrapping essentials first

Since you'll be adopting a 'wrap as you go' mindset, you'll need to have all of your wrapping supplies ready. 

I'd love to tell you that we have a dedicated wrapping station because hello, that is the dream right? But we don't. We have at least six different sellotapes knocking about but never know where to find them when they're needed so we always have to buy new ones.

Before you start shopping, think about how you want to wrap your gifts. Once upon a time, Matt's signature gift wrapping style was brown Kraft paper secured with a festive ribbon and then I came along and shattered it with my £1 rolls of fun and colourful wrapping paper. It's cheap and cheerful and gets the job done. But that being said, gift bags and boxes might cost more but they will save you time and effort so it's worth bearing that in mind if you want a particularly stress-free Christmas!

Here's a little list of bits and bobs you might need:
  • Gift wrap/bags/boxes
  • Sellotape
  • Gift tags - card or stickers (or just write the name on with a Sharpie)
  • Sharpie or pen of choice
  • Ribbons, bows, etc (aka "extras that make your gifts look more presentable")

Write those cards ASAP

Pick up Christmas cards as early as possible - ideally around December 26th when they are often more than 50% off! But since it's July, I'm going to guess that you might not have any to hand just yet.

As soon as your Christmas cards, you need to start writing them out. It's tedious, I know but once it's done, it's done. Again, the motto is to avoid doing anything last minute.

plan your festive activities wisely

One of the most stressful parts of the holiday season is planning all the activities! You've somehow got to balance everyday life with seeing family and friends, attending work parties and a million and one other fun things. I don't normally suffer from FOMO but at Christmas, I definitely feel the pressure more.

Since Mini is still a baby really, our festive activities are limited to visiting Father Christmas in his spectacularly decorated grotto, the odd parade and seeing a lot of Christmas trees and/or light displays. It might not seem like much but even that can be exhausting. As he gets older, we'll have to start factoring in even more activities and maybe I'll need an entire planner dedicated to Christmas.

Planning out activities as early out as possible is crucial for a stress-free festive period. Your time and energy levels are not infinite so don't be afraid to say "no" to events if you think you might be stretching yourself a bit thin. If you fancy chilling at home, getting all cosy and watching Christmas movie marathons - do it! You don't have to be all action, all the time.

Don't forget the food

It's probably wise to write a Christmas grocery list as early on as possible too. I'll be honest - I don't actually handle the grocery shopping side of things. It's the only part of Christmas planning that I delegate back to Matt because I hate the whole Christmas supermarket experience. They are always rammed, regardless of what time or day you choose to go, and I get easily flustered in crowded scenarios. Matt, on the other hand, just sees a busy shopping experience as a mild inconvenience.

I know that the best way to avoid going into a supermarket at this time of year is to do an online shop but what puts me off taking that route is that stock is limited. In my opinion, everything on that Christmas grocery list is an essential so it's not worth risking having your shopping turn up on Christmas Eve sans pigs in blankets. And yes, this is something that has happened before. I really missed those pigs in blankets that year.

I guess what I'm saying is, if you can delegate this task over to someone else - do it.

Don't forget that certain Christmas must-haves like Bisto gravy or tubs of chocolate will be on offer a few months before Christmas and then be drastically marked up once the demand starts to increase. If it will still be in date over Christmas and it's on offer, just buy it and cross it off your list.

take time to relax

I know it's easier said than done especially at the busiest time of year but the most important point in my stress-free guide to festive planning is that you don't overdo it. If you don't take the time to rest, you'll burn out faster than a kid can eat all the chocolate in an advent calendar.

Practising self-care is so important so please don't ignore your own needs. Do whatever it is that makes you feel most relaxed, rest as much as you can and try not to put yourself in overtly stressful situations.

Above all, make sure you have yourself a merry little Christmas.

Thank you so much for stopping by to read my 'Stress-Free Guide to Festive Planning'! I hope you've enjoyed it and that it's given you some useful tips. I'll be back with some more Christmas posts a little bit closer to the big day.

What do you do to keep your Christmas as stress-free as possible? Let me know in the comments below!

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