SIMPLIFY YOUR HOLIDAYS: Not an oxymoron

SIMPLIFY YOUR HOLIDAYS:

True confessions time. . .rather than face another Christmas season as a holiday-challenged person, you:

. . . would rather drown in a pool of Egg Nog;

. . . have contemplated a trip to uninhabitable territories between December 23 and December 26th;

. . . are considering scheduling elective surgery that will require the month of December to recuperate.

My idea of decorating for the holidays is to drag the box with the artificial Christmas tree into the family room, stack the unwrapped gifts on top of it, and top it off with the spaghetti tangle of barely twinkling lights.

But this season, there’s Ho-Ho-Ho hope for me this year.

In Simplify Your Holidays, organization expert Marcia Ramsland tackles the holidays with an eight-week plan designed to make Christmas a season of celebration, not stress.

This planner addresses all the details of the busy holiday season, including buying, wrapping, and sending presents, sending Christmas cards, home decorations, and cooking and baking. What sets this planner apart is a day-by-day plan that breaks every task into manageable pieces and a daily devotional journal that keeps the reader focused on the reason for all the activity, encouraging a spirit of praise, not panic.

She helps with:

  • gift ideas for the hard to please
  • a gift wrap center with seven key items
  • trigger dates to start shopping and buy early
  • decorating tips and how to get motivated

Marcia Ramsland has found a way to change seasonal stress into intentional success!  She believes everyone can find that calm and peace they are looking for.

1.     Every year the holidays come around and we face them with mixed emotions. You have a great book title of Simplify Your Holidays, but how do you simplify the holidays?
I love the dictionary definition of “simplify” – “To make something less complicated and therefore easier to do.” I can’t think of a more complicated time in the year than the holidays. Why? Because we are already busy 24/7 and then we add another layer of complexity to our lives – the holiday season.

In my view as a Professional Organizer, simplifying your holidays is all about having a meaningful Christmas without feeling overcommitted or under prepared. And my motto is: If you do anything more than once in life, organize it and simplify it. That’s especially true for the holidays that come year after year like clockwork.

I can’t think of a more complicated time or emotionally challenged season, but I also know you don’t have to stress to get through it.

2.    Were you always ready and organized for the holidays?
No way! Before I became “The Organizing Pro” I struggled with holiday pressures big time. I was stuck in the mall shopping for gifts at the last minute, standing in the rain looking for a “real” Christmas tree late in December, and staying up Christmas Eve wrapping presents. That was a stressful life I decided to change, and did years ago.

One day I sat down at the kitchen table determined to get control of the season. Looking at my calendar, it suddenly dawned on me — there was an easy way to manage it all! It all hinged on one date and, no, it wasn’t Thanksgiving.

Many people, myself included, have used Thanksgiving to trigger serious action steps for Christmas. It just didn’t seem right to commercialize Christmas by purchasing gifts before Thanksgiving. But that’s the problem. Waiting until after Thanksgiving does commercialize the holidays and puts us smack dab in the middle of a mall with throngs of shoppers.

3. So how did you change from frazzled to peaceful… and you now have a beautiful new three ring notebook, Simplify Your Holidays? And Sam’s Club just bought 15,000 of them! Good for you.
My first personal turning point came when I discovered one particular holiday occurs exactly eight weeks before Christmas — and it’s NOT Thanksgiving. It is Halloween. That event is important to note because the next day you can kick off your holiday plan on November 1 every year.

Noting that November 1 is your springboard to begin the holiday season means you have eight weeks until December 25. Now you have a structure to easily organize and prepare  — with a good plan. You’re back in control whatever day it is.

Once I figured that out, I found you can organize your holidays no matter how many weeks you have left before Christmas. In my book I have an 8-week, 4-week,  2-week calendar plans you can choose to guide you whatever day you start. The Plans are like a “holiday compass” that people use year after year to stay focused and take the stress out of the holidays.

4. What else can you tell us to ease the calendar stress for the holidays? My second discovery came when I noticed that almost all holiday events landed in the three weeks of December right before Christmas. Children’s school parties, the neighborhood cookie exchange, church events, civic symphony concerts, friends’ Open Houses, and an office potluck luncheon the last day before vacation. ALL fell into the last three weeks before Christmas.

No wonder we are stressed trying to buy gifts and partake in the busiest social season of the year. All these things are good, but it’s plain stressful to be listening to the Hallelujah chorus thinking about how many things you have to pick up on the way home and still get on-line to purchase gifts with “expedite shipping” costs involved.

5. Ok, but the thing I dread is going to the attic and basement dealing with all those holiday decorations that take up so much room. What can I do?
My third discovery came when I tried to simplify my holiday decorations after the holidays. It just seemed too much to put it all up so I thought I’d simplify it.
But alas, I found even charities would not accept holiday decorations after December 25. They had nowhere to store them until next year. That was the next discovery – if I store holiday decorations for 11 months of the year, then why do we hesitate about getting them up?

A recent poll showed most people take down their holiday decorations the weekend after New Year’s Day. If that’s the case, what date do we need to put them up to enjoy them for 4-6 weeks? Especially when they are taking up valuable space for 11 months of the year.
The answer? Pick a date (or weekend) to put up your decorations early every year so they can be enjoyed. Typically it’s either the first weekend in December, or even Thanksgiving weekend to be ready to turn the lights on December 1.  I found I’m happier the sooner I start and get full enjoyment of them for the season… and give some away each year.

6. Before you give us “10 Tips to Simplify the Holidays,” what’s in your notebook and why is it considered a classic Christmas planner to pull off your shelf and use year after year?
Once I got organized, I thought of every woman struggling to pull together meaningful holidays in an already busy life. So I created a hand made notebook years ago which my publisher picked up and is available right now on my website or wherever books are sold. This is a holiday planner you can pull off your bookshelf any time day or night and start the season.

The six tabs inside the three-ring notebook include: The Plan, Gifts, Cards & Decorations, Events, December 1-25 Inspiration, and Recipes. There are almost 200 pages of charts, table talk topics for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s,  room for photos, and even journal pages of “The Best Things that Happened This Christmas.”

Within those six tabs I’ve sprinkled “10 Tips from 10 Experts” covering things like 10 Money Saving Tips for Holiday Gifts, 10 Super Simple Holiday Décor Tips, 10 Holiday Tips for the Working Woman, 10 Tips to Serve Fabulous Food and Impress Your Guests, 10 Tips for a Successful Event, and 10 Tips to Celebrate and Not Gain Weight!

7. Give us your list of “10 Tips to Simplify the Holidays” especially for the busy woman starting to think about the holidays.
Did you know 75% of our holiday stress falls into three areas: gifts, cards, and decorations?  It that’s the case, then let’s find some new ways to make the seasonal activities more manageable.

10 Tips to Simplify the Holidays”
by Marcia Ramsland, http://www.OrganizingPro.com

1.    Gifts = 48% of holiday stress. Buy gifts in one major category or theme for the year.   For example, women love spa certificates, jewelry, or a luxury robe. Men appreciate sporting event tickets, restaurant certificates, or tools. Family gift themes can be sweaters, CDs, or books. Shop at one mall shop or online store.

2.    Gifts to Mail = Order your gifts on-line and “Ship Direct” to someone else in that household to wrap and hide. Offer to return the favor.

3.    Gift List = Use the same “Gift List” form each year after year, and list people in same order. Keep the list every year to get ideas so you don’t have to wonder “What did I give them already?”

4.    Cards =  13% of holiday stress! To simplify the process from now on computerize your address list and update the address changes easily thereafter. (And keep them in this notebook.) Involve the whole family to stick on the labels, return labels, and stamps. Keep the system simple.

5.    Decorations = 13 % of holiday stress! Sort your decorations early in December so you can give away the excess to a charity or newlyweds that can use them.

6.    Decorations = Take pictures of your holiday decorations in place to put in your Holiday Notebook. This is a good reminder of where everything goes next year and lets anyone help do the job correctly if you are pressed for time.

7.    Time = Decorate holiday events on your calendar with a hand drawn holiday wreath on holiday events. Usually events all fall in the last three weeks before Christmas, so get your gift shopping, decorating, and cards done early.

8.    Time = Stretch your limited social time by attending a Christmas event with friends and getting together beforehand or for dessert afterwards. Multitask two potential nights one memorable event by planning ahead.

9.    Heart = Purchase a holiday novel like The Christmas Box or a holiday devotional book to curl up with each night to get you through the season.

10.    Recap = Jot down in your holiday notebook or a journal “The Best Things that Happened to Me This Christmas.” Write about “This year I enjoyed…” and The Best memory of the season was …” Save this for next year’s encouragement.

Simplify your systems and continue to pare things down until you can easily manage them and enjoy the season. Ask, “What is it I like to do” and “How can I stay ahead of things to enjoy the season more?”

Any last words of encouragement for the woman who wants to pull together a meaningful (and peaceful!) holiday season?
This is your year! The Simplify Your Holidays notebook will help you create that organized Thanksgiving and Christmas you’ve dreamed of with all your notes in one place!  You’ll love its beautiful red cover, sturdy tabs, and attractive green charts.

To simplify your holidays, manage your time with our holiday plan and keep your notes all in this notebook. You will graduate from seasonal stress to intentional success!

Thanks for having me today. I truly believe you can simplify the coming holiday season and have a more meaningful season than ever!

P.S. Can you simplify your holidays this year? I truly believe so and am eager to know how you do it with my new book, Simplify Your Holidays. Start today by getting your notebook and downloading your FREE Master Gift List at http://www.organizingpro.com

Marcia Ramsland is well known as “The Organizing Pro” for her practical skills and tips to manage everything from a full calendar to paper piles at home and work. She is an entertaining speaker and author of three popular books, Simplify Your Life (2003), Simplify Your Time (2006), and Simplify Your Space (2007).

The “Organizing Pro’s” tips appear in Better Homes and Garden, Woman’s Day, and Real Simple magazines. Marcia is an international speaker appearing on radio and TV, and feels that anyone can get more organized with the right tips. Martha Stewart radio did a 20 minute live interview with Marcia Ramsland January 2008 on ways to “Simplify Your Space” and “5 Steps to Help a Child Clean their Room.” Kerry Nolan was the host on Sirius radio “Living Today.”

Marcia was one of four national Organizers featured in the Better Homes and Gardens special edition magazine, Secrets of Getting Organized. She is an expert at the HousekeepingChannel.com and her corporate clients include Kodak, First National Bank, and the U.S. Navy.

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9 thoughts on “SIMPLIFY YOUR HOLIDAYS: Not an oxymoron

  1. Pingback: 67 Days Until Christmas

  2. Yes. I’ve been following a Christmas Countdown from http://www.organizedchristmas.com for nearly 10 years now.

    Like Rebecca, I find the forms eerily familiar, and the plans very close.

    Heck! Even the stats quoted in this article look very much like an old poll at OrganizedChristmas.

    I’m not much for paying someone for things that are blatantly stolen. How very sad.

  3. Dear Rebecca and Lisa,

    Thank you for picking up on my error. The actual credit is given in the book to the poll from http://www.OrganizedChristmas.com, but I apologize that it did not get copied into the content for the blog tour.

    Here is the actual link directly to the poll:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20040602073511/organizedchristmas.com/survey-results-2—.html

    So credit and permission is given by Cynthia for the book. It was my error on the blog tour and I deeply apologize for that.

    Sincerely,
    Marcia Ramsland

  4. Pingback: 7 Ways to Share the Christmas Spirit

  5. I am the editor of OrganizedChristmas.com and need to clarify Ms. Ramsland’s response to commenters Lisa and Rebecca.

    I was approached by Ms. Ramsland in March, 2008 for permission to use poll data from our site in her upcoming book. I complied with this request.

    Unfortunately, Ms. Ramsland did not disclose that other elements in her book were highly similar to copyrighted materials offered at our Web site network since 1999.

    Specifically, I have NOT authorized Ms. Ramsland to use our printable planner forms, or to make use of their design elements throughout her book.

    While Ms. Ramsland and her publisher deny wrongdoing, the similarity is striking–and highly confusing. Compare our Master Gift List, to her list at page 43, for example, to see the problem:

    http://organizedchristmas.com/printable/christmas-countdown/master-gift-list

    To clarify: I have NOT given permission for this use. And I am heartsick that this “imitation” of my work appears in print–as it casts ME in the role of plagiarist.

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