Friday, December 24, 2010

Frantic Friday #9 - Peace, Joy, and Contentment

My kids and I were watching the NORAD Santa Tracker together this morning, and as we "watched," Santa flew over the Philippines and delivered millions of gifts.  My kids are so excited that Santa has already left the north pole and is on his way.

Today is a day of baking, cleaning and enjoying each other before the craziness of the holidays throws things into overdrive tomorrow. It is the calm before the storm if you will.

I hope your weekend is filled with peace and joy, whatever holiday you celebrate. May your tummies be full and your hearts content.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Prepared Binder.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holding My Breath

This is the time of year I find myself holding my breath. The holidays are almost done, and in a few short days everything will be packed back up and put away.  My house will be clean, my routine will be restored, and my life will return to normal.

As a kid my least favorite day of the year was December 26.  It was just so depressing.  There was an entire year until I could celebrate Christmas again.  Now as an adult, I find the day to be inviting and relaxing.  I look forward to the calm after the storm.

You may wonder what this has to do with my main topic, (which I know I sometimes forget...), organization.  For me, the holidays are an overload of organization.  I start the planning in October, I start the shopping in November, and then I decorate and finish up in December.  That is a lot of organization for one event on one day.

I am sure I could find a way to simplify, in fact I should simplify, but my brain will always go through the exercise of thinking it through, planning it out and implementing a strategy.  I know myself well enough to know it will always be the same.

This year I am committed to enjoying things no matter how they turn out. (Did I mention I am making BBQ for X-mas dinner this year?) After it is all over I will take a deep breath and get back to my regularly scheduled programming.  I may even take a week off from organizing...who knows?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Frantic Friday #8 - How Many Days Left? Aack!

Today is the Friday before Christmas. (I don't count next Friday because it is Christmas Eve, and as far as I am concerned, that is also Christmas.)  Today is the traditional day for women to look at the calendar and freak out. Men of course will wait until Christmas Eve to freak out.

The following things will occur to us:
  1. We are still missing presents.
  2. We have not mailed all the Christmas cards. Please Note: We have mailed the first batch of cards, it is the second group, the cards that go to the unexpected people who sent us cards, that we haven't sent out.
  3. We have no idea what we are serving for Christmas Dinner.
  4. We have not wrapped a single gift.
  5. The house is a mess.
  6. We only have X days until the Mother In Law arrives.
  7. We are stressed.
  8. The kids will be home from school for 2 weeks. Please Note: Depending on the age of your children, this is either a good or a bad thing.
  9. We haven't finished the homemade gifts we planned to give out.
  10. We are NOT ready for the holidays.
If you made it through that list and have not felt your heart tighten and your breathing shallow, then I congratulate you on a job well done.  For most of us, this list is far too close to home.

So this week is the traditional "Don't Sleep Until You Have It Finished" week.  By next week you will see an army of sleep deprived people walking around after their attempts to "deck the halls" has left them grumpy and exhausted.

What advice do I have, you might ask? It is the same advice I gave in the last blog...simplify!  Figure out what is important, what you can realistically do, and pace yourself.  This holiday will happen whether or not you are ready, and whether or not you are stressed. Your choice.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The December Crazies - Symptoms and Cure

Every year when the weather turns cold, multiple illnesses reemerge in the general population. In addition to generic cold and flu viruses, there are a myriad of social ailments which resurface. The focus of today's discussion is the December Crazies.

The December Crazies can be defined by the following symptoms:
  1. Crazed look in the eyes
  2. Total lack of manners
  3. Frantic grabbing of items off the shelves in stores
  4. No awareness of others around them, unless to express annoyance
  5. Disdain for the caroling bell ringers at the doors of stores
This condition is usually temporary, brought on by increased stress and impending visits from relatives.  Complications to the December Crazies include permanent annoyance at other human life and maxed out credit cards.

To avoid the December Crazies it is important to do the following:
  1. Take things into perspective.  The perfect gift really isn't that big of a deal.
  2. Avoid human contact when you are stressed and ready to yell at others.  This may require long periods of time alone.
  3. Get adequate sleep, which may require you to forgo the usual decking of the halls.
  4. Schedule only what you can actually accomplish.  This includes parties.
  5. Watch calming holiday movies in lieu of frantically completing an assortment of homemade presents and goodies.
When the month of December has passed it is important to not feel shame for your December Crazies. Acknowledging the problem is the first step towards resolution.  While the memory of the ailment is fresh in your mind, take these steps to prevent its re-occurrence:
  1. Apologize to injured friends and relatives. 
  2. Finish consuming holiday treats to eliminate further visual representations of the December Crazies. 
  3. Pack away decorations, gift boxes and holiday cheer.
  4. Carefully and quickly pay all bills to avoid the January Heart Attack. (see discussion of January Heart Attack in future post)
  5. Return to normal life activities.
Remember, knowledge is power, and the December Crazies is a preventable condition.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Motivational Monday #29 - Getting It All Done (Or Not)

Every year about this time I realize the lists I make may just take over my life.  With halls to be decked and carols to be fa-la-la-la-la'ed, my time is spoken for from mid November until it all gets put away in January.  It is as if 2 months of my life have been consumed by a giant to-do list.

Just for the record, I want my life back.

Please don't misunderstand, I generally love lists.  They help me keep track of things and I am more efficient when I have a plan.  Unfortunately, during the holidays, lists become long scary monsters with oodles of items which repopulate themselves every time you mark something off.

If you take a quick look at my list you will find many silly items which could be put off for another time.  As an example, I finished two quilts for presents last week, then I promptly started another blanket.  I was thinking I might as well do it while the machine was out, but who am I kidding?  I was just avoiding the other things on my list!

Today I ran around to multiple stores to make sure I had all the odds and ends dealt with so I could relax next week. Once again, who am I kidding?  The odds and ends will never be complete...never.

Sometimes I think this season should be renamed "The Odds and Ends" season, as we are consistently stressing over the small details to make everything perfect.

So how do you get it all done if the to-do list is overwhelming and the odds and ends never go away?

Here are a few suggestions:
  1. Identify Priorities - For you it may be traditional activities, presents, the meal or maybe just a few days of relaxation.  For others it is the religious component or the symbolism.  Identify what is non negotiable for your season.
  2. Identify What You Will NOT Do - There are some traditions which are not worthy of repeating.  As an example, I will never again shop on Christmas Eve.  I will not stand in long lines to have a picture with Santa, and I will not have a big meal at noon.  Given those parameters, I know that I have to plan so those things don't happen.
  3. Identify "Down" Time - Your entire life can not be (and should not be) about the holidays.  Figure out when you will be a "normal" person and participate in activities you find relaxing and/or invigorating.  Too much time spent on the to-do list or in trying to deck the halls will leave you a very grumpy scrooge.
  4. Don't Overdo It - Every year millions of people spend more money than they have, over schedule themselves, and in the end become super stressed about the holidays. If you are miserable, you are not having a good time.  I know that sounds obvious, but so many of us torture ourselves in the name of being happy.  hmmm. Not a good idea.
So the answer to the question, "How do I get it all done?" is simply:  Don't.  Just don't.  Do what is important, what you have time to do, and what brings the most joy.  Ignore the stuff you hate, eliminate the traditions that make you cringe, and revise your list to include only that which is realistic. After all, 'Tis the Season to cut back...falalalala...lalalala!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Responsibility - Or Lack Thereof - Re-Visiting High School

Every so often I have a spare moment to reflect, and recently I realized how different my responsibility level is now that I am an adult. I remember thinking I was the most responsible kid on the planet when I was in high school.  Now I just laugh.

I'm sure you have heard at least one person in your life talk about going back to high school to do it all over again.  I don't know if I could.  While it was not the most socially pleasant time in my life, I think the hardest part would be the lack of responsibility I would have.  I'm not sure once you have responsibility you can easily give it up again.

I think I would feel "off" if I didn't have kids to take care of, a home to maintain and bills to pay.  Much of my identity is wrapped up in what I am responsible for each day. I'm not sure I would be comfortable thinking about only myself and not those I need to care for. (Once again, not a comment a teenager would make!)

One thing I would enjoy about redoing high school is the perspective I now have. For some reason who shares my locker is not the drama it once was. I also do not care who sits with whom at lunch, or who is taking whom to the dance.  In the long run it really doesn't matter.

Another thing that would be better is the homework.  I remember thinking it was so hard, and so much effort.  I really wanted to do other things.  If homework was my only responsibility other than cleaning up my room I think I would now give it a lot more attention.  Looking back, I was surrounded by many amazing teachers who had knowledge I was too naive to take advantage of.

During all of these musings I realized the things I would enjoy now about high school all stem from my current understanding of responsibility.  Responsibility gives perspective, and perspective changes priorities.  While the road to more responsibility can be tough, and perspective can be a hard won creation, I find the priorities I have now show how far I have come in life.

In a few years, I am sure my priorities will have changed again and I will see more personal growth.

They say you can't go back, and I think they may be right.  It is impossible to unlearn what you know.  It is impossible to undo the growth you have experienced.  It is also impossible to un-feel the responsibility you have earned.  And who wants to go back anyway?  I have already climbed that hill.  Now it is time to climb the mountain ahead.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Motivational Monday #28 - Deck the Halls With Organization

December can be a crazy time.  Even if you don't celebrate the holidays, the extra hustle and bustle in the stores can create a frenzied pace for almost 6 weeks.

After the carols have died down, the yummy food has been eaten, and the family has gone home, it will be time to get back to real life.  Real life, unlike holiday time life, has a lot more to do with going through the routines of daily existence.  We have to pay bills, take care of daily chores like dishes and laundry, go to work, plan regular activities, and take care of the unexpected events that come our way.

While it is tempting to spend the entire holiday season in a blur of festivities, it really makes sense to use this time to prepare for our "real" life starting January 2.  Often we see family and can collect information we would need in an emergency.  We have the chance to sit down with loved ones and talk, so it makes sense to make plans for the future. We also receive year end statements with account numbers, contact information and balances. Using these resources can be a valuable asset for planning ahead.

So please enjoy the beautiful lights and the scrumptious food this season.  Enjoy the family and friends, as well as the charity and warmth that marks this time of year.

When you have finished your traditions of food and family, go ahead and start a new tradition.  Talk with your family, update your family plan, organize your records and be ready for the new year.  Maybe this year your organization will be done before January 1, and you can have a brand new resolution!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Frantic Friday #7 - Is it December Already???

You may be wondering if I fell off the planet, as I have only posted once this week.  No I have not fallen off the planet, I have however been given a healthy dose of December.

Once again you may be scratching your head and wondering how I could be in over my head when it is only the third of the month. If I am cooked already on the third, I will be really overdone by the actual holidays.

Here is my excuse, December snuck up on me.  It jumped out from behind a bookcase and yelled "Surprise!!!!" It so frightened me that it took a few days to really grasp the meaning. Wow!  I have only a few weeks to pull off the memory laden season I remember with glee from my childhood.

As I contemplated the packages, the decorations, the food and the festivities, I realized I have no energy to pull it off.  Even worse, if I try, I will be the biggest Scrooge out there, so here is my plan.

I have decided to do what I can, and forget the rest.  Simple traditions are in, complicated extras are out. The meal will be simple, the celebration humble.  I will do use my energy to be happy and enjoy the magic of the season.  I will not expend energy on drama and fluff.

So raise your right hand and promise to remember why December was magical as a child.  It wasn't the shopping or the merry making.  It was the twinkling lights, the extra caring, the attention given to those who needed help, and the smiles we saw on other children's faces.

In answer to my original question, yes, December is here.  I now have an opprotunity to enjoy the small stuff, because the big stuff won't make me happy anyway.