I thought about titling this post “Hacking the Holidays,” but that sounds really bad and doesn’t give the impression I want. Some people may not be familiar with the term “hacking” as meaning finding ways to be more efficient, rather than a synonym for chopping, or some other form of destruction.
And yes, I’m always looking for ways to reduce stress and make more time for doing the things I want to do. That’s especially important around the holidays, when we have a bunch of stuff added to our to-do list and may have stress resulting from too many obligations, some of which we may not want to do. I’m lucky not to have that any more, but my time, and especially my energy, are stretched to begin with, so anything to help get through the extra to-dos is good. Because what’s important during the holidays isn’t getting all the things done, it’s spending time with loved ones and doing the FUN things.
I wrote a post about how to simplify some of those to-dos last year, for those looking for some help, though this may be a little late. This year, I’ve added to it.
Probably the first thing to do is pin down what, exactly, causes you the most stress for the holidays. Is it a gathering with people whose company you don’t enjoy? See if you can get out of it! Or at least, come up with an excuse to put in an appearance, then leave when you can.
As noted in the above post, Christmas cards are my bane. I know people who don’t send them at all, even though they do celebrate. As tempting as that may be, it’s not an option for me, because I send cards to people I like, some of whom I don’t otherwise keep in touch with very much. The cards at least push me to do that once a year. Also, I do like getting a few!
So I started buying photo cards from Shutterfly. It may be more money, but my husband likes us to send something unique, and this is so much easier than designing them myself. It was also a relatively uneventful year (in a very good way), so there wasn’t a lot to write about in the annual letter that goes with the cards. So I made it a top ten list instead. Easy! Then this year, I took it a step further: I paid for pre-addressed envelopes with my Shutterfly order. I know at least one of my readers is cringing right now! 😡 But, she had another good idea: a pre-lighted Christmas tree.
I have not put my tree up yet. That will happen this week, when my daughter gets home from college (finals were actually over on Friday, but she’s staying a couple extra days to decompress and see friends). When I do put the tree up, untangling and hanging the lights is definitely a pain. I would get one of those pre-lighted trees in a flash if I could find a slim one with colored lights. But there aren’t any to be found at all around here, so… untangle lights it is. Maybe next year!
Once-a-month cooking is also a big time-saver, and no more so than this time of year. We’re just about to finish off the meals we froze on Halloween, so we’re due for another cook day, probably this weekend. It takes a lot of time on that day, but wow is it great to have real, home-cooked food for pretty much no effort for the next 4-6 weeks!
Of course, my favorite holiday stress-buster involves shopping. I do not love to shop. I hate crowds, and the time it takes to find just the right thing. But online? Yes! Bigger selection, no crowds, no traffic, and I can do it at 1 AM if I want, from the safety of my own home. I have done ALL of my shopping online this year!
What I’ve been reading: Since I’ve been less stressed over holiday stuff, I’m all into holiday cheer with my reading. That started with Heaven Painted as a Christmas Gift, the novel from Dean Wesley Smith’s Smith’s Monthly #13. This is the second Ghost of a Chance book, where ghost agents help save the world. I love this series, and this one was a very different sort of Christmas story, where it was up to the ghosts to find out why people weren’t believing in Christmas spirit any more, and what to do about it before it destroyed the world. Yet despite the stakes, it was a fun, light read. Highly recommended!
I then started reading Spirits of the Season, a box set that includes novellas from a couple of my writer friends, Athena Grayson and Diane J. Reed. Athena’s story is fantastic–it takes place in the late 60’s, in Japan, and talk about being transported to a different (and fascinating) place and time! I haven’t read Diane’s yet, but the other three, while more conventional, have been very enjoyable. You can’t beat the price: eight books for $0.99, or FREE if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.
ROW80 update: Writing has gone slowly this week, as I’ve been spending more time shopping and other holiday stuff. But I still managed to get a couple thousand words out, and did the same last week. So my goal this week is to finish the scene I’m working on, which is a long, pivotal one. Ideally, I’d get another done too, but between decorating and cooking, that’s unlikely. I can try, though!
What about you–if you celebrate, how are your holiday preparations coming along? Do you find the holidays stressful, or do you have any tips to share to make them less so? Read any holiday stories lately, or if not, what are your favorites? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!
Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.