Unclutter stress from your holiday season

With Christmas just a few days away, Hanukkah already in full swing, and New Year’s Eve a little more than a week away, this time of year can be stressful for everyone. A simple trip to the grocery store to buy milk and bread can easily become an hour-long affair as you navigate your way through hordes of turkey buyers. Need a new shirt? The mob at the mall will easily make that trip an anxiety-filled adventure. In addition to all the shoppers, people’s fuses are short and folks are ready for an argument. So much for holiday cheer …

To help keep your stress at bay this time of year, I strongly recommend employing the following three strategies:

  • Keep perspective. If the present doesn’t arrive until after the holidays, the ornaments aren’t hung on the tree, or the gravy never makes it on the table — you will be okay. In fact, you’ll probably have a funny story to tell for years to come about the year you didn’t serve ham because it was frozen solid and Uncle Jerry broke his knife trying to cut it.
  • Adopt a mantra. I’m not really one for mantras (especially after watching Annie Hall: “I forgot my mantra!”), but this time of year I’m willing to give any stress-reduction method a try. I like to repeat, “What is really important?” It helps to keep me focused on what matters instead of what doesn’t. Whatever positive saying works for you, use it. Often.
  • Let it go. You are not a superhero. Perfection is unattainable. Buy a smoked turkey if you’re nervous about cooking the bird. Throw all your clutter into a closet and deal with it after the holidays when you’re more level-headed. Purchase a gift card instead of hunting for the exact gift you think you might discover at the last minute. A happy holiday celebrant is much more enjoyable to be around than someone who is miserable and curt with everyone around him.

Happy holidays from all of us at Unclutterer! We wish you and yours a stress-free and joyful season.

P.S. Check out our 2011 Unclutterer Holiday Gift Giving Guide for ideas if you still have shopping to do. There are many gifts on these lists you can get online and never have to set foot in a store.

25 Comments for “Unclutter stress from your holiday season”

  1. posted by danielle on

    I’m not sure I’d be ok if the gravy didn’t make it to the table… ;)

    Excellent suggestions, as always. Merry Christmas!

  2. posted by DawnF on

    “Throw all of your clutter into a closet…” ~ does that include my vindictive sister-in-law? Can I put her in there, too? LOL! She’s already causing major drama and Christmas hasn’t even arrived yet! Ugh!

    Mmmm, gravy… :)

  3. posted by Klyla on

    Closet? Don’t you mean spare bedroom? I know, I know, what clutterer has a “spare” bedroom? How about garage? :):):) Have a very Merry Christmas!!

  4. posted by Sue on

    I could have used this post about a month ago.

  5. posted by Mackenzie on

    The only time I’ve been in a mall this holiday season was because I was hungry and the Panera happened to be inside it. I didn’t notice many people in the mall, and parking wasn’t bad.

    I’ve noticed yarn shops aren’t too crazy, even this time of year, especially if you go to the one with Jewish owners, since Hanukkah isn’t actually a major Jewish holiday (its timing is just such that it gets propped up a bit).

    Most stressful thing about holidays: mom and dad asking at whose house I will spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and which meals I’ll have with each of them. A few years ago I started just saying “I’ll do whatever my brother and sister do. Stop asking questions.”

  6. posted by NutellaNutterson on

    I try to remind myself that whatever holiday “problem” crops up is one that is only possible due to the incredible happenstance of my totally normal, safe life.

  7. posted by Jeannette on

    To really survive the holidays in some families where the various events and festivities seem to retrigger old/ongoing family issues is, sometimes, to simply remove yourself from the situations.

    If adults cannot “suck it up” and behave for one day (rather than acting like true children with truly inappropriate verbal comments and behavior), then they should be excluded and/or you should simply abstain from an event.

    Sound extreme? Yes, it is. As someone who has had to observe the behavior of others who ruined gatherings for the rest of us, that is my serious suggestion. Watching those you love being hurt is painful and not something we choose. Allowing others to act out is not acceptable in our home. Doesn’t matter WHO you are in the family.

    We make it clear that if people cannot put aside issues for one event on one day a year, then they are NOT welcome in our home. And we do not choose to attend events where we know volatile folks will be attending. Especially if we know the host/hostess will NOT maintain order.

    Instead, we create our own opportunities to meet with others. Do we miss out on some things? Yes. But it’s far less painful than being a part of chaos (and yes, we are referring to some folks who seem to be either on something or “drunk” though they deny it) and worse.

    Set boundaries, rules, whatever. Adhere to them. Know your own limits and what you will or won’t accept.

    Real love is NOT subjecting those you love to abuse and violence, whether verbal or otherwise.

    The spirit of the holidays, while it should be inclusive, must sometimes exclude folks who are basically enjoying an opportunity to disrupt others’ pleasure and fun. That’s a reality.

    As for letting it go. Easier said than done. Better to avoid a situation where one person is abusing others in the first place. There is no “letting it go” for this kind of behavior. In fact, by NOT stopping it or enforcing rules on it, you are just reinforcing it and making it easier for the bullies, the abusive and others to dominate an event.

  8. Profile photo of

    posted by chacha1 on

    It’s a little late now to order the smoked turkey, but for next year … I strongly recommend it.

    Frankly, I don’t know why anyone without double ovens ever tries to do the darned things “from scratch.” Just because something’s “traditional” doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. :-)

    Happy Holidays to Erin and all the Unclutterers!

  9. posted by henave on

    Now that my kids are older and Christmas is no longer an all-day-put-toys-together event, I have found myself the last few years swept by disturbing depression on Christmas which I have pinned down to missing parents and grandparents who have passed on. I’m not overly sentimental, but Christmas has just the right mix for the sneaky depression! This year, I’m going to be proactive and I have planned a movie outing for Christmas day as I’ve found keeping busy wards off long crying spells. I’m sure many people are visited by this same phenomenon and I hope we all make it through successfully.

  10. posted by Marianne on

    My mantra? So what!

    No yoghurt for breakfast? So what! Eat bread in stead.
    Not the perfect gift? So what! Give an extra hug.
    Burned turkey? So what! Call it specially barbecued.
    MIL a pain in the behind? So what! Her problem that no one likes her, not mine.

  11. posted by Kate on

    Great advice, thank you. I’m about to stash my clutter out of sight rather than obsess about it!

    I am often a bit sad and lonely at the holidays…. as our families are far away and we don’t have kids. This year I spontaneously invited over anyone who didn’t have plans for the day, (gathering strays), and I have discovered that I am excited and happy to be planning a nice meal for them! The gift I thought I was giving to others turns out to be a fantastic gift to myself!

  12. posted by bytheway on

    Marianne, I love your mantra. I really love your examples.

  13. posted by Juliska on

    Remind yourself that there are, after all, twelve days of Christmas! If everything gets done by January 5, you’re under the wire. (That’s what I will tell myself as sit down tonight to write a few more cards.) Also, Eastern Orthodox Christmas is on January 7 — just decide to be a little orthodox this year.

  14. posted by Susan in FL on

    @henave, You are right about others suffering from holiday depression. I do as little as possible that is tinged in a holiday way. No longer send cards, attend no parties, don’t decorate, don’t buy and wrap gifts. And the bonus is if you don’t decorate, you don’t have to undecorate, you don’t have to store ornaments if you don’t get a tree, no cluttery gift wrap. I send checks to my kids and grandkids, none of whom live nearby. Hubby and I often take a long drive on the 25th and we are happy.

  15. posted by Kitty on

    Just had a day of dealing with older relatives and you’re right. Nothing is perfect and never will be.
    And my closet is already a mess, there’s no room for the stuff I need to hide!!!!!!!!

  16. posted by Heather P on

    We don’t exchange gifts, but like to observe simple traditions such as a cookie swap and walking to see Xmas lights. To avoid as much craziness as possible, I stock the pantry in early Nov. and make only short trips to the market after that. If I need a non-food item, I get it at the drugstore, even if it costs a little more. It’s worth it to me to preserve my fantasy of an old-fashioned holiday.

  17. posted by Karen Newbie on

    If we strive not to make the holidays perfect but enjoyable, we’re much more likely to succeed and make for happy memories.

    And in the true spirit of uncluttering the days, less is truly more:
    – Less (fewer) presents to open means more time for breakfast or a rousing game of Scrabble or Bananagrams
    – less outside commitments (parties, trips) means more time to do things with your immediate family when work and school aren’t in the forefront
    – less stuff coming into the house means more opportunities to make your home reflect who you are and not what you own.

  18. posted by gypsy packer on

    I’m with Jeannette. It’s a holiday. Spend it with people who are grateful and not with cads. I spend Christmas day cooking a big dinner for my boss’s tenants, to an iPod full of jazz guitar Christmas music, instead of listening to my family of origin carp and quarrel. I’m happy at the end of the day instead of crying. Recommended: volunteer work cooking or delivering dinners for the needy or for a military family.
    @Danielle–My first married Christmas was spent with my KKK daddy-in-law and sweet but quiet MIL invited to dinner. First thing which happened was the interracial couple next door’s lovely three-year-old stopped by to wish us a Merry Christmas. Second incident was finding the cat on the stove nose-deep in the gravy. I laughed till my sides split, skimmed the cat hair out of the gravy, and relaxed. Once you’ve hit bottom, the only way to go is up.

  19. posted by Paige on

    MacKenzie, try to be patient with your parents wanting to know when you will be eating with them. You will understand one day when you plan meals that it makes things much, much easier to know how many guests will be attending.

  20. posted by olga on

    I am reminded about “Shreck the halls” – the Christmas episode about poor green fellow whose wife foisted quite a throng on him, explaining that it was “his family”. jolly good ‘family’ was that – not a single tiniest reason to suffer their company – and this whe was saying to her HUSBAND…

  21. posted by Jeannette on

    MacKenzie
    Even when your parents are having you over, you are a GUEST. Guests politely RSVP if they are coming, or not. And provide requested information on timing as it makes a difference.

    (Question: Do you do the same thing when your friends ask you over and ask the same questions? Is this really about an RSVP and timing? Or something else?)

    I’m a guest at a friend’s this year for Christmas. Her son (close to 30) and girlfriend STILL haven’t RSVPd. He doesn’t get that this is just plain rude. Meanwhile, aside from being more hurt than if he just said: “Mom, I won’t be coming this year.” She’s running around trying to ensure there’s enough in case he decides to come. It would have been simpler if he just said “We’re not coming” but it’s clear that he thinks he can play all sides of the fence and see “how he feels.” on Xmas.

    It does make a difference how many people show up. And when.

    What’s the big deal? Say yes, or no. Sorry. That’s what adults have to do, all the time.

    And you wonder why some folks dislike the holidays?

    Because they have their feelings hurt by thoughtless people, including their own children.

    No one says you have to go. “No” is always an option and it’s best exercised earlier on. So, plan ahead for next year.

    In the meantime, sorry to be so intense, but watching my friend in pain because her son can’t show a little respect is really tough. At this point, I really hope he does not show up as I really don’t want to be around HIM!

  22. posted by Jodi on

    I like how Mackenzie handled her situation…she will do whatever the siblings decide collectively. In split families, the tug-of-war between mom and dad can be amazingly intense and emotional. When dealing with split families, or large families (especially grown children and their in-laws) sometimes flexibility is the name of the game. Its not always easy to say exactly what time you will be somewhere. Agreeing to go along with her siblings eliminated one variable in scheduling and helped contribute to a scheduling solution. I applaud her willingness to “unclutter” the logistics by being flexible, because Christmas should be more about family than schedule and plans.

    My MIL canceled Christmas this year. Christmas Eve she called and said she wasn’t feeling up to any visitors, and asked everyone in the family not to come. My kids (especially my autistic daughter) didn’t take this very well…After all, its Christmas! We have plans! We have to stick to the schedule!

    Christmas afternoon, she ended up in the hospital with congestive heart failure. I am soooooo grateful she set those boundries and “uncluttered” her holiday obligations! If she had she forged ahead and ignored her symptoms, it could have been a very devistating Christmas.

  23. posted by claire on

    Thank you Jeannette, for comments that had me revise my intentions towards my sister, and I behaved nicely out of respect to my mother and all the work she puts into Christmas. And thank you Jodi, for putting the horrible aspects of my day into perspective (the day overall was good enough). I wish your MIL a good recovery.

  24. posted by Ann on

    1. The snooty sister-in-law who criticizes your guest room fingertip towels is a jerk who didn’t have the dinner at her house. I have one.
    2. It is YOUR dinner…remember that!
    3. Stash away…stuff, clutter, trash…just make the acceptable areas acceptable. If someone wanders off the grid, it is their problem.
    4. We always end up saying that its the people. not the stuff. Then we obsess on the silly stupid sister in law who says whatever silly stupid comments about our house or children. We should all try to be as “unjudgmental” as possible.
    We used to worry about the cousin whose children were as “perfect as perfect could be” and let us ALL know about their accomplishments and put down our son (who was older – and having “issues”)…now we go to the “family Christmas Eve” and OUR son is accomplished and their kids are having “issues”…what goes around comes around.

  25. posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    Kate – we also don’t have children so when we lived far away from our families, Christmas was largely a non-event. Since we lived in the tropics at the time, one year we went to the local, free, council-run pool for the afternoon. I was thankful for the life-guards who had given up their Christmas Day to work that day.

    gypsy packer – the cat with its nose in the gravy had me laughing out loud – just as well I wasn’t drinking my tea at the time. :-)

    As for ‘traditional’ cooking – they probably only cooked that way because they didn’t have our modern conveniences. After all, I expect those with stoves inside the house didn’t go outside to cook over an open fire because it was ‘traditional’. :-)

    And if you need a new shirt, wait until after Christmas when you can get one in the post-Christmas sales. ;-)

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