Store the Holidays Away Sensibly

Even the most diehard #holiday celebrators will admit that it’s finally time to take down the tree, wind up the lights and box up the tchotchkes for most of the year ahead. They’ve communicated your holiday cheer dutifully for several weeks, and it’s time to give them a rest.

A little ingenuity will help you pack away and preserve those holiday items for next Christmas. And a little judicious weeding out will save you some space so that holiday clutter can’t get the best of you next season.

First, of course, is the weeding out. As you take down the lights, toss any strings that no longer work and can’t be fixed with a simple swap of bulbs. And throw away damaged ornaments and other decorative items — the only place to stores trash is in the circular file.

You’ll want to preserve what you keep to create that winter wonderland again quickly, so take time to sort, organize and store decorations carefully. Good Housekeeping offers a number of clever ways to keep thing safe and organized for the months they’ll spend in the attic, garage or basement.

Wrap string lights around squares of notched cardboard so they can’t tangle when stored, for example, and put fragile ornaments in plastic cups or egg containers to keep them from getting crushed. Bag any artificial wreaths to keep them dust-free, and consider shrink-wrapping the tree.

Remember to label all bins and boxes with their contents, even if you opt for clear-plastic containers. If you really want to streamline 2020 decorating, The Spruce says, you can number your bins to know which ones should be reopened first.

After all, the biggest benefit of getting decorations organized as you put them away for the season is that you’ll be able to locate and use them easily next fall! The holidays are hectic enough without your having to hunt down every item or buy it again.

If there are still-useful items you just don’t want to store or display next year, bag them and contact ClothingDonations.org for a pickup. They will be resold to benefit veterans’ initiatives, and other families will be able to use them to create holiday cheer.

It can be bittersweet to take down and shelve your holiday decorations, but that’s what makes the season so special. Get #organized, and this year’s holiday season will be better — and more stress-free — than ever.

How to Have a Stress-Free Holiday

By the time you read this, the year’s extraordinarily short #holiday shopping season will be nearly over. If you haven’t completed your shopping by now, you’ll have to pay for overnight shipping or brave the last-minute crowds at an old-school retail store.

As the clock winds down, you may also have meals to prepare and gifts to wrap. You may need to do an airport run to help far-flung family members join in the fun. You may even need to fit all of these activities in around your work schedule.

That’s a lot of stress. But there are ways to defuse that stress and enjoy the holidays.

The first is to know when you’ve done enough. Striving to create the “perfect” holiday can drive you nuts. There may be a few “nice to haves” or traditions that you just can’t fit into the holiday plan this year — and that’s OK. The sun will rise and set without them.

If you’re short a gift, you can give cash, buy a gift card or sign your giftee up for a subscription service that periodically delivers coffee, tea or wine. There are also plenty of all-digital gift options that can help show you care instantaneously.

Take advantage of services that take some of the work off your hands. Retailers are only too happy to wrap that gift or assemble that piece of furniture. The local bakery can provide a pie, and you can ask guests to bring a side dish.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when the big event arrives. A thoughtful guest will volunteer, of course, but many people may need reminding as they celebrate with family and friends. This is a great way to keep kids occupied ahead of a gift grab.

You can set deadlines on what you need to get done, but build in an hour or two of serenity to maintain your sanity. “Head outdoors for a refreshing change of scene,” Woman’s Day suggests. “Take a starlit nighttime stroll through your neighborhood to view the holiday lights.”

You don’t have to do it all — and even if you could, it wouldn’t add to your enjoyment of the holiday season or anyone else’s. Focus on the big picture and know when to “say when,” and you’ll be able to create warm holiday memories without the stress.

Homemade Foods Make Great Holiday Gifts

Having trouble deciding what to give family and friends? There’s one thing you can give that everyone needs and appreciates — food! HGTV offers 45 easy-to-make recipes for mouthwatering seasonal treats that are equally good for entertaining or gifting. Whether you try your hand at toffee or fudge, marmalade or bread, crinkle cookies or caramels, giftees will appreciate the time and effort you put in to create holiday cheer from scratch before devouring your tasty treats. You can make extra so that you have some on hand for those surprise guests, too!

Make the Most of Black Friday

There are plenty of ways to maximize the savings Black Friday offers, says money-saving site Clark.com. Sign up for e-mail promotions at your favorite retailers before you head out to the stores, for example, and price-check items against the web while in stores. Make a list of the retailers you most want to visit and bring a friend who’s similarly motivated to find deals. But leave the kids at home if you want to do some serious shopping — you don’t need the distractions. Shop early or late to avoid the worst crowds, and above all, remember that not every low price is truly a deal.

Start Prepping for the Holidays Now

There’s no time like the present to begin preparations for the holidays. With incredibly busy schedules and so many things to make and do before Thanksgiving and Christmas, things can get hectic fast. So, take a cue from the advertisers and start the season now! Not only will you ensure a happy holiday season, you’ll do it with less stress.

Preparation is key. Make lists of the people you plan to buy for, and any ideas you might have for gifts. Unpack those holiday decorations and replace the burnt-out bulbs and dog-eared decorations. If you want to do any DIY decoration projects, bake cookies or make homemade gifts, now’s the time to start.

If money is an issue (and when isn’t it?), make a budget for the holidays to avoid cost overruns and credit-card debt. You don’t want to be paying for holiday 2017 well into the 2020s! Start price-shopping for major gifts, staple food items that keep well in the freezer or pantry, greeting cards and more. If you see a great deal, snap it up — and check that item off your list.

It’s still early enough in the season to get great deals on decorations, candles, sweaters and other festive holiday essentials at the local thrift store — many of which are supplied by generous donations to ClothingDonations.org. When you donate your secondhand goods or shop, the proceeds help fund veterans’ programs nationwide.

Popular Mechanics advises to check appliances that will see heavy use during the holidays, such as the refrigerator, vacuum cleaner and dishwasher. Also be sure to sharpen your knives before carving the turkey, stock up on firewood and take safety precautions to make your home warm and inviting, the story says.

If you plan on hosting a party, get the invitations out early, says The Family Room. Make a list of the things you want to serve and assign tasks to the fellow hosts under your roof. Also, be clear about what kind of party it is and what’s expected of guests: Is it a potluck? Gift exchange? Cocktail or dinner party? Are plus-ones, kids and pets invited?

Most importantly, don’t overschedule, says the HuffPost blog. You’ll only wear yourself out and risk getting sick in the critical pre-holiday moments, or look back to discover that the holidays brought you more hassles than happiness.

“Schedule ‘You’ days to relax and regain energy,” the blog says. “Make appointments with yourself for personal time, workouts or going for a walk; napping, reading, [a] bubble bath or a pedicure. Because you, too, want to be at your best during the holidays and enjoy the festivities, instead of sitting exhausted and grumpy at the dinner table.”