Making decisions and prioritizing your time and energy are important, but sometimes it's the little things that can really save your sanity. If you're looking for small ways to simplify your life and keep things a little more manageable, here are eight "hacks" - ways of doing things a little simpler and easier - that can help:
1. Put the most important things on your calendar today!
Decide on the things you really want to do as a couple or a family, and put them on your calendar now – before it gets out of control. This simple step will help you keep things sane and manageable. So do it today!
2. Take a day to work on Christmas preparations by yourself
Try to find one day when you can devote the entire day to Christmas preparations – shopping, cleaning, cooking, whatever you need to do – by yourself. I know this is hard to do, whether you work outside the home or in the home caring for your children. But if you can figure out a way to do it, you can accomplish so much in that one day! So think about what it would take to make that happen. Consider taking a vacation day from work, swapping childcare with another mom, or enlisting your husband to keep the kids - anything that will allow you to spend 8 or 9 hours tackling a big chunk of your Christmas "to do" list.
3. Cook the turkey the day before your holiday meal
My aunt always cooked her Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey the day before the holiday meal, and now I do it too. It saves a lot of hassle on a busy day and frees the oven for other dishes. Cook it, let it cool a bit, wrap it well and refrigerate it. The next day, slice it just before the meal, arrange the slices on a platter and warm it up.
4. Clear the counters, empty the dishwasher, and fill the sink with soapy water before you start baking or cooking.
When you're getting ready to bake Christmas cookies, make food gifts, or cook a holiday meal, take a few minutes to get organized first. Clear and wipe down the counters, empty the dishwasher, and fill the sink with hot, soapy water, so you can rinse or quickly wash items you'll need to reuse. These simple steps will save time, stress and clean-up hassles.
A great way to reduce stress and save time is to shop online for as many gifts as possible. If you want to support local businesses too, then shop online for "big box" items and locally for unique and specialty items.
6. Make foil-lined baking sheets for kids to use when working on Christmas crafts or cookies.
Before working with children on Christmas crafts or baking projects, line large baking sheets with foil (those extra-wide rolls of foil work great for this). Then let each child work on a baking sheet to "contain" his or her project. (This is especially good for projects that involve glitter!) Cookies can be baked directly on the foil-lined sheets, and craft projects can be cleaned up by wrapping the mess up in the foil and throwing it away.
When you're hosting a family dinner or holiday party, make wassail or hot chocolate in your Crockpot. For Christmas dinner, I make a simple wassail with apple juice, cranberry juice, oranges and spices. I serve it in a Crockpot set up away from the main cooking area, along with a few simple hors d'oeuvres. That way people can serve themselves a drink and some snacks without getting in the way of the dinner preparations!
8. To save time on regular family meals, cook double batches of as many things as possible.
Unfortunately, my family still expects regular meals, even when we're in the middle of Christmas preparations! Yours probably does too. It's extremely inconvenient! So whenever possible, cook a double batch and serve it for several meals or freeze half for another meal. Crockpot meals like shredded beef for tacos or sandwiches and pulled pork are easy to double, as are many soup recipes.
Bonus hack just for fun - Make "Christmas dust!"
Grind traditional peppermint candy canes to powder in your blender or food processor and transfer it to a container that seals tightly. Use it to add a touch of peppermint to hot chocolate, coffee, cookies, cupcakes, ice cream, and yogurt! Kids will love adding "Christmas dust" to all of those foods and more!
Gaye Groover Christmus, MPH is a wife and mom to two almost-grown sons. In her “day job” she works as a writer and editor in a health field. Her passion, though, is encouraging married women to slow down, live with vitality and energy, and create joy and intimacy in their marriages. She believes that small steps can lead to big changes, and that women armed with knowledge and a plan can transform their hurried, hectic lives. Gaye blogs at CalmHealthySexy. She’d love to send you her ebook, 17 Ways to Live Calmer, Healthier and Sexier – Starting Today – as a gift when you subscribe to the blog.