This is our Christmas pep talk

Despite all the gorgeous Instagram and Facebook posts that show beautifully decorated homes, delicious food and every family member being kind and loving, this Christmas perfection is not real life for a lot of people.

In my house, we still have disagreements, tantrums, children not listening or being ungrateful and me stressing about getting all the food warm at the same time.

I’m guessing you can relate to a little something. Maybe there’s a family member or two missing due to death, illness or just other plans this year. We spent one Christmas in the hospital with Kendra when the twins were two.

So I’m writing this quick blog as a pep talk to you and to me:

  1. Define just one thing you want from Christmas

Is it to sing a nice song at church? Is it to have Christmas mince pies and tea for dessert? Is it to spend time with your family? Is it to see the look on a child’s face when you’ve gifted them something they truly want? Or is it to open your To Marcia, From Marcia gift? ๐Ÿ˜‰

(I want to go to church, focus on Jesus and sing my favourite song, O Holy Night. If this song is not on the rotation, I’m prepared because I have about 4 different versions that I like right on my phone!)

2. Remind yourself of the part you are there to play

Glennon Doyle once wrote on Instagram that when we imagine we’re the director of the play, then there’s the pressure and we feel like it’s up to us to make everything “perfect”. When we remind ourselves that we just have a bit part in the play that is Christmas (or any major holiday), we relax knowing that we only have a small part to play and we can then laugh at the Uncle that is drunk or saying inappropriate things, instead of taking it personally that they are Messing Up the Play.

Or something like that. You get the idea.

This has been very useful to me over the last couple of years as I tell myself my job is to do only x; it’s not up to me to make sure everyone has fun (although, as an enneagram 1, I can so easily take it all upon my shoulders).

3. Remind yourself that yes, it is the day we use to commemorate Jesus’s birth but it is still just a day.

Repeat after me, “nothing about today has to be perfect”. Jess Lively said that, I wrote it down and took a picture. Who made the rule that Christmas had to be perfect? Seriously, keep asking yourself that question.

A normal day has things that go well and things that don’t. The chicken takes longer to cook and everyone’s starving but the family member you worry about is particularly pleasant and non-combative.

4. Remember your personality and honour it

If you’re an extrovert, allow yourself the time to enjoy being with the people as this will energise you. If you’re an introvert, feel free to escape for 5 minutes to “tidy the kitchen” or “check on the kids”.

May I suggest this fantastic episode of Sorta Awesome where Meg Tietz and Gretchen Rubin talk about how the Four Tendencies show up for celebrations. I loved this episode so much. Gift yourself an hour and take a listen – it’s worth it.

and last but not least…

5. Stay off social media

You’ll just get depressed about the gifts you didn’t gift or receive, the food you didn’t cook, the family you didn’t spend time with and everyone else’s perfect kids.

I jump on Instagram for five minutes to post a Merry Christmas photo, and then I’m offline for the rest of the day except for phone calls to family.

Which of these tips resonated most with you? How do you remain calm and joyful over Christmas?

Why I no longer have a gift shelf

We’ve all seen the tip to keep some spare gifts on a shelf in case of emergencies.

This is a great idea if you often need a generic gift, and perhaps don’t know the recipient very well at all.

I kept a gift shelf for many years and I was very glad when my kids were in pre-school and attending 10 parties a year for various little classmates.

We used to do a gift on a theme every year so it made good sense to buy 10 colouring books, 10 packs of my favourite colouring pencils and 10 pencil bags, for example.

But very quickly, once the kids started school, I realised that they’re not getting invited to as many parties anymore as the parties become smaller (in most cases) and “close friends only” invites.

In fact, Kendra (9-year-old twin girl) reminded me the other day that she has only been invited to three parties this year and it’s already November.

So there is no longer a need for a gift shelf.

When I realised this fact, I decided to clear my gift shelf by gifting what I’d been keeping to all my Santa Shoebox kids that year. It’s actually really fun for me to stuff those shoeboxes as much as I can. And I love having the extra space at home!

These days I do have a few things I might buy in advance for our own kids’ birthday or Christmas presents (usually books found at a sale, activity books for holidays, or a cute T-shirt).

The great thing is I decided on my limiting container – a clear plastic box the size of a photocopy paper box – and my self-imposed rule (I’m an upholder) is that I’m not allowed to exceed the container.

And for actual friend gifts? I ask the child what their friend would like, we discuss where to get it and then we go buy it. Easy.

This year (my kids turned 9 in July) one of the gifts for a boy was two Horrid Henry books, and some gifts for girls were 1) a beautiful hardcover prompted crafting/ doodling/ sketch book in a nice carry bag and 2) unicorn pyjamas with a set of unicorn notebooks.

If you keep a gift shelf, perhaps ask yourself if the gifts have passed their sell-by date (your kids are older and the gifts are for a younger audience) and you need to move on, or if the convenience of having the gifts on a shelf are not an issue anymore. There may be things on your shelf you’ve had for years.

One thing I’ve done this year for my own friends is if I’m out and about and I see something that is perfect for a specific friend, I buy it whether it’s their birthday or not, and gift it next time I see them. No waiting for birthdays or forgetting where I’ve hidden it! And the best is that people are usually surprised which is super fun!

Do you keep a gift shelf? Why or why not?

How to have the best Christmas ever


I started reading all my old posts about Christmas and realised that I have actually said everything I want to say, so let me link to those posts.

Easy Christmas decorating

Lower your Christmas expectations especially with social media

The Christmas Card controversy

Keep Christmas simple but meaningful

Clever gift ideas for Christmas and throughout the year

and last but definitely not least, my favourite Christmas post ever!

Create the perfect Christmas… for you

What does the “best Christmas” look like for you?

Tell me all your questions and I’ll answer in the comments.

Lower your Christmas expectations

My family made a Christmas fun list sometime during November.

One of the things on the list (added by me) was to make Christmas cards. In years past we made them and it was a lovely pleasant activity.

Well. It appears those days are past.

We had one session of utter craziness that left none of us feeling peace and goodwill towards men, so I went to the shops and bought Christmas cards for my own sanity and peace of mind.

They had no problems writing in ready-made Christmas cards so that is what we did this year.

I had to lower my expectations, you see, or make the cards all by myself.

Of course that made me think about Christmas on the whole, and how, when we see all the Instagram and Facebook perfection of families crafting, baking, wrapping and decorating, we can start feeling resentful about our own real lives.

I’m here to relieve you from the expectations and help you to lower the bar.

christmas-best-009

Here’s how I’m lowering the bar this Christmas:

  1. I’m focusing on the things that make Christmas special for us and leaving behind everything else.
  2. We will go to church on Christmas morning to make sure that Jesus is our focus.
  3. I’ve long said that the way to have a happy holiday or event day (Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, Mother’s Day, etc.) is to stay completely off social media. I do like to post a picture in the morning but if I miss it, I’ll post one that night and that will be it.
  4. I’m only giving presents to a few people that I will be seeing. I remember years past when I’d buy/ make presents for so many friends and frantically try and see everyone. No thanks – that sounds like a headache rather than joy to me this year. I may change next year but we’ll see.
  5. Speaking of presents, I know what I want for my To Marcia From Marcia gift, but I can’t be bothered to go get it while the shops are crazy busy.
  6. The longer you think about things, the more you stress (in a lot of cases) so I’m not even thinking about food until I finish work on Thursday ๐Ÿ™‚ Someone told me Woolworths is already running out of food and I said, “well, then we’ll make do somewhere else.
  7. It’s nice to have a Christmas fun list but treat it like a suggestion, not a must-do list. E.g. we have an item to have Christmas-themed doughnuts from Krispy Kreme. Well, it turns out no-one actually likes those doughnuts – they all want just the plain glazed ones ๐Ÿ™‚ But… everyone wants to do far more baking than I feel able. So I’ve told them we will do two easy things and each child will bake with me once.

christmas-best-007

Last but not least, don’t feel pressured to feel emotions you don’t feel. If you’re not feeling utter joy, that’s okay. If you’re not feeling peace and goodwill towards your fellow man, that’s also okay. I have a feeling Jesus wasn’t all happy and smiley all the time too, so you’re in good company.

Decide what you want to feel this Christmas and focus on those desired feelings. And remember to communicate your needs to your family. There’s no rule that says you need to be around people for hours and hours on end.

Some of you are aghast at what I’m saying but it doesn’t mean you love your people any less if you want to escape and do something by yourself for a bit.

I once asked my friend Beth about an extended family holiday weekend they have every year. She wisely told me they realise they’re mostly introverts so no one feels bad to just go off and do their own thing for an hour or two throughout the day. Isn’t that insight great?

That’s what I want to leave you with today – know what you need, create the time for it and you’re sure to have a great Christmas day.

Does your inside always match whats going on around social media?

Where do you need to lower your Christmas expectations?

PS some clever gift ideas in case you’re stuck

Some clever gift ideas in case you’re stuck…

There’s one week left til Christmas!

christmas-decor-007

If you’re still shopping or thinking about gifts, here are some ideas for you:

Give according to their love language

If you have someone with a quality time love language, for example, give them the gift of time with you – tea/ coffee/ cake/ lunch/ supper at a restaurant, or a game of adventure golf, a manicure, etc.

If your special someone has gifts or acts of service as their love language, take the time to think about presentation. A gift bag (can be recycled)ย or nicely-wrapped present with a gift tag is a must ๐Ÿ™‚

Give according to their interests

What is the person’s hobby? if it’s reading, give a book and a bookmark, or a gift voucher to Amazon or Audible.

For your soccer-loving kids, maybe a soccer ball or a soccer-themed annual.

img_6813

Give something to help with a problem they have

…but be careful ๐Ÿ˜‰

If your friend always says they can’t find their keys/ rings, etc., maybe a nice trinket bowl they can use in their entry way.

I’ve shared before how once a man phoned me to buy organising services for his wife, which I declined to sell him. That’s not going to win him any points. The wife herself contacted me about a year later and we worked together but the point was that she had to be ready for the help.

A voucher is a good idea if done thoughtfully

A gift voucher is better if paired with something really small. This way it looks like you actually took the time to understand your recipient.

I’ve given vouchers to homeware stores for foodies with a set of cloth serviettes. I’ve also given a mug with a tea bag and the gift voucher inside. The tag on the tea bag read something like this – enjoy a cup of tea while you decide what to buy for your new home.

img_6815

Give gifts that go together

I like to give babies’ gifts as sets – for example, a blanket and a teddy for bedtime, or a book and a blanket for snuggling and reading.

One of my favourite gifts of all time was a set of Christmas mugs and a packet of shortbread biscuits. We ate the biscuits that year and we are still using the mugs 7 – 8 years later.

What are some of your favourite gifts to give?

PS I’ve given gifts of music in the past and presently too, but I’ve since discovered that recipients have to belong to the same country’s iTunes store. So it’s been hit and miss, (and you don’t get your money back unless the recipient tells you they can’t access and you log a call for a refund) so this year I only gifted CDs to fellow South Africans with iphones.

What I learned during November

Oh November!

It’s the month when people all over South Africa feel that fatigue from work and start counting down the days to mid-December when things should officially quiet down.

diaries-and-goals-best-001

This month I learned that:

I really, really, really didn’t enjoy the lead-up to my Spanish dance exams

I passed but I didn’t have much joy in the process. It was trying on my emotions and on my physical body with my right ankle playing up a lot of the time.

Interestingly, people kept asking me, “why are you doing this?” and my usual answer of “because it’s fun and I love dancing” didn’t always feel true ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

I knew right up until the end though that I’d done my very, very best and that’s all anyone could ask.

diaries-and-goals-best-013

I love, love, loved running the 5 Love Languages of children workshop

I had an awesome group of women who identified both their love languages and those of their kids.

I plan to run another one next year – look out if you’re local – otherwise, no need to wait – book your session on Skype for only R400.

The cooler weather does wonders for my temperament and productivity

I think back to last year and the unbearable heat, and it’s clear to me that’s why I was so uninspired.

This year, I’ve had full lists of things done in the house, and it’s only because I have energy due to the rains cooling things down.

diaries-and-goals-best-015

Were all babies born in Oct and Nov?

We had 1 party in March, 1 in July (our kids’ one) and 5 in Oct/ November. That’s crazy.

On the subject of parties, I’ve decided I’m done keeping a gift shelf. I’d much rather get what I need when the time is right.

It’s never too early for Christmas music ๐Ÿ™‚

I cracked quite early in November…. first with only my absolute favourite (O Holy Night), and then with a couple of songs every night, until the 19th when I played TWO complete CDs. Glorious!

Do you like Christmas music?

I had a great reading month

My most notable book read/ listened to was Rob Lowe’s Stories I only tell my friends. It was exactly what a memoir should be for me – warm, funny, heartfelt and not too heavy even in the not-so-pretty bits. Interestingly it was the exact opposite feel to Love Warrior.

diaries-and-goals-best

And now, for my December goals…

My intention for this month is to finish this year well by choosing joy and peace.

A few of my goals:

  • Enjoy the time with my family over Christmas/ New Year
  • Take a half day to close off this year properly and prepare for 2017 by setting goals and intentions
  • Do my filing (seriously, my filing has not been done in well over a year!)
  • Get all the kids’ school stuff done – stationery, school shoes, etc.
  • Eat delicious food and
  • Potter to my heart’s content
  • Enjoy the socials I’ve arranged with friends

Over to you!

What did you learn during November?

What are some of your goals for December?

PS If you haven’t yet read my Christmas post, it’s here if you’d like to have a look. I updated it with a link to a fabulous blog post which is also so worthy of a read.

PPS Pics in this post are from the Shining Year workbook which I completely endorse.

Create the perfect Christmas… for you


img_6782

A friend asked me if I had a Christmas planner she could use (I sent her the one I sent to my list last year) and then it occurred to me that I needed to get my head in gear for Christmas.

I find that as the years pass I get more and more low-key ๐Ÿ™‚

You see, I love Christmas when it’s about just these things – Jesus, Christmas music, some pretty things up around the house, delicious food and spending time together with family and friends.

What does Christmas mean to you?

If you’re feeling a bit (or a lot) overwhelmed and just a little bit stressed at everything you have to do, maybe it’s time to stop and give yourself permission to slow down and get back to your basics.

img_6793

Let’s get intentional:

  1. What are the top 3 – 5 things that make it “Christmas” for you?
  2. Are those the same things your family would say? Sometimes we’ve been doing things thinking the family enjoys it but they don’t really care ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Once you decide on your top things, embrace them and let the rest go.

Are you twitching?

It’s hugely freeing when you realise no-one cares about the tubs of biscuits you previously felt compelled to bakeย  and your friends don’t expect a gift at all.

I used to think up all these cute things to do (biscuits/ snacks/ etc.) for friend gifts and I realised that nobody even cares about any of it. Just because I would love something from someone else’s kitchen doesn’t mean that others feel the same.

I still do some baking….. especially for those friends I’m going to see (maybe 3 – 4 people) but it’s now an extension of the baking for my own family and not days and days of Baking for Presents!

christmas-decor-004

Here’s your Christmas thought plan (not action plan, unless the item is on your Top Five list)

Activities

Decide, together with your family, on any activities you want to do, etc. baking, church, plays, seeing the lights, theatre, ballet, etc.

Christmas cards

Will you be sending any cards this year? Do you send them via the mail/ Facebook/ email? (I’m having a crafternoon with a few friends on Saturday and I’ll be making some Christmas cards, killing three birds with one stone – creating, having quality time with friends and knocking out some of those cards for posting)

Christmas gifts

Will you be giving gifts this year? Are you making gifts or are you buying them all? What is your gift-giving budget? If you have family or friends in another city, use the Aramex courier bags in Pick and Pay stores. I’ve used them a couple of times and they’re the best. Pop the package in the cubby at PnP by 3 pm and they’re at your destination the following day before 12. It’s like magic ๐Ÿ™‚

christmas-decor-007

Christmas Day

Where will you spend the day? Who will cook which parts of the meal?

My one friend always says that they have the loveliest, no-stress Christmas meals because they keep it easy – two chickens, lots of salads and a few desserts.

Decor

Do you put up a tree? (Two friends don’t even take theirs down ;)) When do you want to put up the tree? Is it a family activity? Do you decorate every room? How much decor feels like enough for you this year?

The shops have the prettiest things every year and I adore it all. But I take a deep breath and remind myself of my (now) three boxes of stuff….. and my one in, one out rule.

Also, this house, while bigger, doesn’t seem to have as much wall space. It’s all the windows looking out on the view!

Still I will take a few photos and walk you through parts of my house next week.

Has this helped you think through Christmas? Tell me what made your top 5 list.

Remember it’s good to let go so you can focus on what’s most important to you!

 

Edited to add this PSย here is a great Christmas post I just read from Memories on Clover Lane

5 ideas to keep Christmas simple but still meaningful


Christmas gifts | www.organisingqueen.com

We had a really simple Christmas this year and it honestly didn’t feel like we lacked for anything.

  1. I didn’t put out all the “decor” – I only decorated til it felt like enough
  2. I don’t think many people in Jhb went away like they normally do because the shops were crazy busy right to the end… and I am not a lover of crowded shops anyway, so there’s that too.
  3. The post office didn’t have stamps (I wish this was a joke – it’s not) so I sent Christmas cards to 3 people because I had 3 stamps in my wallet, and handed a few more out to friends that I saw over the last two weeks.
  4. Normally I make a ginormous amount of biscuits (cookies) or sweet treats and “run around Jhb” handing these out to friends. No more. I made just enough for the 3 friends I was seeing.

Christmas gifts | www.organisingqueen.com

Here are a few things that we did quite unintentionally, which is precisely why I’m writing them down so I’ll remember for next year:

1. Resolve not to buy any new gift wrap and use up any paper you haveChristmas gifts | www.organisingqueen.com

I’m someone who saves gift bags (for what, I don’t quite know – it’s not like I’m going to 50 parties a year) and of course, I have that thing for pretty stationery so I have a good selection of gift wrap, gift tags and ribbons.

I said to D in front of the kids that we are not buying a single roll of wrapping paper – there is plenty in this house, probably enough for the whole street.

And then I walked into a store about 3 weeks ago and OH, such beautiful paper which I automatically reached for and put in my trolley (cart). Kendra (6!) then reminded me, “Mummy, you said we’re not buying any wrapping paper this year”. I tried to reason with her but she made me put it back.

You may think gift wrap has to be Christmassy but we started with some leftover Christmas wrap, and then used all the red/ orange paper, and then the green ones.

2. Make your wrapping process easy

Christmas gifts | www.organisingqueen.com

If you have to buy paper, buy a package of 20 standard flat gift bags. I didn’t buy these green with white polka dots for Christmas this year but they were in my stash. I like to buy these in a size that’s quite versatile and definitely big enough for a book.

I also had a similar pack of smaller green with white stripes. Those were great for the smaller gifts like packages of sweets/ chocolates which are a rarity around here.

Mostly everything fitted into these 2 sets of standard gift bags which thrilled me. But the best part was the time saved. Slipping the gift in and adding two pieces of Sellotape, tying a ribbon and writing a gift tag = under 3 minutes.

I did set up a gift wrap station – even that sounds too glamorous – basically, I dedicated one desk to wrapping and set out the gift bags, sellotape and gift tags all in one place. Done.

3. Use up all your old Christmas cards

Same story here, except I stopped buying Christmas cards about 3 – 4 years ago. Yes, I had that many. Last year I bought one pack of 8, and I did the same this year. We have 4 cards left now (and a gazillion gift tags) so I will have to buy some more cards next year.

4. Buy gifts at the grocery store

I only went to one store to do food shopping and I got some gifts (clothes, sweets, chocolates, stationery) all in the same place. If you’ve got a plan, you can get it all done in the same place, or online. Design Mom had a post a few weeks ago (that I suddenly can’t find) about gifting things like pretty cleaning supplies, etc. I don’t know if it’s just the people I hang with, but I’m quite sure those wouldn’t go over that well. Still, the concept is the same. Easy gift-giving for the win!

5. Don’t get family photos done

Usually we get annual photos done in Oct/ Nov. This year our photographer couldn’t fit us in so we still have not had “professional” family photos… and I feel no pressure to get them done now.

So we used to have this pressure to get the disc back to print and send these photos to our families and friends. No photos, no pressure ๐Ÿ™‚

This may not work for you, but it worked for us.

Tell me, friends, what were your good ideas (unintentional or not) that made Christmas simple for you?

What’s really important to me this Christmas?

What's most important to me this Christmas?

A few weeks ago I made my intentional Christmas printables available to my mailing list.

And I finally went through the exercise with my family.

I asked them all to share what is most important about Christmas for them.

Then we prioritised our list and agreed on the top 5 things.

Why 5?

Because I like 5 and 10 – nice,ย  round numbers ๐Ÿ™‚

What's most important to me this Christmas?

Top things mean items that were VERY important to at least 3 of the 4 of us.

These were the things that made our list:

  1. Peace and quiet
  2. Baking and eating biscuits
  3. Christmas Day at church and a nice lunch afterwards
  4. Reading Christmas books
  5. Riding our bicycles as a family at Gillooly’s Farm

One of the first priorities mentioned was Christmas Carols and a Nativity Play – but we had those for the last two weekends so it’s pointless to add that item to the list.

Did you notice what’s not on that list?

Presents!

What's most important to me this Christmas?

I asked D (just to check… because I am by far the more minimalist of the two of us) and he said, “the last thing I feel like doing is trawling the malls looking for presents”.

Amen and amen ๐Ÿ™‚

The kids will get a few presents (they have grannies, after all) but we’re not going crazy.

Now tell me, did you do the exercise either by yourself or with your family?

What were some of your priorities?

PS the kids didn’t mention crafting with me, so I’m off the hook ๐Ÿ™‚

3 ways to keep sane during one of the busiest times of the year

In South Africa, especially, mid-November through to about the first week of January is crazy time. Our school terms end early in December so there are year-end functions for everything under the sun – school, all the extra-mural activities, plus all the Christmas functions, school concerts, etc.

I’m not in school and evenย  I had two exams ๐Ÿ™‚

On Monday, I asked Dion, my husband, how his November was and he replied, “well, November is one of the most extroverted months, so I never enjoy it much”.

Is that not a fabulous answer?

D is an introvert so all the activities drain him of energy.

I like most of the activities (!) but I despise the heat, and the back and forth driving during the heat of the day causes heat headaches a lot of the time, which is “not pleasant”.

So how do you stay sane during this busy time?

3 ways to stay sane over Christmas | www.OrganisingQueen.com

1. Know yourself

Are you an introvert? How much downtime do you need?

Are you an extrovert? How much meaningful connection do you need?

How many plans can you realistically handle during the week or on a weekend?

Figure out which way of saying no works best for you, and then practise using it.

3 ways to stay sane over Christmas | www.OrganisingQueen.com

2. Let go of the guilt

I had a big meeting coinciding with one of the kids’ functions (during the work day). I was still debating whether to ask if I could be excused when it was thankfully cancelled.

But… I did some self-talk and told myself the skies wouldn’t cave in if only D was there to attend the kids’ function. After all, if I’d been travelling for business, then flights would have been booked…

If you’re asked to bring a plate of eats to an event, have a few ideas in mind that are easy to do. You don’t have to cook. I took Woolworths trio of pizza to one event (cut into smaller, cocktail slices) and some fish nuggets with a dipping sauce to another. For both, I could turn on the oven, bake them while I got myself ready, and plate them before leaving. Easy. If all else fails, chips and dip will do ๐Ÿ™‚

3 ways to stay sane over Christmas | www.OrganisingQueen.com

3. Create an environment to support you, not stress you

I seem to scale down more on Christmas every year. I’ll write more next week but last weekend, no-one was really into the whole decorating bit (maybe it was the heat???) so I decided how much time I wanted to devote to it, did what was important to me, and boxed up the rest. Done!

Do you need to contact your friends and ask them for a date to get together in January rather than now? Or pick up the phone and have a chat instead of feeling like you have to get together if things are not working out due to logistics.

For work functions that you “have to” attend, you could go but skip out a bit early so that you’re still there, show your face, network a little, and yet, preserve your time too.

Do you need to go “lighter” on your plans? Instead of hosting a lunch, do Christmas mince pies and tea. Or instead of doing the cooking yourself, buy two chickens at a deli, some bread rolls and just make a salad.

Part of creating a supportive environment is to get enough sleep, eat as well as you can and move your body.

How do you stay sane during this time of year?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...