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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Pssst – if you’re not on the newsletter list yet, do jump on. I’m sending out my 2017 Let’s Do This guide on Wednesday and another special offer.



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.


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 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!


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


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 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 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, tons of salads and desserts.


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

4 ideas to keep (next) Christmas simple

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?


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?

{Living intentionally} A simple Christmas

Before I start today’s post, let me quickly point you towards my apology at this post. Go have a read and then, don’t hesitate to book your place!

make it count workshop | OrganisingQueen.com

For the past couple of years, I’ve done an elaborate (for me!) Advent Calendar with 25 activities for the kids.

Granted, I’m clever so a lot of things we’d normally do would still go on the calendar, like buy presents with Mummy, buy presents with Daddy, put up Christmas tree, etc.

I also put up easy things to give us a breather like “go for a drive to look at the lights”, a really low-key, 15-minute activity.

A simple Christmas |www.OrganisingQueen.com

But this year our weekends have been really full and last weekend, I just thought about it and decided NO.

None of this crazy.

I took a piece of paper (not even a cute printable!!!) and wrote down what I want from Christmas – carols at a local shopping centre, and at church, make some Christmas biscuits (gingerbread men), do presents and a few cards, and maybe two crafty things if I’m inspired.

The children and Dion then added to this list things like watching a move at the “theatre” (Connor), and watching a movie at home while eating popcorn (Kendra), going to see the lights, and decorating the house and tree, and doing some secret shopping with each parent.

That’s it.

A simple Christmas |www.OrganisingQueen.com

That’s our little list for the next 25 days.

Best of all? We already crossed off two of those things this past weekend because the carols at the shopping centre and at church were early this year.

  1. Decorate house and tree
  2. Carols – shopping centre
  3. Carols and Christmas play at church
  4. Make gingerbread biscuits
  5. Wrap presents
  6. Make some cards for people we will see
  7. Drive around and look at the lights
  8. Movie – theatre
  9. Movie – home with popcorn
  10. Do two Christmas crafts with kids (did one already)
  11. Christmas shopping with Mummy
  12. Christmas shopping with Daddy
  13. Christmas service at church

I love simple Christmases.

I share this not to impress you or for you to feel sorry for my “poor kids” ๐Ÿ˜‰ but to inspire you to let things go that you may be doing just because you think they should be done, or because you’re comparing yourself to your real, Facebook or Instafriends.

What are the must-dos on your list this Christmas?

PS if you’re wondering where my monthly goals post is…. I’ll do that post on Wednesday.

You ask, I’ll answer – storing Christmas decorations

Nicola once asked…

Christmas stuff……when the holidays come round there are always bits and bobs in terms of decoration, home decor and then kitchen napkins, candles, etc, etc…..do you keep the separate items with the same other items (ie: candles with candles, etc) or is there one place where Christmas get stored the other 11 months?


Well, I think in broad categories so in my house, everything Christmas is stored together with the exception of my red hand towels for the bathroom ๐Ÿ™‚

That said, I don’t buy special tablecloths, serviettes, etc. I just use a green tablecloth with red placemats but those are used throughout the year with other colour accents to not look Christmassy.

I do store the Christmas tree decorations all together

here are some Christmas posts.

Gift wrap and cards

How we decorate

Where do you store your decorations?

{Time management} Lower the bar

Jeepers, Christmas rushed up this year, didn’t it?

Not really… but that’s what it felt like because I’m still working.

I read an email from Jennifer Louden today (have you signed up for her Life Organizer sanity support emails? I thoroughly recommend them – short and powerful!) and she said something about how she feared lowering her standards would make her lazy, but in fact the opposite was true.

I decided there and then I’m not killing myself hand writing (because that’s one of my “things”) the remaining 30 Christmas cards. I think I did 12 for our very, very closest friends and family, and that’s it!

I’m calling it done!

I did the last of my shopping today for Dion and let the store wrap them. I was very tempted to take them home and wrap them to look all the same but that email was still resonating with me and I remembered to lower my bar. Wrapped is wrapped!

I was planning to go all Martha Stewart tomorrow after work (Christmas Eve!) and bake, etc. but guess what? I’m going to enjoy a Christmas mince pie and read my book! Dion and I might even enjoy an impromptu date while we have babysitting ๐Ÿ™‚

Where do you need to lower the bar?

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