Shopping, baking, more shopping, wrapping gifts, hosting guests - this busy time of year is often more stressful than joyful. Expectations are high, crowds are plentiful, time is limited, and funds may be as well. As you may have promised yourself so many times, how about actually making this holiday season the most wonderful time of the year? These tips offer some ideas to help you consider converting your to-do list to a "to-don't" list.

Reevaluate your expectations.The proliferation of TV shows and magazines suggesting that the holidays aren't complete without a beautifully decorated home, the smell of cookies baking in the oven, and perfectly wrapped gifts for everyone who crosses your threshold, might have you believing that you have to spend every waking moment imitating them. I'd like to suggest that the holidays should be whatever you would like them to be, rather than a contest to see who can claim they're busier and more exhausted.

Reevaluate everyone else's expectations. Have you ever asked your family what they enjoy most about the holidays? You may be surprised that it isn't that the bow on the front door is perfectly crafted or that holiday cards are addressed in calligraphy handwriting. You may find they just enjoy spending time together appreciating the positive energy generated by this festive time of year. While you may think you're creating the holiday of their dreams, you may be creating a holiday that zaps you of energy and the positive spirit that's important to them.

Plan ahead. Yes, the holidays are not far away so your stress level may already be high. Be realistic about what's important, what's necessary, and what it's going to take to get the important, necessary things done. Eliminate what you can in light of your more realistic expectations, and use a calendar to plan when you'll get those important things done. Cross out the "shoulds" and schedule the things that matter to you and your family. If there's not enough time, pare down your list, delegate where you can, and reduce your expectations. Maybe you can skip the holiday cards this year, or at least reduce the number of recipients. Cookies from the bakery can be mighty tasty, so maybe you don't have to make them from scratch.

Enjoy the process. The frenzied look on the faces of shoppers, the honking horns and screeching tires in parking lots, and the TV images of people fighting over limited inventory has me convinced that people have lost the true meaning of the holidays. Rather than appreciating the shared mission of fellow human beings trying to make the holidays special, it's every person for him or her self. I prefer to slow down, breathe deeply, and make sure I don't get caught up in the negative energy that permeates the air.

Here's to the most wonderful time of the year.

Author's Bio: 

Internationally known professional organizer, author, and speaker Sue Becker is the founder and owner of From Piles to Smiles®. She enjoys helping people from around the world live better lives by creating customized systems to overcome their overwhelming paperwork, clutter, and schedules. She specializes in helping people who are chronically disorganized - those for whom disorganization has been a lifelong struggle that negatively impacts every aspect of their life, especially people with AD/HD. Her hands-on help, as well as her presentations, have helped thousands of individuals create substantial change in their lives.

Sue is Illinois’ first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization. She co-authored the book Conversations on Success, and has appeared as an organizational expert on NBC News and the national TV show, Starting Over. A CPA, Sue has an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.