I love my Mom’s stuffing! I can’t wait for Thanksgiving and Christmas so I can eat some. But there is one kind of stuffing I don’t like around the holidays: an overstuffed calendar. Stuffing (or dressing) is one thing, stuffed animals are great, but a stuffed calendar just leads to overwhelm. How can you feel the joy of the holidays if you’re experiencing calendar overwhelm?

I’m going to give you the bottom-line first. Are you ready?

If you already have a full calendar prior to the beginning of the holidays, you can’t expect to add new tasks or events and not experience a stuffed calendar.

If you want to keep the same busy calendar, you must delete a current item before you add a holiday item. Just adding leads to a calendar overwhelm.

So what can you do to de-stuff your calendar?

1. Re-evaluate Holiday Habits: What have you “always done” that you don’t enjoy? Decide to eliminate activities that don’t bring you joy. Look at the calendar before you say “yes.” Don’t just look at the day or hours of the party, but check the days and hours around it to evaluate your overall level of busyness.

2. Exercise Your Right to Choose: Which holiday tasks/activities have the most meaning for you and your family? You won’t be able to do or attend everything, so choose the ones that you will enjoy the most. A related question is: What are the fewest number of tasks/activities you can do which will fulfill your goals and expectations?

3. Set Strong Boundaries: I know goals can be an overwhelming word for some. But it is easier to set boundaries if you set individual and family goals. Yes, expect everyone to be involved. Maybe the goal is to see friends you haven’t seen in awhile. This may mean that you forgo office parties.

Or the goal could be to enjoy good food without taking all the time for prep and clean-up. So the boundaries might include cooking recipes with less than eight ingredients, using some commercially-prepared food and having others contribute dishes. Another boundary might include using disposal silverware or dishes for some gatherings. If you want a more solid boundary, plan to do half the number of activities that you would really like to. Remember, your strongest boundary is to say no!

4. Conquer External Clutter: External clutter can be physical stuff or time-related. Conquering the extra external clutter of the holidays is a matter of practicing three skills: maintenance, diversion and delegation. Maintenance consists of continuing to process paper and incoming items as usual. The last thing you want is to get behind on bills, paperwork or putting stuff away. So don’t let this slide. Carve out time to get this done on a regular basis.

At the same time, you need to divert new stuff, tasks or activities as much as possible. This is not the time to take on chairing the Valentine’s Day party or buy cases of a product because it’s on sale. Wait until after the holidays to make major commitments around “new.”

Closely tied to diversion is the ability to delegate as much as possible. In this case, you can delegate your regular tasks, your holiday tasks or a combination. This might be the time to hire a personal concierge, personal assistant or virtual assistant to help with task completion. Maybe family and friends can help with some of the holiday tasks. Or maybe you “multi-task.” Not something I usually suggest. In this case, I’m thinking that you could invite some friends over for conversation and everyone brings their holiday cards to put stamps and return labels on. Conversation will help pass the time.

5. Prepare for Parties: You may not like the word “preparation,” but it is crucial in the pursuit of a de-stuffed calendar. That doesn’t mean you must have every last detail planned. The amount of planning is up to you. So whether it is your party or someone else’s, preparing in a way that enables you to feel relaxed and ready is crucial to your enjoyment.

Meals: Decide when you need “special meals.” Is it only for the main holiday dinner, for the whole time guests stay at your home, for parties you throw or attend? For instance, when Thanksgiving or Christmas is at my house, I only consider the dinner on the holiday as requiring a special meal. Any other meals we have while family is staying at my house are “regular meals.” Give yourself a break and consider catered or purchased food. You may say “but that’s so expensive!” Well, paying for ingredients, using time to shop, prepare and clean-up is also expensive — in terms of time. Which way do you want to pay?

Houseguests: If your guestroom serves dual purposes, start preparing the space now. Make the beds, clear out a bit of closet and dresser space, and get out towels. If you don’t have space in the bathroom for the towels, put them on the bed until their arrival. If you feel the guests need to be entertained while they are in town, decide on a couple of activities they can choose from but which don’t take an extraordinary amount of time or effort. Last but not least, don’t be afraid to ask for or accept help. You really don’t have to do it all.

If I could sum up calendar de-stuffing with one strategy, it would be to pause. If someone asks you to a party, pause and say “I need to look at my calendar. I’ll get back to you.” Then follow the suggestions in #1. If someone says, “We need to plan our annual trip to see the holiday lights” and that isn’t something you like to do, pause and consider #2 as you say, “I know we’ve done that together for the past couple of years, this year I’d like to see if we can find another way to spend time together.” Your strongest de-stuffing tactic is to follow a pause with the word no!

Which one or two approaches will you use to prevent a stuffed calendar this holiday season?

Author's Bio: 

© 2011 Janice Russell, CPO-CD, COC. North Carolina’s only Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization and Certified Organizer Coach, Janice Russell, and her firm, Minding Your Matters® Organizing, have built a reputation for helping business and residential clients organize their space, items, documents, and time using the flexible structure principle™. Janice’s workshops on topics such as tackling the “no time” trap, perishing paper piles, and stopping stuff from being overwhelming are dynamic, informative, and practical. Minding Your Matters® is dedicated to helping people achieve organization with lasting results™ in their professional and personal lives. Janice is highly regarded within her industry. She is a Golden Circle Member of National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and Program Mentor Coach for the Institute for Challenging Disorganization. Janice is an author, speaker, and organizer coach. For more information, please visit www.mindingyourmatters.com or call 919-467-7058.