The holiday season is upon us, and it seems to start earlier each year. The day after Halloween, emails and commercials beckon us to shop with special offers. Black Friday has taken on a life of its own, causing some to hurry through their Thanksgiving dinner to get to a megastore at midnight for the “lowest prices of the year.”

Personally, I don’t like this part of the holiday season—the pressure to buy more, do more, celebrate more. Suddenly friends, clients, and even grocery clerks are asking, “So are you ready for Christmas?” Seasonal preparations—decorating, baking, shopping, and wrapping—become a series of tasks to check off as we race from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.

Instead, let’s pull some stress out of the holidays. Here are a few tips to help:

• Acknowledge the reality of your present situation. Where are you this year in terms of time, money, health, family, and emotions? Let where you are guide the choices you make. This year my family is on a tighter budget, I’m working more, my daughter is in half-day kindergarten, and I’m already a little overwhelmed. We are going to focus on low-cost fun activities that don’t require a lot of preparation (no cookie exchanges for me!).

• Utilize your strengths. Are you the Coupon Queen, Martha Stewart, or the Julia Childs of your family? Focus your energy on those tasks, and ask for (and accept) help with the rest.

• Accept your own weakness (and those of your loved ones). Since I’m not a crafty gal, we only do the really easy ones at my house. I also don’t expect my energetic daughter to wait in long lines or watch a Christmas concert. What do you need to excuse yourself (or someone else) from this season?

• Adjust your expectations. Done is better than perfect. (Repeat this as often as needed.) Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to complete something, and then let it go. Reality check: the homes in magazines and on TV don’t have actual people living in them.

• Recognize that you can’t do everything. Let each person in the family choose their “one thing” for the season. Schedule those events first. Make time for seasonal tasks. Leave some time for rest.

• Realize that you will have to say “no.” A simple “I’m sorry, we won’t be able to make it” is always polite. If pressed, tell the person that you have another commitment (taking a nap counts). You don’t owe anyone a detailed explanation.

• Remember that more than anything else, people want to be acknowledged and appreciated. That doesn’t necessarily mean a gift, a lavish meal, or a big party. Kind words and deeds are always remembered longer.

• Keep your perspective. The holidays are a special time of year, but in the end, they are just days on a calendar. Who we are, whom we love, and what we believe in are most important.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year. Thank you for your support and friendship. See you in 2012.

© Renee Ursem, 2011

Author's Bio: 

Renee Ursem, Professional Organizer and owner of Get It Together, LLC in Las Vegas, helps people learn how to organize and maintain their spaces using simple, practical strategies.
Renee can be reached at Find her on Facebook ( and Linkedin.