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Take A Deep Breath And Remember Your Holiday Priorities

As Published In Professional Organizers Blog Carnival
Take A Deep Breath And Remember Your Holiday Priorities

Folks are always talking about holiday “traditions,” but what does that actually mean? Decorating the tree? Sending Christmas cards? Baking enough cookies to feed a small country of sugar junkies? What if these sacraments really just don’t do it for you — and you’re looking for a different way to celebrate the season? Let’s take time this year to develop a few holiday rituals that focus on your true priorities.

Start With The Big Holiday Rocks

Make a list of every possible holiday “obligation” that you can think of. Your list might contain (but not be limited to) the following:

  • send greeting cards
  • shop for gifts
  • attend church services
  • visit extended family
  • plan family get-together
  • clean house
  • watch holiday TV
  • host a party
  • bake holiday goodies
  • wrap gifts
  • go caroling
  • visit friends
  • spend time with kids
  • shop for food
  • visit Santa
  • attend a party
  • decorate the house
  • make the holiday meal
  • volunteer
  • spend time with spouse
  • decorate the tree
  • attend a concert/play
  • look at lights
  • take a walk in nature

Now, here’s the fun part — circle those items that you enjoy doing and absolutely don’t want to miss this holiday season. Then cross out those that you hate, despise, and dread. Be honest here! If you loathe baking, don’t try to convince yourself that this year you will turn into Donna Reed with a batch of homemade gingerbread — ain’t gonna happen! And you can get very specific if you need to. You might love visiting with your parents, but can’t stand seeing your critical Aunt Louise. That’s fine — make visiting your parents one activity and seeing Aunt Louise another. It might be a good idea to have everyone in your family make their own lists — everyone has different ideas about what activities are joyous and which ones are miserable.

Which items did you circle? Did you feel so strongly about some activities that you double-circled them or put a star by the side? Those are your true priorities — no matter what else happens this season, you need to make time to fit them in. Notice I didn’t say “find” time — you have to MAKE it happen, actually scheduling that activity into your calendar! If walking around your neighborhood with your family singing carols and looking at holiday lights is a priority, sit down together and pick an evening and have everyone block it off. It’s as simple as that.

At the start of the season, decide which activities are the most important.  Of course, you’ll have to be realistic about what you have time for — you might need to limit each person to three priorities instead of eight. And you may have to do a little trading with your loved ones — “I’ll go to Christmas Eve services with you, and in return I’d like for you to go for a nature walk on Saturday with me.” Creating harmony in any situation is about compromising — just don’t allow yourself to bend so far that you give up all of your priorities for someone else’s. Each person should feel that his or her needs are being met.

Think About It

Now you have to make your dreams and your reality mesh. The big question is “how do I fit in all of these priorities when I’ve got chores to do?” It’s hard to make time for the good stuff when you have other obligations — those “have-tos” will  kill you! But why do you “have to”?

Are you being graded on how much you accomplish during the holidays? Will you be judged if you skip out on the cards or parties or baking this year? (and why do you care what others say about you in the first place?!) A simple “no” should suffice — especially if you run across an activity that everyone in your household has crossed off of their lists. Remember, the only things that you “have to” do are pay taxes and die — there’s no law requiring you to put up a tree or send out cards.

You might be worried that others will judge you if you take a break from some of the season’s craziness — but the truth is, they will probably envy your ability to take charge of your schedule (and hopefully follow your lead!) Just because you think that you “have” to, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone else feels the same way. Most people are overwhelmed by the holidays and would like for them to be easier — but no one seems willing to make the first move. Be honest with folks about what you want and don’t want this year, and you may find your to-do list dwindling all on its own. And your family is guaranteed to thank you when you have a calmer, saner, and more peaceful time together this year.

Let me share a story to illustrate. A while back, I had a really rough year and decided to skip out on the traditional family Christmas get-together for the first time in my life. I chose to go on a trip by myself — cross-country skiing in the middle of nowhere in Colorado — instead of spending the holidays with relatives. And since I was going out of town so early in December, I only put up minimal decorations and didn’t send any greeting cards. I worried and worried that I was going to offend someone with my crass insensitivity — but do you know what happened? Everyone I talked to (family included) said, “Boy, I wish I had the courage to do that!” It turned out that 90% of the people I knew had considered doing the same thing at one point in time, but had never been able to walk away from the pressure of the “have-tos.” Well, I had a marvelous time (one of my best Christmases ever), everyone loved hearing about my trip, and I now take a holiday vacation every other year.

The lesson here? Just because you think that you “have” to, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone else feels the same way. Most people are overwhelmed by the holidays and would like for them to be easier — but no one seems willing to make the first move. Be honest with folks about what you want and don’t want this year, and you may find your to-do list dwindling all on its own!

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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and RamonaCreel.com.

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