By Marcia Ramsland, The Organizing Pro National Speaker, Media Guest, and Author of Simplify Your Holidays, A Classic Christmas Planner to Use Year after Year (Thomas Nelson 2008)
Are you looking for a way to simplify the most stressful time of the year? Feeling like it’s impossible to keep up with all the demands of the coming holiday season? Marcia Ramsland, The Organizing Pro and author of Simplify Your Holidays, has found a way to change seasonal stress into intentional success! She believes everyone can find that calm and peace they are looking for.
1. Every year the holidays come around and we face them with mixed emotions. You have a great book title of Simplify Your Holidays, but how do you simplify the holidays?
I love the dictionary definition of “simplify” – “To make something less complicated and therefore easier to do.” I can’t think of a more complicated time in the year than the holidays. Why? Because we are already busy 24/7 and then we add another layer of complexity to our lives – the holiday season.
In my view as a Professional Organizer, simplifying your holidays is all about having a meaningful Christmas without feeling overcommitted or under prepared. And my motto is: If you do anything more than once in life, organize it and simplify it. That’s especially true for the holidays that come year after year like clockwork.
I can’t think of a more complicated time or emotionally challenged season, but I also know you don’t have to stress to get through it.
2. Were you always ready and organized for the holidays?
No way! Before I became “The Organizing Pro” I struggled with holiday pressures big time. I was stuck in the mall shopping for gifts at the last minute, standing in the rain looking for a “real” Christmas tree late in December, and staying up Christmas Eve wrapping presents. That was a stressful life I decided to change, and did years ago.
One day I sat down at the kitchen table determined to get control of the season. Looking at my calendar, it suddenly dawned on me -- there was an easy way to manage it all! It all hinged on one date and no, it wasn’t Thanksgiving.
Many people, myself included, have used Thanksgiving to trigger serious action steps for Christmas. It just didn’t seem right to commercialize Christmas by purchasing gifts before Thanksgiving. But that’s the problem. Waiting until after Thanksgiving does commercialize the holidays and puts us smack dab in the middle of a mall with throngs of shoppers.
3. So how did you change from frazzled to peaceful… and you now have a beautiful new three ring notebook, Simplify Your Holidays? And Sam’s Club just bought 15,000 of them! Good for you.
My first personal turning point came when I discovered one particular holiday occurs exactly eight weeks before Christmas -- and it’s NOT Thanksgiving. It is Halloween. That event is important to note because the next day you can kick off your holiday plan on November 1 every year.
Noting that November 1 is your springboard to begin the holiday season means you have eight weeks until December 25. Now you have a structure to easily organize and prepare -- with a good plan. You’re back in control whatever day it is.
Once I figured that out, I found you can organize your holidays no matter how many weeks you have left before Christmas. In my book I have an 8-week, 4-week, 2-week calendar plans you can choose to guide you whatever day you start. The Plans are like a “holiday compass” that people use year after year to stay focused and take the stress out of the holidays.
4. What else can you tell us to ease the calendar stress for the holidays?
My second discovery came when I noticed that almost all holiday events landed the three weeks of December right before Christmas. Children’s school parties, the neighborhood cookie exchange, church events, civic symphony concerts, friends’ Open Houses, and an office potluck luncheon the last day before vacation. ALL fell into the last three weeks before Christmas.
No wonder we are stressed trying to buy gifts and partake in the busiest social season of the year. All these things are good, but it’s plain stressful to be listening to the Hallelujah chorus thinking about how many things you have to pick up on the way home and still get on-line to purchase gifts with “expedite shipping” costs involved.
5. Ok, but the thing I dread is going to the attic and basement dealing with all those holiday decorations that take up so much room. What can I do?
I agree. My third discovery came when I tried to simplify my holiday decorations after the holidays. It just seemed too much to put it all up so I thought I’d simplify it.
But alas, I found even charities would not accept holiday decorations after December 25. They had nowhere to store them until next year. That was the next discovery – if I store holiday decorations for 11 months of the year, then why do we hesitate about getting them up?
A recent poll showed most people take down their holiday decorations the weekend after New Year’s Day. If that’s the case, what date do we need to put them up to enjoy them for 4-6 weeks? Especially when they are taking up valuable space for 11 months of the year.
The answer? Pick a date (or weekend) to put up your decorations early every year so they can be enjoyed. Typically it’s either the first weekend in December, or even Thanksgiving weekend to be ready to turn the lights on December 1. I found I’m happier the sooner I start and get full enjoyment of them for the season… and give some away each year.
6. Before you give us “A Dozen Gift Theme Ideas,” tell us what’s in your notebook and why is it considered a classic Christmas planner to pull off your shelf and use year after year?
Once I got organized I thought of every woman struggling to pull together meaningful holidays in an already busy life. So I created a hand made notebook years ago which my publisher picked up and is available right now on my website or wherever books are sold. This is a holiday planner you can pull off your bookshelf any time day or night and start the season.
The six tabs inside the three-ring notebook include: The Plan, Gifts, Cards & Decorations, Events, December 1-25 Inspiration, and Recipes. There are almost 200 pages of charts, table talk topics for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, room for photos, and even journal pages of “The Best Things that Happened This Christmas.”
Within those six tabs I’ve sprinkled “10 Tips from 10 Experts” covering things like 10 Money Saving Tips for Holiday Gifts, 10 Super Simple Holiday Décor Tips, 10 Holiday Tips for the Working Woman, 10 Tips to Serve Fabulous Food and Impress Your Guests, 10 Tips for a Successful Event, and 10 Tips to Celebrate and Not Gain Weight!
7. Give us your plan to “Simplify with a Gift Theme” for this year, especially for the busy woman starting to think about the holidays.
Simplify with a Gift Theme
(Excerpt from Simplify Your Holidays, Marcia Ramsland (Thomas Nelson 2008)
Simplify shopping by visiting only certain types of stores for everyone on your list. Choose a giving “theme” for the year. Get a different gift in that theme for each person so it is personalized. For example, all the women get jewelry, spa baskets, certificates or robes. Men get sporting event tickets, restaurant certificates, or tools. Sweaters, CDs, DVDs or books all make a great theme for the year, too.
A Dozen Gift Theme Ideas
1. Sweaters for everyone
2. Favorite Restaurant or movie gift cards
3. Gloves and mittens
5. CD's or books
6. Tickets to a play, musical, or retreat
7. Photo Book or digital camera
8. A trip or the latest technology
9. Favorite magazine plus a year’s subscription
10. Chocolate, nuts, or gourmet food basket
11. Spa, massage, or bath items
12. Jewelry, purse, or accessories
Keep track of where you get your gifts each year and head there first. They will have new merchandise that will probably work well for you again.
Remember a gift shows you had the person in your thoughts and a note on your card tells them why you thought they’d like it. Gift giving is a skill to learn. Keep working to hit the mark of delight and surprise with the receiver. With all your lists in one notebook, you’ll be able to do just that as you see what worked well before.
Question 8: Any last words of encouragement for the woman who wants to pull together a meaningful (and peaceful!) holiday season?
This is your year! The Simplify Your Holidays notebook will help you create that organized Thanksgiving and Christmas you’ve dreamed of with all your notes in one place! You’ll love its beautiful red cover, sturdy tabs, and attractive green charts.
To simplify your holidays, manage your time with our holiday plan and keep your notes all in this notebook. You will graduate from seasonal stress to intentional success!
Thanks for having me today. I truly believe you can simplify the coming holiday season and have a more meaningful season than ever!
Marcia Ramsland, The Organizing Pro
Speaker * Author * Media Guest Expert
P.S. Can you simplify your holidays this year? I truly believe so and am eager to know how you do it with my new book, Simplify Your Holidays. Start today by getting your notebook and downloading your FR*EE Master Gift List at http://www.organizingpro.com
I was given the Simplify Your Holiday audio cd to review and giveaway. It is taken from a radio interview that Marcia did which is quite informative and has some great ideas in it. It could certainly be helpful to someone who just never seems to get everything done in time. I can not comment on the actual Holiday Notebook because I was not able to see one. I'm sure that it would be very helpful based on what I heard on the cd. If you are the type of person who really likes to be organized or the type of person that isn't at all organized but really wants to try harder than this would probably be a God send. To people like me in the middle, those of us that manage to get things done every year but we're not quite sure how... I don't know. But if you were ever able to get your hands on one and flip through it I would definitely recommend that.
In the meantime leave a comment telling me what your favorite part of the holidays is and you will be entered to win the audio cd (make sure you leave an email :-) Good luck!