BMS Managing Mondays

Mondays are rough, right? But Mondays during the holidays are a whole new level of stress. On top of your normal hectic life, you have parties, special meals, decorations and that darn elf to remember. That’s why this year we are dedicating Mondays to staying organized and maintaining a stress-free zone (ok, that’s probably a little ambitious, let’s just call it controlled chaos). So here’s to Mondays!

Monday, November 7

‘Tis the season for stuff. The National Retail Federation expects sales in the retail sector to increase to $655.8 BILLION this November and December. That’s more than 3% over 2015. All that money is spent on STUFF. Clothes, toys, household items and even gift cards to buy more STUFF.

That is why it is important to prepare for the barrage of STUFF coming into your home this season. If you can’t set aside a full day (because who can), set aside a few hours a couple of evenings. Start with the most cluttered closet or cabinet in your house. It will give you great satisfaction to purge all that STUFF because, rest assured, more is coming your way.

Determine if what you have cleaned out is useful to a charity. Different organizations have different criteria for giving. Charity Navigator has a great tool for finding a local charity that can meet your needs. Now, when new gifts arrive, you will have a place to put them…until next year.

Monday, November 14

The word “triage” is most often used in in the world of medicine. Medical professionals will determine which patients need to be treated first based on the severity of their injury or illness. This happens when a healthcare facility does not have the resources to treat all the patients seeking treatment.

This holiday season, try triaging your life. Does that pie for the company party really need to be homemade? Does your mother-in-law really want or need a handmade gift from your children? Can certain items be “outsourced” or simply eliminated?

Maybe you can tackle a few items on your list right now, whip out that Amazon app and order a scarf for your mother-in-law. Or, try delegating the task to your spouse. It’s THEIR mom after all. We can fall into the trap of setting extremely high expectations for ourselves during the holidays. Take a step back and see if there are ways to re-organize your list to be more efficient.

Monday, November 21

‘Tis the season for exaggerated holiday cards with forced family photos. According to Money, American’s spent about $2 Billion on holiday cards last year. That tells us that, even in today’s digital world, a card that is mailed around the holidays is still important to many people. Many have chosen the digital route, but the snail mail card still dominates.

Ok, so you have decided you are going to mail holiday cards this year. Where do you even begin? If this is your first time or you have missed a year or two, starting from scratch can be daunting. Even if you are a holiday card vet, there are ways to streamline the process. Planning equals success, so consider your goals and set realistic expectations for yourself.

The next step is determining who you are sending a card to. Determine if you have updated contact information for the recipients. Using an excel sheet and mail merging your contacts to print on an envelope or label is one of the most efficient ways to address cards. One tip for creating your excel sheet is to make sure you use column headings you can use like first name, last name, address etc. If you have a current list make sure to review it in detail. It is likely that your recipient list has experienced change over the year like births, deaths, divorces and address changes.

Next, further define the design of your card. Do you have a picture or design in mind? Will your card be secular or non-secular? Do you want to include a letter updating friends and family on your year? If you do go the latter route, make sure to proofread and ask others to help in order avoid common letter writing pitfalls.

Remember, December 9th is Christmas Card Day. Make sure you allow plenty of time for mail this time of year to allow for delivery. And if all else fails, send a New Years card!

Monday, November 28

Have you started your holiday shopping yet? The National Retail Federation estimates that the average American will spend $700 on holiday gifts and goodies this year. That’s $465 BILLION spent in this country. How well do you manage your budget? Do you even set a budget? Experts recommend setting a budget to help you avoid holiday debt.

Budgeting for the holidays will allow you to plan for the additional expenditures that occur during the months of November and December (and October if you are like me). You can also keep an eye out for deals and sales for items on your list. There are lots of tools available to start your budget, but overall the process is fairly simple if you are committed to it.

Avoid using gifts to compensate for your working-parent guilt or blended-family affections. Gifts should be meaningful and purposeful. Remember your why you are giving a gift…because you love and/or appreciate the person. Another trap to avoid is the spending to save trap. Keep your focus on how much you are spending NOT saving.

Monday, December 5

Decorating for the holidays can be a fun activity for the whole family…but it can also be stressful. Like watching your 3-year-old waddle around with your grandmother’s crystal ornament stressful. Throw in a little reality and your dreams of decorating your house while your family sweetly sips on hot cocoa may be out the window.

The first step in decorating for the holidays is to put down the Pinterest app and slowly back away. Those pictures are not real and their families are locked in a basement churning out handmade tinsel. Set realistic expectations for yourself. The next step is to determine how much help you actually want from your family. If the answer is none, try distracting your kids with a craft or project to “help” you. It’s all about how you sell it after all. Now is also a good time to set expectations for your spouse or, if one is not available, trick a friend or family into helping you with the heavy stuff you need two people for. Consider bribing them with a signature holiday cocktail.

Now comes the real work, getting everything out and organized. We will focus on outdoor decorating but similar principals apply to indoor decorating. Once you haul last years lights down it is time to inventory. I don’t mean just count how many you have, plug each one in and make sure it is in good working condition. If you are like me and have collected a combination of LED and incandescent lights over the years you will need to consider running one type on one string and the other separately (they don’t mix well and experts say they have different power requirements).

Once you have inventoried your supplies, you will make the inevitable run to the store to buy more lights/supplies. Make sure you have a robust list with all that you need (extension chords anyone?). Remember, you will likely make at least one more trip, your cocktail supplies are probably running low at this point. All kidding aside, if you are using a ladder and dealing with electricity, best to say sober. Now it is time to execute your plan! It is helpful to do outdoor decorating toward the end of the day so you can start to see the lights as the sun sets. Plus then your gratification isn’t too delayed. Happy decorating!

Monday, December 12

Between work, family, and friends, the holidays can become overwhelming. From closing out the end of the calendar year at work to managing time off from school, you are already juggling a lot. Add to that expectation of a magical holiday because surely this is the last year for something (last year at this home, last year of elementary school, last year to bake that impossible pie, you get the idea).

First, keep your eye on the prize. What are your must-dos this holiday season? Is it ice skating with your 8-year-old, going to The Nutcracker with your daughters or sipping hot cocoa in front of your favorite holiday movie with your spouse? Whatever it is, schedule what is most important then move onto your “like to haves.” Parties and impromptu guests will happen so if you are still up for that after your must-dos, make sure to leave some space in your schedule.

Next, don’t forget to take care of yourself. For one, there is nothing worse than being sick during the holidays so do everything you can to maintain your health during this time of year. Take walks, exercise and try not to eat and drink too much (good luck). But most importantly, set realistic expectations of yourself. If you have never made fondant frosting…maybe this isn’t the time to test your skills on neighbor gifts…just a thought.

Finally, be careful to avoid comparing your insides to someone else’s outsides. In life and social media, people tend to project their best selves. No one has a perfect holiday, that simply does not exist. Try to find joy in everything. I put this to the test last week and it instantly made me feel better. While putting sheets on all the beds I found ways to be thankful…thankful for the children who sleep in those beds, thankful for the husband who started wearing a breathing strip on his nose to reduce his snoring for me and thankful for the water and machinery just to DO laundry. No matter how much I despised the task, I tried to find SOMETHING to be thankful for at the moment. It worked and I was in a much happier place.

Monday, December 19

Are you traveling for the holidays this year? If so, you are not alone! AAA reported last year that nearly 100 million people would travel in 2015 for the holiday break. That’s a lot of people on the roads and at the airport! If you are traveling with your family your trip just got even more complicated. From traveling with gifts to avoiding traffic here are a few tips for travel during the holidays.

If you are driving, make sure to stay on top of traffic reports. Maybe the scenic route is a better option for your trip. Waze and TomTom are two of our favorite apps for checking traffic. If traveling with kids, make sure your seats are installed properly before leaving the house. Make sure any supplies you may need are easily accessible. You don’t want to be searching for the paper towels when your sweet angel decides to smear jelly all over himself. Try to plan around your family’s normal schedule if possible. If your child does not nap well in the car, try to avoid nap time as much as possible. Pack plenty of snacks, this is no time to stick to the strict vegan diet you have your 5-year-old on. Splurge a little, it’s the holidays.

If you are flying the snack rule still applies but you will probably have to buy it AT the airport to get through TSA. Speaking of security, if your children are under 12, they can leave on shoes, light jackets and headwear during screening. Check out TSA’s tips for traveling with children. Some tips when packing your child’s carry on.

  • 1 Comfort item — If it’s a pacifier, be sure to bring more than one, lest it get flung down the aisle or on the floor
  • Sanitizer, wipes, Pull-ups, and diapers. One diaper per hour of travel is recommended
  • Smartphones and tablets — Loaded with your kids’ favorite movies or shows. Let them share a device with a headphone splitter.
  • Kid-Size headphones
  • Art supplies — Crayons (small box) and blank paper
  • Plastic bags for trash
  • Snacks and drinks

Regardless of how you travel, pack headphones. Now you can tune out the lovely gentlemen next to you on the plane who snores like a freight train or your daughter’s Dora show playing on loop while you drive. Come to think of it, maybe everyone in the family should get a new set of headphones as an early gift this year!

Monday, December 26

With eight nights to celebrate Hanukkah can get indulgent and expensive! Plus, parents are increasingly trying to avoid overdoing it during the holidays and focusing on the meaning behind the celebration. So how do you avoid the present trap? Try breaking Hanukkah’s eight nights into one of these themes.

  • Book Night: Use this theme to gift and enjoy new books. As children get older, their needs for books change. A new reader may need simpler lower level books to help them gain confidence in reading while older children may have become bored with their current collection.
  • Pajama Night: Oh the places you can go with this theme. From holiday themed pajamas to a matching family set, who does not need a new pair of PJs every now and then!
  • Movie Night: If you are doing away with actual disks for DVDs, you might consider an iTunes or Amazon gift card. But make sure to watch the movie AS a family…that’s the whole point (maybe wear your matching PJs from the previous night).
  • Game Night: Find some board games the whole family can enjoy or stock up on some difficult puzzles that take teamwork. This night can even include that Madden game your son has been eyeing.
  • Warm Night: This is the night to give socks, slippers, coats, gloves and all things that keep us warm in winter. All thinks you probably need anyway, just theme them into one night.
  • Family Night: Family night should have a gift that the whole family can enjoy. This is when you bust out the summer vacation plans (yep you can give that as a “gift”) along with some goggles, sunscreen, and beach towels.
  • Relative Night: Reserve one night for gifts from relatives. This will take the pressure off grandma and grandpa and curb some of the over gifting that can occur.
  • Art Night: This is exactly what it sounds like…give art supplies such as markers, crayons, construction paper, glue, and stickers.
  • Supplies Night: What supplies do you need to replenish? Toothbrushes? Towels? Underwear? You can make this night as toiletry-themed as you want!
  • Giving Back Night: Use some of those gifts (Art Night) to make gifts for others. Consider donating to your favorite charity or allowing young siblings to exchange gifts.

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