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Holiday Planning How To:
Tips for Low Stress Plans for Your Holiday Get Together.

By Jennifer Scott

Photo by Pixabay

Holiday planning can be a beast, especially if it’s your first time cooking for your family. Before you take the plunge, remember, it doesn’t have to be crazy and it doesn’t have to be perfect. With some advance planning and a healthy sense of humor, you can plan a wonderful holiday gathering for family and friends without pulling out all your hair. Here are some tips for what to do (and what not to do) when planning your holiday gathering.

Do Keep It Simple

The most important thing about spending time with family and friends is the act of being together. You’re planning a holiday event to share time with each other, which is more important than the food or decorations. Yes, you want everything to look nice and be appetizing, but the memories will come from the conversations and laughs, not that perfect dip. Even Martha Stewart says to think small in your decorating. So don’t worry about trying to be perfect. Be fun and festive, in whatever way works best for you. It can be cheesy and chintzy like an ugly sweater party, or all out with a dressy dinner party. Either way, you can serve simple but nice food and drink without breaking the bank.

Do Plan Ahead

Simple doesn’t mean last minute! The trick to planning a holiday gathering is advance planning! Make lists of everything that you want to do or get, and update them frequently. Start with who you want to invite. Do you have enough room for everyone? If not, pare down the list. See who’s really able to come and request that they RSVP. Let them know in advance what type of party you’re having (ugly sweater, black tie, or somewhere in between) and when you’re planning for them to be there. Find out if any of them have dietary restrictions. Check out Pinterest to get decorating and food ideas, then make a budget and stick to it. Plan to have extra food for “plus ones” who drop by as well as snacks and a play area for the kids. If the weather is going to be rough, clean out space in the front closet for coats and boots. The last thing you want is to run out of food or drink or have guests tripping over winter clothing.

It’s also a good idea to plan for your own needs. If you’re gift shopping while you’re out gathering non-perishables, you get twice as much out of one trip. Inspect your holiday decorations, lights and gift wrapping so that you’re prepared when it comes time to use them. Make sure you plan some “me” time too so that you’re not overwhelmed by running all over town. Take a break and recheck your lists over some hot cocoa or a nice meal with friends.

Don’t Do It Alone

Speaking of friends, let them help! If you need a particular kitchen gadget to make that one family recipe, borrow it instead of buying it. Get your friends together for a pre-holiday card making party (baking, gift wrapping, etc.) to share the fun of holiday tasks. Give chores to your party guests so that someone else is keeping an eye on trash levels, refilling food dishes, stocking the punch bowl, etc. If the party planning is getting to you, consider catering or making reservations for dinner instead. If you have pets, consider boarding them for the night. Finally, don’t plan on cleaning up yourself. Get party stragglers to do a quick once-over to pick up dishes (which subtly encourages them to head home), and have cheap “to go” containers for sending everyone out with leftovers. Then you can take out the trash and head to bed, leaving the major cleanup for tomorrow.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Know in advance that something is going to go wrong. Someone will spill or drop something, the rolls will burn, whatever. You’ve planned for the best, so be prepared for the worst. When something less horrible happens, like someone getting lost and being late, you won’t be at your wit’s end. Remember, life happens. Pour another cup of punch and enjoy the company until everyone is ready to eat. After all, the company is the real reason you’re getting together. You’re celebrating the holidays with family and friends, and everything else is just icing on the cake you baked. Or bought. Cheers!

Guest Contribution: Jennifer Scott has experienced anxiety and depression since she was a teenager. With SpiritFinder.org, Ms. Scott offers a forum where those living with anxiety and depression can discuss their experiences.


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