Thursday, December 7, 2017

{12} Christmas Hacks (of sorts)

I'm back on my simplifying train (...besides the almost overflowing cart I had at Target yesterday...) and this time it's less about possessions and more about mental space and clutter.  I've been working on reducing our physical stuff for at least 4 years and feel like we've gotten to a pretty good place.  Sure, there is always more that we could get rid of but I feel good about what we have, that we use it, and the amount of space it all takes up (I will most definitely feel different after all the Christmas celebrations).

But lately I've wanted my mind to be less clutter, not bogged down with all the details and all the things, all the time.  Just want life to be a little easier, you know?  There is plenty going on this month so I'll take any little things that will help me simplify and do more enjoying the season and much less stressing about it.

Some of these might be obvious but they are little things that are helping me feel on top of the busyness of this month.

1) Put lights on a timer

Oh my goodness, this is practically life changing.  We hang lights on the outside of our house that are controlled by a switch in our basement stairs.  Which makes no sense but it is what it is.  I also hang lights all around the windows of our fully enclosed front porch.  For 10 years one of us has plugged and unplugged those in every night.  UNTIL NOW.  I tried an old timer last year but never got it to work, this year I bought a fancy one I can control with my phone and I am amazed by it.  The lights come on 15 minutes before sunset (so gradually earlier and earlier) and turn off at midnight.  ALL BY THEMSELVES.  Yes, I might be yelling but I am so excited about this.  It was a 30 second task but not having to think about it is definitely making my life easier! (We still have to flip the switch in the basement for the other set of lights but since that's right next to the bathroom and kitchen, it's not a "problem" unlike venturing onto the cold porch.)

2) Take pictures of decor to reuse next year
I've done this for a few years, taken pictures of various spots around the house.  Of course I take multiple of the tree, just for having pictures of the tree.  We put it in the same spot every year, hang the same lights but the ornaments are always going to be different.  BUT...all my other surfaces...I photograph.  I don't always want to do things the same but it's SO NICE having a starting point when staring at a couple large storage tubs.  This isn't going to help you right now but, think about it before you put your decorations away!

3) And STORE in an easy place
This one I just figured out this year.  I use Dropbox often and so I setup a special folder in there to dump all these decor pictures (since I also change up my Instagram collage and porch gallery with the seasons) so I have a reference for when I start.  Until a few weeks ago I was going through folders of pictures on my phone trying to find the ones I need.  Now all my decor reference pictures are in a Dropbox folder, then broken down by type: Christmas, porch gallery, IG collage, etc.

4) Pre-grind graham crackers
I mentioned this years ago and it's still one of my favorite hacks.  I make a lot of graham cracker crust things between Thanksgiving and Christmas but have always HATED grinding the graham crackers.  I do not like cleaning out the food processor and using a ziploc and rolling pin usually leads to a mess.  So I'll grind a whole box at once, at least.  Then I'm all ready to go whenever the 6 layer bar urge strikes!  I rarely measure it out, just a box and whatever other random ones are in the cupboard.  The crumbs have never gone bad on me, even when sealed in the cupboard for a year.  Only having to clean the food processor once definitely keeps me a little happier.

5) Have Christmas music on all the time
I just find it really calming.  I have an old video iPod and a dock that we keep in the kitchen from Thanksgiving - New Years and it's just so handy to have it on most of our waking hours.  The house has music, I'm not messing with my phone to get it, and it can calm me down.  It's festive.

6) Schedule, a lot
Not overly scheduling yourself but slotting your priorities in so you know things will get done.  I even wrote on the calendar which movies we are watching which nights for the rest of the year.  Then I know we'll get to them and can forget about it the rest of the time.  I know when we'll watch the classic tv specials with Luke and when the husband and I are going to start watching our favorite Christmas episodes.  I know when I plan to wrap presents and when I will be having lunch in 2 weeks.  It's all written down and I can relax a little better.

7) Traditions, default when you don't know what else to do
Doing something just because you've always done it that way is never a single good enough reason to keep doing something.  BUT, if it's something you enjoy and you want to keep things easy.  Traditions.  The same things.  We eat the same thing for Christmas breakfast every year.  We have the same basic schedule every year.  We open our stockings on the same day (Boxing Day, not Christmas).  Christmas might have the most traditions of any other time of the year.  And if you enjoy them, just keep them up!

8) Easy Suppers on hand
I am a pretty strict menu planner BUT I also know this time of year especially things can come up.  So I have a few super easy suppers on hand, things that require less than 10 minutes of work and little to no defrosting.  Because it's inevitable that supper is not going to work out to plan at least a few times by the end of the year.

9)Wrap in bulk
I'm not going to worry about wrapping a present each time something shows up in the mail.  I usually bulk wrap on the weekends and get a bunch done at once.  It's just too much to haul everything out and put it all back. 

10) BUT keep all wrapping supplies together
To wrap I need to pull out a few rolls of paper, the gifts and appropriate boxes, and then one other box that has tape, scissors, washi tapes, and various other ribbons.  I know, I just said it's too much to haul everything out and put it back but it's also much easier when most of the things are together.

11) Wrap while watching Christmas movies
I wrap all the presents besides my own and do almost all of those while watching Christmas movies.  The ones not appropriate for Luke and that Matt won't watch (The Holiday, Love Actually, The Family Stone, White Christmas...basically my whole favorites list).  I seriously love doing this.

12) Skip bows!
I do very few real bows, you may notice from above that I have a box of ribbons, but I rarely use them anymore.  I've been doing a lot of washi tape or bakers twine on presents and writing the tags right on the paper.  Then I don't have to worry about tags falling off or bows getting smooshed!  Makes arranging under the tree and transporting easier!!

And that's it!  Twelve mostly little ways I'm aiming to make my holiday season a little bit easier!  I love so much about this time of year and freeing up the mental space for the enjoying parts and less on the work parts (although, I mostly consider gift wrapping long as the boxes aren't too big or oddly shaped)!

How do YOU hack Christmas?

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