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Avoid a hectic holiday season

November 24, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

For families, less activity is more when it comes to preparing for the holidays.

"As people's lives get more complicated, which is definitely the case around the holidays, people's ability to stand back a second and see the big picture becomes impaired," said Traci Morris, a professional organizer and owner of Organized at Last in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

In this case, "the big picture" is enjoying family during the holidays.

Instead, people get into a zone, trying to fulfill routine family obligations and seasonal obligations, such as shopping and preparing to host family gatherings, Morris said. Lost is balance. Without proper planning, the end result is overscheduling, missed deadlines and stress during a time when family members should be relaxing and enjoying each other's company.

"Everyone needs an oasis - time and space that is not a constant reminder about what needs to be done," Morris said.

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To get there, families need to seriously assess which activities are really priorities. Specifically, Morris said, you should discontinue the commitments you feel obligated to meet even though they've lost emotional appeal and interest. "Like that block party you go to every year, even though you really don't want to go," Morris said.

It also means setting short-term goals.

"If you're having people over to your home and your kitchen is a seven on a scale of one to 10, you're not going to get it perfect in time," said Kathy Goodwin, a professional organizer and color design consultant for Serene Spaces, a Northern Virginia-based business that focuses on organization and design.

Instead, focus on "cosmetic fixes," Goodwin said. "Go with the biggest surface, the area that's driving you the most crazy," she said. But instead of taking the time to painstakingly sort and purge, it's OK to box those things up and stow them out of eyesight - provided you make it a priority to do an in-depth de-cluttering after the new year, Goodwin said.

Also, if you're planning to host guests during the holidays, start crafting your "to do" list soon. Spending 45 minutes to an hour planning the week saves time and stress. "There's no reason you can't start that right after Thanksgiving," Goodwin said. "The further you do this from Christmas the more mellow you're going to be."

The "to do" list should include more than just what it takes to prepare the holiday meal. "If you wake up and grab a cup of coffee every morning, put that on your list. Things like walking the dog, feeding the kids - include the things you'd do normally because that's what's going to get you through the day," Goodwin said.

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