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  • Get Ready for the Holidays: Get your house in order

    Get Ready for the Holidays 2015 with Chief Family Officer

    Now that we have a goal and budget for this holiday season, it’s time to turn our attention to our surroundings, and get our house in order so we can enjoy a relaxing environment during what can be a very stressful time.

    The single best thing you can do to make your home feel better is to declutter. I know that sounds simplistic, and it’s certainly not easy to do when you live with other people (this is my own personal struggle at the moment), but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. So at least declutter what you can.

    I highly recommend the best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I actually wrote a short series of posts about the book, which you may also find helpful.

    My kids are off from school tomorrow as well as the entire week of Thanksgiving, so barring any all-consuming projects, I plan on using the KonMari method described in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to help them declutter their possessions.

    Once you’ve decluttered (or while you’re decluttering, if you prefer), you can clean your house. Make a list of cleaning projects that need to be done. My list includes steam-cleaning the carpets, thoroughly wiping down the kitchen cabinets (not just the parts that are easy to reach), and scrubbing the baseboards. The tasks may seem overwhelming, but don’t think about the how right now – just think about the what.

    Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the how.

    Original image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Stuart Miles.

    Get Ready for the Holidays: Week 1

    Get Ready for the Holidays 2015 with Chief Family Officer

    Can you believe it’s already November?!

    I feel like school just started back up, but we’re actually coming up quickly on Thanksgiving and winter break.

    As I mentioned last week, that means it’s a good time to start getting ready for the holidays. By getting started now, we’re giving ourselves plenty of time to enjoy the holiday season when it gets into full swing.

    For this week, let’s do these two things:

    1) Think about your goal for the holiday season. Maybe you want to bond as a family, or teach your kids about giving, or just simplify the season this year. If, like some friends of mine, you’ve suffered a recent loss or are going through a tough time, be gentle with yourself. Sometimes just making it through the season is enough of a goal. Once you have your goal, write it out on paper and put it some place where it will serve as a reminder through the end of the year.

    2) Make your gift list and set a budget. You don’t have to know exactly who’s getting what, but make a list of who you need to shop for, and set a realistic budget. You’ll need to set an overall figure for how much you want to spend in total, as well as an amount you’ll spend on each recipient. Don’t forget to add up the amounts per recipient to make sure the total is within your overall limit!

    Original image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Stuart Miles.

    It’s Time: Get Ready for the Holidays

    Get Ready for the Holidays 2015 with Chief Family Officer

    November starts the day after tomorrow, and that means holiday season is right around the corner. That makes now a great time to start planning ahead for a stress-free – or at least, less-stressed – holiday season.

    Starting on Monday, I’ll be posting things you can do now to give yourself a relaxing holiday season that’s enriching and joyous. I’ll be doing these things right along with you, since I’m hoping for a low-stress holiday season too!

    And if you have any tips to share, be sure to let us know! You can leave a comment on this post or on the CFO Facebook page.

    Original image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Stuart Miles.

    Quest for a Simple(r) Christmas: Money Saving Mom’s 21 Days to a Simple Christmas Challenge

    Simple(r) Christmas

    I’m trying to catch up on Money Saving Mom’s 21 Days to a Simple Christmas Challenge. Crystal is offering a free copy of her e-book, 21 Days to a Simple Christmas, and inviting others to read it and act on the ideas in it together. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to catch up since Crystal’s a great writer and the chapters are short.

    Also, she starts the book out by talking about budget and keeping costs down, and I’m lucky that’s the least of my worries. I really don’t have that many people to buy for, and we don’t even get the kids big gifts since they get so much from the rest of the family and we spend more than enough money on them throughout the rest of the year.

    But what I’m looking for in this challenge – and already starting to get – is a reminder that things need not be stressful and complicated and super busy, just because of the season. I’ve already pared the gift list down to the bare minimum, and arranged for group gifts where appropriate. (For example, I’m going to bring in a large batch of cookies to the school office, instead of individual gifts for each staff member.)

    As I’ve mentioned on Facebook already, I’ve normally accomplished much more by this time of year, because I traditionally do my decorating during Thanksgiving week. But this year, with Thanksgiving being so late, Hanukkah being so early, and the kids having sports activities, the decorations never crossed my mind once last week!

    Now I’m trying to catch up on that, because I really do love my house being festive at this time of year. It’s not that I go all out with decorations . . . it’s just the reminder from seeing the (very small) tree, the stockings, and the Hallmark Singing Snowmen (I still have to get this year’s), that this is my favorite time of year.

    Today’s challenge is to organize a gift list, so I’ve been working on that.

    I have some gifts for the kids, teachers, friends, my husband, our parents, and our grandparents. But I need to take inventory and see what still needs to be purchased and made . . .

    How’s your Christmas planning/celebrating going? And are you planning on simplifying anything this year?

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by jannoon028.

    I’m Not Superwoman

    I wish I was Superwoman – in the sense that I wish I could accomplish everything I want to do, and do them all well. But especially at this time of year, I’m reminded that I’m not Superwoman, and that the best I can do is seek a healthy balance among my priorities.

    There’s just so much extra stuff this month – holiday and birthday parties, school performances, holiday gifts, and more. Not to mention the amazing deals that tend to crop up that I want to get posted for you – in fact, consider this fair warning: while I don’t usually post deals individually, if something particularly hot comes up, I will this month! More than likely, it will be an Amazon toy deal, as historically, Amazon has had amazing discounts in December.

    But overall, I’m feeling overwhelmed, as I so often do in December. Getting sick at the end of November into the beginning of December didn’t help – I’m finally getting my normal energy level back, which is exciting.

    There are a few things I’m doing that help me stay sane, and they work throughout the year when I actually do them. I’ve taken to making a detailed to-do list everyday, just to keep track of things (I knew this morning would be busy, so I actually included making the boys’ lunches on my list for today, even though I do it almost every day!).

    I also say “no” to some things, even though I would like to do them. We passed on a Christmas party this past weekend because it conflicted with other events – I probably could have gotten there for at least a half hour, but it would have been too stressful trying to get there, especially since it was a good distance away. And I’ll be missing a committee meeting at my son’s school because it was just one too many things to do that day.

    I take regular mental and physical breaks, which I learned to do from Flylady. It really helps me keep my energy level up so I don’t crash all of a sudden while in the middle of something.

    Another thing I’ve learned from Flylady is my new mantra: “Do It Now.” Making the extra effort not to procrastinate has helped my mental state a lot as well. When I was feeling unwell last week, one thing I could do was get my holiday cards together – they were just sitting under my desk, so I printed out my little note about the year on shipping labels, adhered them to the backs of the cards, printed out address labels for the recipients, and put them all together. It wasn’t very taxing, mentally or physically, so I got it done. And now my holiday cards are in the mail, so I don’t have any of that stress weighing on me.

    The list of things I know I won’t get to this month is long (starting with cleaning my carpets with my Hoover Steamvac). I’ll be lucky if my floors get mopped after they’re vacuumed. But that’s okay – I don’t have to be Superwoman to take care of my family and have a fabulous holiday season!

    (P.S. And neither do you.)

    Holiday Season Priorities

    There is so much going on right now that it’s no surprise I’ve come down with a cold amidst all the busyness of the season. It’s got me thinking about what’s really important right now:

    Sticking to our financial priorities – With all of the hot deals available at this time of year, it’s all too easy to overspend. But my husband and I are both pretty good at keeping our impulse purchases in check by keeping our eyes focused on the prize. Still, in a season of wants, it takes extra discipline to maintain that focus.

    Building memories – My boys are lucky in that they get lots of time and attention from both of their parents, but I find that at this time of year, it becomes especially important to give them experiences they’ll associate with the holidays. When they’re grown, I want them to remember decorating the house, baking cookies, Christmas music, and sweet potato latkes. It becomes a little harder every year to keep their focus off presents, but it helps that my husband and I don’t make a big deal out of what to get them (in fact, we hardly buy them anything since they get so much from their grandparents and other relatives). In spite of all the great gifts I received over the years, my own favorite memories center around decorating the tree every year, so I figure the gifts are pretty irrelevant in the (very) long run.

    Fulfilling obligations – Much as I’d like to be able to focus just on what I want to do and enjoy doing, there’s no getting around certain obligations. Most of them are thank you gifts, and that list is pretty long – teachers, secretaries, etc. To a certain degree, I do enjoy putting these gifts together, but they do add to my long to-do list.

    Fun gifts – These would be the gifts I derive a lot of pleasure in getting and giving, for those closest to me. Unfortunately, they’re also the hardest to come up with!

    Gratitude – Despite all of the stress this season can bring, I’m constantly reminded of how lucky I am. My children are happy and healthy, and I have the world’s greatest husband. I’m so grateful to be able to work at home, and to not be in an office doing a job I’d come to find very stressful. I love helping you create financial security for yourself and your family, and sharing tips to make your life easier and happier. I love the city I live in, and all of the opportunities it provides, and the tremendous freedom we’re blessed with in the United States. I couldn’t be luckier, and that’s what I’ll be thinking about as I prepare to send out our holiday cards now.

    How do you stay focused on what’s important during this super-busy season?