Over the years, I have seen some pretty silly ideas for saving time during the holidays. For instance, once of my old Good Housekeeping magazines from the 1960s suggests giving children toys to keep them out of the kitchen while you’re making cookies, as if cookies needed to be baked for their own sake, as opposed to being something fun you do with your children. Likewise, sending one generic email to all friends and family about the holidays seems a little…un-festive to me.
But here are a few ways to do things more efficiently, so you can open up space for the fun stuff (see my 2016 holiday fun list here).
Address cards in found bits of time. I used the time I was sitting in the hallway during my son’s wrestling practice last night to write and address about two dozen cards. Often, I’m just checking email during this time, so this was about higher-value correspondence.
Bulk shop. I am doing almost all of my shopping in 3 runs when I do not have other people with me. I am consciously taking half days to do this, but if you have a conventional job, bright and early on a weekend morning might help avoid the crowds. One run at Costco, one at Nordstrom, and one at Target, all done with specific lists. Some other items have been ordered from Amazon. Speaking of which….
Sign up for Amazon Prime. Seriously, if you are a busy person, this is one of the best investments you can make in saving time. We order almost all birthday gifts this way, plus random stuff we find we need like boys size 7 khaki pants or ice cube trays. Then the stuff comes in two days or less! While this is good for saving time in general, it’s even more important during the holidays when navigating parking lots and crowded stores can make you feel especially bah humbug.
Don’t over-individualize. True finding from social science research: people are happier with a good gift than an individualized gift. The more varied your gifts, the more likely you are to strike out with a few of them. Plus, your colleague, your neighbor, your uncle, and your cousin on the other side have no idea you gave them all the same bottle of wine. If it’s a good bottle, and they all like wine, go for it.
Ask people what they want. Another finding: for the most part, people prefer stuff they ask for. It’s also a highly efficient way of coming up with your gift list! Now, I will grant that I kind of like to be surprised, but you can surprise people within larger categories of Stuff They Like. Getting kids to write letters to Santa is a good way to get them to prioritize (and practice writing skills).
Bulk wrap. Since my toddler would destroy anything wrapped and left under the tree, I’ll be wrapping almost everything on Christmas Eve. But in general, batch processing stuff like wrapping allows you to get into a groove. Listen to some music, or team up with a relative who’s visiting, and it can be fun.
Entertain simply. If you’re throwing a party, do one signature drink (rather than a full bar). 3-4 crowd-pleasing appetizers and one sweet could pretty much do it. The point of a party is to celebrate together and enjoy each other’s company, not necessarily to channel Julia Child.
Decorate simply. OK, if it brings you great joy to risk your life on a ladder and light up your house like the Fourth of July, go for it. But a simple candle-looking light in each window looks amazing too, and takes no time at all.
What would you add to this list?