newskathryn mcmillan how to have a stress free holiday

Kathryn McMillan: How to have a stress-free holiday


Column by Kathryn McMillan

This is the time of year that everyone should be enjoying time with family and loved ones, and that includes you!

Yes! You can have dinner parties and enjoy your guests! You can make time to go to the mall and enjoy your shopping without rushing! You can enjoy decorating your home without the stress or spending too much money!

How? Follow these tips and enjoy the holidays!

1. Say “NO.” Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. There are only 24 hrs in a day!

2. Create a Plan. What do you want to do during the holiday season? What do you want to accomplish? What is your goal? Is it preparing a Thanksgiving meal a Christmas meal or both? Is it decorating the inside or outside of your home or both? Do you want to send Christmas cards to friends/family or business partners/employees? How many holiday parties do you want to attend?

Put your plan in writing.

3. Strategize. How are you going to complete your plan? What needs to happen in order for your plan to be successful?

Example: Do you need to shop for last minute gifts, decorations, supplies or food?

Make a list and of whom you are buying presents for, what you want to get them and a budget. (In January, you should prepare a list for next Christmas of people you know you will be buying gifts for and what you think you would like to buy them; keep it in your wallet or pocket book, purchase throughout the year and mark it off as you get it. It will save you time and money during the holidays). Gift buying should be completed two weeks before the day and wrapped one week before.

Prepare your menu. Look at your menu and recipes for your party/dinner. Make a list of the items you will need to buy at the grocery store. Compare that list to the items in your cabinets before you go shopping. It will save you time, money and space.

When entertaining in your own home, you should designate two separate areas food/beverage, designate area for kids, turn down heat a couple hours before and have plastic containers ready to give leftovers. Use paper plates, cups, cutlery stacked inside a plastic cup.

4. Commit! Pull out your calendar/planner. When are you going to do what? Write it in your calendar in ink.

Schedule: time of party/meal, grocery shopping, writing/mailing out cards/invitations (three weeks before date), food preparations, decorate, wrap presents.

Prepare ahead of time:

Ask yourself: Is there any decorating I can do the day before? Is there anything I can cook or prepare the day/night before?

For example: If you are cooking Christmas Dinner and everyone will be at your house at 1 p.m.

Here are possible advance preparations you can make:

– Cook your ham 24 hours early.

– Roll dressing balls which can be refrigerated prior to cooking.

– Prep potatoes and refrigerate them in a pan of salt water.

– Make desserts in advance. Many can be frozen up to a week.

– Check for items you can cook the evening before, refrigerate, and then warm up in the oven about an hour before you are ready to serve.

– You may be able to set the table the night before or early in the morning.

Only buy two kinds of wrapping paper so that you can mix and match ribbon and bows with them. As much as some of us do not like to admit it, it is only paper and it is going to be torn into shreds and thrown away anyway. There will be less to have to store away for next year and you will not spend as much money buying different color ribbons and bows to match.

5. Remember, moderation is the key with gifts, food, time and money. People complain about spending too much money during the holidays or eating too much. Please remember that whatever you put on the credit card you will have to pay back, most likely with interest. When buying a gift for someone, ask yourself, is this something they need or will really use, and can I afford it? When buying gifts for your children, ask yourself, “Is there room in their space for that item?” If the answer is no, are they going to be willing to give up something to make room? Only you can answer these questions but be prepared to make storage room for everything you are buying them.

6) Keep things in order. At this time of the year it is easy to let things slide. You can still be de-cluttering about 15 minutes every evening. The children can continue putting their things where they belong. Everyone can continue keeping their schedules.

7. Enjoy. Schedule time during the Holiday Season for yourself! Write it down on the calendar; then you will most likely make it happen. Make the time to do whatever it is that you enjoy. Go shopping for yourself, spend time with family or friends or enjoy a hot bubble bath.

8) Assess. This is the time to sit back and reevaluate the season and make adjustments for next year. Write your thoughts down on paper and keep it with your holiday card list. Remember that once you have taken the time to prepare menus and time frames, you will not have to “re-invent the wheel” next year, just make some minor adjustments.

Kathryn McMillan is the owner of Clutter Conversions LLC. She is offering a Get Organized for the Holidays workshop on Nov. 11 from 6-8 p.m. at the Augusta County Government Center in Verona. For more information, contact her at [email protected]. For more tips, visit



Have a story idea or a news tip? Email editor Chris Graham at [email protected]. Subscribe to AFP podcasts on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPandora and YouTube.