Ah, the holidays. Time off to spend with family and friends, food and drink, comforting surroundings, warmth, joy and goodwill. So why are so many of us stressed, depressed and exhausted? It really doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some ideas to help you have a more relaxed holiday season.

1. Maintain a realistic notion about what the holidays should be; don’t get so caught up in the planning that you forget to enjoy the season. Remember, less than perfect is perfectly okay.
2. Shop early for presents, party supplies, and decorations. Buy multiples of gift tags, tape and wrappings; you can always use the leftovers next year. Keep a stash of “one-size-fits-all” gifts like wine and candy on hand in case you need a last-minute present.
3. Avoid crowded malls by shopping in small neighborhood stores, which usually have more one-of-a-kind gifts. If you must tackle the mall go at off times (dinner hour, weekdays) and leave the kids at home. Or shop from mail-order catalogs and the Internet or give gift certificates.
4. Take advantage if a store offers free gift-wrapping or seek out charity gift-wrapping services; you’ll be contributing to a worthy cause.
5. Shift the emphasis from consumerism to togetherness by focusing on family activities. Share special moments like a holiday show, fancy brunch or holiday trip instead of spending money on piles of gifts.
6. Give to the less fortunate as part of your holiday tradition. Volunteer for a homeless shelter, visit a retirement center or participate in a food, toy or clothing drive. Encourage kids to give away toys they no longer use.
7. Skip holiday cards to anyone you haven’t seen or heard from in over a year, or just send New Year’s cards in January. You can spend more time on personal messages and recipients will have more time to read them.
8. Decorate as your time and inclination call for, and let it go at that. One stunning wreath on your front door may be all you need. Or decorate only the room your family uses most often.
9. Send holiday invites at least a month in advance, if only in the form of save-the-date announcements. Reserve rental equipment as early as you can. Book help—babysitters, caterers, musicians—as far in advance as possible.
10. Know when to politely say no to invitations. Decide which gatherings you must attend and which can be skipped without guilt. Only say yes to meaningful events.

So relax, have fun, enjoy the holiday, and focus on the people you love. That’s the “stuff” that really matters.

Author's Bio: 

Rosemary Chieppo has been a professional organizer, writer and public speaker since 1999. The costs of not being organized are enormous: time, money and stress. Organizing is the greatest gift people can give themselves; it clears the path to life’s more important destinations! Visit Rosemary's website at http://www.borntoorganize.com.