Monday, November 21, 2011

Helpful Holiday Tips

Thanks a lot, Norman. No really, thanks.
It is upon us. That most magical time of year when we all take part in those time honored American traditions of overeating, overspending, and over-stressing. Where we all feel a little bit guilty because our family gets on our nerves, and a little bit sad because it didn't measure up to the idyllic expectations, and a little bit jealous because other people's probably did. Yes, it's that time of peace and joy where we wait in line to park so that we can wait in lines in stores. Where we watch with gleeful anticipation to see what toy will bring irate shoppers to blows this year. Oh yes. The holiday season is upon us.

Since I am "just a housewife", I have compiled the requisite list of helpful tips to get you through the holiday season without breaking a nail. I've even divided them out into helpful categories for you. Look out, Gwyneth!1 You're about to get a run for your money.

Cleaning and Organizing:
You're about to get an onslaught of friends, relatives, new toys, reindeer and leftovers. What to do?

  • Write important phone numbers, shoe sizes, and shopping lists on the backs of old receipts and shove them in the bottom of your purse. You will have them all there when you need them and for years to come. Only throw out receipts that might be useful for warranty information or returning unwanted items.
  • Store clean clothes in the dryer. This serves the dual purpose of keeping things tidy as well as helping small children learn to confront their fears of dark, dank places by forcing them to retrieve their own socks from the laundry room.
  • Place dirty dishes on the back porch overnight. The raccoons and possums will get a holiday meal, you'll have less scrubbing to do. It's win-win.
  • Speaking of small children, enlist them in helping clean up. Turn cleaning into a game! Here are a few suggestions:
    • Start the vacuum cleaner while they're watching cartoons. Holler: "What ever is not picked up by the time I count to 20 will be sucked up the vacuum cleaner!" Watch how fast they scramble to cram things places to get them off the floor.2
    • Institute "Colonial Day" at your house.3 It's a fun game for the whole family. Explain that in colonial times there was no electricity (so no TV, computer or video games), children were expected to do chores to earn their keep (diagrams and pictures may be helpful for this part), and children were to be seen and not heard and their toys were sticks and bits of lint and stuff.4 Ready... go! 
    • "Betty Draper Day". Send the kids off to watch TV and raise themselves, hire a maid for less than a living wage, spend the rest of your time lounging on a chaise in a beautiful dress, chain smoking, and feeling put upon.5

Decorating and Entertaining:
Now that your house is clean, here are some simple time and money saving tips for getting it gussied up for the holidays and the inevitable get-togethers.

  • Do an "Advent Tree" this year. On December 1st, set up a naked Christmas tree. Let the kids decorate it a little every day by flinging their dirty socks and underwear at it. It makes a charmingly personalized tree and it saves you having to pick those items up every day for at least 25 days.
  • Make a paper chain garland out of unpaid bills. Gets rid of unwanted clutter and makes a cheap decoration. Bonus tip: the longer you let the bills go, the more colorful the envelopes get.
  • By leaving pans to "soak" for a few days, you not only save the time and energy you would have spent scrubbing them, it also gives your home that cozy holiday fragrance of bacon. 
  • Light only with candles when company comes. Among the many advantages: poor lighting masks unwanted dust or toilet rings, scented candles mask unwanted smells, candlelight masks your lack of electricity from making paper chains with unwanted bills.
  • Instead of baking Christmas cookies, artfully display leftover Halloween candy on a platter in a festive design.
  • Why waste all day roasting a turkey when you can get turkey pre-sliced in the Deli? For an extra-festive touch, cut the lunch meat into seasonal shapes with cookie cutters. Add American cheese slices for a hint of color.
  • Make a political statement with your holiday party. Tell guests that you've decided the holidays represent corporate greed and imperialism, have them meet you at a local protest. Pros: you don't have to cook or clean, it would certainly be memorable. Cons: you may get tear-gassed, beaten or arrested.
  • Deal with that one annoying relative with a 1st Thanksgiving re-enactment. Have them dress up in a turkey suit and run around the yard while everyone else tries to hit them with tranquilizer darts. (This may be done with more than one 'turkey' if your family is especially dysfunctional.)6
Gift Ideas:
Money's tight all around, so here are some gift giving ideas for a girl on a budget:
  • Stop speaking to a random selection of people around mid-October. By the time Christmas rolls around, they won't be expecting anything.
  • Save on postage for your Christmas cards: Keep the envelopes that Christmas cards addressed to you come in. Simply insert your card into the envelope, reseal it and mark the envelope "Return to Sender, Addressee Unknown" and drop it in the mail. This also solves that pesky problem of the unrequited Christmas card - the only people who get cards from you are the ones who sent you one first.
  • Tell your close friends that you are hand-making their Christmas gifts and so they might be a bit late. This will not only get you off the hook until about mid-March, you get extra thoughtful points for handmade gifts.7
  • Tell everyone you're "going green" this Christmas. Wrap random crap you find around the house in colorful Black Friday ads and give as "upcycled" gifts.8
  • Make custom gourmet condiments for the food lovers on your list: Simply combine the tail ends of the old sauces and condiments you found in the back of your fridge in a jar. Bonus tip: pick the crust off the lip and scratch the label off of one of the old sauces you found and you have a jar for gifting!9
  • Tear pictures of things you wanted to give people out of catalogs and magazines and make a "collage of dreams" to give them instead.
  • Feign a serious illness or wreck your car. Then no one will expect anything from you.10
Or... we could all collectively take a deep breath and realize that while holidays are fun, they are just days like any other. The season for peace, joy, goodwill toward others should be every season. The day for giving thanks and counting blessings should be every day. The time for spending with family and friends should be whenever possible.

1. Gwyneth is the new Martha, don't you know?
2. I have never done this.
3. This was my daughter's idea. I am not kidding.
4. If you have uppity children, you may want to leave out the parts about not being able to vote and unfair taxation. That only leads to revolution.
5. This game requires a certain degree of income and blatant racism.
6. This may be illegal in some states.
7. I have never done this, either.
8. Nor this.
9. I really haven't ever done this. Ack!
10. I have done this. Make sure you have good insurance if you go this route.


  1. Love this advice -don't have Thanksgiving here in Australia but still plan to implement all of your advice.

  2. Thanks for these tips. I figure if I employ even HALF of them, I stand a better chance of making it through the holidays unscathed (or at least LESS scathed). (There are totally degrees of scathedness, right?) (Scathedness is totally a word, right?)

  3. I enjoyed this post so much I shared it on facebook. Made me chuckle. My favorite part is the paper chain of bills...hilarious!

  4. I definitely just shared this on Facebook! Thanks for the laugh:)

  5. Laughing like crazy! So many great ideas- I'm not sure where to start.
    (Gotta look up Betty Draper, because other than the maid and the smoking, I pretty much am her.)

  6. Clearly, I've never watched Mad Men. I lounge, but I don't look as good as those chicks do.


Thanks for reading and taking the time to say hello!