If you're dreading the holidays even a little, now's the time to make changes, to de-stress and simplify the season. Here are some suggestions from Mary Ellen Vincent, a professional organizer from OrganizeME.


Set a limit: Make a list of the people you intend to buy gifts for, and don't add to it unless you take someone else off. This can be difficult when someone not on your list gives you a present. Manners can get you off the hook: “That's so kind of you, I didn't expect that.”

Cash only: Decide how much you're going to spend and then use cash.

Consider consumables: Especially for the person who really does have everything, get them something to eat (fruitcake, for instance), drink (wine or liquor) or wear (perfume or cologne).

Shop on the Internet: Or use mail order. For people out of town, consider the gift-wrap-and-mail option.


Go potluck: If you're having a party, instead of preparing all the food yourself, ask guests to bring something.

Rethink it: Instead of a full-fledged dinner, have a cocktail party or dessert party. Or a chili-and-tree-trimming get-together. Or a cookie exchange. A scaled-down event means less expense and stress.


Make it to go: Put your cards, envelopes, stamps and address labels in a box or basket you can carry around. That way, you can write your cards in front of the TV, at the dining-room table, wherever.

Go online : E-cards save time, money and trees. Besides, “most of us have more e-mail addresses than we have actual addresses now,” Vincent says.

© 2006, The Kansas City Star.

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