Christmas Countdown

There's always great anticipation to the start of every holiday season, a chance to gift-wrap your home in lights and make it a warm and welcoming place for friends and family to drop by.

Cheryl, a holistic health practitioner from Long Island, says her parents always made her childhood home a winter wonderland and, as an adult, she's happy to follow suit. But it isn't out of obligation. It just feels so good. Each silver candelabra, carved Santa statuette, and satin stocking has its own specialness, Cheryl says, and that's why every Christmas her home feels like a huge warm hug. The very act of decorating, adds her boyfriend Greg, is a constant that runs throughout the season. Among Greg's own traditions is wrapping gifts to a Robert Goulet CD soundtrack. It's a ritual Greg started thirty years ago—only then he was listening to the same recording on an LP.

Introduce rituals into your decorating activities to take out some of the drudge work. Put on a seasonal CD or a favorite holiday movie as a backdrop, like White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, or Holiday Inn. And don't put too much pressure on yourself by trying to decorate the whole house in a single day. Deck your halls over the course of a few days or even weeks so you don't feel overwhelmed. The measured pace will show in the details of your labor.

If you have toddlers or pets that love to poke around the Christmas tree, decorate it with shatterproof ornaments. Although they look like glass, the ornaments are unbreakable because they're actually made of reflective resin. Any danger is averted, and you don't have to sacrifice style.

It's the lead-up to Christmas that leaves so many people unraveled. The picture-perfect family we imagine decorating the tree, placing candles in the windows and a wreath lovingly on the door—singing carols all the while—is the stuff of Hollywood fiction. Instead of “Ho-ho-ho,” the exclamations are usually unprintable, and not very family-friendly. The reason for that can be directly traced to what happened at the end of the previous season. If last winter's cleanup ended with a get-it-over-with-it attitude once the festivities died down, you've set yourself up for a frustrating kick-off to another Christmas. Sloppy habits always come back to haunt you.

This year, plan on spending some extra time before and after the holidays reorganizing your Christmas wares. You'll shave off time and put the brakes on endless searches. It's guaranteed to make the next season brighter. Have an idea of what you want to do before you begin. You can always rearrange things later on.

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