Taking the Stress Out and Putting the Happy back into the Holidays

 It is that time of year. Halloween is behind us, and Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas are right around the corner. While it is fun to get together with family and friends to celebrate, it can also be a time of stress and frenzy. Below are some tips for taking out the stress so you can have more fun.

First on the list is preparing the home:

Sometimes for me, getting the house ready for guests can be overwhelming. Tanya, from Tidylifetidywife.com has the following list to get your house in holiday ready shape:

1. Do a Quick Declutter
Start with a quick declutter throughout the entire house to put away random items that have been left out. Clean or not, extra clutter will make your home look messy. Grab a storage bin or two and walk through your home removing any decorative or unnecessary items that can be put away for the season. Try to make sure your flat surfaces are cleared off as much as possible, so you have plenty of room for holiday decorations. You’ll also need room to put all those yummy holiday snacks and adult beverages. Protect and store extra items in the bins. Place the bins in the garage or shed where they’re out of the way until it’s time to bring them back out.
2. Spot Clean Your Office
There shouldn’t be a lot of traffic in your office, but it doesn’t hurt to give it a once over so you can keep the door slightly ajar. File any papers that are lying around. Tidy up the flat surfaces and bookshelves. Dust your computers and monitors. Empty the garbage can and shredder. Spot clean the windows and window coverings and finish up by cleaning the floors.
3. Tidy the Laundry Room and Mud Room Accidents happen, and somebody is likely to need your spray-n-wash, so make sure your laundry room is at least presentable. Finish any remaining laundry. Vacuum the exhaust fan cover. Wipe down the exterior surfaces of your cabinets and appliances and tidy up the cleaning closet and supplies. Empty the garbage can and clean the floors.
4. Straighten Up the Bedrooms Unless you’re planning to have overnight guests, your bedrooms shouldn’t need a ton of attention. The most they should be used for is pass-throughs to the bathroom or extra room for storing jackets and purses. Make sure your clothing and shoes are all put away and all closest doors and dresser drawers are able to close completely. They don’t have to be neat and perfect, just able to close. Clear the visual clutter off of all flat surfaces. Even if you normally keep something in your bedroom all of the time, see if you can tuck it away in a nightstand or closet for the holiday season. Dust everything including lighting fixtures, lamps, etc. Spot clean all windows, glass, and mirrors. Dust and spot clean blinds and curtains. Make the bed and fluff the pillows. Clean your floors and call it good.
5. Freshen Up the Dining Room
This room will be one of your workhorses, so be thorough here. Dust all lighting fixture and flat surfaces. Wipe down the table, chairs, hutches, sideboards, etc. Wash any china, glassware, flatware or serving dishes that have been stored but will likely be used during the holiday season. Clean the floors.
6. Tidy Up the Living Room
Your living room will also get a lot of use, so be thorough here as well. Dust your entertainment center and television screen. Dust all lampshades and flat surfaces. Wipe down your furniture, clean under any removable cushions, and fluff the cushions and any throw pillows. Wipe down the tabletops and tidy up any drawers. Clean those filthy remote controls. Wipe down your drink coasters and clean all other furniture surfaces. Spot clean television, windows, mirrors, and any other glass, then clean the floors.
7. Sanitize the Bathrooms
If your parties are anything like mine, the bathrooms will tie with the kitchen for the most used room in your home when you have extra guests. Consequently, you’ll want them sparkling clean and ready for the workout. Start by dusting the light fixtures and all flat surfaces. Clean and shine all mirrors and glass. Vacuum the exhaust fan cover. Scrub the sinks and polish all plumbing fixtures. Scrub the shower and bathtub. Disinfect the toilet and the walls behind it. Most people tend to forget this, making it one of the dirtiest spots in your home. Check stock of bathroom tissue and hand soap. Add them to the shopping list as needed. I also like to set out disposable hand towels. Empty the garbage cans and clean your floors.
8. Deep Clean the Kitchen
Besides the bathrooms, my kitchen gets the most use during the holiday season. It’s where our guests spend most of their time. Because of that, I like to do a deep clean to get it company ready. Start by dusting lighting fixtures and cleaning any windows. Then dust and/or wash any window coverings. Now that the easy stuff is out of the way, get the elbow grease ready. Remove all the food particles and clean your oven. Scrub the racks and don’t forget to clean the door glass. Clean and polish the stovetop and knobs. Wipe down the vent hood and clean vent screens. Clean inside of the microwave, (put a damp cloth in it and turn it on for two minutes- the moisture will loosen any dried splatters) then clean and polish the glass and outside surfaces. Dust the top of the refrigerator. Discard any old or expired food, then disinfect the inside of the refrigerator and freezer. Empty and wash out the ice maker and water dispenser. Change the water dispenser filter if needed. Vacuum the coils on the backside of the refrigerator to ensure proper and efficient operation. Check and clean the dishwasher filter if needed. Run the sanitize cycle or run a cycle with just a bowl full of vinegar, then clean and polish the exterior surface. Tidy up the pantry and throw away any expired food. While doing this, take stock of all normal holiday ingredients and make note of any you need to restock. Also check the stock of any paper products that might be needed during the season, especially plastic wrap, foil, storage bags, etc. Check your drawers and cabinets for any dirt and dust that has built up. Vacuum and wash out as necessary. Dust the tops of cupboards, then wipe down all exterior surfaces. Scrub and polish your floors.
9. Final Walkthrough
Grab a couple Clorox wipes and sanitize all knobs, door handles, and light switches throughout your entire house. I find that starting at one end of the house and moving through each room helps me make sure I don’t miss any.
10. Put Up the Holiday Decorations
Now that the cleaning part is done and your home is ready for the holidays, let’s get to the fun stuff. It’s time to break out the holiday decorations. Even if it’s as simple as a fall wreath on the front door and a couple of cornucopia centerpieces on certain tables, a few holiday decorations can make a big impact.
11. Set the Mood
Smell has a significant effect on mood and stress levels. Set out and light a few holiday scented candles. Not a candle fan? Put a simmering pot of water, vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, and orange slices on your stove to help set the mood. Put on some holiday music, relax, and enjoy.


Second on the list is taking out the tension of preparing the Thanksgiving Dinner:

Preparing the Thanksgiving Dinner is never an easy task. In fact, it can be downright intimidating. Ted Allen, revered host from the Food Network, has these tips for having a frazzle free Thanksgiving Dinner:

Thaw the darned turkey.

In the refrigerator. Not on the counter. And especially not in the microwave, which is as ruinous as it is dangerous. Thawing a giant bird in the fridge takes days -- depending on the weight, as many as five -- but it's the best answer. Food-safety guidelines warn that harmful bacteria really start going to town on meat when it's at room temperature longer than two hours.

Try a fresh turkey for a change.

From a butcher. Yes, butchers still exist, and most stock never-frozen, free-range birds that are really flavorful. Remember to order ahead, as most butchers need at least a couple weeks' notice.

Beware of deep-frying.

I'm not saying not to do it -- deep-fried turkey is a delicious Southern confection. But unfortunately, every holiday season, a startling number of poultry Rambos burn their decks, their kitchens, their pets or themselves trying to make one. It's so dangerous that Underwriters Laboratories won't put its UL product-safety logo on any turkey-frying kit, arguing that none is truly safe for home use. If you are frying this year, get a fire extinguisher and make sure you use an oil with a high smoking point, like canola or corn (never olive). And lower the turkey very slowly and carefully into the hot oil. Innovate—but not too much.

The holidays are about traditions.

As such, they are not the time to throw the classics out the window. For my holidays, I expect a roast turkey, stuffing, deviled eggs and cranberry sauce. If you want to introduce some new wines or unusual additional side dishes, great. If you want to add ham or a beef roast to the party, terrific. But people are expecting the Holiday Greatest Hits.


If you're overwhelmed, consider throwing a potluck. Not only does this spread the work around but it also allows other people to share in the culinary glory. Best of all, other cooks can introduce you to their specialties, which might then become new traditions in your home.

Plan and work ahead.

Many holiday favorites can be made a day or two in advance without suffering: Stuffing and cranberry sauce come to mind. Speaking of stuffing, it sure is tasty when it's baked inside the bird, but many experts advise against this because it slows the turkey cooking time and raises safety concerns. The real deal-breaker for me is that the inside of a turkey is just too small to hold enough of it.

Deconstruct your bird.

If you're nervous about cooking a giant flightless fowl, take the easy way out: Roast pieces instead. Buy a breast and as many legs as you want, and you can produce a platter of poultry much faster. Bonus: You can tell the kids that this year's turkey had seven legs.

Third, Clever ideas for many sitautions:

Whenever I can, I like to take the simple route. We found some great holiday hacks from realsimple.com and Keith Bradford that get you through the shopping, hosting, party going, gift giving and decorating.

1. Use a hot glue gun to fasten holiday lights to bricks. The glue won’t damage the brick, and you can rip the lights off in seconds at the end of the season.

2. No need to put a nail in your door to hang a wreath. Place an upside-down Command hook on the inside of your door, tie a ribbon around the top of your wreath, run the ribbon over the top of your door, and then loop the ribbon over the hook and close the door.

3. What says the holidays better than a cup of steaming hot chocolate? And the best (and easiest) way to make hot chocolate is to put a scoop of Nutella in warm milk and stir.

4. Carving knives dull and no aluminum foil left? Flip a ceramic mug over and scrape the blade against the rough edge. The knife will cut almost like it’s brand-new!

5. Don’t know what to get people for Christmas or Hannuakah? Have them make three guesses of what you bought them. You now have three ideas for what to get them.

6. Can’t find someone to help you in an electronics store? Stand by the biggest, most expensive TV and look at the price tag. Someone will be right over.

7. Catch up on your social media fix, texts, or emails while you’re standing in the checkout line. Most stores have jewelry, cheap socks, and other impulse buys that you don’t need. Do anything you can to distract yourself from these sections. 8: Little one all dressed up but missing something? Women’s knee-high socks are the perfect size to turn into toddler leggings.

9. Take your kids’ gifts out of those impossible to open plastic packages before you wrap them. It may make the gift harder to wrap neatly, but your kids will get to play with their new toys right away and it’ll make for less aggravation for you on Christmas day.

10. Want to be a hero at the airport during the holiday travel rush? Bring a power strip. You’ll instantly make a bunch of new friends.

11. Before going on your holiday vacation, place a coin on a mug of ice in your freezer. On your return, if the coin is in the ice, it means your freezer stopped working at one point and your food has likely gone bad.

12. Got a stomachache from eating too many holiday goodies? Hop in the shower and let the water hit your body for fifteen to twenty minutes. Your aching will go away and won’t come back!

13. Smiling for sixty seconds, even when you’re in a bad mood, will immediately improve your mood. Using these muscles is enough to trigger the happy chemicals in your brain.

14. Holding your drink at belly button level at holiday parties will make you look more confident.

15. When sending guests directions to your house, don’t just send them the address; send them a picture of your house too. This will make it way easier for them to find it instead of searching up and down the street for house numbers. 16: Scared you’ll forget about gift cards you received as gifts? On your iPhone, go to the Reminders app, then hit “Remind me at location” of wherever your gift card works.


Fourth on the list, Keeping the younger ones entertained:

During the holidays break from school, trying to keep the children busy and happy may be the most stressful part of it all. Seventh Generation provides some useful ideas that the kids can do on their own, or with a parent or caregiver, that should help you survive -- and even have some fun -- until the holiday break is over

Bake some cookies together. Keep a few batches for yourself, deliver the rest as gifts.

Host a holiday-themed movie party/sleepover. Have a few of your kids’ friends over for a fun afternoon (or night if you want to make it a sleepover) of watching holiday movies. Provide a few snacks or have them help you make a homemade pizza.

Volunteer together. This is something you can do year-round, but the holidays are usually a time when more help is needed. Soup kitchens and food banks in particular are often looking for extra help during the season. If your child is under the age of 16, you may either need to grant permission or be present. Check to see if your local mall needs gift wrappers. Many malls offer gift wrapping services, often provided by volunteers, with funds raised going to local charities.

Create a treasure hunt. Amazing fun that will keep kids busy for hours. 5. Go outside and play. Especially in today’s technology driven world, we forget about the simplicity of encouraging outdoor play. Make sure they’re well bundled if you’re fortunate enough to live in a cold winter environment and let them enjoy the fresh air.

Have kids help prepare holiday meals. Most kids like to explore in the kitchen. Yes, it will take longer than if you did it yourself and yes, your kitchen will likely be much messier but the skills that you’ll be able to teach are much more important than some spilled flour.

Check to see if your local movie theater offers special holiday prices. Most movie theater chains will offer discounted tickets during the local school break as a way of encouraging the movie-going experience so check it out!

Read a chapter book out loud. Or even go on and read a whole series together.

Do something nice for someone. Shovel a neighbor’s walk, walk their dog, make dinner for a friend, offer to wrap gifts for someone.

Have your kids make everything from holiday cards or gift tags to menorahs and tree ornaments. The possibilities are endless and most require very few supplies.

Learn something new together. Learn to juggle, play the harmonica, knit, etc., or take a class in Cooking, yoga, ice skating, music, etc.

Build a fort. Let the kids loose in the living room with pillow and blankets. Turn the fort into an overnight sleepout spot.

See a live performance together. Live entertainment abounds this time of year and many venues offer special family or matinee pricing.

Put on your own dramatic performance. Write a script, sew costumes or just do a little improv. The rules are simple, one child is in charge and gets to direct. The others must go along with it. You will need to have a day like this for each child. The one in charge gets to direct, assign roles and costumes. You get to watch the finished project!

Play (or learn) card games. Amazing how much fun you can have with a single pack of playing cards. Little ones can learn crazy eights or Old Maid. Teach the older kids rummy or poker, or discover new games to master.

Make a time capsule. Time capsules are a fun way to record the present and remember the past. They are easy to make, and your kids will love making predictions about their lives!

Flashlight tag. Give everyone a flashlight and turn out the lights! If you get ‘tagged’ you’re out or you’re frozen.

Make Cootie Catchers. If you don't remember how to make one, go online. 20. Plan for daily quiet time.

Have everyone in the family (parents too!) write down 2 or 3 favorite activities on a small piece of paper. Put them all in a jar and pull one out when the kids get bored.

Make Silly Putty. This childhood favorite is a cinch to make, and it will provide hours of entertainment.

Play board games. Put your family to the test with the ultimate board-game challenge. Set up a championship and spend the day competing for prizes.

Last on the list, but not least, let’s not forget about the pets:

The Holidays can be a very stressful time for them. Below are holiday safety tips for pets from the Humane Society:


• Though the excitement of a party may overwhelm some pets, keep your pets inside during cold weather and provide plenty of toys to keep them busy. • If needed, provide your cat or dog with a quiet room or crate during holiday parties and/or prepare ahead of time to discourage barking. • Inform your visitors ahead of time that you have a pet.


• Bones: Bones easily splinter and can cause serious health problems (even death) for your pet. • Candy: Particularly chocolate—which is toxic to dogs, cats and ferrets—and any candy containing the toxic sweetener Xylitol. • Citrus and pits: Keep foods containing citric acid away from your pets. Foods such as cherry pits, peach pits and apple seeds contain essential oils that have the ability to cause irritations and even central nervous system depression if a significant amount is ingested. • Coffee: Grounds, beans and chocolate-covered espresso beans. • Eggs (raw) • Grapes and raisins: These can cause kidney problems. • Leaves and stems: From vegetables like tomatoes. • Nuts • Onions • Salt • Trash: Pets who engage in trash-digging can accidentally eat foods that are potentially poisonous to them. Keep trash hidden somewhere your pet can't access.


• Christmas tree: Make sure your dogs or cats do not chew on limbs or droppings from the tree. Ingested pine needles could get lodged in the intestinal tract, puncturing the lining or bunching together and causing an intestinal obstruction. • Water base: The water base of a Christmas tree contains dangerous chemicals that could harm your pet. • Christmas lights and tinsel: Position your tree's lights and tinsel draping away from the bottom of the tree where pets can get to them. • Candles: Don’t leave candles unattended. Pets may accidentally knock them over and spill wax or start a fire. • Fire starter logs: Dogs that enjoy chewing should steer clear; these logs contain sawdust and paraffin which can cause an irritated stomach or even intestinal blockage when ingested. • Plants: A number of seasonal plants are poisonous to pets if nibbled or eaten, including ivy, holly, mistletoe and poinsettias.


• Carefully consider whether to take your pet with you on a trip (air travel can be dangerous). • If you leave your pets home while you travel, be sure to choose a pet sitter or boarding kennel wisely. • Wherever your pets spend the holidays, dogs and cats should all have collars and tags with ID that offer a way to reach you. Learn How to Travel Safely with Your Pets


• Identify your closest 24/7 emergency veterinary clinic before an emergency occurs. • Write down or store in your phone the number for your veterinarian or pet hospital clinic. • Research and write down your pet hospital or clinic's holiday hours.


Hopefully these tips and tricks will help you navigate the holidays and enable you to enjoy your friends and family with a little less “bah humbug” and a lot more “Merry, Merry!” Because in the end, it is not the pretty house, the good food, or the great gifts, it is about spending quality time with those you love. From ftw supply shop we wish you and yours the Happiest of Happy Holidays!


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