Friday, November 21, 2014

Company's Coming

When company is coming there's a lot to get done.  It doesn't matter if it's cleaning out the spare room, restocking the fridge or dusting off the decorations.  Work is coming too!  The holidays can be quite stressful for many families.  I tend to think it's more stressful for me than my husband.  He seems to get by with just taking out an extra bag of trash and clearing off the driveway.  My list is much longer.  Over the years, I've gotten better at handling it all.  My wisdom comes from many frantic years where I felt overwhelmed and chronically late.

The key to a happy celebration is managing the stress.  My house is full of friends, relatives and kids for 5 weeks from Thanksgiving to Christmas.   I start this week, today-this weekend!  There are  three major areas that need to be managed.  Just three, and you can manage them.

1.  Cleaning.  It's easy to split this up over a few days, and with differnent members of the family.  In my house, we clean for 3 solid hours.  The whole family the weekend before company comes over for the first time.  This is where we address the clutter areas that build up all year long.  We straighten up the coat racks and boot trays.  We don't mess with the day to day jobs like dishes and laundry.  We tackle anything that has gotten away from us since last holiday season.   We pick one morning, and I let them know up front.   I make an old fashioned list and each family member gets 5 jobs on their list.  Each according to their skills.  No more mom has 25 jobs to do!  Five is good amount and can be handled in our three hour window. After this initial cleansing, it's easier.  Do this NOW-just before Thanksgiving. Find a time this weekend and declare it family clean up.  After this, we all pitch in just 1 hour per week to tidy up the place and try to keep things orderly until the day after Christmas when we all put on sleepwear, eat left overs and play games and lounge for the next week.  You can do it-and make it simple!

2.  Groceries.  This is easy for me.  I normally handle the week to week with my coupons.  Now that more people are coming over I also need more variety of foods.  Snacks are a must.  I'll coupon for some snack crackers, summer sausage and crock pot snack meats.  Those are easy to fix and put out in a snap.  I'll also stock up on quick to feed frozen meals. Pizza, appetizers, desserts and breads.  If the kids invite over a friend each, that's a lot of spur of the moment mouths to feed and I want something fast and easy.   It's not about having more during the holidays, it's about having easy stress free fixes that don't break the bank.  If you have not looked at our Pinterest board of easy crockpot meals that feed a crowd take a look.  I usually make doubles of everything during this time.  Double cookies, one set baked now, one set baked in a few days.  Double breads, double soups, you get the idea.  It's simple.

3.  Gifts.  I budget everything.  You know this if you read my blog, and  gifts are no exception.  I look for easy to make gifts, clearance items, and sales.  Use your coupon skills to buy gifts.  Buy only on sale, and ask if this is the lowest price!  The clerks will tell you if the item you are buying will be offered at a lower price soon.  For the holidays, I have two coupon organizers, one for food, one for gifts. Get organized before hitting the store.  Go to each store website to print discount coupons, sign up for codes and deals, and add them to your coupon organizer.  It saves me around $250 additional dollars each season.

I even look to buy extra gifts for the unexpected.  I almost always forget a teacher, or kid toys that are inexpensive but make someone happy.  Look at the gift items at County Market!  I picked up a great St. Louis Cardinal puzzle last year for my mother in law that was a hit.  It was priced lower than department store gifts and I was able to pick it up when I was out doing the weekly grocery run.  I keep an app on my phone for budgets and buys-keep track or you'll end up with a lopsided bag of gifts. Again, it's simple. 

You can do it.  Company is coming and you just need to break down your to do list into the three categories.  Ah!  Feels better already.  Don't stress, keep it all in perspective.  It's the best time of the year because we get to be with family and friends. It's just three little categories added to your life, and planning it up front makes it much easier to manage.

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