Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Time Management Tuesday: No December Whining This Year

Over the years, I've done a lot of whining here about my difficulties dealing with the joy that is preparing for Christmas. I rather like working, at least a certain amount of it, and juggling it with gifting and decorating and extra cooking is a mini-ordeal for me, as it is for a large chunk of the Christmas-celebrating world.

Not so this year. Things are better and more restful. I think there are two reasons for that--my minimalist lifestyle and my Christmas sparkbook. 

Minimalism And Time

In 2018 I did a reading arc on New Minimalism: Decluttering and Design for Sustainable, Intentional Living by Cary Telander Fortin and Kyle Louise Quilici and how practicing minimalism can impact the time we have for work. And I began moving toward a minimalist lifestyle as far back as 2014 to try to deal with the chaos I seem to attract. This holiday season I've seen it paying off.

I hosted Thanksgiving this year, for the first time in many years. Usually hosting a holiday meal means three days of prep for me, between cleaning and cooking. But we were only expecting two adults and two children who eat very little, so how much work could that be, right? So on the Monday and Tuesday mornings of Thanksgiving week, I worked. On Tuesday evening, I panicked. Though no one was staying overnight, I needed to tidy up two bedrooms for children's play or in case someone went in them on top of the cooking that was left. How was I going to do all this?

Imagine my surprise when I saw that it took only a couple of minutes each to get those bedrooms presentable. Why? Because there wasn't much in them. We don't use spare bedrooms as junk rooms or for storage, because we don't keep junk to store. 

This was a huge eye-opener for me. That and the fact that this fall I've been able to use my laundry room for folding clothes and sewing without having to clean it first. Again, it's not filled with items we're storing. We don't have much to store. Seriously, I've never been able to use the laundry room for folding clothes. We've always had baskets of clean clothes stacked in the living room and bedroom. This is amazing.

December is going the same way. The house is decorated, but not with the extensive amount of Christmas junk I used to use, because I'm not interested in that any more. Extensive amounts of Christmas junk is depressing. The tree is up a week early. Okay, only the lights are on, but you noticed the part about a week early, right? There are small batches of cookie dough in the freezer (I do small-batch baking now, which is like minimalism but different) for baking later. I am getting into a new weekly elder visit routine. And still I'm actually working nearly ever weekday morning, or longer, and sometimes a little on the weekend. On a day I have to be away, I am sometimes able to squeeze a little work into the afternoon. I am even submitting short form work and had two pieces published this month. Also, I've had two rejections, which I mention to reinforce the point that I'm able to submit.

I will admit that some of the calm and sense of accomplishment I'm experiencing this month  is due to the pandemic. We are not having the two large family gatherings we did in the past, one or both of which I sometimes hosted. There will be two smaller gatherings, as well as a dessert meeting, on different days, so no one is racing from place to place. I'm not in charge of any of these things. I also shopped early because of the warnings about shortages. 

But, still, this is the calmest and most productive feeling December I can recall having, and a lot of it is due to the fact that the lack of  stuff in this house has cut some of the chaos. 

Sparkbooks And Time 

For those who observe Christmas, the most stressful part, after determining who is going where, is remembering what you've bought and for whom and holding on to receipts so items can be returned. This is particularly onerous if you're one of those people who shops early in the year. A lot of time is wasted looking for gifts in your home, trying to find the receipts, and, when you can't, trying to find a way to at least exchange gifts that are too large or small or just not right.

I began maintaining a Christmas sparkbook nearly ten years ago. I am now losing a lot less time to gift issues.

These days 'spark book' relates to some kind of data processing system. Or a book written by Nicholas Sparks.  But when I heard about 'sparkbooks' in an advertising supplement in a women's magazine, they were a sort of journal or scrapbook for keeping track of details relating to, well, in this specific case Christmas, though it seemed as if you could use the idea for anything. 

The Christmas sparkbook I created was in a traditional three-subject binder. One section was for decorating ideas, which I often forgot to look at. One section was for food ideas, which, again, I often forgot to look at. But the gift section? That I am glued to for the month of December. I may have a page for ideas for the next year, but I definitely have a chart keeping track of the people I'm buying for, what I'm getting, if I've purchased it, and often if it's arrived or if I've wrapped it.

And, best of all, at the beginning of this section there is the classic portfolio pocket for receipts. It took me a few years to remember to put everything in there, but I'm working it now.

Why Should We Care About Your Personal Life, Gail?


Because the line between our personal and work lives is very thin and very pliable. Most of us can't afford financially or professionally or psychologically to blow off a month of work for holidays. 

The best I can offer for writers who observe a labor-intensive holiday of any kind at any time of the year is to get your house in order. Get rid of as much as you can and write everything down.

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