I’m not referring to the obvious psychological and physical wrangle of budget, shopping, crowds and time. It is the house preparations, particularly if everyone is coming to stay with with you!
It has been years since I have entertained my family in my own home at Christmas. It was always elsewhere and had become simple and easy, a comfortable process of assisting others. It worked well with my demanding full-time job.
However, it was about to come to an end. This year my daughter advised me she and her husband and their two boys would fly to Brisbane on Christmas day. After the initial, yet delightful, shock announcement, my mind proceeded into overdrive and panic set in.
I live in a three-bedroom town house and have two spare rooms, one of which is in a state of tidy readiness for the odd overnighter. The other is my ‘girl shed’ and cluttered. It has been on my “To Do” list for a long time. I needed to free up space and turn it into a room where two camp stretchers could fit side by side.
Up until this week, the only spare carpeted area in my girl shed was a track to my two computer desks and another to a chair that sat at the sewing machine where I could view the palm trees from the window. The sun sends welcome sunlight and emotional comfort for when I write and sew. I keep my business files in this one room and over time my books, folders and other ‘things to be stored’ had worked their way from the shelves to the floor.
For days I would stand at the entrance of my girl’s room, stare at the task ahead, then walk away as I didn’t know where to start.
Needless to say, I worked my way through my dilemma and embraced a rather overwhelming challenge, sorting through years of accumulation. Interestingly enough, as you go through one room you begin to find more work in other rooms. The list keeps growing.
The fortunate side of things is, with retirement comes the generosity of time and although my Christmas preparations have taken longer than anticipated, I am almost finished.
Thankfully, I have a few remaining days to attend to the rest of the house.
Dilemma of the leftovers
Apart from the unfortunate contribution to landfill, I had accumulated many items in excellent condition that could be either donated or sold. There are numerous charity organisations listed online, a challenge in itself. Who do you choose? I found it easier to drop some items off at Vinnies. For other heavier items such as my large filing cabinet I listed it on the GIVIT web site as they liaise with a number of other charitable organisations who have specific needs. Within two days of listing, GIVIT made contact and we shared a mutual appreciation when a representative picked up the cabinet.
The other option is to sell online although my concern is who to trust when people come to your home. Potentially they could be ‘casing’ your place. In my neighbourhood there have been a number of robberies. Previously for smaller items I have either met the buyer at the local shopping centre or have dropped them at their place. This avoids visits to my home, but it is not always practical.
Seven tips to reduce Christmas stress
- Keep calm, plan and be patient
- Discuss openly with family and friends monetary limits. As a fledgling self-funded retiree, I now understand why the financial advisor said ‘to be mindful’
- Suggest to friends we have a get-together instead of gifts and share food and drinks. It can reduce the monetary pressure.
- Clean and declutter around peak shopping times and Christmas shopping. I surprisingly found mid-week hours between 5pm-9pm the quietest.
- Identify items from the declutter that may be easily sold to get extra cash.
- If queues are long, either wait, chill out and chat to the person near you (it IS Christmas) or return later. Recently, I allowed a couple of people to jump in before me. They were appreciative as they only wanted to pay a bill and buy stamps and I had parcels to weigh.
- Don’t get caught up in the media hype nor the glamourous TV cooking shows. Christmas lunch does not have to be the hot turkey. I have a table of seven and we have agreed on cold, uncomplicated tempting food platters, suitable for the hot Queensland weather.
Despite the massive clearing, cleaning and shopping that leads up to Christmas, it is worth every over-worked muscle.
My daughter commented “Mum it is all about us being together, the rest is not important, so don’t stress”. I heed her words and her brother would agree.
I visualise their arrival on Christmas day, feel my heart melt at the thought of seeing my grandsons and continue to scrub down the French doors. Happy Christmas!