A few days before Halloween, I was getting ready for our annual family pumpkin-carving night. With a college kid who doesn’t live at home, a too-cool-for-school 17-year-old, and a husband that hates the mess of pumpkin guts, this is a tradition that frankly just involves a lot of begging and arm-twisting to get anyone to even participate, but I refuse to give it up just yet. So I turned on the TV to see if I could find a Halloween classic to get us in the mood—preferably a good old-fashioned slasher thriller about Freddie Krueger or Michael Meyers or Jason in the hockey mask.

Instead, I stumbled upon something much scarier: a movie called “Matchmaker Santa.”

Yes, three whole days before Halloween, The Hallmark Channel was apparently already knee-deep into their “Christmas Countdown,” in which they show original holiday-themed movies 24-7 until Christmas day.

This immediately threw me into a state of panic. I haven’t even thought about Thanksgiving yet, let alone started my Christmas shopping. What is wrong with me? Am I that far behind the eight ball? How will I ever get ready on time?

tis the season

This holiday panic attack is nothing new for me. It just never happened in October before. What is supposed to be a joyful time full of family, friends, food, and fun is often preceded by weeks of stress and anxiety. I know I’m not alone in this. So many of us women take on all the responsibility of creating a perfect holiday for our families, to the point that the holidays feel like a burden. That’s something that needs to stop.

While I don’t believe there is any way to eliminate the holiday stress completely, I know there are a few things we can do to help ease it a little bit.

Make Your Lists, Check Them Twice

I’m a big list-maker. I’ve learned that if I don’t write something down (or have Siri put it into my iPhone Notes), I will forget to do it or buy it. For example, if I’m hosting Thanksgiving, I make a list of the menu for the main meal, as well as the kinds of food and drink I want to have on hand for overnight guests. Then I gather my recipes and make a grocery list of ingredients I’ll need. I even make lists of basic tasks that need to be completed (ie., changing sheets, ironing table cloths, stocking bathrooms with soap and toilet paper).

Also, let’s face it, these days if you haven’t started Christmas shopping before Black Friday, you’re already behind. It helps me to remain calm and focused if I make a list of every person I need to shop for. I also include gift ideas as I come up with them.

Tip: if you find yourself struggling for a gift idea, an Immaculate Clean gift certificate makes a really great gift for just about anyone, from a busy mom, a messy bachelor, to an elderly relative! You’re welcome. (By the way, Immaculate Clean offers pre-pay discounts up to 12% off. Gift certificates are a great way to take advantage of this discount!) Contact them for details.

De-Clutter in Short Bursts

Start early to make room for holiday decorations and for all of the new “stuff” that’s going to be coming into your home. If, like me, you only use your dining room for actual dining twice a year, chances are it has become a spot for collecting junk during the rest of the year. If you spend just a few minutes each day finding a home for any extraneous items that have accumulated there, by Thanksgiving Day you’ll be ready to set the table without much ado.

Schedule a Professional Cleaning

Think ahead and get a professional cleaning on the schedule to help you prepare for holiday gatherings. This will do two great things:

  1. It will force you to clear out any clutter that still remains so that the cleaning crew has room to work
  2. It will free your time so you can focus on something like baking or memory-making rather than toilet scrubbing.

Don’t worry if you don’t already have a regular cleaning crew: Immaculate Clean offers one time cleaning services! You can hire them to clean your whole house, or just have them focus on something like bathrooms and the kitchen. They even offer a One Time Holiday Clean Discount! Contact them for information.

We all deserve to enjoy the holidays. Do whatever you can to take some of the pressure off of yourself so that you can relax and enjoy the time with your family!