With Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror, the holiday season is now officially kicked off.
This means we’re facing down four weeks of shopping, wrapping, packing, cooking, baking and merry-making, all while still balancing the farm, the job and the family. This week is the time to get organized and simplify a bit if possible, before all hail breaks lose (winter weather pun intended).
Here’s some farm holiday life hacks that might, hopefully, make the season run smoothly.
First, remember the quote commonly attributed to the philosopher Voltaire, “Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.” It means that “good enough” is good enough! Don’t run yourself into the ground trying to meet some false idealized version of perfection. Slow down, enjoy the process, and know that anything done with love is already perfect.
As an example, while I love the folks who go all out with their yard decorations and lights, I do not have bandwidth for that. Ain’t nobody got time for that over here. Therefore, I commit to going low-key on the decorations, because I know it’s the best for me. I decorated the outside of our house the other day and it took me 10 minutes. I hung up the two faux-evergreen wreaths with the red bows, laid out the Christmas doormat, and propped the “Let It Snow” sign on the front stoop. Done.
Second, speaking of mental bandwidth, organization is your friend: a little prep work up front can save you a lot of stress and time. I actually go old school on this, because my husband never remembers to look at the shared Google calendar I set up for us. So, I print a Word document with our daily schedule on it for the month and tape it to the kitchen wall next to the coffee maker. That way, he can look at it every morning and be reminded of what’s going on. Laying out the schedule and knowing it in advance lets us plan accordingly.
Third, make lists. Don’t try to keep everything in your head (plus you get the satisfaction of crossing off things as they are done). I will make a list of what needs to be done for the week for the farm, the house and the errands. Separating it out into categories is easier for me to wrap my head around it and dedicate time blocks, too.
Fourth, simplify your gift giving by picking a theme and rolling with it. Every Christmas I give my 10 nieces and nephews each a book and a $10 bill. The book is about something they’re into currently and the cash is always welcome. This gift is simple, easy to wrap, and doesn’t take a lot of brain energy. Their parents like it because it’s something that can get them away from their screens and it doesn’t contribute much to house clutter.
Remember, gift certificates are still great. My mom and grandmom definitely don’t need any more household items or knick-knacks, but what they do need and love is their monthly visit to the hair salon. Grab a gift certificate, put it into a holiday card, and write a thoughtful message that will warm their heart. Done,
Speaking of warmth — an easy hostess gift I use every year is a $20 bottle of local red wine with a $3 packet of mulling spices tied to the neck. It’s easy to buy and assemble, and makes a great grab-and-go gift. Warm, spiced mulled wine is a lovely treat to sip on cold days, and also makes the whole house smell like Christmas when you simmer it on the stove.
Fifth, something else that smells good is an easy breakfast. One farmer friend of mine swears by Christmas breakfast casseroles. She makes it the night before and puts it in the fridge, then pops it into the oven on Christmas morning while the others do the farm chores. Then, when they come back in, a delicious warm breakfast is waiting along with the presents (and a clean kitchen).
Speaking of cooking, another farm wife says her best seasonal life hack is sending the kids and husband out to go hunting, so they get out of her way and she has the kitchen to herself. It’s brilliant.
And, sixth, in saving the best farm life hack for last, let me introduce you to the joy of driving separately. That’s right folks, driving separate vehicles can save your sanity (and your marriage). Case in point, my farmer friend says, “I learned my lesson the first year we were married, when he had to leave because the alarm went off in the chicken house and I was stranded at the Christmas parade.” Chicken house alarms aside, this is something my husband and I do. It’s perfect, because we can divide and conquer as needed, one of us taking the baby, one of us leaving when the farm needs attention, one of us maybe driving through the Starbucks on the way, and nobody being stuck to the other’s time schedule. A few minutes alone in your vehicle between destinations can also give you a few minutes of quiet and reset your brain.
And, remember, this season is a marathon and not a sprint. Drink your water, schedule in your time to rest and reflect, and enjoy.