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With office parties, club breakups, social gatherings, family catch-ups not to mention decorating, shopping and cooking… it’s no wonder everyone agrees how busy the Christmas and New Year period is. The question is, how to survive it without wanting to jump off the roof instead of putting up the lights.

Plan ahead
It might be obvious, but it bears repeating. I often pick up presents throughout the year, especially if I’m out of town or at a mid-year market so that I can find something more meaningful and unique. It’s often cheaper as you’ll be able to take advantage of sales and avoid overspending out of last minute desperation. This goes for more than just presents: buy drinks, wrapping paper and non-perishable foods before the shops get packed and pre-order your turkey or seafood so you’re not stuck in a queue on Christmas Eve.

Keep it simple
You don’t need to make every room in the house look like a pine forest and serve a six course hot meal to have a home full of festive spirit. I love the smell of a real Christmas tree, but it’s outweighed by my dislike of sweeping the floor twice a day, so it’s fake all the way. My family tradition is a cold seafood lunch for Christmas Day (Northern Hemsiphere readers, remember it’s the middle of summer here). It’s wonderful: it can mostly be done in advance, no one is slaving away in a hot kitchen and everyone is relaxing with a glass of red bubbles in one hand and a canape in the other by 11am! Now, this isn’t to say don’t put in any effort, but just keep it realistic. Last year, for example, I needed to bring a dish to each of several occasions around Christmas. I enjoy cooking and love trying new things, but I limited myself to one more complicated food ‘project’ (a gingerbread tree) and kept the rest to quick dishes that I had made before.

Don’t overschedule
Does your Christmas have you triple-booked and driving all over town from one gathering to another? I don’t know about you, but for me that equals one tired, cranky grinch. Sure, there are always lots of people to see (and that doubles when you gain a significant other) but you really don’t need to see everyone you know within three days. Another way to cut down on commitments without offending anyone? Just combine parties! For example, this Christmas instead of spending lunch with my parents then rushing to dinner with The Man’s, my in-laws simply invited my family over for lunch with them. We get double the fun at lunch but get to relax on the couch full of pudding knowing we aren’t expected anywhere else.

Only do the things that bring you joy
Sorry for sounding a bit Oprah’s book club there, but I really do advise against doing things just because they’re expected even when the enjoyment has gone. Perhaps you’ve been making truffles every Christmas for years so the family expects them but you’re bored and want to try something else, or maybe you normally put on a spectacular light show in the front yard but lately it’s started to feel like a chore. Hell, I’m a stationery designer and I didn’t even send out Christmas cards last year because it didn’t feel genuine. Forget the expectations and go with what makes you happy each year and you’ll truly be feeling the spirit.

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A collection of pretty meets practical ideas to inspire a happier home

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