Countdown: 45 days to Christmas

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I’m determined not to be stressed out by the holidays and race into Christmas Eve too harried and exhausted to enjoy the time with my family and friends.

Here are a few suggestions from the Better Homes and Gardens Holiday planning guide which I plan to follow:

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1. Simplify shopping with a deadline and the Web.

First, set a shopping completion deadline of December 15 so you can truly enjoy the season without shopping malls and long lines. If you must shop in December, try smaller boutiques, gift stores, or unconventional destinations such as garden centers, hardware stores, or office supply outlets. These may offer easier parking and fewer lines. Or purchase gifts when it is convenient for you by shopping online or by catalog. Tip: Order early on the Internet to avoid hefty overnight shipping fees.

org. 2. Set up a gift-wrapping zone.

Who hasn’t found themselves at midnight trying to wrap presents but unable to locate tape or scissors? Find a quiet corner of your home to set up as a semi-permanent gift-wrapping area. It might be in a guest room, basement, or home office — wherever you’ll have a bit of privacy as you wrap holiday gifts.

Keep essentials in a clear tote or organizer – I found one that hangs on the inside of a closet door. It has pouches for rolls of ribbon, tape, tags and more. Tip: After the holidays, be sure to stock up on gift tags, ribbon, wrapping paper, bows, bags, Christmas cards, and seals to use the following year.

3. Take pictures as you decorate.

After you have arranged the perfect mantel display of holly, candles, and bows, take a picture. Getting a close-up photo of your great table setting serves as a detailed visual reminder for next year. It’s a great time saver, especially if you keep the photo right along with the decorations or table linens. Tip: Sometimes “crowding” everyday items with holiday decorations adds stress and clutter to our holidays. Just for the season, box up knick-knacks, books, etc. to allow a clean slate for holiday decor.

Stress-free holidays is all about setting realistic goals and using products that deliver high functionality. By taking small steps, we can have an organized, joyous holiday season where all of our “to dos” get done with ease — not stress.

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