The delightful Mimi returns with the second post in her Christmas preparation series – in which you’re encouraged to plan ahead and enjoy later.
In February, I am continuing my quest to be ready for Christmas in plenty of time. When I first wrote here in January, I explained about how rushed and hurried and disorganised I felt last Christmas. I wanted to make room for a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas this year, by being ready for the start of December. Last month I touched on reflecting back on the Christmas past to make sure that this year we don’t end up missing doing things we wanted to do, or being committed to things that drain us rather than fill us with joy.
This month I have two tasks on my to do list that I hope you will join me for. The first task is all about money. This year I want to give myself the gift of not worrying about how much Christmas is going to cost. There are a few approaches to this, and hopefully amongst these you will find one that suits you.
It’s not all about the money but…
The first thing to do is to try and get a rough idea of how much Christmas cost you last year. You don’t have to comb your bank statement for every Christmas related purchase (unless you want to!) but it is worth jotting down roughly how much you spent on
- Christmas Food/Drink
- Entertaining – if you throw a Christmas drinks party or similar
- Christmas Gifts
- Christmas Cards
- Decorations – including a tree if you buy a live one
- Everything else
The purpose is not to make you feel bad or daunted by the sums. Instead, I want you to just think about each area and see if you feel happy with that. Are there areas you would like to spend less on? Are there areas you would like to spend more on? For example, you might decide that you want to buy only organic or locally produced food this year. Perhaps the extra money for that could come from sending your cards early. But sending them second class, or maybe shortening your card list, or choosing to send e-cards instead.
Maybe this year there is a group of family or friends you could suggest doing ‘Secret Santa’ for instead of buying gifts for all. As a family you may suggest a spending limit, or you could choose to make homemade gifts instead.
If you throw a Christmas party each year, maybe you could make it a cocktail and canape party or an afternoon tea rather than having to do lots of catering. Better still, why not make it a pot luck party, as most people will always ask ‘what can I bring?’
A little bit each month
Once you have a rough idea of how much you would like to spend in each category, it is time to add it all up, and then divide it by ten. In an ideal world, that is how much you need to tuck away each month. This could be into a savings account, with a savers union, or in a jam jar (if you have the discipline not to raid it!). However I know that life isn’t that simple for everyone, and that just may not to be doable. What I would suggest it if you can’t save one tenth each month, is to save what you can. Just make sure you put it aside as soon as you receive your monthly income.
I have started using a few pounds from my housekeeping each month to buy savings stamps to put in a little card at my local supermarket. Many supermarkets offer this scheme, and some offer incentives of an extra pound or two for each completed savings card. The trick is here that you can of course use it to buy your Christmas groceries. Or you can use it to pay for your usual grocery shopping in December. The cash you have saved doing that can then pay for one of your other categories of Christmas spending.
One last approach to try is for your Christmas gifts is to try to buy some each month throughout the year and save them away. I don’t know about you, but I never buy ‘Christmas Gifts’ of the kind you see in all the catalogues that get printed each year. I am more likely to buy something I think the person would like at any time of year. It really takes the pressure off, and it is a pleasing feeling to have a cupboard or drawer in use as a Christmas gift treasure chest. One word of warning here, keep a small list or notebook in your bag with what you have already bought and for whom, so you don’t accidentally end up buying more than one gift for the same person!
Plan your best December
The other thing I want you do to this month is to have a good think about December. Not necessarily Christmas itself, but the month of December. For me the whole point of getting ready for Christmas early is so that I can enjoy Christmas, but also so I can enjoy December. Rather than rushing about being frazzled, I want to be present, to enjoy the month. So what does your ideal December look like for you? Remember sweep aside the entire notion of Christmas preparations…because they will already be done.
Make yourself a list, or an inspiration or mood board. Are there some books you would like to read? A particular walk you would like to go on? Would you like to see the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square? And then sing carols at St Martins In The Field? Take yourself or a friend to afternoon tea? Imagine how lovely it would be if you could decide to knit a pair of socks or crochet a small blanket in December. Not for a gift, just for you.
On Pinterest there are several ideas for advent craft alongs (not necessarily advent themed, just to do over the course of advent) if you are looking for some inspiration. Perhaps you would like to commit to a daily yoga practise, or to write a letter to a different friend each evening. Dream your perfect December. In the coming months we will sow the seeds to let it bloom.
I would love to hear what plans you have for your own simple, slow, savoured December. Do share them in the comments below!
February is a month that takes one by surprise; even more then Christmas creeps up on you. It’s a month that initially seems full of hope after the gloom of January. It holds the promise of pancakes, valentines and the first snowdrops. What it also has in store is biting cold and a reminder that spring is probably some way off. So don’t fling back the blankets too soon. Stay cosy and give yourself a break to browse the below.
Stay cosy links for February
- Ok if you insist you can leave the warmth and safety of the sofa and go on a snowdrop walk (pick up some more biscuits and the sunday papers on your way back…). I always think it’s like the British equivalent of cherry blossom viewing.
- With Valentine’s Day lurking I can’t help but think about the relationships in my life and why they’ve worked (or not). This piece on on why successful relationships work is a pretty interesting read.
- Need an excuse for hoarding stationery? Happily many pieces that demand house room are ideal for organising space in the kitchen, bathroom and lounge thus justifying their continued residence.
- Looking for a suitable point to kick start those habits you started in January (which trailed off in February – it’s ok; blame the weather!)? Why not make the first day of the spring your new starting point? And you get a choice of 2 dates!
- I love vintage valentine cards because they are so cute but these are a bit more alarming!
Embrace a few more weeks of hibernation (with periodic trips away from the sofa or even outside) because that’s what now is about.
P.S. If you want to treat yourself without leaving the sofa our 5th birthday surprise box is still on sale
It was very nearly a disaster. It was a Sunday. I’d done my weekly planning in the morning, organised my calendar for the week and made my lists. I’d been to a meeting at my studio, written down all the points, measured up my space so I could buy furniture, and for once in my life it was all in one notebook, not on a million scraps of paper.
Then I popped to my Mum’s for dinner and LEFT IT THERE!
I didn’t realise for ages, then went to look for it to check my Monday plans and panicked. Eventually had the presence of mind to call Mum, who said she thought it was just a notebook of mine.
A BULLET JOURNAL IS NEVER JUST A NOTEBOOK!
We tried several times that week to retrieve it (it wasn’t lost for long, I was being dramatic – but it was away from me for eight days which felt like a lifetime!), and eventually realised I’d have to cope without it for a week or so.
Bujo addicts and planner converts – once you’re converted, have you tried living without your planner?
I was a walking disaster!
It turns out that once I write something down by hand, with a pen, in my planner, it removes itself from my brain.
Helpful for feeling calmer and getting more done. Decidedly unhelpful when you can’t recall where you are meant to be and why (or when).
I missed work meetings, forgot birthdays, put the wrong bins out. I missed burlesque class because I didn’t realise it was Wednesday, and by the Tuesday I was refusing to make any plans with anyone (including doctor’s appointments) in case I was double booking myself.
Once I eventually retrieved it, there was then a readjustment period where I kept misplacing the damned thing and then having a full scale panic. I can tell you that the entirety of my day job colleagues now think I’m utterly mad, especially as I do have a wall planner, kitchen calendar and Google calendar. I can also confirm that I feel distinctly saner when my bullet journal is safe & within sight, and that my other calendars are in no way up to date enough!
Losing it was much more awful than the loss of a small hardback notebook should be, really.
I am now percolating ideas for a backup – because if I ever properly lose it, or it is stolen, the contents of it would be worthless to the finder but disastrous for me to lose.
I’d love to hear other stories of planner loss & disaster, to reassure me I’m not alone, and more crucially, to find out how you all cope when it happens! Comment here or drop me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org 😀
We heard you guys were quite keen on stationery (!) and that you’d like to know a bit more about each box’s contents. We also know that lots of you like the surprise element, so we’re keeping the sneak peek page, and adding a closer look at some of our contents…
In January’s box you found…
Sticky notes – absolute essentials for planning your new year in style, right?
These caught our eye as being perfect for bullet journallers, Filofax lovers and even people who *gasp* just plan on a calendar!
They’re also fabulous for leaving subtle hints in magazines and travel brochures about the things you would really like…
Animals make frequent appearances in our stationery for good reasons – they pass the “squee!” test and they’re very popular, especially on cards for you lovely lot to send to other people.
This one is laser cut, shimmery and features owls – a nod to the wisdom we often find in ourselves while looking back over the previous year and planning the next. (Also we like owls and other woodland creatures…)
Don’t, however, get so distracted by the shimmery owls that you fail to notice that this is in fact a birthday card. Definitely not speaking from experience. Absolutely not.
“Lucky” embroidered card by Petra Boase.
We’re big fans of Petra’s quirky, unusual designs, and the idea of starting the new year with a message of luck felt like a lovely one.
Blank inside for your own message, who will you send yours to?
Hands down our new favourite pen, this retractable gel pen (GEL PEN!!) comes in several gorgeous shades and never, ever leaks in your pocket or your bag.
It really is the little things in life, but I have lost count of the number of times I’ve had to bleach ink off my hands after fishing a pen out of my bag in a hurry.
For the pen geeks amongst you, it also has a lovely smooth line and minimal bleed – so really good for thinner paper and airmail letters.
Also included was a fab postcard from Dandelion, for touching base with that friend who doesn’t celebrate Christmas (or the one you missed off your list by mistake in December). Postcards are always a gorgeous way to say hi without the pressure of filling up a whole card or letter.
What was your favourite item in January’s box?
We have a new series for 2018! The delightful Mimi will document her preparations for the festive season over the course of a year – without further ado, here’s episode one:
Last week I had to go into the big shopping centre in town to buy some new wellies for my three year old, because of a series of unfortunate events which had led to her previous pair being lost in the park. Upon entering the shopping centre, I noticed a beautiful display of large twinkling lights and stars hanging from the ceiling. Leftover Christmas Decorations. Christmas Decorations which have not registered in my consciousness until now because I was so busy and harried and hurried in the run up to Christmas. That really pulled me up short. In the whole of December, I literally did not see the large flashing lights in front of my eyes because of my own busyness.
Every year I say this year I will be ready for Christmas by December and every year I start with good intentions, but somehow time slips away. I make plans to really enjoy December, and ironically this year enrolled on an e-course called Savoring A Slow Simple December. An e-course I only had time to log into once.
Things got in the way, inspiration deserted me, a run of ill health and some family situations meant it was well into December before I got properly started, and had to leave many plans unrealised, ideas put to one side, things not done. I felt stressed and horrible. The relief on Christmas Eve when I realised that finally everything that could be done at that point had been done…I can’t even describe it. But at that point, it really is too late to slow down and savour it all, I was more in exhausted recovery mode than enjoy Christmas mode.
So, ‘This year will be different!” I declared to the lovely Annastasia over one of our breakfast meetings. Luckily for me, Annastasia is not the type to let me leave things with just making such a fluffy vague statement, she is the type to help me make it happen. So she kindly offered me the chance to chronicle my efforts here on the Inkdrops blog, and to hopefully inspire others to also get ready early so they can take time to enjoy the December that they deserve.
Over the years I’ve read a fair amount on planning and creating Christmas. Books, blogs, magazines, ebooks, ecourses, downloads…and it strikes me that while there are nuggets of wisdom to be gleaned, they are all a little too prescriptive. Surely the only plan that will work for me and my circumstances is the one that I plan for myself? I’ve noticed that they often begin with an exercise to decide what makes Christmas special to you, what your favourite things are, how you want Christmas to feel…to vision it so you can bring it into being. Well, not me. That will come later. I am going to start off by thinking about all the things I HATED about last Christmas, the things that irritated and disappointed me. Then I am going to come up with a plan for vanquishing them, and only then when I have swept my Christmas slate clean will I start thinking about my vision for Christmas this year.
Your first step is to make yourself a cup of tea, light a candle if you can, then choose a notebook, or paper, and a pen or pencil, app or whatever else works best for you.
Jot down on the paper as quickly as you can, before you have time to think too deeply about it:
- What was the worst part of Christmas for you?
- What disappointed you?
- What didn’t you get to do that you wanted to do?
- What did you do that you really didn’t want to?
- Who didn’t you get to see that you hoped to see?
- Where did you want to go that you didn’t get to go?
- Where did you go that you really didn’t want to go?
Hopefully the list won’t be too long, and that there will be a fair amount within your control. Your next step is to jot down a couple of actions you could take to mitigate each thing this year. Also, have a look and see if any of the things you did that you didn’t really enjoy can be struck from the list next year. I have a friend who hates sending cards, so she doesn’t. She knows that her friends would rather she cut the stress out of her life and enjoy the extra time it gives her rather than sit writing out cards because she feels she must.
Now have a think about the ways you could make happen some of the things you didn’t get to do and the people you didn’t get to see. For example, I didn’t get to see one of my close friends and her little girls for anything more than literally knocking on the door and swapping gifts this year. Again. So this year, I have plans to invite her and her girls over on an early weekend in December, put a few crafts out for the girls and enjoy tea and a catch up with my friend. Crucially, I am going to ask her to save the date now so we know we will both have it in our diaries.
That is all you have to do for this month, along with making yourself a promise that this year will be different, and you will join with me each month to create the Christmas that you want to have, and the December that you deserve.
Next month we will be looking at the jollier side of things, creating our winter wishlists, and assigning some themes or tasks to each month to make it all happen.
Until then, wishing you a daffodil filled January,
ps if you would like to share any of your responses to this month’s prompts, please do let me know in the comments!
Our lovely guest writer Mimi lives in a little Victorian cottage with her husband and daughter and a great many books. She is rarely to be seen without her red lipstick or a teacup close to hand. She needs as books as she needs air and water, and writes about her love of the changing seasons, knitting, violet creams, crochet and baking over at Little Sips of Tea.