Creating a Life Free From Chaos

Simplify the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us! How is your holiday planning coming along? It’s not too late to get organized if you feel like you’re slipping behind. The holidays can be a lot more fun and a lot less stressful with a little planning and an eye toward keeping things simple. Here are some quick tips for getting organized and enjoying this month of celebration.

  • Create a holiday notebook. Photocopy your favorite holiday recipes and keep them there, so you don’t have to scramble each year looking for those special family dishes. You can also keep a copy of your gift list in your notebook, as well as to-do lists, directions to holiday parties, and your plans for cookie swaps and homemade gift-making.
  • Create a gift spreadsheet. One of my lifesavers is a spreadsheet I use every year to track and organize my gifts. I create a new worksheet each year (all in the same document), and I list who I want to get gifts for down the left side. I have columns across the top for my budget, what to give, whether I’ve bought/ordered/made it, how much it actually cost, whether it’s been wrapped or shipped, and a space to write notes to myself. The budget and actual cost columns add themselves up automatically using the SUM function, so I can always glance down and see how I’m doing. I’ve been doing this since 2003, so I can look back and see what I got someone for the last several years, ensuring I don’t duplicate myself!
  • Mark your calendar now for your gift purchasing deadline and your mailing deadline if you have to ship gifts. Planning ahead saves you from costly last-minute binge-buying and excessive postage fees, and it ensures your gifts arrive on time.
  • Catalog or online shopping? If you do any of your shopping online or by catalog, it’s time to get going. Keep in mind shipping time and charges, and give yourself some leeway in case your items are canceled or backordered. Keep track of what you ordered in your gift spreadsheet or in a handy app like Slice.
  • Instead of saving all the gift wrapping until the last minute, set aside a few evenings here and there to wrap some gifts. Keep your wrapping paper, bags, tissue paper, scissors, tape, ribbons and gift tags organized together in a box or other container so you can find what you need easily.
  • Stock up on easy entertaining supplies for last-minute guests. Tidy up your guest room, keep the bathroom clean and stocked, and fill your pantry with easy appetizers like chips and salsa, crackers and summer sausage, hot cocoa and ciders. There are also some yummy snacks and appetizers that can be kept in your freezer and heated up as needed.
  • Enjoy yourself. Simplify the holidays where you can, organize the rest, and vow to have fun with friends and family this year.

For more ideas for an easygoing holiday, check out my book, Simply Christmas, with 101 ways to simplify the holidays. 

I’m also curating a special Pinterest board, Simply Christmas, so be sure to follow!

Decadent DIY: Spa Products You Can Make

photo by The Exo Guy/Flickr

Homemade oils, creams, and other products can be just as luxurious and fragrant as anything you can buy at the store. As a bonus, they’re simple to make, can save you a ton of money, and are much more natural and eco-friendly than conventional products. Most beauty and personal care products contain phthalates, formaldehyde, parabens or other chemicals that have been linked to reproductive, neurological and endocrine problems. Not exactly beautiful, huh? While most of my personal care products are still commercially made, I’ve been experimenting with some beauty care recipes and wanted to share three of my favorites with you. Packaged in lovely reusable bottles, these make decadent gifts for anyone you want to indulge.

Eye Make-Up Remover/Moisturizing Eye Oil
I use this one daily for removing eye make-up, including waterproof mascara, and I love how it gently removes everything and nourishes the eye area at the same time. It’s full of antioxidants and has a luxurious, relaxing scent. Take care not to get it IN your eyes though!

  • 3 tsp castor oil
  • 4 tsp sweet almond oil
  • 4 tsp grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 tsp vitamin E oil
  • 60 drops pomegranate seed oil
  • 0 drops pure lavender oil

Mix together and store in a dark bottle. Use a bit on a cotton ball to wipe away eye makeup and moisturize the eye area. Used in the evening, it’ll soak in overnight and won’t affect make-up the next day. Makes a little more than 2 oz.

Soothing Clay Mask
I use this once a week to draw out toxins and impurities in my skin. The recipe is based on one I learned at a natural spa on the island of Dominica.

  • 1 cup Bentonite clay
  • 30 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 30 drops pure lavender essential oil
  • 20 drops eucalyptus essential oil
  • 1 tsp jojoba oil

Mix well and store in a waterproof container — I reuse an old body butter jar. To use, mix with a little water, smear on your skin (works fabulously on the face and neck) and allow to dry for 10 minutes, then rinse well.

Relaxing Linen Spray

  • 8 oz bottle with sprayer (I prefer a dark glass bottle)
  • 2 tbsp vodka (cheap is good)
  • Distilled water to fill
  • 20 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 30 drops pure lavender essential oil
  • 20 drops rose essential oil

Mix together and store in a cool dark place. To use, shake gently and spritz on pillows, bedding or towels. I keep one on my nightstand, and I take some whenever I travel to freshen hotel rooms.

Do you have a favorite homemade spa concoction you’d like to share? A favorite beauty secret or personal care product you like to make? What DIY products are you experimenting with?