Sunday, October 27, 2013

Why are Christmas Items Displayed for Sale so Early?

For some reason, the sight of Christmas decorations lining store shelves in August brings out the Scrooge in some people. While those of us with OCD (Obsessive Christmas Disorder) skip down the aisles, squealing with delight at the sparkly holiday displays, others show signs of annoyance, saying, “Let me enjoy summer! Let me enjoy autumn! Let me enjoy Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day! I don’t want to see Christmas stuff till after the stuffed turkey is served!” These complaints run through the month of October, as if December 1 is much farther than just five-six weeks away!

Let’s imagine for a moment that no sign of the coming holiday was evident until December 1. (It couldn’t happen much sooner due to Thanksgiving and preparations for Black Friday weekend.) Now the normal chaos of the season is ratcheted to a higher level as businesses and charitable organizations must scramble to get out and buy decorations and supplies for their various Christmas events, most of which occur in the first two weeks of December. Budgets are strained because of the inability to check prices early. Lines are even longer, and tempers are shorter because of the increased number of shoppers and the disappearance of desired items from shelves. Crafters are in tears because they were unable to purchase holiday-themed supplies early for the decorations and gifts they planned to make and don’t have the time necessary to make everything! Oh the humanity!

Here’s the bottom line: if you aren’t in the mood for Christmas shopping, then assume the displays aren’t meant for you. They exist for others: those who need to browse early, plan early, and purchase early. Don’t begrudge those Christmas-minded others their early shopping opportunities. Life’s too short to be a Scrooge who, as you know, changed his attitude by the end of his story and lived a much happier life because of it. As Charles Dickens wrote in A Christmas Carol, “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.”

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

5 Steps to Declutter Christmas!

5 Steps to Declutter Christmas! is an excellent blog post from Action Plan Ministries and authors of the book Declutter Now! You know I’m all about advance planning, and these good folks have the right idea. Click the bold red link and get some great tips.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Newsletters: Try a Template

I love Christmas newsletters. I’ve lived far away from family my entire adult life, and reading those newsletters allows me to catch up on the lives of my loved ones. A well-done newsletter will share the good, the bad, and the funny highlights of the year. You might want to keep one from each year for yourself as a sort of brief diary of your family’s life and growth.

After I had been married a few years, I began including a newsletter in our Christmas cards, patterning it after the one my aunt and uncle sent out: newspaper column format with short, newsy items following a different theme each year. It’s fun, it’s quirky, and it’s creative! The year I didn’t send one out, I got notes telling me how much my newsletter was missed.

I created my own template more than twenty years ago. I change it up a bit each year to keep things interesting, but if Christmas chaos gets the best of me, that template enables me to pull my family news together quickly and in time to get my Christmas cards in the recipients’ mailboxes before Dec. 25. If I had not created it in a now-defunct desktop publishing program, I could share it with you but, alas, I still use PageMaker while the rest of the world has moved on to InDesign. No problem, you can find templates for Word, and probably Mac too (but you’ll have to do your own research if you need a Mac template). There are sites that sell templates, but you can find free ones available that will suit your purposes.

Here is a Microsoft Family Christmas Newsletter template that will help you place photos and text in place as it offers ideas for news to include.

This Holiday Family Newsletter template from Microsoft has Christmas graphics instead of photos. It’s six pages, which is awfully long, but can be folded over and mailed in place of a card. This one would probably be most useful to send to a few close but long-distance relatives who would be pleased to read all about your year’s adventures; your children could add poetry or short stories to it to add some extra holiday cheer. Or, this template could work as a holiday template for a business newsletter. has five free templates with a variety of holiday designs for Christmas Newsletters in Microsoft Word. One of them is in letter form rather than a newsletter format if you prefer writing a letter to laying out articles. Another even goes with a template for matching return address labels!

October is a good month to start on a newsletter. You have time to make a list of events and accomplishments to cover; you have time to start planning your layout and choosing any photos you want to include. You may wait until mid-November before you wrap it up, but getting a headstart will ensure that you can finish easily.

Might I make a suggestion? Ideally, newsletters should be limited to one page—two at the most. Don’t waste precious space on news that is the same every year. There’s no need to share that your kids are honor students and that you are so proud year after year after year. People want to know what else they are doing.

For additional tips on writing newsletters, click the “newsletter” link in my word cloud in the righthand margin.

[Note: I ended up using one of the WordDraw templates for my 2013 newsletter. It used a lot of color ink, but it turned out great. I tried something new and liked it! How about you?]