Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Be prepared, be happier

Organized people suffer less stress during holiday hubbub

By Kimberly Hayes Taylor
The Detroit News

You might be acquainted with one of them - and you find them disgusting. Maybe you laugh at them. But deep inside, you know you are secretly jealous.

They are the people who are always prepared. They never suffer from holiday madness. They don't concern themselves with day-after sales and wouldn't be caught dead in a shopping mall during the month of December.

Janet Kester is one of those people. She can't help it, really. She's a professional organizer. But Kester and other super-organized people say you don't have to laugh at them or hate them. With some lists, early planning and doing things a little bit at a time, you can be like them.

Shop early

Check out just how prepared Kester is. Long before Thanksgiving, she had already hit Costco and Sam's Club to stock up on flour, sugar, nuts, spices and dried cranberries for the goodies she bakes during the holidays. She replenished her canned pumpkin for pies and accounted for the colored sugar sprinkles for cookies.

And get this: she even went to an orchard to pick apples for her homemade holiday pies.

She says planning helps her keep her sanity during holidays.

"It's having what you need when you need it and being able to find it," says Kester, who calls herself "The Productivity Coach." "You don't have time not to get organized. It's much less stressful and frustrating."

Linda Curtis, a psychologist, agrees that early preparation is healthy.

"You can never go wrong," she says. "A lot of stress comes when you are overwhelmed."

Victoria Inniss says she learned to lower her stress level and save money by preparing in the summer and early autumn.

All year, she stalks T.J. Maxx, Marshall's and outlet malls for perfect, thoughtful gifts. She never settles for mid-December's higher priced, picked-over items.

Inniss started gathering items early for the body pampering gift baskets that are a hit with her friends. For weeks, she shopped for lavender, vanilla, sweet almond, olive and essential oils, which she'll mix into massage oils, bath soaps, scrubs, cremes and lip balms, concoctions she calls "Skin Voodoo."

"If you wait until the last minute, you can't be creative," she says. "You can't do anything special."

Procrastination guilt

Cynthia Townley Ewer, founder and editor of, says everyone is susceptible to holiday madness. She isn't that organized herself, so she knows how last-minute personalities feel about people who already have a jump on the holidays.

"We hate them," Ewer says. "And they always have to brag about it.

Ewer, who has run her online magazine for a decade, says if you don't plan your activities early to avoid the holiday madness, you'll have nowhere to hide.

Psychologist Curtis warns that, in addition to stress, the holidays can trigger emotions, and purchasing items slowly can help alleviate emotions and stress. "Being ahead is very important," she says. "You can get into the hype of the season, break out the credit cards and start overspending. You have to keep living after the holidays are over."

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