fbpx
9 Easy Tips to Avoid Holiday Stress and Distractions

9 Easy Tips to Avoid Holiday Stress and Distractions

Have you ever wondered why, as soon as Halloween is over, to-do lists get longer, the days get shorter, and holiday stress creeps into our lives?  The holiday season has arrived, and with it comes some stress and a lot of distractions.

If you’re anything like me, the holidays are meant to be a fun time celebrating with family and friends.  I love finding the perfect gifts and tying them up with a beautiful bow.  I love getting Christmas cards from friends and family, and sending out our own.  (Though sometimes at our house they become New Year’s greetings!)  We love hosting parties.

But thinking about all the things that need to be done to make the perfect holiday a reality can be overwhelming.    Every little distraction pulls us away from “the List”.   We fall behind and begin to panic and stress out.   What a holiday buzz kill…for us and everyone in the house when it happens!

With all the craziness, and sometimes chaos, we all need some coping skills to get out of overwhelm and into fun!  That’s where some easy tips to avoid holiday stress and distractions comes in!

Start small with this list.  Choose one or two that seem easiest for you right now.  They’re here to help you avoid the holiday stress and distractions that are creeping into your life.

 

Tip #1:  Ease Holiday Stress by planning ahead and setting goals

Remember the vision you had in your head for the perfect holiday?  Now is the time to get it out of your head and onto paper.  Then you can start the action plan.

  • Get organized with your decorations.  Pull out everything  you have and decide what you need to freshen it up a bit for this year.
  • Plan your tabletop and table settings.  If you need some ideas, you can find a few on this blog post (Fall Tabletops That Set the Mood).
  • Plan your menu and your guest list
  • Start your gift list
  • Set a goal for when you want these things completed. Be realistic about these goals, give yourself enough time to finish…and then add a few hours or days.  It always seems that most things take longer than we think they will.
  • Make sure that the spaces you’ll be using for prep, meals, and guests are clean and orderly, especially your prep areas. Remember that it’s hard to get things done when the space you’re working in is a cluttered mess.  If not, be prepared for chaos, a lot of setbacks, and…STRESS!

 

fall to-do and checklist

Tip #2:  Decide what your holiday budget will be

  •  Make a budget and stick to it
  • Have the right tools and resources before you start, and list the cost.
  • What do you need to buy?
  • What can you re-use or repurpose?

Tip #3:  Say NO when you need to.   Don’t feel guilty

  • Make it your “best NO”. You don’t always have to say NO to requests from friends or family.  And you don’t always need to decline a party invitation.  But when the pressure of completing your own holiday plans is getting to you,  a gentle “NO” to the request that doesn’t make you excited  is your “best NO”.
  • Delegate your to-do list between family members
  • Your “best YES” is similar to your best NO. Use it after you’ve considered the time it will take away from your own priorities.  And you need to be excited about it.
  • Busyness is not a virtue, and it is NOT a sign of productivity. If you are taking on too much, the truth is, you’ll probably focus on none of it and risk the chance of doing a horrible job at what you manage to complete.
holiday table setting

 #4:  Set boundaries to avoid distractions

  • Ask family to stay away during specific stressful times or tasks (In my case, it was wrapping our stair railings with garland)
  • Take a break to be with them later
  • When holiday overwhelm is stressing you out, remember that you don’t have to do it all
  • You don’t have to see everyone or do all the things
  • If you’re not excited about going to an event, or if it drains your energy when you think about it….don’t do it!

Tip #5:  Create relaxing surroundings/environment

  • Have a supportive environment to keep you motivated and excited. Play holiday music to get you in the spirit.  Light scented candles.  Open the windows on a nice day for some fresh air.
  • Organize your work space to make each task you need to do simple and easy. That means having all the tools you need ready and waiting so you don’t have to stop and run to the store for a glue gun or a bag of sugar at the last minute.
  • Clear your work spaces and de-clutter you home.  Knowing that you have a calm space around you will definitely calm the chaos of the holiday season.
Christmas helpers

  Tip #6:  Maintain your healthy habits

  • Don’t skip out on your workout or walks with friends
  • Make sure you get enough sleep
  • It’s tempting to “test” all the cookies and desserts, but remember your veggies!

Tip #7:  Seek a fresh perspective

  • Take a break when you’re feeling overwhelmed
  • Make a change.  I like to call it a mind-flip.  Instead of thinking of the project you “have to do”, tell yourself that you “get to bake cookies today”.
  • Take one task that drives you crazy during the holidays and tackle it in a new way.  A fresh approach just might make a difference. For example, if you dread having to send out holiday cards, enlist your spouse or your kids and split the list.

Tip #8:  Be OK with Good Enough

  • Be willing to focus on what’s most important
  • Be willing to modify family traditions. Decorating our stair railings to the hilt always looked beautiful.  My family begged me to do it every year.  Since I couldn’t compromise by letting them help (It’s a designer/perfection thing!) I finally used my best “NO”.  Holiday decorating is much nicer with that stressful task no longer on my list.
  • Don’t always go for bigger and better, when planning your holiday. Do you really need the 10’ Christmas tree when you’re going to be away for most of the holiday?
cookie helpers

Tip #9:  Remember to Have Fun Along the Way

  • Let’s face it.  It’s a lot more fun to be with people when you’re not stressed to the max, or so exhausted from working yourself to the bone that you just want to sleep.
  • Turn off the devices and start building positive memories.  When you think back over your life, you’re not going to remember that you didn’t get everything finished or you missed a text message.   Though everyone might  still be talking about the turkey that was burned, or the time your pies were eaten by the neighbor’s dog.   But that’s just part of the cherished memories created in your home during the holidays.  And isn’t that what life is all about?
Thinking about a home renovation or makeover project, but don’t know where to start?  Now is the time to get those ideas out of your head and onto paper, so your plans are finished when you’re ready to start!  And the best place to begin is with this free guide.
DIY Home-Project Burnout and How To Prevent It

DIY Home-Project Burnout and How To Prevent It

Have you ever taken on a DIY home project that really excited you?  You know, the project you saw on Pintrest or Facebook that motivated you to rush out and purchase all the supplies, and filled your head with visions of how beautiful it would look?  You started working on it with enthusiasm and a lot of energy, spent a few days focusing on the end results, and then it happened…..DIY home-project burnout!  Has this ever happened to you?

DIY Project Burnout is a state of physical and mental exhaustion when the work demands constantly exceed the amount of energy that you want to give on a daily basis. Complete project burnout usually happens when overwhelm takes over, your productivity declines, and there is a lack of motivation/boredom.

That is exactly what happened to me recently with a project I started this summer.  I love chalk painting with Amy Howard Home products.  And I hate knowing that nine million tons of furniture goes to landfills each year.  So I’m an advocate of either donating or repurposing.  But what began as a fun way to repurpose our 25 year old kitchen table and chairs, soon became a daunting task that I wish was finished. 

repurposed chairs before and after

                                                                                              Chair after and Chair before

My first goal was to finish painting and reupholstering one chair a week.  We have six chairs, so that should have been an easy goal.  Until some problems popped up… along with the boredom!  This project has been on my To-Do list for weeks, and I get excited each time I can place an updated chair around our kitchen table.  I know it’s going to be beautiful when it’s finished. But I admit that I have DIY home-project burnout.

 
DIY table and chairs makeover

Stuff that gets in the way:

  • not having a step-by-step plan before you begin
  • tools that aren’t easy to operate
  • not having enough supplies to complete the project at once
  • not having the right supplies to get started
  • setting unrealistic goals for completing the project
  • life, work, family commitments

Solutions:

  • Re-focus your mindset and your energy
  • Set an intention to finish it…NOW!  Playing energetic music helps.
  • Make a step-by-step plan.  (ex. do you want to paint all 6 chairs at once, then wax all of them, then cover the seats)
  • Watch any videos you can that will help you before you start
  • Purchase all of the items you’ll need before you start so you won’t have any starts and stops
  • Make an appointment with yourself to work on your project when you know you’ll have the most energy…and keep that appointment
  • If you feel yourself getting bored or overwhelmed, take some time off to take your mind off of it.  Quiet periods aren’t negative.  Sometimes stepping back, can lead to fresh ideas and renewed motivation.

Moral to the story:

  • DIY Home Projects sound great when you start out
  • Be realistic about the time and cost involved
  • Be realistic about your skill level
  • Be honest with yourself about why you really want to do this.  For me, it’s the satisfaction of turning something old and outdated into something beautiful and useful. And doing my part to save the environment by re-designing, repurposing and re-using outdated items.

 

Time For a Countertop Makeover?  Follow These Top 10 Designer Do’s and Don’ts For A Stress-Free Project

Time For a Countertop Makeover? Follow These Top 10 Designer Do’s and Don’ts For A Stress-Free Project

When you’re dreaming of a beautiful kitchen, and know that buying new cabinets is more than your budget will allow, maybe it’s time to consider a makeover that includes new countertops.  If your cabinets are in good condition and the the space plan works well for you this might be your perfect solution!

There was a time, in my old EXPO Design Center days, when I was known as the Queen of Countertop Remodels because I helped so many clients with them. And because of that, I learned exactly what to do, so that stress was kept to a minimum.

Let’s take a look at my list of Designer do’s and don’ts that will help you with your own countertop remodel.

Do:  One of your first decisions to make is what material do you want to use, because you have a few options.  There are natural stone products (granite, marble, quartzite) and there are quartz composite products (Cambria, Caesarstone, Silestone, etc.)

Do: Know what “look” you want to achieve in the space. The material you choose will help you get there.

Do: Decide if you want a lot of movement (veining) in your countertop material.

 

quartzite mont blanc

Quartzite Mont Blanc

Don’t buy a slab that has a lot of movement and imperfections if you think it will drive you crazy. Stone is a gift of nature, and definitely not perfect.  Also, if you need to have a seam because of a large area to be covered, the veins will not match.  If that is a problem for you, then choose a slab/pattern that has less movement and a quiet pattern.

Do: Decide on your fabricator (the person who will template, cut and install). They often display granite, marble, and quartzite slabs in their warehouse. But sometimes they’ll send you to look at a larger showroom that has more to offer.  These showrooms typically do not sell directly to you, the consumer.  So this means they won’t be able to quote you a price.  They’ll give the price to your fabricator who will then factor in the additional labor costs before giving you a quote.

Granite Colonial White

Granite Colonial White

Don’t visit a granite showroom without a designer, contractor, or fabricator name. They can call ahead to let the showroom know you’re coming, or they can go with you to help you select. Sometimes a showroom will recommend a fabricator if you don’t know who to use.  A few showrooms/warehouses will let consumers come in to look without an appointment.  Your fabricator will contact them for pricing.

Do: Find out your fabricator’s price levels before you visit a granite showroom. Since most of them don’t sell directly to the consumer, they won’t give you a price. But they can point you to the slabs that will be in your approximate price point.  Many large fabrication companies have enough space to have countertop slabs on display.  In that instance, they’ll be able to give you a quote.

Don’t:  Assume that the initial quote is the final one.  Your fabricator will send someone to make a template, and that will determine the final cost.  But before they schedule you, they will need a countertop plan with the shape of all your counters, and the dimensions.

Do: Make sure that you have your sink, and sometimes faucet, when they come to make your template. They will take it with them back to their shop.

Do: Know that some fabricators require you to purchase an entire slab, and some will only charge you for what you use.  Be sure to check this out in advance.  Quartz composite products seem to require purchase of an entire slab.  But this is also at the discretion of the fabricator.

Don’t: Ordering less than 25 square feet is not acceptable to most fabricators. Sometimes they have a scrap yard to choose those pieces.  If they do, it’s your luck day!!!

Don’t: Order countertops when you’re in a rush to have it installed. From the time they make the template, until the time it is installed could take anywhere from 5-15 business days.

Don’t: Have your heart set on a slab too early in the process unless you’re prepared to make a deposit so they will hold it.  Also, make sure that your fabricator is going to hold onto the unused part of your slab.  I have had slab “scraps” sold before projects were installed, only to be upset when they made a mistake cutting.  Time was lost while they waited to find another slab to match.

Don’t hang on to a sample that you love and expect it to look the same in 6 months.  The look of natural stone is determined by where it’s mined in a mountain.  Even though it has the same color name, it can look completely different in pattern and color. 

Granite sells quickly in certain markets and new shipments aren’t always cut from the same area of a mountain.  Always inspect your slab before purchasing!  If you need more than one slab for your countertop, make sure that there are more in the stack.  Sometimes they’ll be labeled by the order they’ve been cut.

granite slabs in order

Do: Know that there are options to choose from for your countertop edges. Standard edges are included in your quote.  Non-standard edges are sold by the linear foot.

granite edge profiles

There are a lot of things to think about when making your countertop selection.  And it probably seems like a lot to remember.  But Do’s and Don’ts are meant to guide us in the right direction and keep us from making painful or costly mistakes.

If you’re still confused and unsure of what to do next, feel free to leave a comment below, or email me at Randi@RandiDestefano.com with your questions.  I’m here to help!

Your Space Matters: 3 Secrets To Design A Calmer Life At Home

Your Space Matters: 3 Secrets To Design A Calmer Life At Home

Is your space dragging you down?  Imagine, just for a minute, that you’re visiting someone’s home when there’s clutter and craziness everywhere?  Dishes are piled in the sink and on the counter, and the desk is filled with unorganized stacks of papers.  How did it make you feel? 

Now picture this.  You visit another friend, a friend who’s home is organized with a place for everything.  It has colors you love, and makes you feel instantly calm and peaceful?  Has this ever happened to you?  Your Space Matters.  Our environment has a significant impact on our well-being and our mental focus.  I can relate because I’ve been there too many times!  As we go about our day, following our crazy schedules, it’s so easy to get caught up in life and ignore this place we call home.

Then one day we wake up and notice that things around us are looking a bit worn and tired. There are rooms we avoid because we don’t feel comfortable there, but we can’t figure out why.  Sometimes we’re unorganized and often late for work or carpool because we can’t find the car keys.  Maybe, like me, your desk gets piled with papers and “stuff” to the point where focusing on work is a waste of time.  Does this sound a little bit familiar?

And worst of all, because we feel this way, it starts to impact the way we act around other people and how we respond to them…even if we don’t realize it.  You know what I mean.  The kitchen counter is piled with a PTA project that needs to be finished, so you’re stressed.  Then the kids start clamoring for your attention…and you snap at them.  Or you’re embarrassed to have friends over because your kitchen “doesn’t look as good as their kitchen.”

We’ve all been there at one time or another, and it’s not a fun place to be.  Now’s the time to sit back, take a deep breath, and make a plan to design a calmer life at home.  Here are my    3 secrets to make it happen:

Secret #1:  Define your values and priorities

Start by making a list of everything that HOME means to you. Do you want it to be a retreat to come home to at the end of a long hectic day?  Do you love to welcome family and friends?  Next make a list of your priorities in order of importance.  But be sure that they fit what you value most about home.  A good example of this would be loving to cook but dreading it because your kitchen is always a mess.  Or you love bright colors and your walls are painted dark green.

Secret #2:  Discover what works for you and your lifestyle

How do you want to live in your home?  If you love to be relaxed and casual, then choose furniture styles that reflect that.  When low maintenance is something you value, a clean and simple style with few accessories might be the way to go.

How do you want to feel when you’re at home?  Do you want to feel relaxed, unhurried, and stress free?  What about energetic, organized, and carefree?  Think about the lifestyle you have now, or even the one that you’d like to have, and create your home makeover to compliment that.

What do you want more of?  For me it’s more creative time.  If I don’t make an uncluttered space for that to happen, I won’t plan creativity into my day.

What do you want less of?  Maybe you want to spend less time cleaning or staying on top of the clutter.  Less accessories and better storage solutions would be the answer.

Secret #3:  Just do it!

Too often we make excuses….
I don’t have the time.
We can’t afford it.
I can’t live through construction.
I don’t know where to start.

So many times these excuses are just us getting in our own way because we’re afraid to take that first step.  Start with something simple and begin the process with what you already have.  Get rid of the outdated floral arrangements, move lamps and pillows to another room, or re-purpose a table for another use. 

One client realized she was spending less and less time in her home office, and instead working later and later at meetings and other busy work.  Her Ah-Ha moment came the day she admitted to herself that she really hated the way her office made her feel.  She was finally ready to make a change.  And guess what?  A new paint color was enough to soothe her feelings of uneasiness, and she’s now using her office again!

Make a habit out of getting rid of the excess and simplifying your life.  De-cluttering is liberating!

 

Guest Rooms That Say “We’re Glad You’re Here”

Guest Rooms That Say “We’re Glad You’re Here”

Whenever vacation time and holidays draw near, it’s time to start thinking about the guests that might be staying with us for a night or two…or more.  I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I’m a little less thoughtful about the way our guest rooms look when I know family will be staying there.  Like the time last summer when our guests thought we had three extra bedrooms and we only have two.  Sadly, the very comfortable inflatable bed popped a seam and the bed collapsed in the middle of the night!  This was definitely NOT a guest room that said “I’m glad you’re here. 

Rule #1: Don’t be so busy that you forget to check out these things before you need them.  On the other hand, when I know that friends will be staying overnight, I might add a pretty new detail or two.  Can you relate to this?

Because I love to travel, I’ve spent many a night staying in hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and with friends.  While I’m there I always notice how I feel when I’m in the space.  Do I feel welcomed?  Does it feel creepy?  Is it adequate, but could use some work?

welcoming bedroom

I know that, as an interior designer, I’m more aware of my surroundings than most people.  And I truly believe that each space has it’s own energy.  But these stays have let me discover a thing or two about what the “perfect” guest bedroom could be.  And in the end, it comes down to these three questions:

  1. Is it Welcoming?
  2. Is it Comfortable?
  3. Is it Private?

A welcoming room will let your guests know that you really want them to be there.  It has little added touches like flowers, magazines, and good lighting.  One friend introduced me to the idea of Pillow Presents, which are gifts you place on your guest’s pillow before they arrive.  I loved this idea, and started doing it when our family comes to visit.  It doesn’t have to be expensive.  Sometimes I forget, and leave a little bag of candy.  Or completely forget and am reminded by my youngest granddaughter.  And now my daughters have started leaving them on our pillows when we visit!

luxury bedding

To feel comfortable, room size isn’t as important as the bed, the pillows, and the temperature in the room.  Everyone has their own comfort level when it comes to these three things. Giving options to your guests is so appreciated…especially aging parents, pregnant daughters, and “hot flashing” girlfriends!!!  We’ve rented a house in Florida for a few weeks, and I’m already wondering if the bed and pillows will give us a good night’s sleep.

Finding a private space for everyone when your home is overflowing with guest can sometimes be a challenge.  When this happens it’s helpful to think out of the box and have a plan before your guests arrive.  But, basically, guest appreciate a place to store their “stuff”, and maybe get away from the crowd for a minute or two.

Do you have a checklist of guest room favorites?  Here is my Top 10 list.   Some were borrowed from my friends, hotels, and inns.  Others were suggested to me by family.

  1.   A comfortable mattress with mattress pad
  2.   Tiny paper cups at the sink, stacked on a pretty plate
  3.   A full length mirror, or at least a mirror for makeup and hair
  4.   A folding screen or some type of room divider if other guests will be walking by or sharing the space
  5.   Bottled water or a small pitcher and glass
  6.   Down pillows, or at least nice fluffy ones (some people sleep with two pillows)
  7.   A throw to cuddle up with for an afternoon nap
  8.   A place to hang your clothes and open your suitcase…and empty hangers
  9.   Lamps tall enough to read in bed
  10.   Blinds or draperies to cover the window at night

Do I have each and every one of these in our guest room?  Not at all!  But I’m working on it with each and every guest.  And when I travel, the list grows as I discover some new little nicety that I hadn’t thought of before.

In the end, it’s all about enjoying your time with house guests, welcoming them into your home, and being together making memories that will last a lifetime!

Your Design Action Steps:

  • Look at your guest room from a visitor’s eye…objectively
  • Make a list of what you see that is welcoming, comfortable, and offers privacy
  • Now make a list of what could be added to the room that would add to your guest’s comfort, and make them feel really welcomed

Remember that it doesn’t have to be expensive or over the top in luxury.

 

More Joy…Less Stress: 3 Simple Steps to Avoid Holiday Chaos

More Joy…Less Stress: 3 Simple Steps to Avoid Holiday Chaos

 

I don’t know about you, but I tend to procrastinate on holiday preparations.  Sometimes it’s because I’m too busy with other things that were more important when I said “yes” to them.  Other times, the perfectionist in me keeps thinking “what if?”  What if a better table decorating idea comes to me later?  What if there won’t be enough variety of food?  Crazy, right?

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s time to think about what can be done right now that will bring more joy and less stress to the holiday.  Remember, we want to avoid holiday chaos and focus on enjoying our family and friends.  The answer could be discovering the ONE THING you want to accomplish with the preparation and the meal.  For me, that would be enjoying our time together, staying calm, and living in the moment.  When I focus on this….and how long it will take to pull it all together…it’s time to get real and make a plan. 

Let’s take a look at some simple steps to avoid holiday chaos:

What can you easily accomplish in the time you have?

Remember that people typically come to a gathering for two reasons: food and funYOU are hoping to create lasting memories. But be realistic about the amount of time you can spend planning and preparing.  When you’re completely exhausted by the time you sit down to dinner, it’s hard to enjoy the meal and your guests.  Take it from me…been there, done that!  My little Thanksgiving secret is that one year I went on strike in cooking the meal.  But that’s another story for another day! LOL!!!

As you plan your meal, remember to delegate a dish or two to anyone who offers.  Your party will be easier that way.  And the bonus for your guests is that it lets them try a new recipe as well as feeling helpful.

What should you buy? What should you DIY?

Sometimes you just can’t do it all yourself.  So you need to decide what can you buy and what can you realistically do yourself.  Costco, Trader Joe’s and Fresh Market have delicious, prepared food that can fill in for side dishes you don’t have time to make.

This same mindset holds true for the table decorations.  Most of us dream of having our Thanksgiving table decorated with perfectly coordinated china, colorful linens, and beautiful centerpieces.  With a peaceful walk in the woods and a quick “shopping trip” around your own home, you can easily create a look that will wow your friends and family.

How to handle the clutter when guests are staying overnight?

I like being neat and tidy (most of the time), so a house full of overnight guests, luggage, and cramped quarters can feel a little crazy and chaotic.

Some of the ways I’ve managed to keep clutter to a minimum is to make sure everyone has a designated area for their family’s “stuff”.  At my house  that means all coolers are stored in the room off the garage and toys are kept all together.

Creating an out-of-the-way private space for guests to keep their suitcase will make them feel welcomed and keep the clutter to a minimum.

We all want the holiday to be a joyful, fun-filled and stress-free time.  We want our guests to feel welcomed and comfortable.  And most of all, we want to create cherished memories that last a lifetime as we give thanks for all of our many blessings.