I’ve noticed that several people have gone back and found a particular blog post I wrote two years ago about doing triage on your holiday list.  And in honor of my previous post about Holiday Peace, I thought I’d repost it here for you.  Hope you find it helpful and Happy Holidays!

Surviving the Holidays: Making a List

So, I was making a list and checking it twice.  Wanted to find out if there’s a Psychiatrist willing to prescribe emergency Xanax and trying not to hyperventilate.  Seriously at this time of the year the list gets a little long and out of control, right?  Last time I sat down to do my holiday to-do list, I got to page 3.5 and burst out into tears.

But after I blew my nose and medicated myself with a small amount of premium dark chocolate, I was able to address the list again.  And I realized something.  I really didn’t NEED to do everything on the list.  The list was more a wish list than a highly prioritized, realistic list of the most important stuff I absolutely needed to get done.  So I took my list and put it through triage.  I sorted out the stuff that MUST get done, from the stuff that I really WANTED to get done and the stuff that would be NICE to get done.  And here’s the thing about triage, you have to be brutal.  You have to make tough choices.  The stuff that MUST get done is the things that would result in severe consequences if you don’t do them.  On my list this included: get medications refilled, get gas in the car, deposit check into the bank, pay bills that are due, get the food I promised to bring to Christmas dinner, find somebody to care for our dog while we’re out of town and keep up with my client demands enough to keep my clients.  Then there are the things I really wanted to get done: send presents to out of town friends and family, do laundry, pack clean clothes for the trip, bake some cookies to bring to the party.  Then there was a long, long list of things that would be nice to get done: decorate the tree, clean the house, wash the car, look for new clients, find a new outfit to wear for Christmas, sort the garage, clean out the closets, send Holiday cards to acquaintances, and on and on and on.

The result of my holiday triage, is that less than 1/4 of my list counted as stuff I MUST get done.  Another 1/4 was things that I really wanted to get done, and half the list was in the would be nice category.  So I told myself: okay get through the must, then see how much time you have for the want and if you don’t have time for the would be nice, then just don’t sweat it.   I got through everything on the list that was absolutely necessary.  My suitcases were packed and near the door.  The food was organized and the cooler washed and standing by the door.  The car was gassed and ready to go.  Dog sitter standing by all before bedtime.  All I had to do was get up in the morning, put the stuff in the car, post this blog and GO. What a relief!  I went to bed with a smile on my face.

And then both me and my husband got violently ill with the flu.  At that point, I had to just throw the entire list out and start over.  I couldn’t go to my parents on Friday or even Saturday.  Christmas Eve dinner was a few saltines and some ginger ale.  The food I assembled to bring to my family had to be stored in the freezer.  We finally managed to zip our suitcases and stagger to the car on Christmas Day.

This is really an extension of the previous post about setting holiday expectations.  Our lists are so long because we are trying to be perfect or achieve a holiday story that is just not realistic.  What if we could stop spending so much time worrying about what other people will think about us at the holidays, and spend more time just being with them?  How many wonderful opportunities for love and communications have I missed because I was in the kitchen just whipping up one more thing or washing another dish or cleaning the house?  And here’s the thing, the dirt always comes back, but sadly, our friends and family are only with us a limited amount of time.  And that’s why I decided to focus on getting to my family on Christmas, and didn’t sweat it that this blog post is about 2 weeks late.

Since then, we passed one of the great list making holidays of the year, New Years.  That’s when we move away from our holiday lists and towards lists of resolutions for the whole freaking YEAR!  That’s when we decide we’re going to reorganize the house and only eat organic foods and run a marathon and run for Congress and heaven only knows what else.  And here again, I think a little list triage is in order.  In fact, let’s not make a list.  Want a New Year’s Resolution?  Okay, pick ONE.  Not 5, not 20, don’t make a list.  Just pick one thing.  Close your eyes, listen to your heart and choose one thing that you think will make you happier and make your life better this year.  Got it?  Good!

Happy New Years my little chickadees!


Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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