The holidays are almost upon us!  Winter is less than a month a way. Thanksgiving zoomed past and Christmas will be here before we know it.

Whoa! Wait a minute!

Let’s not JINGLE those BELLS or DECK those HALLS quite yet.

Most of us need to take the time to slow down in our lives and the holidays are no exception. In fact, we can use the holidays as an exercise in being present . . . to the spirit of the season, to our family, friends and loved ones; to our senses, to ALL the holiday has to offer.

Since it’s likely that Thanksgiving passed you by without a thought, here are some great ideas to bring both presence and preparedness into focus as you enter *cue music* The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Start a list!

With so much to do beyond your normal busy life, sit down one Saturday or Sunday afternoon and write down all of the items you’d like to accomplish as the holidays approach. Include things like Christmas shopping, card sending, carolling, reading holiday books with the kids, holiday decorating, cake and cookie making, wrapping gifts, baking dinner items, party planning and attending. Write it all down.

Make a plan.

Get out that planner and schedule time to do those things that must be done in one color. Use another color to schedule items that you want to do and another for “I’d really like to accomplish¬† _______________ (fill in the blank) time permitting.”

Organize your home with productivity in mind.

Set up a gift wrapping area in a spare bedroom, basement, closet or attic. Instead of taking hours to wrap gifts, do a little bit at a time in this organized area. Pull all of your Christmas decoration and baking items into individual spaces for easy reach and use when you are ready.

Make gifts instead of buying them.

This is a great way to invite presence into the holidays by spending time with the kids. Go online and look for “how to” and DIY projects that are appropriate for children (at whatever age they may be).¬† Venture out to a craft store to purchase the items; then go home, play some Christmas music, sip some egg nog, and create away! You’ll have fun, the kids will have a blast and the gift recipient will be thankful for the time you spent in creating a one-of-a-kind gift for them.

Donate your time and/or money to a local charity or faith community event.

Teach the kids the spirit of Christmas by giving back to others who need it most. Cook, donate and serve a meal at a homeless shelter. Buy and wrap presents for children who wouldn’t have gifts otherwise. Donate gently used items to charities and thrift stores. There are a million charities and events out there just waiting for people like you to help.

It’s the beginning of December. Start now and keep checking back for other ideas throughout the month. Stop by one or both of the Connell’s locations in Mt. Vernon and Newark for gift-giving ideas and beautiful home furnishings. Plus visit us on Facebook to let us know how the month is going for you! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!