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When less is more

The holidays should be rich and full, but rich and full doesn’t have to mean a maxed-out credit card and a 10-pound weight gain. If the words “handmade with love” brings up either hideously failed crafts due to skills you don’t have and materials you can’t afford, let’s rethink that and also look at a few other things you can do to keep your bank balance and your blood pressure steady at this potentially stressful time of year.

Take a moment to muse on a particular talent or asset you have that might make special and thoroughly appreciated gifts. I prefer to give (and receive!) services (massage gift certificates, for example) or comestibles (biscotti and a bag of Blue Bottle coffee beans) over stuff that could conceivably end up as clutter.

If you’re a gardener, what can you pickle, preserve, dehydrate or otherwise turn into a delicious gift? My husband and I have a dozen gnarly walnut trees that still produce. We’ll be shelling walnuts for the next month and putting them in clear cellophane gift bags for friends.

If you are in the wine business, wine is always handy at the holidays and will be appreciated — we sometimes take it for granted. Baked goods are a favorite, so if baking is a talent of yours, stay out of the stressful stores and spend time in the warmth of the kitchen. Enlist the children and friends — make it a party instead of a chore.

With regard to elements of the holidays beyond gift giving, a little journaling will help a lot. List all of your favorite things about the winter holidays. Which traditions do you look forward to? Is it the tree, the candles, the cards, the meal, the gifts? Pick two or three to really go all out for and renegotiate the rest. Involve your family in the conversation. Maybe you don’t care so much about a tree, but your children can’t imagine Christmas without one, so you might decide to keep the tree but scrap the card sending this year.

So often in my work I see parents who are anxious that their children might miss out on something and end up with an excess of activities. But if you are grumpy and stressed, what the children will remember is the scowling and cursing as you untangle the Christmas lights, not so much the finished tree. They will remember the “not now, honey” as you scroll frosting across cookies and calligraphy across envelopes. Scaling back gives you the most precious luxury of all — time with loved ones.

Maybe instead of hanging lights on your own house this year, you take the family for a drive to view lights in other neighborhoods or to the Festival of Lights in Yountville (Friday, Nov. 25, 2 to 6 p.m., townofyountville.com). Get your calendar out early and start to set dates for activities like these and look at timing for other holiday to-dos.

If you don’t give thought ahead of time as to what you want the holidays to look and feel like it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to do too much. The irony is that when we over-schedule, over-indulge and over-spend, we end up with less, not more. The more planning we do in the form of thinking, journaling and talking with our families, the more enjoyable and meaningful the holiday experience will be.

Angela Hoxsey is a professional organizer based in the Napa Valley. For information about her services, go to houseinorder.com or call 707-738-4346. Like House in Order on Facebook for more organizing tricks and tips.