Tuesday, October 27, 2009

You can get it all done before the holidays ... even learning to play the piano

(ARA) – Shopping, wrapping, baking, cooking ... not to mention untangling those dratted lights – does it seem like there’s no way you can get everything done that you need to accomplish before the holidays?

Actually, a little smart scheduling and some stress-relieving techniques are really all you need in order to check off everything on your “to do” list this holiday season. In fact, you probably already know what you need to do. Sometimes, it just helps to have a reminder or two of how to use your time wisely:

* Take the time-eating bite out of holiday shopping by doing it online. Secure Web sites, great deals and free shipping incentives from many sellers make online the easiest way to do your holiday shopping. Just keep in mind shipping times, and shop as early as possible to allow yourself extra time in case you need to return something before the holiday.

* Use laundry baskets to organize gifts by recipient. Have one basket of small, generic gifts that can be used for unexpected gift-giving occasions that may arrive – like the surprise last-minute gift from a co-worker or acquaintance.

* Set aside one afternoon a weekend for several weekends prior to the holidays and bake and freeze holiday goodies that you plan to serve or give as gifts. Or, organize a few baking parties with family and friends, and have each person bring a few dozen of a specific type of cookie to exchange during the party.

* Don’t forget to do something for yourself, like learn to play the piano. Seriously ... you can learn how to play some favorite Christmas carols in the weeks leading up to the holidays, even if you’ve never played the piano before. And it will probably take a lot less time than untangling last year’s lights.

“The trick is learning to play the way the pros play, learning a few simple chords rather than tackling the time-consuming task of learning to read sheet music well,” says Scott Houston, host of the Emmy-winning Public Television how-to show, “The Piano Guy.”

"It's much easier for people to focus on chords and interpretation, rather than spending years trying to figure out how to read notes," Houston says. He teaches people how to play piano in a flash by reading a "lead sheet," which is like the shorthand professional musicians use to follow a tune's melody line – matching the chords that work with the tune.

You’ll find three free lessons, teaching you how to play “Silent Night,” at www.scotthouston.com/freelessons/. So dust off that piano or keyboard, and, with a little help from the Internet, learn to play at least one favorite carol in time for this year’s family gathering.

* Dedicate one area of your home – which will be off-limits to potential gift recipients – where you can create a gift-wrapping center. Over-the-door towel racks – the kind with arms that swing out – make great holders for rolls of gift wrap. Store decorative supplies like ribbon, bows and mini ornaments in clear plastic bins. Invest in a new pair of scissors and only use them to cut wrapping paper or ribbon so they stay sharp and swift.

Wrap as you go. If you wait until Christmas Eve to wrap gifts, you not only run the risk of wandering eyes getting a preview of their holiday gifts, you’ll stress yourself trying to get everything done at the last minute. Plus, it’s much easier to purchase extra wrapping supplies two weeks before the holiday, than it will be if you run out the night before the big day.

As for untangling last year’s lights, consider how much time and effort – and aggravation – the chore will cost. If it’s going to raise your stress level and take hours, it’s probably better to toss last year’s tangle, buy new and do a better job of storing them when the season’s over this year.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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