By The Duchess, 26th November 2016

Christmas Shopping Made Simple

Six Easy Steps to Reduce Stress this Winter Season

Six Easy Steps to Reduce Stress this Winter Season

Well Ladies and Gents, it’s that time of year again. As soon as the pumpkin candle has been blown out, the shops suddenly spring into action with mistletoe and snowmen being hung from every single fluorescent lit ceiling panel of the already jam packed department stores.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas, possibly even more than Lady Lolita, but there is one part of the Christmas season that stresses me out more than most: The shopping.

I love to shop – but I am not like the average woman who will meander around the malls for hours on end, umming and ahhhing over each purchase. I don’t spend hours in shoe shops, or dressing rooms. Quite the opposite. When I go shopping, it’s with a purpose. That is the bit that gives me most satisfaction. The feeling of a completed job!

need a new pair of shoes (because the dog ate my last pair) or I have to find an outfit for the work Christmas do! However, even before embarking on that all important shopping escapade, I have already searched online for exactly what I want and even looked at all possible shopping websites online to check they are going to stock what I need.

I can’t help it – I am a control freak. And even if I weren’t, my time is far too precious to spend wandering around aimlessly. There are articles to write, a book to finish, a business to run – oh and of course there are children to clothe and feed!
Christmas Tree
So when it comes to Christmas, despite the fact that I will inevitably be the first one to put up the Christmas tree (my husband and I have reached an understanding. As long as the decorations don’t go up before his birthday – November 19th – I can do what I like), the Christmas shopping bit is not ‘fun’ for me. It is a job. A task to be completed and ticked off. It is run with military precision.

The fun bit happens when I get to wrap up all the gifts and parade the wares in front of my husband, who has, as always, left the shopping down to me.

This applies to food as well as gifts! Oh yes, everything in my home runs like clockwork at Christmas. My husband has my OCD ways and my military upbringing to thank for that. My anxiety may play a small factor of course. Controlling something as chaotic as this keeps the demons at bay!

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So with that in mind, for those who struggle with the hectic and absurd rush of the festive season, here are a few tips from me to help your Christmas shopping run that little bit easier.

1: Make lists – ALL year round.
Now, despite the fact that I am uber-organised, this is a tip I actually picked up from my husband. After years of being surprised with his incredibly thoughtful gifts, I finally sussed the trick to his success. All year round he would keep a note of the things I spotted in the windows of shops that I liked. Conversations where I mention dream gifts or helpful gadgets that would make my life easier.
Christmas Gift
Then at Christmas time he has a fail safe list of things he can buy me. It’s genius. We all know how stressful it can be when you get to that time of year and find yourself asking “what the hell do I buy the mother-in-law!” – Make lists… on your phone is easiest. Keep a running tally of the things your loved ones mention throughout the year. You will be seen as the most thoughtful person on Christmas day when you buy that adorable figurine that Aunt Sarah said reminded her of her childhood. Lists! They are your best friends.

2: Make a targeted list.
As soon as you think you are ready to tackle the gifts, make a list. (Yes I know. I am a fan of lists, I am glad you noticed! But trust me, you will be too.)
Write down everything you have decided to buy everyone – person by person. Each persons ‘big’ gift, and even a list of all the little pressies you may want to fill stockings with. Take the list with you no matter where you are. If you spot and buy a gift, cross it off – that way you know what you bought and when. This ensures there are no gifts left hiding in the cupboard after Christmas that you completely forget about until you spring clean next Easter!

3: Don’t battle the bustle. Shop in your PJs.
I love online shopping. It takes all the pain and hassle away from cussing your way through a crowded store full of angry and stressed shoppers. Once you have made your list, take a look online before you hit the streets.
As early as you can, you need to pop onto stores’ websites and take advantage of early Christmas sales or deals. That way you can fill up your Christmas closet without even having to put on your rain jacket!

Here are just a few of my favourite online shops to use during the Christmas crush. – the perfect website for all of you who have a geek in the family. From techie gadgets to cool and unusual gifts, you are sure to find something here that will suit every real geek’s needs! Just be warned – this website will suck you in and not spit you out for hours! – ASOS is amazing. You can buy clothing and accessories for friends and family from low budget to high ticket items. From bags and necklaces for your bestie, to jumpers and warm winter jackets for the hubby!
Tshirtbordello – this is a fab website for those novelty gifts for friends, family or just the odd cousins that you never know what to buy for. The T-Shirts are great for those you know just love a gag! – Now hands up who is singing the theme tune now?! Sorry guys, that will be in your head for hours. But as well as a catchy ad, Funky Pigeon do great gifts for the family with a personal touch. Each year I make a calendar of family pictures, as well as pictures of just the kids as a gift for the grandparents. Easy, quick, simple, delivered to your door and you have all the inspiration you need at your fingertips (on your laptop) – could not be easier!

4: Plan your menu.
When it comes to the big Christmas dinner, it’s not just the cooking on the day that can stress people out. It’s the shopping beforehand. So again… make a list. Plan the menu  and write down every possible ingredient you will need. Even down to salt and pepper. (Yes I have actually gotten all the way to cooking the meal before realising that we were out of salt – bad planning).
Christmas Food
However, there is one other tip when it comes to Christmas food that is invaluable. Clear out a Christmas cupboard! After Halloween, get rid of all the chocolate and candy for the trick or treaters and clear out an entire cupboard. This is your designated Christmas cupboard. Each time you go to the store, pick up a couple of things you know you will like on Christmas day, such as the crackers for the cheese and biscuits, the cranberry sauce, or even that box of special chocolates that you know your nan loves. Hide them in the cupboard and stick a sign on it saying STAY OUT. Then you know that come Christmas day you have a cupboard full of treats for the family to enjoy.

5: Stuff the stockings!
Set aside one day – one full day, where all you do is make sure you have the stocking fillers.
Christmas Stocking
Even if it means venturing to the shops on the high street or in the mall. Be focused. Nothing bigger than the size of your hand – and fill the stockings when you get home that day. You will feel so much better once you know that you have achieved and completed one of the big tasks.

6: That’s a wrap.
This is the only thing that I am slightly as odds with other people about. You see, I only ever wrap gifts on Christmas Eve. It’s a tradition for me. My mum did the same when we were kids, and it’s a tradition I carry on with my family.
Christmas Wrapping Paper
I do, however, make sure that I stock up the house with more wrapping paper than I could ever possibly need (and sellotape) well ahead of time. So much so, that there are always a few rolls left over to use the next year! But when it comes to wrapping, be focused. Separate all the gifts out by person. Make sure you check them off against your list so you are not missing any, and settle down with a glass of mulled wine and the Rat Pack in the background and smile at all the thoughtful gifts you have bought. The mere thought of the look on loved ones’ faces in the morning will make all the stress feel instantly worth it!

Christmas doesn’t have to be stressful! Plan ahead and take the pain of the last minute Christmas crush out of the way – after all, wouldn’t you rather be at home snuggled by the fire with a mug of Glühwein rather than pushing your way past the grumpy sales assistants?

Happy Shopping Folks!

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