CHRISTMAS

ESSENTIAL CHRISTMAS: A LAST-MINUTE CHECKLIST

Top tips to simplify the most festive day of the year.

December 19, 2018

It’s that time again, practically the last-minute before Christmas and we hope you have everything under control – but in the event you haven’t, we’ve got everything you need to simplify the most festive day of the year.

Christmas and holidays often come with big expectations baked in, and there’s a lot of pressure to pull off the perfect day. Which is why we’re making a change…that’s both surprising and welcome: it breaks a lot of the traditional rules.

Here’s our last-minute Christmas check-list to help you simplify, cut spending, stress levels, and forget formality, when you have no time to think (or agonise). Because even if you are an old hand at producing the Christmas feast, it can still catch you off guard: and things can conspire to get in the way of seasonal serenity.

Consider these your building blocks for a simple, stylish festive Christmas, to make the day your own. The most important thing to remember? Christmas and the holidays should be fun!

Who cares if the pudding is burned or the turkey is overcooked? Just enjoy yourself and try to make some great memories.

The luxury of hosting Christmas at home is having the freedom to set your table in advance which Melissa does at her country house, pictured.

AVOID FAMILY JET LAG

Your family may not get to see each other very often. So be aware of the ‘family jet lag” time it might take for everyone to warm up to spending time together. The holidays mean large extended family gatherings, hours of cooking and a group of people who don’t typically interact in person, all confined to one location and trying to be festive. It’s the reality show version of your family.

When you return from your holiday visit, you may be exhausted for days afterward, finding it hard to focus and return to your regular routine.

As with traditional jet lag, the problem is the result of a disruption of your normal routine – affecting both travellers and those who receive out-of-town relatives.

The pressure felt by many to create what they believe to be the ‘perfect’ holiday experience and having to make every aspect of our family celebrations conform to our preconceived notion of what the “perfect” holiday experience entails. Be mindful, enjoy the moment, go for walks, laugh, and don’t take it all too seriously – plus, avoid tricky subjects.

THOUGHTFUL PLANNING

It’s easy to have big idea and be overly ambitious, only to find you are busy and the whole thing becomes a race against time. Think ahead – get as much planned up front. Nothing fouls your mood like a panicked whizz around the house with a vacuum cleaner five minutes before guests arrive. Enlist the help of a cleaner/spouse/partner/child to clean the areas your guests will be using, well before the family gathers.

One festive, affordable way to decorate is to add flowers and greenery from you own garden which Melissa does at her country house, pictured. Photo: Abbie Melle.

LIGHT A SCENTED CANDLE 

Lighting a scented candle is one of the simplest ways to prepare even the tiniest of space for the holidays. Your interior will instantly feel warm, inviting, and calm.

THE 5-MINUTE REFRESH

This is a great thing that makes your house look like a million dollars every day of the holidays.

It only takes fives minutes to make a room look better.

Doing 5 minutes of housekeeping daily, is enough to “reset” your rooms to a neutral position over the holidays, if you’re doing a lot of living in them. It prevents your pad from getting out of hand. Whether you’ve got guests coming over and forgot to clean, or you just want a fresher-looking interior because you deserve one, you can make a surprisingly big impact with just five minutes.

Here are five things you can do very quickly that won’t cost a thing to do.

YOU DON’T NEED TO SPEND ANYTHING 

Christmas spending can quickly get out of control. One festive, affordable way to decorate is to add greenery and branches. Not only is it cheap and chic, but bringing the outdoors indoors feels natural, authentic and individual – a great antidote to the season’s consumerism.

Melissa’s Country House at Christmas time

STRAIGHTEN THINGS 

We’re not sure what people do in their homes that makes every chair, book and table askew, but just the simple act of aligning things back to where they belong can instantly bring order and calm to a room. Go around the house, and readjust furniture, ottomans, stools that aren’t where they go. Realign any tables (especially your coffee table) that have been nudged out of a place. Line up stacks of books or magazines neatly. Straighten crooked art pieces. Lamp shades, too. These easy ‘straightening’ movement will give a ‘feel’ and ‘look’ of order to your spaces.

DITCH TRADITION

Sometimes a twist on the convention is a great change of pace—one that frees you up to do something you prefer.

Try swapping red and green for gold, cream, white and green.

The colours fit seamlessly into the holiday season, you won’t have to pack everything up after Christmas is over – and can use them all-year round.

DON’T GO TOO BIG 

Small humble moments can be equally as effective as grand gestures. Instead of going over the top with huge decorations that take days to put up (and take down post-holiday), opt for a couple of quiet ways to deck your halls. A bunch of fir, spruce or pile of apples from the garden – or park – makes a simple, affordable table decoration, and take seconds.

Instead of going over the top with grand gestures that take days to put up, and take down, make small displays of flowers and fruit from the garden, like Melissa does at her house. Photo: Abbie Melle.

FOCUS ON TWO THINGS

If you want your decorations to look a million dollars, all you have to do is focus your energy on your door and your tree. They are the main things people notice. You don’t need loads of expensive, elaborate baubles, just lots of them for a luxury look; and stick to two or three hues.

LET IN MORE LIGHT DURING THE DAY, DIM THE LIGHTS AT NIGHT

Throw open the windows, the doors, and roll up every blind to bring as much natural light as possible during the day. Though that might seem to shed more light on a less-than-pristine interior, when you’ve got great natural light flooding inside, everything just seems fresher. At night, do the opposite.

Turn off overhead lights and create dimly lit pools of warm glow from lamps and candles.

BREAK DECLUTTERING RULES

We often argue about things like junk drawers and overflowing baskets, but when you’ve only got five minutes, ignore those rules and start tossing clutter into hidden spots as quickly as you can. But only if you promise yourself to declutter those areas when you’ve got more than five minutes to spare.

PICK UP DUST OR DIRT

It might be your kitchen benchtop, coffee table or timber floor in the living room that attracts everything – use whatever tools you have at hand (even if it’s your hands) to quickly remove the largest and most visible items. A quick swipe of a tabletop that catches the light. Yes, a full cleaning would, of course, make the entire room look great, but the 5-minute refresh is about keeping up the look of a clean home in between regular cleanings.

Melissa’s Country House at Christmas time

ASK FOR HELP 

You have made it to your family’s house for the holiday and they’re so excited to see your kids. Now use that support, hand those children over and get some more rest.

If you are hosting – get family members to help chop, dice and serve, or make their own drinks. It will add to the family atmosphere.

EVERYTHING UNDER CONTROL, EXCEPT THE WINE 

You want both reds and whites, and plenty of both. Christmas is not the place to match specific wines to particular dishes. The culinary terrain is too varied, especially if the plan is for a big meal, with guests who will be bringing many assorted dishes.

Plan on one bottle per person.

You want wines that are versatile enough to go with many different foods and lively enough to refresh over the course of a long afternoon and evening. That means bottles with good acidity, which are not particularly tannic, oaky or heavy in alcohol.  Go for crowd pleaser wines that are easygoing, refreshing – if you are happy with your selection, your guests will be happy, too. If you would like to add rosés or sparkling wines, go ahead, but not at the expense of the reds and white.

Melissa’s Country House at Christmas time

MAKE FIRM DEPARTURE DATES 

Tell family members what day the house party ends, and stick to it.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO STAY IN A HOTEL

If it provides the respite you need.

SAY NO

This tip is probably the hardest. Learning to say No. You can’t do everything. Only say yes to the things that fit into your schedule. You can’t do everything.

SAVE TIME AND BE EFFICIENT

The luxury of hosting Christmas at home is having the freedom to set your table in advance. Lay the tablecloth, set the plates and align the cutlery the day before so you can focus on the flowers and focus on the decor on the day of your event. If you are preparing the food for a small group of people, serve hors-d’oeuvres that you simply assemble rather than cook and make (or buy) your puddings ahead of time. Gleaming glasses add instant glamour. Line them up on trays. As for food, keep it simple, but make it look beautiful. So serve your turkey on a beautiful gold plate.

Lead image courtesy of RoyalCopenhagen.com.au

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