The holidays can be stressful—and for good reason: There’s a lot to get done. Get through all your seasonal chores in no time with these helpful tricks.
1. KEEP THINGS IN THE KITCHEN EFFICIENT.
Your kitchen is going to see a lot of action during the holidays, so make sure your operation is running like a well-oiled machine. Some tips: If you get some eggshell in your mixture, use half an intact eggshell to scoop it out—the shell works sort of like a magnet, attracting the unwanted fragment, so it saves you time and yolk. Get fruits and avocados ready for eating by putting them in a paper bag. The bag will make them ripen faster so you don’t have to wait around for yellow bananas. If you’re hollowing out squash or pumpkins, use an ice cream scoop for faster scooping. And when slicing garlic, squish each clove with the side of your knife; when you start chopping, the outside skin will fall right off.
2. PROTECT YOUR CAR.
Stop wasting time digging your car out of the snow by preparing for nasty weather in advance. Put old socks over your windshield wipers to keep them from getting packed with snow or stuck to your car, spray your windows with a vinegar and water solution to prevent them from getting too icy, and put zip-lock bags or showers caps on your side mirrors to protect them from ice—just don’t forget to take them off before you hit the road! When in doubt, park facing east so the sun can hit your windshield and melt some of that snow off for you.
3. MAKE SHOVELING A SNAP.
Shoveling is an unfortunate winter reality for many of us. And outside of paying a neighborhood kid to do it, there’s really no getting out of it. Make the chore easier on yourself by spraying your shovel with cooking oil. The newly slick surface will keep the snow from sticking.
4. PICK THE BEST TREE.
Stop hemming and hawing over the perfect tree to bring home this season. Look for one of the five most trusted types: balsam fir, Douglas fir, Fraser fir, noble fir, and Scotch pine. When you think you’ve found the right tree, give it a shake to see if any needles fall off. Next, make sure the bottom of the trunk is even and at least six inches long so that it can easily be placed into a stand. If everything checks out, take it home. Save time getting it in the front door by measuring your doorframe—and the designated spot in the living room—before you head out.
5. PACK IN RECORD TIME.
If you’re traveling this season, you’re going to want a well-packed bag. First, make a list of everything you need—and check the list often while packing so you don’t forget anything. Roll your clothes instead of folding them to make more room for your things, and pack fragile items inside socks to keep them safe. Smaller items can also be stuffed in shoes to conserve room. If you don’t have time to swing by the drug store for travel-sized toiletries, most hotels provide complimentary toothbrushes and other items if you ask politely.
6. USE YOUR OVEN.
Streamline your holiday cooking by making good use of every appliance. Rather than wait for a free stovetop burner, you can cook foods like bacon, eggs, and corn on the cob in the oven, even if that’s not the traditional way to do it.
7. PUT UP LIGHTS WITH EASE.
Hanging lights can be such a pain that you might find yourself leaving them up until the following year. Avoid the stress by getting rid of the traditional hooks and tools. Clips used to hold office badges work a lot like clothespins and keep your lights secured to your home’s gutter. The clips come on and off in a snap, making hanging lights a much less excruciating experience.
8. KEEP THINGS ORGANIZED.
To save the time often wasted battling with tangled wires and searching for missing ornaments, keep everything neat and tidy when you pack it away after New Year’s. Keep your ornaments in special compartmentalized boxes; if you can’t find any, make your own by using cups or egg crates. To keep wires and lights untangled, wrap them around a coat hanger.
9. PICK OUT THE PERFECT GIFTS.
Unfortunately, there is no shortcut when it comes to finding the right gift. Gift cards are convenient, but they lack the “wow” factor you probably want this holiday season. The best gifts come from the heart, so think about your loved ones’ unique interests, hobbies, and experiences. Sometimes the most thoughtful gifts come from past conversations or jokes, so use shared fond memories to fuel your search. Start your search early so you don’t waste any time desperately wandering around the mall.
10. WRAP GIFTS LIKE A PRO.
Struggling with that wrapping paper? Try turning it diagonal so that the corners radiate from each side of the box (rather than having the paper’s edges run parallel to the box). Use double-sided tape to keep things looking neat and clean, and don’t skimp on wrapping paper quality—crisper papers are much easier to wield without wrinkling.
Breathe new life to old decorations and materials this holiday season and save yourself a trip to the mall. Old crumpled ribbons can be ironed flat and used again. Plastic pumpkins can be painted white and fitted into a snowman fixture. Old fabrics can find new life when refitted to become eco-friendly wrapping paper. With a little imagination, anything can become an environmentally friendly project.