The lazy person's guide to surviving the festive season: 9 tips from gift shopping to hosting parties
How to fake making the effort when you really don’t feel like making the effort aka the anti-social person’s guide to parties – whether you’re a guest or the host (yes, it happens). Remember: Rules are meant to be broken.
Hands up, if you were secretly glad that the strict COVID-19 safety measures cut out all parties the last two years.
’Tis the season to be jolly, sure – but we know that Christmas is a lot of work. And being jolly can be very tiresome for those of us who dread the bells and whistles that come with preparing for the festive season – from squeezing with the crowd while gift shopping, to decorating the house, organising a party and dolling up.
Look, we’re no Grinch and we don’t want to cancel Christmas. But surely there is a less painful way for those who are less interested in merry-making (or who are just plain lazy) to survive all the festivities. Try these tips:
1. BUY GIFTS AT A ONE-STOP SHOP
Gift shopping really stresses me out. So I mitigate the pain and simplify the shopping process by sticking to one store with a variety of goods to suit everyone on my list. Plus, I only need to queue up once at the checkout counter.
One Christmas, I hit Gap and whacked their tees for everyone on my list. Sadly, it closed its Singapore stores in 2018. Then I switched to Esprit and loaded up on their stuff but that, too, closed in 2020. This year, I intend to raid Muji. With its wide selection of household items, stationery, clothing and even food, it is a good bet to cover all my bases.
Don’t forget that online shopping sites like Lazada, Shopee and Amazon, count as single stops, too – with the added benefit of you being able to avoid the festive crowds and having everything delivered to your doorstep.
2. BUY THE SAME GIFT FOR EVERYONE
If the first tip still stresses you out – gift-shopping for dozens of people, all with different likes and dislikes, can be anxiety-inducing – here’s my next tip: Choose a unisex item so you only have to shop for one gift.
Towels may be boring but hey, everyone needs to shower. Nice-smelling body grooming products – again, boring – are another unisex choice (but always welcome in my household).
One year, I spotted a chic collection of pens. I selected all the unisex designs, wrapped them up, put everything in a bag and offered it lucky dip-style, so everyone could pick their own gift.
I also had a friend who gave all women a pretty cosmetic pouch, and the men, a cap.
3. DECORATE YOUR HOME – OR DON’T. YOU DO YOU
Once upon a time, when my son was a tot and mad about Thomas the Tank Engine, we had a train set with tracks that circled our Christmas tree. A battery-operated Thomas, with his special-edition jaunty Santa’s hat, would pull all his friends and their presents around our beautifully-wrapped presents under my tree. Ah… the stuff you do for your kids.
When I moved to a new home, I was puffed with new homeowner’s pride and spent a bomb upgrading our Christmas decorations, including buying Mr Snowman and other paraphernalia fit for a photo booth.
For the next few years, if my tree and decor were not up by the first week of December, I’d feel super guilty, like I was not celebrating Christmas properly and depriving my kid of that quintessential experience. So, I’d force myself to put up the decor, even though I didn’t always feel like it, especially when I was in the middle of crazy deadlines.
Over the years, I’ve learned (or convinced myself) that Christmas should be a time of celebration with family and friends. Decor, no matter how glitzy, doesn’t necessarily need to be part of enjoying one another’s company. So, I stopped the Christmas self-shaming and didn’t put up any decor if I wasn’t hosting anyone. It’s okay. Nobody knows.
My now-teenage son just told me that he doesn’t care if we don’t put up the tree. Some years you may feel more Christmassy and ready to break out the decor; some years you just want to give it a break. Do whatever. It’s your house, your choice.
4. ROPE IN THE GANG TO DECORATE THE HOUSE
If you, unfortunately, are playing host this year and you just don’t have enough merry in you to deck the halls with boughs of holly, cheat by making it into a team effort.
Just tell your guests that you’d like them to make it a Christmas celebration to remember. Ask them to bring their favourite Christmas decor and do a little Show and Tell about why it is special to them. Use these as centrepieces on the dining table. There you have it – decor and an activity for the evening.
5. IT’S OKAY TO NOT HOST A PARTY
Some people are born to be great hosts and can whip up an amazing meal for 30, decorate up a storm and still look perfect mingling with the crowd while refilling the appetisers. Some of us break into a cold sweat just thinking of inviting 30 people.
You may feel guilty about enjoying the hospitality of family and friends, and feel socially obligated to return the favour, but don’t do it if it will make you feel anxious and stressed. Often, people who enjoy hosting parties don’t expect their guests to return the favour.
However, it would be nice to reciprocate by offering to bring a dish or turning up early to help out. In fact, this is a good trick for introverts: If you are busy helping at the party, you don’t have to make awkward small talk.
6. DOLL UP – SPARINGLY
Focus on the things that matter or will show up more in photos and videos. Instead of splurging on an expensive new dress, go for a new top and pair it with an old skirt or pants.
Better yet, recycle an ageless wardrobe staple and update it with new accessories. I have worn the same red dress on three different Christmases and nobody has batted an eyelid. Trust me, we’re not that interesting to everyone else.
Instead of getting hair and nails done, pick one to halve the effort and cost – or none at all. Do you really need to get your hair done if you’re plopping on a party hat later? Is it worth the stress of fighting for a nail appointment, when everyone will be more focused on the food and presents? Nah, we’ll pass.
7. OUTSMART THE SYSTEM – YOU SET THE RULES
The best way to beat the system is to be the system. For example, if you hate wrapping gifts, suggest to your guests that everyone should do the eco-friendly thing and kill the gift-wrapping this year instead of the trees. It’s better for Mother Earth and, at the risk of sounding opportunistic, you get to avoid sticky tape and paper cuts while gaining a rep for being an eco-warrior.
If you dread buying gifts for the whole gang, suggest the good ol’ Secret Santa hack. Draw lots to determine the person you’ll be a Secret Santa to, and you only have to get one gift. Other than being more economical, it also relieves the stress on introverts who may prefer to spend their time and effort getting one thoughtful gift for that special someone, instead of trawling the malls for dozens of gifts.
8. SEND A GIFT IF YOU REALLY DON’T FEEL LIKE MAKING AN APPEARANCE
If you really can’t muster up the energy to attend a party, an apology with an offer to send a sweet treat will make it easier to decline an invitation. Cookies, a Christmas log cake or dessert are just a Deliveroo order away. When you’re this generous, nobody will remember that you are being anti-social.
Last year, I didn’t even bother to get gifts. Since we couldn’t meet up in big groups, COVID-19 became my convenient excuse to PayLah! my nieces and nephews an e-cash gift. Five minutes on the app and vrrrooom – all my Christmas gifting obligations fulfilled, and I didn’t even have to wrap a thing. I bet they appreciated the money more than those Gap tees, too.
9. IF ALL ELSE FAILS…
Just say you think you’ve been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, and you’d better do the right thing and stay away from the parties. Now that will make you look socially responsible, and you can get out of an uncomfortable evening of reluctant merry-making. Win-win.