Shop on Boxing Day the Smart Way

After all the hustle and bustle and spending way too much money before Christmas, it seems illogical that so many people would be so interested in doing a whole lot of shopping after complaining so much about the Christmas rush. But being a girl who’s careful about she spends her pennies, here are the rules for all of those brave enough to venture out Boxing Day shopping.

  1. Thou shall makest a plan. Brave the surly crowds by planning the stores you want to visit ahead of time and prioritize your shopping needs to the basics you need for your wardrobe or your house. This is the best time of year to try and find classic pieces that go on sale in order to make room for new inventory.
  2. Thou shalt shop intelligently. Check the original price of an item to see if you’re getting a good deal. Phrases like “Save up to…” or “Blowout!” are designed to fool you into thinking you’re saving big when the difference is really only a couple of dollars. And only participate in buy one, get one deals if buying the extra item is actually worth it to you.
  3. Thou shalt consider online shopping. You can scope out sales at your favorite stores ahead of time, and sometimes the discounts online are even steeper. Plus, there may be more availability when it comes to size and color preference.
  4. Thou shalt not be foolish. It’s not worth it unless you really, really love it. When it comes to clothing, I have a rule: if I can’t wear it at least three different ways using what’s already in my wardrobe, I put it down and walk away.
  5. Thou shalt buy your Christmas stuff now! Everything will be at least 50 percent off or more, which means you’ll save money and be super prepared for the next holiday season.

And please, never, ever, EVER return an item or do an exchange on Boxing Day. Some stores won’t even allow it. Check your receipts to see when they start accepting exchanges. Even if it appears possible, don’t do it unless you absolutely have to. You might get beaten over the head with the shopping bags of angry customers if you’re holding up the line debating with a stressed-out, over-worked employee.

But most importantly, be kind and courteous to others when you are shopping (that includes store employees)! It’s not a competitive sport- it’s supposed to be fun, right? RIGHT?

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Random Acts of Kindness

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Living on your own can be rough. I learned this the hard way when I first moved into the apartment where I live now. Fresh out of a relationship, I had my own place for the first time, without any roommates or boyfriends. On one hand, it was liberating. On the other hand, it was a ton of work.

The difference between living by yourself and living with other people is that if you leave the dishes in the sink overnight, they’re still waiting for you when you wake up in the morning. There’s no one to blame for not taking out the garbage, and if you forget to go grocery shopping that’s just too bad- because there’s no one else to mooch off of, or someone to split a pizza with.

The stress of having to juggle all of these different tasks alone, combined with having to work a few part-time jobs to make ends meet, really started to get to me around Christmas time, when I somehow got roped into hosting some family for the holiday.

Ok, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that was happy to take on this task. I guess in some ways I felt like hosting during the holidays would prove to everyone and myself that I was holding it together. Yeah, right.

Cut to late in the evening, the night before Christmas: the place was a mess, the presents weren’t wrapped, and I was elbow-deep in some last-minute baking when I realized that I my load of laundry had been sitting in the dryer pretty much the whole day. It had been another nasty surprise in a series of unexpected tasks that had been popping up the whole day;¬† having clean sheets was the last thing on my mind. But my morning had got off to a miserable start when my dog decided to regurgitate the entire contents of her stomach on my bed, and everything had gone downhill from there.

Breathless and covered in flour, I ran downstairs to the laundry room hoping that no one had left an angry message for hogging the machines, or worse, that someone hadn’t thrown my clean things onto the floor in a fit of irritation.

But when I arrived there were my sheets, folded neatly and waiting quietly for me on the counter. The sight of it made me burst into tears.

I asked virtually everyone I knew around the building if they had folded my laundry, or even if they knew who had done it. No one claimed to be my laundry fairy, and no one had seen anyone come in or out of the laundry room that afternoon or evening.

Obviously my benefactor wanted to remain mysterious, so I did the only thing I could do, in true B fashion: I left a colorful, homemade thank-you note, letting whoever it was know how much that small gesture had meant to me.

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I’ve still never figured out who that person was, and perhaps I never will. My neighbors have probably forgotten all about it but every year, around this time of year, I think about that random act of kindness that saved my sanity. It reminds me that there is goodness around, even when all else seems to be dark. It reminds me that people are capable of looking out for each other, without feeling the need to be acknowledged or owed. It reminds me that kindness exists for kindness’ sake, and that one random act has a way of growing and expanding until its effect becomes more meaningful that the deed itself.

I think about my laundry fairy when I smile at a stranger on the street. I am reminded of him or her when I see someone helping a neighbor dig their car out of the snow. All the moments where I don’t have the right change, when someone lets me cut in line, or stops me in the supermarket to compliment me on my outfit; these are the times when I think of the laundry fairy and the kindness that she spread, and the kindness that was spread in turn because of her actions.

Hopefully one day you’ll get an opportunity to encounter your very own laundry fairy, or to be someone else’s laundry fairy in turn. I think no matter what faith we believe in, or what holiday we celebrate, the one thing we have in common is the ability- and the responsibility- to show kindness and compassion towards our fellow human beings, not just during this season, but all the year throughout.

After all, that’s what being a laundry fairy is really about.

KBwB-BFlower-50

5 Things to Do Before You Take Time Off Of Work

KBB_flipflops_on_the_sandWhenever I plan a trip for anyone (and considering I don’t travel all that often, you’d be surprised at how often I have done this for other people), I always joke about the extra work involved in taking time off. Vacations are supposed to be restorative, relaxing and fun but it’s easy to get caught up in stressing over the details of planning your holiday. Next thing you know, you’ve spent the first two days of your vacation trying to come down off of the adrenaline rush.

I’m not going to sugar-coat the truth for you and tell you there’s some magical formula that will leave you completely worry-free when planning your vacation. But if you are planning to take time off of work, here are a few ideas to get you from stressed out to stoked.

Do thy research. It’s a good idea to store all of the details concerning your flight, your accommodations, etc. all in one place for easy reference. In doing this, you may find you’ve missed a step (do you know how you’re getting to the hotel from the airport?) It’s also a good idea to check if your passport and any other travel documents are up-to-date, as well as your travel vaccines. If you’re traveling to some place exotic, make sure you read up on the weather, currency and other issues you might feel are of concern to your health and/or safety. A prepared, informed traveler is a safe, happy and healthy one.

Tie up loose ends. There’s nothing worse than trying to pick up a colleague’s project and realize that you have absolutely no idea what’s going on. Leaving someone or something dangling at work is impolite, unprofessional and not a great scene for anyone involved. You don’t want to leave someone with a mess of a project, and let’s face it- you don’t really want to deal with that mess when you come back to work, do you?

Make an action plan for your absence. If you’re taking work with you, make sure you have the appropriate means to get done what you need to get done. If someone else needs to get something done while you’re away and they need your input, let them know how best to get in touch with you, if at all. (Kind of like Number 2).

Plan your vacation before you leave. Too often we expect ourselves to come back from vacation and jump right into the thick of things, which sounds almost as stressful as not having a vacation at all. Do yourself a favor and don’t spend most of your vacation anticipating your return to work. Take an extra day off to unpack, schedule catch-up time, telecommute or do whatever it is you need to do to make sure the stress of transitioning back to the workplace doesn’t counteract the positive, relaxing effects of your vacation.

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? Unless you want to be associated with this elusive anti-hero, please inform the appropriate authorities of where you are going- your loved ones, your boss, etc. I once was hired for a job because one of the employees decided she was going to take off to Australia for a month and not tell anyone. It may seem like common sense, but this really, truly did happen and I want to make sure you don’t make the same mistake!

If you know ahead of time where you’re going, what you’ll need and what’s going to happen when you get back you can automatically forget everything else. You’ve done the work already. Now: sit back, relax, and have a margarita. Those are B’s orders.

KBwB-BFlower-50I bet you anything that you travel more than I do (it’s not that difficult) so if you’ve got more travel tips to share, I’d love to hear them! Comment below or drop me a line at keepingbusyb@gmail.com. I may choose to share them in another travel-related post.

Or you could just tell me stories about your travels, really. My goal is to live vicariously through other people’s vacations.

Alone for the Holidays

KBB_glass_of_wineA couple of years ago I found myself breaking up with boyfriend. We had been sharing an apartment together but the break-up came so quickly that neither of us at the time could afford to start new lives apart, so we ended up living together for nine months afterwards. It was an interesting experience to say the least, but it was definitely hard.

Unfortunately, our living arrangement meant that we were locked into spending the holiday season together. I normally love Christmas but that year I dreaded opening the Christmas boxes. Just the thought of it made my stomach churn.

My ex could see that I was hurting and encouraged me to bite the bullet and open the boxes. It felt like I had had a Christmas tree thrown at me; it was painful, and shocking, and itchy, and not at all festive.

After we recovered from the shock, we put on a brave face and decorated anyway, because it was Christmas, and I loved Christmas, and you can’t ignore the things you love and make you happy just because you feel so overwhelmingly sad about everything else. And as painful as the initial reveal of all that Christmas stuff was, it did make me feel a little bit better to put up the tree and some lights and see everything twinkling from outside our building.

I tell this story now because I know there are people out there who are in the same situation as I was – people who are newly single, or still dealing with loss, or just feeling plain damn lonely because the holidays are coming. I usually share fun recipes, or great books that I read, or organizing things that make me happy on this blog. But what I don’t write about are the periods of transition in our lives- of people coming together only to fall apart again – and the natural ebb and flow of people coming and going from our lives is astonishing. It can be a learning experience. But it can also be painful.

Life is hard enough as it sometimes without having to deal with stuff. It doesn’t help that around Christmas talk of friends and family and togetherness is constantly being crammed down our throats. It makes you feel stupid. It makes you feel lonely. It makes you feel like you failed.

For those of you who are out there, going through the same things that I went through, I want you to know that you didn’t fail. You’re not stupid. And I know it feels lonely. But you’re not alone. You are attractive, and smart, and talented, and brave, and strong and although you may feel lonely, you are not alone. Not forever anyway. I truly believe that there is so much love going around in the world that we don’t always feel it, but it’s out there, and it can reveal itself in the strangest of ways. So I’m sending out my love to all those lonely people out there over the interwebs. With love, we can get through the Christmas season together.

We’re all in this together so email me if you’re feeling down at keepingbusyb@gmail.com. Looking ways for distract yourself over the holidays? I’ve got tons of ideas on projects to keep you busy here.

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