Having multiple sclerosis (MS) for 30 years has given me many opportunities to learn shortcuts that make my life easier. Here are a few of the tips and techniques I use to save time and energy so I am able to enjoy the holidays. (But don't add to your stress by thinking you have to try all of them!)
SHOP ONLINE: With the Internet, it's easy to shop from home, and the stores are always open. I try to select gifts based on the recipients' hobbies, interests, or talents—and shopping online makes this easier because you can search by keywords.
GIVE GIFT CERTIFICATES: I often give gift certificates (from specialty stores, sporting good suppliers, or restaurants) and tickets (to plays, concerts, or movie theatres). It's easy to charge my purchases and have certificates or tickets mailed to the recipient or me. If I can't buy them online, I'll go to a shopping mall; the mall office usually offers gift certificates that can be used in any store. Most big-box stores also offer gift cards, which the receiver can put toward the cost of a higher-priced item.
PLAN AHEAD: I'm one of those people who actually likes shopping. However, to streamline my trips and make sure I come home with everything I need, I make a list, check the newspaper for sales, and plan my route. Sometimes I'll use the phone to locate the merchandise and compare prices. Many stores will hold merchandise for 24 hours, especially if you tell them why you might be delayed in picking it up. I ask the clerk for the best pickup time—generally early mornings and late evenings on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are the quietest times for most businesses.
AVOID THE POST OFFICE: For gifts that must be sent, I make sure I have addresses when I purchase the gift and have the items mailed directly from the store. There will be a mailing charge, but the gift will be wrapped properly and sent without extra effort on my part. For smaller gifts, the post office sells festive gift bags and boxes that need no wrapping; just slip your gift inside, apply an address label, and it's ready to go.
SECURE PARKING PRIVILEGES: Living in the Midwest means that the weather can be frigid and parking lots snow-covered and icy. Years ago, when I was still walking—albeit unsteadily—I contacted the state Department of Motor Vehicles about obtaining disabled parking privileges. I needed a signed statement from my physician verifying my need for a permit. If your health or ability to walk is an issue, you may qualify for a disabled parking permit that will allow you to park in specially designated stalls, usually near the entrance to the stores.
USE A WEBCAM: I remember as a child how much I liked opening presents, so I rarely give checks or gift certificates to elementary school children. With a computer, a special “Webcam” camera (for about $20) that works with the computer, and Skype (a free Internet program), I can watch the gift opening from my home even when I can't be with family members who live in other parts of the country (provided they have the same set up on their computers.)
WRAP IT UP: One more thought. If wrapping gifts is difficult, try:
▸Colorful boxes, bags, and canisters that do not need additional wrapping
▸Having children decorate lunch or grocery bags using crayons, markers, and stickers
▸Wrapping the gift in a pretty towel and tying it with thick yarn or ribbon
▸Using aluminum foil, eliminating the need to use scissors and cellophane tape
▸Hiring a middle or high school student to help
So plan ahead, look for shortcuts, and enjoy the holidays!
Shelley Peterman Schwarz