I love having my family over for Yom Tov; it’s one of the highlights of my year. However, I feel overwhelmed with the rush beforehand and the pressure on Yom Tov of constantly serving, cleaning and cooking. The stress of cooking and company can set me off kilter. How can I make it less stressful on myself?
Here are some ideas using my acronym for “Yom Tov” to reduce stress and create a truly memorable holiday experience with the family.
Yearn to make Yom Tov joyful for yourself and for everyone. All throughout the month, ask Hashem for Siyata Dishmaya in helping you prepare for the holidays, as you yearn to make this time truly happy.
Organization and planning ahead are fundamental in alleviating stress. Yom Tov is not a time to “wing it.” Plan ahead as much as possible, and make sure most or all of your Yom Tov preparations are taken care of prior to the big day! Do not wait until the end to start changing linens or making elaborate meals. Map out the details of the month well in advance. Make lists of what needs to be done, bought, cooked, and set goals for each day. Check tasks off the list as you accomplish them. (Check our prep-ahead list below.)
Assuming you stuck to your pre-holiday preparation, on Erev Yom Tov itself, do not fall prey to the “I have time to do one more thing” mentality. What is done is done. Less is more, especially if it is going to help you remain calm. Try to be ready as early as possible. Set the table, bathe, and prepare the kids’ outfits in advance. Preparing an extra kugel or dish is not worth the extra Erev Yom Tov pressure when you already have a stocked freezer!
Meal planning is essential in reducing the stress associated with holidays. Prepare as much of your grocery shopping and seudas way in advance. This step is crucial and should not be left to the last minute, as it is an overwhelming part of preparing for Yom Tov! When you cook for Shabbos or the first days, make an extra kugel, cake, chicken, etc., for Yom Tov and freeze. Alternatively, you can prep the meats or chickens when you get home from the butcher, recipe ready and completely ready to cook when you remove from the freezer.
A lot of pressure comes from trying to be the “hostess with the mostest.” Having the “basics” but being calm and happy completely outweighs having a table set with every gourmet delicacy made from scratch. Please remember: do not aim for perfection; good enough IS good enough! Cut corners and cut yourself some slack by purchasing ready or semi-homemade foods. Eliminate the constant preparation of salads on Yom Tov by having make-ahead marinated salads.
Bear in mind that your family needs to eat Erev Yom Tov. Think ahead and have a lunch prepared in advance, or have them go out for pizza. Cranky and hungry children/guests are not fun to have around; that includes you. Make sure you schedule time to eat before Yom Tov!
Be proactive and make Chol HaMoed meals easier by putting up a crock pot supper to enjoy when you and your clan return home from a family day out.
Transfer all your “to do” lists, meal plans, and suggestions for the following year into a “Yom Tov” binder or notebook. This step takes discipline but will save you a headache for the following year. Save the notes from year to year. I love the time my lists save me and the nostalgic feelings I get when I open my “Yom Tov” notebook anew, come Yom Tov time again.
Overwhelmed with the clean up? Make it easier for yourself. There are stunning disposable dishes available, which sometimes look more elegant than real china. Cleanup after the meal is a breeze with disposables. However, if the cost is going to bite on your wallet, consider hiring cleaning help for an hour just to do your dishes to give you a break! Ironically, cleaning help is more cost effective than those stunning disposables! I consider “extra cleaning help” as part of our Yom Tov budget.
Do not be afraid to communicate your need for help. Delegate responsibilities to others. Guests love to help and feel great when they contribute! You can suggest they bring a salad, cake, or something from a takeout store to facilitate with the meal. If your married kids are coming, perhaps assign what they can take care of beforehand, like kugels, desserts, sukkah decorations, etc. Mrs. Bina Drazin, a household name in Cleveland, Ohio for her chesed and hospitality par excellence, shared with me, “I would tell my children, ‘I’m only one person with like 25-30 of you. We’re all in this together. I want all of you to have a vacation, not that I should be sick afterwards.’ My sons-in-law call to see what I need from stores, my daughters help by making food, everyone helps with the serving. The younger ones babysit only if they want to, (can’t demand [the singles] to babysit). As a result, the married siblings buy them treats to thank them. We make it fun for everyone!” Furthermore, “I focus on enjoying family more than cleanliness.” Assigning responsibilities to others will ease your workload and help you maximize your holiday spirits with the family.
Make this Sukkos one that your “Ushpizin” can’t wait to come back to!
Have a delightful Yom Tov,
Until next time,
P.S. I highly recommend checking out Azriela Jaffe’s chatzos.com website, where she maps out the beauty of chatzos and transforming an Erev Shabbos/Yom Tov environment from chaos to calm. As a result of “chatzos,” my holiday and Shabbos preparation experience have been extraordinarily improved! Chatzos.com offers resources and a forum with great suggestions on ways to eliminate the Erev Shabbos/Yom Tov pressure.
Adina Forouzan, owner of Master My Space Professional Organizing Services has a contagious passion for organizing! She’ll tackle your unorganized areas and develop stress free systems that will work to meet your specific family needs. Adina lives in Cleveland, OH. www.mastermyspace.com 440-847-8224