My husband calls it "Thanksgiving Work Camp" and he isn't happy about it.
It's those hours (days) before the guests come that we spend frantically cleaning - and not stashing - the drifts, piles and mountains of detritus accumulated around the house over the past year.
The battle against stuff is constant. And a ridiculous, first-world problem. And the worst part? All of this cleaning happens only as we begin celebrating the season when we acquire more stuff.
Stop. Let's all stop buying.
But wait! What about the joy of giving?
Two things go into giving a present - the cost and the consideration. And when you can't find the perfect balance of both, you get things like the small Tiffany dresser clock my mother-in-law gave me. Twice. (We laugh about it now.)
Or a Black Friday score that was hard-fought, but all wrong in hindsight. (Yes, the toilet mini-golf set seemed perfect at the time.)
I have your answer for all of this - our annual charity giving guide! Let's turn #GivingTuesday into this season's gift guide. By donating to a charity as a gift to your loved ones, you eliminate clutter, can brag about how much you spent and show them you care about their passions by donating to something they love. Perfect, right?
- - -
For the player
Know a child-at-heart who is always trying to get everyone to play? Don't get then another lawn game that will die in the garage. Donate to Let's Play America in their name.
Pat Rumbaugh, 60, the co-founder of the Takoma Park-based nonprofit group, is the tireless Play Lady, organizing community events around the region that encourage people of all ages to get outside and play.
She speaks at conferences and in a TEDx Talk about the importance of play - scientific evidence shows that the synapses in kids' brains erupt like a fireworks show when they're playing. And she helps communities create play events, telling me about the day she assisted one neighborhood with throwing a block party.
"Today when I walked the dogs by the street closed for kids to play, the joy of seeing kids up to age 12 having a blast playing several activities brought tears to my eyes," she said. "Kids need and deserve fun, free, outdoor playtime every day."
I've been watching her events bloom over the years as she gets kids away from their screens and into some mud and reminds adults how fun it is to jump rope; she's coaching communities and families on ways to regain the lost love of play.
And I admire her tenacity and optimism. Earlier this year, she was roped into a phone scheme by a very convincing scammer and ended up losing $16,000 of the nonprofit group's money. Gifts to the Let's Play organization will help them recover from that.
- - -
For the animal lover
Resist the urge to buy this friend another tuxedo collar or squeak toy for their fur baby. Instead, help others find the slobbery love of their lives with a donation to one of the most awesome animal rescue groups around - Lucky Dog.
I am biased, totally. I flew with Lucky Dog on their rescue mission last year to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and was supposed to come home with just a story. But I'm a sucker, and our family now includes an adorable little rat terrier mix - found cowering in the storm on an abandoned coffee farm - whom we've named Chica. Cheeky for short, which is also more accurate.
Lucky Dog - which is also Lucky Cat, they do both - rescues animals from high-kill shelters all over our region and has saved more than 15,000 lives.
- - -
For the home-repair geeks
Do you have friends or relatives who like going to hardware stores and rummage sales just to browse tools? I know all about it; I'm married to a home-repair fanatic. But guess what? There's a way to honor their love of building and maybe even inspire them to build for others.
Sure, everyone knows about Habitat for Humanity. But did you know they have a special program to help veterans get repairs or modifications (for mobility issues) made to their homes? Donate to their Veterans Build fund in honor of your gear geeks, and maybe encourage them to volunteer with this group to give them more places to use all those tools.
Now, wasn't that easy? And you didn't even have to fight for a parking space.