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Family, not shopping, makes holidays special

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By Julie Muhlstein, Herald Columnist
Someday maybe I'll tell my grandchild how Thanksgiving used to happen weeks before Christmas. It was followed by a long, lazy weekend. When I was a girl -- and even when my older children were kids -- we would putter around the house, rake leaves and eat turkey sandwiches. I have a nice memory of being in my grandmother's kitchen a few days after Thanksgiving. She made the best turkey soup, with pearl barley and carrots. To keep grandkids occupied, our grandmother set up a little workshop. We made ornaments by pinning ribbons and sequins onto Styrofoam balls. They were to decorate a Christmas tree weeks away. Christmas is still weeks away, but it's getting harder not to go out shopping before the leftovers get cold. That commercial drumbeat appears to be working, with midnight sales now a norm. If the trend continues, how long will it be before the turkey dinner tradition evolves into brunch so families can be at the mall by late afternoon? Paul Schoenfeld, a clinical psychologist and director of the Everett Clinic's Behavioral Health Department, said that for some individuals, the chance to shop on Thanksgiving is an escape from too much family. "It's a way of getting out of the house after too many hours of togetherness," he said. For others, it becomes a problem. "Buying things makes people feel better temporarily," said Schoenfeld, who writes a blog called Family Talk for the Everett Clinic. When excessive spending becomes chronic, he said, economic problems often follow. He understands the impulse to save a little money by bargain hunting early for gifts. "There is so much emphasis on the commercial aspect, I think sometimes people go overboard. They feel like they have to make this the best Christmas, when really they may be struggling," he said.

What's open when


• 6 a.m.: Kmart is open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thanksgiving day.
• 7 a.m.: Big Lots is open until 8 p.m.
• 9 a.m.: Old Navy (Alderwood location) is open until 8 p.m.
• 4 p.m.: Michael's is open until 10 p.m.
• 9 p.m.: Toys R Us; roughly 11 stores, including Carter's, Bass and Under Armour, at the Seattle Premium Outlets.
• 10 p.m.: Wal-Mart begins its sales; more than 60 stores at Seattle Premium Outlets, including Calvin Klein, Famous Footwear, PacSun and Nike open.
• Midnight: Kohl's, Target, Best Buy, Macy's, Old Navy, more than 25 Alderwood mall retailers, 10 Everett Mall stores.
• 4 a.m.: JCPenney, Sears
• 5 a.m.: Alderwood mall, Kmart, Fred Meyer, Michael's
• 6 a.m.: Everett Mall, Big Lots

As a professional organizer, Denise Allan helps people who have a lot of stuff. This is her busy period, as she helps people get ready to host guests for the holidays. She helps them make room. "I have my share of compulsive shoppers," said Allan, who runs a Bothell-based business called Simplify With Denise. Shopping, said Allan, is called "the smiled-upon addiction." Allan hopes Black Friday shoppers remember that buying is not the same as saving. "Saving is money you put in the bank, not a percentage off," she said. "We all need to take a step back," Allan said. With 11 nieces and nephews, she has plenty of holiday shopping to do, but tries to do it with a plan for gifts that truly suit each person, and with a firm budget. Both caution against being too emotional with your wallet. "Look back on your childhood," Schoenfeld said. "What do you remember from the holidays? Do you remember any of the Christmas presents you received? "What people remember is the love and the feeling of closeness," he said. "That warmth and that closeness are what the holidays are about -- not the presents." Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460,
Story tags » Consumer GoodsThanksgivingChristmas

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