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Christmas is getting seriously close now and few have finished their shopping. Or wrapping. Or even mailing their holiday cards.

Fear not. There are ways to cut corners. Here are a few suggestions designed to help you keep smiling: _ Arrange a baby-sitting exchange with a friend so you both can shop without your children. The exchange also keeps Christmas presents a surprise.

_ If you take your children shopping, make sure you and your kids are well rested. Take breaks and bring non-messy snacks such as raisins.

_ Bring lists of names and tentative gift ideas. You'll be less likely to forget someone.

_ Instead of making big meals, keep food such as cheese, tomatoes, apples, bananas, bread, lettuce and cold cuts on hand for quick, easy meals and cleanups.

_ Use paper plates and cups to cut cleanup time.

_ Abandon your formal Christmas Day dinner for a picnic of food gifts you received. You'll use up all those cheese trays, bread and sausage logs, and have extra time to play games, socialize or just relax.

_ Arrange a wrapping exchange. Cut a deal with someone who loves wrapping gifts but hates taking tree ornaments down. You provide paper, tape and scissors and he or she wraps your gifts one evening. In exchange, you'll take down and put away that person's tree ornaments.

_ Bag the wrapping (literally). Many stores sell pretty, colorful paper bags to "wrap" gifts in.

_ There are services that will not only mail your Christmas gifts, but wrap them. Check your newspaper's classified sections.

_ Avoid mailing packages by shopping via catalog and televised shopping merchandisers. They'll send your gifts directly to the recipient.