Take some of the stress out of the holidays by getting organized now. The key to holiday organizing is to start early, take baby steps, and make lists (i.e. gifts, budget, meals, cards, etc.). Now is also the time to go through clothes, toys, and other household items to make room for the presents soon to come.
Greeting cards can almost cause as much stress as shopping. Plan to complete your cards over a week or two. Gather all your letter-writing materials before you start, and keep them in one place until you finish. If you like to send a general update along with a personalized note, write that first. Then add a personal touch to a couple cards a day, and you will be finished in no time.
Before you ever step foot in a store, have everyone make gift lists (including stores). This way you can give to others what they want instead of something that will become clutter to them. Plus, you have one less decision to make. Make shopping easier by setting a deadline so you can enjoy the holiday season. The earlier you start and finish your shopping, the shorter the lines and better the selection. When you can, shop odd hours for a less hectic experience; avoid malls and post offices on the weekends if possible. Shop online when applicable. If you do not know what to get someone for a holiday present, think consumable; a consumable gift will probably not go to waste or add to the clutter. You can even have everyone contribute to a group meal or activity, or you can set up a Secret Santa exchange. When it comes time for wrapping, create a separate space with all necessary supplies so you can wrap easily and quickly, if necessary. For extra-large gifts, use a paper, holiday tablecloth for wrapping paper.
Do not overwhelm yourself by cleaning the house from top to bottom; concentrate on the public areas. Guests will appreciate your hard work and still be able to enjoy your company. If you tend to decorate similarly from year to year, take a picture of your decorations to speed the process next year. Prepare for unexpected guests; keep an inventory of quick food items such as cheese and crackers, tea and coffee, frozen cookies, etc. For your planned gatherings, allow enough time for cleaning, cooking, and decorating by counting back from the time of your party. Keep meals simple or ask guests to bring a dish to reduce your preparation time and stress. Delegate or ask for help with some of these activities; it will take a little of the stress off you and may even turn several of the chores in to fun.
Once all the festivities have passed, the idea of cleaning up and taking down the decorations may invite some of that stress back into your life. Stop it in its tracks – have an informal “undecorating” party. Most chores take less time and are more fun when you have friendly company and a couple extra hands. When it comes to Christmas decorations and supplies, use appropriately sized storage containers that are sturdy and label, label, label! A couple extra minutes at the end of this season could save hours when it is time to decorate next year. This is also a good time to update your card list while everything is fresh in your memory. If it turns out you forgot someone this year, you can always send a New Year’s card.
Just remember, the holidays are about friends, family, and fun. Take the stress out of holiday preparations and enjoy the good times by preparing early, asking for help, and keeping it simple.