The Christmas season really is the most wonderful time of the year… but it can also be the most stressful time of the year.
I love Christmas, but let’s be honest, the holidays are busy, expensive, and a lot of work. So, in order to enjoy the holidays to the fullest (without giving myself a nervous breakdown), I try to get organized and do as much prep in November as I can.
I always start my Christmas planning with an excel spreadsheet. I know that sounds geeky, and not very festive, but for me, it is the key to getting organized. I have a sheet for gifts (where I track all the gifts I need to buy and gifts that have been purchased, a sheet for Christmas cards (including mailing addresses), and a sheet for my Christmas “to dos” (including Christmas activities and events). The lists really keep me on track, and each year I can just update the spreadsheets from the previous year. If spreadsheets aren’t your thing, a notebook would work well, too.
Another key to a stress-free holiday is to prepare your home by purging and cleaning. Christmas comes with an onslaught of visitors and “stuff” - so getting your home ready in November is key. Get the kids involved too, and let them know that Santa won’t bring more toys if there isn’t room for them in the house.
Getting kids to write their letters to Santa early can be really helpful, too. My boys have always written their letters before the Santa Claus parade, which takes place at the end of November. The kids know that they ask for three things (under $100), and they can likely expect one of the items from Santa. We always make a copy of the letter for the fridge before we deliver it to Santa, so we all remember what was on the list.
Other things you can do in November to prep for the holidays are: buy or make an advent calendar, shop online to ensure adequate shipping time, order Christmas cards and address envelopes, make handmade items and DIY gifts, bake and freeze cookie dough or Christmas treats, and decorate your home (especially outside, before it gets too cold).
And don’t forget to wrap gifts as they are purchased. Doing a few gifts at a time is lot less overwhelming than tackling a mountain of gifts a couple of days before Christmas. Having extra time to wrap gifts will also allow you to put a little more effort into the task, and make the gifts even more special. Consider adding ribbons, bells, sprigs of greenery, homemade ornaments, or candy to your packages. This year, I’m going to add M&M “bows” to my boys’ gifts. Cute, right?
It may seem early to start thinking about Christmas, but investing a little time prepping in November will pay huge dividends in December. Planning ahead will help you stay on budget, feel less stress, and enjoy this special time of year with the people you love.
Gina Bell writes the East Coast Mommy column, which runs every second week. Follow her blog at www.EastCoastMommy.com or contact her at [email protected].