Wednesday, October 20, 2010

how to have the most organized Christmas you've ever had with enough time to actually enjoy those sugar cookies you slaved over

Start early.

Oh, I mean early. So early that by October 19th you've already gotten some Christmas gifts done, menu picked out and lists made! Oh snap, it's October 20th already! If you're ready to get your holiday sleigh in gear, start yelling "On Donner, on Blitzen," because it's time to get going! I know J may have just gotten you thinking about Thanksgiving, but we need to talk priorities, people- priorities!

Simply follow my weekly format and it'll take care of pretty much everything! (And I even saved room for Thanksgiving too (xoxoJ)
Week of October 17 (we're already halfway done so I'll give you a light load!)
  1. Create a list of those for which you will need to buy gifts. I will admit that I am particularly anal about this. Not only do I create a list of who I will need to buy for, I also include an idea of what I want to get them, a budget, and I set a timeline for when I need to have it completed by. So, if I need to buy 15 gifts, then I need to have 5 done in October, 5 done in November and 5 done before Dec 25. I meet my goals every month! Download this template to keep you organized!
  2. Create a list of those for which you will be sending cards and decide on the type of card you will be sending. Photo card, newsletter, store-bought cards? Download this template to keep you organized!
  3. Create a list of events you will be hosting, and decide what kind of event it will be. Sit down dinner, appetizers only? etc. Every year, we host Christmas Eve, and this year it'll be a nice sit down dinner! (Who wants my famous ham???)
The key to de-stressing the holidays is to break the work up into segments, so that when you get down to that magical Christmas week, it's nothing but mistletoe, baby!

Week of October 24
  1. Request lists for those of which you will be buying gifts. If such an idea seems tacky to you, then write down ideas of what you would like to buy for each person.
  2. Nail down your Christmas card idea. I've started a tradition of writing up a newsletter on the years' noteworthy events. One of my favorite online tools to use may surprise you. It's Microsoft Templates! Simply search for "holiday newsletters" and voila, plenty of pre-made templates for you to use. Simply insert a photo, type in your text, spell check and print! If you're going with a newsletter, get it written early. Some ideas of what to include are major events from the year, summer vacation details, new arrivals and marriages you celebrated, and what you're most looking forward to in the next year. If you're doing a photo card, decide on a template so that once you take your cute family holiday photo, you're all ready to go. If you're using a photo from that family vacation, order those cards up! One less thing to worry about!
Week of October 31
  1. Plan a shopping trip day with your girlfriends, mom, sisters, etc. to get cranking on the better part of your list. Plan a full day of shopping that includes malls, antique stores, specialty boutiques, a yummy lunch, etc. You can plan it for Black Friday if you're into the mad rush thing, or for a little bit before Thanksgiving. Once Thanksgiving hits, it can be crazy to get any sort of bulk shopping completed. Don't forget your holiday party dress!
  2. Start thinking about menu ideas for the party(s) you will be hosting or what dish-to-pass you'll bring to the parties you'll be invited to. If you have never tried a recipe before, do a test run this week. Better to fail in front of your husband than in front of a crowd. haha.
Week of November 7
  1. Checkpoint week. By now you should have at least 1/3 of your shopping complete, and if not complete, a good idea of what you're getting and from where. Finish any online shopping. Don't forget to buy handmade!
  2. Make a list of those for whom you'll be giving cookies, or a small gift (co-workers, neighbors, host gift, etc.). Every year I make an ornament and give a small box of cookies to our neighbors. My neighbor P crochets me a scarf every year! :)
  3. Nail down a date with your girlfriends for a cookie exchange and ornament making party (7S does one every year!)
Week of November 14
  1. Decide what kind of cookie(s) you'll be making for any cookie exchanges.
  2. By now you should have a set-in-stone menu/dish to pass for any other events you'll be hosting or attending.
  3. By now you should have completed your "small gift shopping" (co-workers, neighbors, host gifts, etc.) Christmas Tree Shoppes is a great place to find small, inexpensive gifts that are perfect for this!
Week of November 21
  1. Thanksgiving week! (Sorry you're on your own for those plans)
  2. After Thanksgiving weekend- decorate the house! I suggest hot cocoa with whipped cream, Christmas music, and a big ole star on top 'o the tree.
Week of November 28
  1. Time to get serious about shopping. By now you should have had your large shopping day (the one with your girlfriends, sisters, or mom) done and out of the way, online shopping done, so you should be more than halfway through your list. Buckle down this week and get the list completed, I don't care if you have to knock down the Santa at the mall to do it, just do it! Need last minute ideas? Netflix gift certificate, board games, Anthropologie initial mugs, recipe cards (Michael's dollar bins!), stationary, fun patterned tights, lotto tickets....
  2. Number 1 is it. That's how serious this week is.
Week of December 5 (20 days till Christmas)
  1. Wrap gifts. Make a list of those who you will need to give a gift to outside of Christmas Eve/Day festivities so you don't forget to make sure they receive it. Mail any gifts that need to be mailed with "don't open till Christmas" tags.
  2. Mail holiday cards. If you still need a photo for your photo card, get your family in front of the tree or under the mistletoe with a tripod and smile big. Get those cards out the door!
  3. Checkpoint: So, by the end of this week, you already have your shopping done, gifts wrapped, house decorated, Christmas cards sent, menu plans set. You are doing GREAT!
Week of December 12 (14 days till Christmas)
  1. Relax. Are you enjoying the holiday season? Enjoying your decorated house? Kissing your hubbie under the mistletoe? Say no more.
  2. Make a grocery list of food items you'll need for next week and get your grocery shopping complete. Bake the sweet stuff and anything else you can prepare in advance and make sure your recipe cards are ready to go!
Week of December 19-24
  1. It's go time! You're hosting your parties (that you're well planned for), give the house a quick clean, put on some (more) holiday music, and enjoy the time you worked hard for.
December 25 - Merry Christmas!
Our first Christmas in our first apartment :)

I realize that reading this list may not make it seem like it's de-stressing the process that has become Christmas, but believe me, it does. Ok, at least for me and my list-making, super-organizational ways. I feel like if I wait till the very last minute to do all these things, I miss out on the whole point of Christmas- celebrating Christ's birth with family and friends. I also like having plenty of time to try and pick out that one perfect gift for someone, actually try to have the really delicious tasting (and looking) cookies, and have fun writing up a holiday newsletter to keep far off family and friends in the loop. Ok, I'll be honest. I start my newsletter in January. You may all scowl at me now.

So- did I miss anything? Are you exceptionally organized like me or do you do last minute like nobody's business? Do tell....P.S. Pre-Christmas reading (you can stick this in somewhere around the 20 days till Christmas mark) - Unafraid by Francine Rivers. Luke 2:19 says "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." I can't imagine even the tip of the iceberg on all the things Mary pondered in her heart as she found out she was pregnant with Jesus, but this book helps you do just that. While you're at it, read the other 4 books of the series too! :)


  1. I start Christmas shopping the week before Christmas. I work best under pressure.

  2. This whole post kinda makes me a bit anxious.. lol but I'd like to say that I have my two sisters-in-law and babysitter already done! Now just for the hubby, son, parents, and in-laws! oh boy! : ( haha.. Thanks, S, Thanks a lot! j/k : )

  3. This was great I start to Google top the ten gifts for my grand babies and nieces and nephews around August. This gives me an idea of whats hot in the toddlers and 6-10 year old. I did find the perfect night light for the grand kids! S my coworker does all her shopping on Black Friday with her daughter. They tag team the day. My tree is always up the day after Thanksgiving! I love the lights at Christmas.

  4. I speak on the behalf of many many men when I say that all this is best done on the 23rd of December. (And that's only if Christmas Eve is on a weekend) but knock urselves out girls. J just tell me which cards to sign.


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