When you’re a busy, overwhelmed, and somewhat disorganized mom, the entire holiday season can throw you for a loop. But if you take a deep breath and spend a few minutes thinking about how to prepare for Christmas, I promise it’ll lessen the stress later. Because the earlier you start preparing for holidays, the more time you’ll have to enjoy them instead of just reacting to them.
Six Important Ways to Prepare for Christmas Before You Lose Your Mind
I know Grandma getting run over by reindeer is supposed to be funny in the song (at least the first 300 times you hear it).
But it’s not as funny when Christmas prep leaves you feeling like Grandma. Covered in hoof prints…
If you’re tired of getting trampled on and promised yourself you’d start preparing for the holidays earlier this year (especially Christmas), try these 6 ways to get more organized before the holiday season goes full tilt.
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1) Get Input
I know in your head, you think everything Christmas-related is important and you need to make everyone happy or you’re the worst mom who ever lived.
I get it – I’m right there with you.
Trust me, we’re not alone.
But I bet if you sit everyone down and talk to them before the holiday season begins, you’ll be surprised.
As early as possible, talk to your immediate family to see what they even care about. It’s possible some of those Christmas prep chores you’ve been dreading don’t even need to be done.
Because if nobody cares, why do it?
Once you’re done that, send out feelers to extended family and close friends about hosting duties, possible parties, or dinners. And while you’re at it, find out who’s exchanging with whom.
Who knows, everyone might be ready to switch to a limited gift lottery. And your sister might volunteer to host Christmas this year.
Unlikely, yes, but you won’t know if you don’t ask.
And, if nothing else, you’ll be more prepared for what’s coming.
2) Straighten Out Your Calendar
Once you have a handle on what’s important to you and everyone else, pull out your calendar.
If you don’t know how to use one, check out this post about how planners make life happen.
Obviously, if you have kids in school and/or activities, months 11 and 12 on your calendar are going to be stuffed fuller than that deep-fried turkey your husband just used to set the backyard on fire.
We don’t even like turkey.
So to prepare for Christmas duties, events, and activities while avoiding utter exhaustion, take a look at your calendar well before then and decide what can be postponed until January.
Move non-urgent appointments to either January or earlier in the fall.
- Pediatric well visits
- Car maintenance
- Eyeglass appointments
- Vet check-ups
- And any other regular appointments
Then fill in your calendar with any and all (holiday or regular) dates you can possibly think of that are already set so you can work around them.
That way you can make enough time for family holiday activities without double-booking or running your family completely ragged.
Other Important Dates to Remember When Preparing for the Holidays:
Don’t forget a few other important dates to add:
- If you’re mailing any gifts, check now for mailing deadlines. Add them to your calendar with a note the week before to make sure you have the gifts and mailing supplies bought in time.
You can’t keep blaming the post office every year. Sooner or later, Cousin Marcy will catch on.
- Block out some time for cleaning, shopping, pre-cooking, and wrapping and try to treat those blocks as real appointments. For example, we host the holiday meal, so I block off a few days before to drink a lot. And also prep for Christmas Eve dinner.
- Pick a family photo date if you are going that route.
3) Tackle Hosting/Cleaning/Decorating Planning
Plan Some Holiday Deep-Cleaning:
Particularly if you’re having company over, you may be hoping to tackle some deep cleaning. I know I use the holiday season as an incentive to get some procrastination cleaning done.
Nothing more motivating than Aunt Ginny poking around, looking for corner crud and shower-caddy gunk to spur me into action.
But trust me, if you wait until December, you won’t do it.
All your deep-cleaning plans will go the way of the homemade matching sweaters you’ve planned to make for the last six Christmases but never have time for.
Big August dreams disappear when December hits you full in the face, don’t they?
So figure out which cleaning chores can be tackled soon (in September and October) that won’t get messed back up. Then plan to hit one deep-cleaning chore at a time here-and-there.
Prepare for Christmas Decorating:
Decorating is one of those things that seems like something you can maybe skip, but, for me at least, it’s the thing that pushes me into the Christmas spirit.
So I plan for it to keep it from becoming just another “to do.”
It’s a lot easier to get it done and then have more time to enjoy it if you prepare for Christmas decorating and schedule time for it early in the season.
- Schedule a day when you’re pretty sure the house will already be mostly clean to decorate inside. I try to do our Christmas decorating on Thanksgiving night and Black Friday while the house is still pretty nice from Thanksgiving.
- Are you going to have a fresh tree this year? If yes, plan now when you’ll be chopping it down or sliding it off the rack at the Lions Club fundraiser lot.
- If you’re into outside lights, plan to get them up before it’s freezing out so you’re not sliding around on an icy roof.
4) Lighten the Kitchen Load
- Cooking for a party
- Preparing Christmas dinner at home
- Taking along a dish to a relative’s house
- Presenting a special holiday breakfast
- Baking your famous butterscotch-chocolate-chip cookies
- Or all of the above…
…it pays to look at and prepare for Christmas recipes now.
Check for the right cookware, and make a list of every ingredient you’ll need.
For everyday cooking during this super busy time, consider freezing some everyday meals early in the fall to get you through the nights when you’re too overwhelmed to cook.
So you don’t blow your entire Christmas budget on pizza or your WW points allowance you were saving for Christmas Crack on limp French fries from the local sub shop.
While you’re at it, make up some cookie dough now and freeze it.
It’s okay, you can still make fresh dough with the kiddos later.
But this way, all those cookies you’re sending to friends can get churned out with much less hassle.
Hey, if you can’t stay in points, neither should they – plus you’ll need a gym partner for the first week-and-a-half of January.
5) Prepare for Christmas Shopping/Gift-Giving
Gift-giving and Christmas shopping are some of the biggest stressors at Christmas.
To get a jump on organizing and prepare for Christmas gift-giving:
- Take 10 minutes to sit down and write out a list of every single person you need to buy for, from the soccer coach to immediate family members. You can’t start to get your gift-giving organized until you know what you’re facing.
- Beg your family to give you ideas.
As early as September, I start asking (pleading with) my kids and close family members (Memaw, I hope you’re reading this because it’s that time again!) to tell me what they want for Christmas.
There’s no need for you to try to brainstorm every gift yourself.
If nothing else, they can give you vague themes (like “I want to start snowboarding – make it so”).
- Then set a deadline to finish all your shopping.
For some reason, shooting for December 1st every year as my drop dead final shopping date, even if I never fully meet it, definitely makes a difference in how much I get done.
And, finally, the best way to get organized and prepare for Christmas is to figure out where you are now, what you have, and get at least a vague idea of what you need to do, make, or buy before things get really crazy.
- Figure out outfits for parties, photo shoots, and special events.
Make sure your kids won’t be screeching about tight dress shoes on Christmas Eve if you plan to attend church.
- Take a quick look through your Christmas tubs.
Check lights and make note of any gift wrap and tableware stuff you’ll need to prepare for Christmas meals. It’s almost impossible to find decent lights or cheap gift wrap or Scotch tape by mid-December, at least in my town.
See what you need and buy it early (and write yourself a note so you remember you bought it and where you put it)
- And while you have all your gift wrap supplies out, organize them into one or two totes.
If you prefer to wrap as you buy gifts, your stuff will be ready and waiting.
- Set up a box or envelope in a convenient place for receipts , gift cards, and paperwork.
Prepare for Christmas gift returns and issues by making it a habit right away to put receipts and gift card in the envelope as soon as you start shopping. And do the same with an email folder for online order receipts.
- Speaking of Christmas cards, decide if you’re going to send any.
If yes, when? Before or after Christmas? Gather addresses and buy cards and stamps so when you’re ready to send Christmas cards, the basics have already been done.
- And lastly, make a “later” list of anything that can wait until the first of the year and put it where you can easily find it (either on paper or in the cloud).
Add to it as you think of things.
Put a note on the calendar for December 28 or January 2 to deal with the later list so you don’t forget (or ignore) its existence. Set a calendar alarm as well.
A Recap of How to Prepare for Christmas
Before the holiday season gets fully underway, step back and do a little planning to prepare for Christmas and avoid getting run over.
Yes, it’s much easier to ignore it all, but that won’t make it go away. If anything, it will just increase the stress and then you’ll be tempted to ignore it all again next year.
To prepare for Christmas and get more organized this year, try some holiday planning in these 6 areas:
1) Check in with family and friends to find out what’s important to them during the holidays and what their expectations are.
You may be surprised. If nothing else, you’ll at least get a heads up on some dates and duties.
2) Get your calendar straight before all the event announcements and invitations start rolling in.
Move anything non-urgent and non-holiday-related to January.
3) Get a jump on hosting, cleaning, and Christmas decorating with some pre-planning.
Clean what you can now and figure out when the decorating’s going to happen so you’re not stringing Christmas lights on a snowy roof on December 23rd.
4) Plan and prepare for Christmas meals by checking recipes, deciding on dishes, and checking for cookware and ingredients ahead of time.
5) Tackle the stress of gift-giving by making a good list of recipients. Ask family members to give you ideas.
Then set an arbitrary deadline to get your shopping finished so you can concentrate on last minute holiday preparations.
6) Finally, assess supplies and organize yourself and your task lists so you’re not running out at the last minute for things you forgot, losing important receipts, or getting distracted with tasks that can wait until January.
Christmas is stressful enough just dealing with all of the wild card stuff that pops up:
- Unexpected guests
- Family squabbles
- Hurt feelings
- Life intervening
I know you can’t prepare for everything that crops up at Christmastime. But you can handle all that stuff much more easily if you have a handle on the things you can control.