There’s Not Enough Alcohol In the World To Blot Out That One.
Oops. If you just stumbled upon my blog, you caught me mid-series.
Kind of like the time my son flung open the hall door to our elevator-adjacent hotel room while I stood, mostly nekked, in the middle of the room.
To the shock and (I assure you) horror of the large assembly of people awaiting a ride to the upper floors.
I imagine the hotel bar was exceptionally full that night.
I could just sum them up for you but you really should go take a look. I promise you’ll get something out of it, even if it just reminds you to let your dog out.
Plus I need time to finish getting this Spanx pulled up.
Go ahead now, I’ll only be a few minutes longer.
Not going? Fine, fine – I’ll just tell you what you missed.
No, Dear – Just Because It’s Shaped Like a Christmas Tree Doesn’t Make Pine Air Freshener a Christmas Gift
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In Part 1, we took inventory of everyone who needs a gift this year. Then we wrangled that list and accompanying gift ideas into a semblance of order.
Getting it all on paper reduces anxiety and the odds of last minute gas station gift-buying sessions.
In Part 2, I can’t remember what we did.(*1)
Oh wait, that’s right – I shared my spreadsheet and explained how I:
- Track incoming packages,
- Avoid losing them (and their accompanying paperwork) once they get here, and
- Defeat tiny gift-sniffer-outers.
Figuring out how to do all of that has decreased my Christmas gift stress by about a thousand-fold.
Which, coincidentally, is approximately the number of belly folds the elevator group witnessed that fateful day.
Who Guessed Adorable Snowmen In Tropical-Tie-Dye-Flavored Scarves Could Turn On You So Quickly?
Now, in Part 3, I’ll share what I’ve learned about:
- Not slipping under the wheels as the Christmas gift Tilt-a-Whirl really starts to spin,(*2)
- Wrapping everything up, and
- Getting the loot to the right people on time.
That is, on time without staying up all night due to failing to connect “last day of school before break” with “sure, baby, I’ll whip up snowman pretzels for each of your 37 classmates.”
The pretzels that looked so completely adorable in October’s issue of Taste of Home but now, at 3:34 AM, mock you, half-finished, from your white-chocolate-pretzel-salt-icing-smeared-food-coloring-stained-fruit-rollup-triangles-and-Hershey’s-kiss-wrapper-covered-countertops.(*3)
Next Year, I Will Ask Santa To Bring Me a Paperwork-Free Christmas
In Part 3, I also have a few more paperwork-taming tips.
Let’s start there.
To continue the tracking we set up in Part 2:
- At least once a week, filter your email by starred items for a brisk once over.(*4). Since you may have missed putting something on your tracker, redundancy’s got your back.
- As the season progresses and the spreadsheet starts bulging at the seams,(*5) use colors to instantly scope out which gifts you’re finished with, what you have left to customize or make, etc.
- Make sure you’re updating it and checking it regularly, in case there’s any follow-up needed with the retailers.
- For gifts due before Christmas Day:
- In Part 1, I mentioned circling anyone getting earlier gifts.
As you move over to your spreadsheet, note them there, too. And on your calendar.
- Keep them easy to get to in your storage area.
Then you’re not climbing over a slide-y mountain of packages and hubby’s desk to dig up that bottle of Cupcake Moscato d’Asti(*6) for your neighbor’s open house.
- Also, don’t forget to track homemade gifts on your spreadsheet. If you list out the ingredients, then everything’s in the house when you need it.
- I also include add-ons like Nerf darts and batteries on my tracker. Things I just would not automatically remember on my own, that’s for sure.
- If a gift needs to be charged (R/C cars, I see you), make a note to do it before it’s wrapped.
Call Me Walmart. Only Without the Friendly Greeting.(*7)
- Any gifts that you’re “selling” to a family member for your kids, mark them on the sheet. And set them apart, but still in your storage area.
Resist that anxious urge to “put it elsewhere just to be safe.” Just don’t do it.
For us, “put it elsewhere just to be safe” is the same as “I’m just going to go throw this in a river and pray it washes up exactly when and where I need it.”
- Either when you purchase something or when you process it (if you don’t know what I mean by “process,” see Part 2), note the return policy. I mentioned this in Part 2, but it’s important enough to explore more here.
At least twice, I’ve purchased something (a Jeep cargo liner and a computer graphics card) for which the return date was not extended for Christmas. One even had a return deadline of December 26th!
What the what? This is my reward for shopping early?
Since each of these cost more than $100 and had the always present potential of Mom-buying-the-wrong-thing, I not only put the return date on my calendar, I also stuck a post-it right smack on the top of the gift (in case I forgot to tell the recipient), and made sure the receipt was in the receipt envelope.
There’s that urge again. I know it’s our inclination. We think “just in case, I’m going to hold this piece of paper out because I need to make sure I can find it.”
Which is how we lose it.
Do yourself a kindness. Just keep it in the envelope with all the other receipts (see Part 2).
Whew. Okay, please tell me we are done with paperwork.
We are? Yes! Back to talking about the gifts themselves.
They Multiply Like Stale French Fries Under Your Car Seat.
We touched on this in Part 2. But as gifts start to pile up and life gets more and more hectic, it’s tempting to just start tossing stuff here and there.
Don’t do that.
- When it’s time to shift to a larger area, move it all at once. Keep everything together.
If you truly need to stash something elsewhere, send yourself an email with a keyword so you can find it later (for more on that, click here).
And put the hiding spot on your tracker, too.
- Another goodie from Part 2 that’s worth repeating and specifying:
Don’t let itty-bitty gifts fall through the cracks. Literally or figuratively.
Store all tiny gifts together in a close-sided box. Once you sort out gifts by person, make sure the boxes you use don’t have holes.
It’s especially important to keep the pocket-size gifts easy-to-find if you’re doling them out before Christmas, when your storage room is crammed.
You do not want to be searching for one lonely Lego mini-fig buried in an ocean of boxes and bags.
And, once again, never stow these little tidbits anywhere other than your designated area.
Most especially, and this is just a random example that definitely did not happen to me, don’t store in your glove box the miniature long-haired dachshund figurine you bought for your son to commemorate the summer he babysat (and fell in love with) a friend’s pupper.(*9)
You won’t find it until three years later when you go to sell the car.
- For multiple gifts going to a single family or one get-together, store them in an extra-large gift bag. Then you can take them out, wrap them, and put them right back in for the party.
This is how we keep my sister’s family’s gifts together now to avoid another Christmas Eve scavenger hunt.(*10)
This is also how each of my kids stores and transports all of the gifts they purchase for grandparents, aunts, and uncles. One bag for each celebration, grab it and go.
I Don’t Wrap Willy Nilly Or His Cousin, Milli Vanilli
- Speaking of wrapping, make it easier on yourself by organizing your supplies ahead of time.
I use lidded plastic totes instead of having a “wrapping station,” because I don’t wrap willy nilly throughout the season. I tackle everything in each pile all at once. When I’m ready, I grab the tubs and take them where I want to work.
One, sometimes two,(*11) contain(s) my gift bags and boxes. In the other, I keep:
- A gift bag with tags, extra tape and spare scissors. I tie another pair of scissors to the handle with a very long piece of yarn,(*12) as well as a roll of scotch tape and a pen. All are attached. If they aren’t, I lose them.
Constantly. Like every 2 minutes. This also keeps them from walking away permanently.
A converted tool apron also works stupendously. Tie all of the tools to the sides and then tuck them into the pockets.
- A bag of tissue paper.
- A box or bag of ribbons and bows.
- I also set out a gift bag by the Christmas tree that’s like a mini version of my wrapping totes. It holds a bit of each of those things – an extra pair of scissors (safety when I had toddlers), tape, a few gift tags, and some tissue. Then if I do need to do a solo, speedy wrap, there’s no need to forage among the Christmas tubs. And the gift bag doesn’t look out of place, especially when I stick a piece of tissue in the top to hide the contents.
And that way if someone shows up at my house on Christmas Eve and needs scissors or tape to throw paper on a last minute gift, I don’t go on a hunting expedition or drag up my entire (by that time very chaotic) wrapping tub. I just point them to the gift bag.
- Decide ahead of time whether you’re wrapping as you go or all at once. As I said, I use the all-at-once-get-it-over-with method. I’ve done it both ways, and this lets me “eye” all the unwrapped packages – once they’re wrapped, all I see is wrapped boxes. I have no memory of what’s in them.
I schedule time spanning a couple of days at least a week before to knock them all out. I’ve survived a couple Christmas Eve all-nighters, and I learned my lesson.
- For people who get several gifts, wrap all of theirs in one design or color of paper to make it easy to sort them when you put them out.
- If you need to assemble something or want to design a treasure hunt or another creative presentation method, put those on the spreadsheet so they’re done in plenty of time.
- Tape or tie together the gifts that need to be opened together.
By the time Christmas morning rolls around, you won’t remember what’s what in the melee.
- Notes like “open first, open second” prevent the “why did you get me an iPhone case when I don’t have an iPhone – gee, I wonder what this other box is?” moments.
My Husband’s Never-Ending Quest For the Perfect Pair of Undies.
- If you don’t want your kids (or husband) to end on underwear, write “last” on a special gift for each kid.
Although to be honest, my husband would be thrilled to end on underwear.
Shhh, don’t tell him I told you.(*13)
Back to those non-undie-loving gift recipients. Just know that in the hustle and bustle of Christmas morning, you can’t depend on noticing when something’s about to get opened.
Especially if you’re also preparing Christmas breakfast and leave for one stinking minute to check on the cinnamon rolls and come back to find that the best gifts were opened while you were out of the room. Because why wait until the person who actually bought the gift is present, am I right?
I’m not good at letting things go.
- Coding gifts can also remind you of what’s what in all the hubbub. I label (in miniscule print) the back of each box in a super secret code (backwards with no vowels).
Although, I confess, one year I got lazy and just wrote what it was without a code on the back.
My kids have still not forgiven me.
They are also not good at letting things go.
In fairness, how could I know they’d look at the back of their gifts before opening them? Who does that?
Everybody but me, apparently.
- If your Christmas Eve tradition includes opening one thing before bed, label your choice ahead of time.
Unless you’re okay with them opening the laptop instead of a stuffed giraffe.
- For refrigerated presents, wrap an empty box with a note inside to check the fridge. So you don’t let it slip your overloaded mind entirely.
Or go ahead and forget so you can enjoy the petit fours yourself after everyone leaves.
Homemade Salsa Or Not, Delivery Guys Hate You.
Okay, let’s review.
After you read Part 1, you remembered to include the FedEx guy on your gift list to thank him for cheerfully (or angrily – who knows, it’s not like you actually look out the window) hauling all those 40-pound Chewy.com boxes of cat litter up your front steps every other week. And you have an extensive list of what to get everyone thanks to the Amazon rabbit hole.
Thanks to Part 2, you’ve learned to practice self-control and stop ripping open online purchases on the way out the door to a meeting and, therefore, stop secreting gifts all over the place.(*14)
All of your packages are sorted and tiny items contained, with receipts and gift cards at your fingertips (not literally – remember, resist that urge to put things anywhere outside the gift area). Your sea monkeys are on their way, and you’ve parked the Jet Ski somewhere other than your pantry, and also, since I chose such a bad example, you’ve also parked it outside your gift area, but at least you emailed the location to yourself.
Nosey kids and nosier husbands are out of luck, because you’ve employed every stealth method in the mom arsenal to earn that look of surprise on their faces on Christmas morning.
In Part 3, you learned magazine-holiday-treat-creators are either extremely skilled and careful in the art of cute baked goods, or they’re just straight up sadists and laugh their butts off in their employee lounge, imagining all the flaky moms out there weaving pull-apart Twizzlers through tiny cookie sneakers in the middle of the night.
You also know how to get everything wrapped and ready without losing your scissors and your mind, and how to make sure that, when your husband opens those once-in-a-lifetime Ravens tickets, you’ll be in the room.
And you now recognize that you should dress only in the hotel bathroom if your room is next to an elevator lobby and your son is also a flake.
At Least I Didn’t Make Any Jokes About “Rapping.” There’s Always Next Year.
If I were a lazy writer with no original thoughts, I would begin my conclusion with:
“Speaking of wrapping, it’s time to wrap up this post.”
Speaking of wrapping, it’s time to wrap up this post. And this series.
Thanks for hanging in there with me. If you think this was a lot, though, you should see my editing room floor.
After almost 30 years of being a mom responsible for making Christmas happen, I’ve probably goofed in every way you can think of. By sharing as many of my mishaps and missteps as I can, even if you end up making some of my same mistakes, at least you’ll know you’re not alone.
And you can take comfort in knowing that, unless you, too, have ever accidentally emailed your entire Christmas list (including Santa’s portion) to your kid, you’re doing better than I did.(*15)
(*1) Seriously. And I just closed the document about 15 minutes ago and have no idea what was in it. I had to open it back up to finish the sentence. Why am I telling you this?.
(*2) Kind of a gruesome image, but one you’ll remember, right?
(*3)You can file that one under “Don’t write October checks your December butt can’t cash.”
(*4) Let me know if you need help with this.
(*5) Clearly, I’m not the only one who needs Spanx.
(*6) My current favorite – in case I made it onto your list.
(*7) I do have the wardrobe down pat, though.
(*8) This is my idea of a transition. At least I have a transition this time. Thank you Mrs. Hrebiniak, for your long-suffering grading of papers written in my microscopic handwriting, which I thought was hilarious in seventh grade, but now that I wear reading glasses, not so much.
(*9) Her name was Daisy and it was a test run for him getting a dog of his own. Test results – negative, Ghost Rider.
(*10) One of many gift fails I mentioned in Part 1.
(*11) Alright, sometimes three or four.
(*12) This year, I’m going to use these.
(*13) Hi, honey, I know you’re reading this.
(*14) That’s secreting as in putting them in secret places. Not secreting as in oozing gifts from your pores. Although, that would make gift buying easier, albeit much, much grosser.
(*15) There’s just no fix for that kind of stuff, is there? Sometimes you can only say sorry, eat a bag of mini Reese’s, and move on.