Completely You

Streamline Your Holidays

Here’s how to keep the season more joyful and less stressful.

Does holiday music inspire panic instead of joy? It seems like once Thanksgiving’s over, the calendar is filled with countless to-do's from now till Christmas -- from your kids’ holiday concerts to office parties to tree trimming and cookie baking. Oh, and somewhere in there you need to make time to buy presents.

When it comes to staying organized over the holidays, I’ve found that being realistic instead of holding myself to some fictional standard goes a long way toward helping me stay sane during December. Here's how I do it.


The dream: In my fantasy, I take advantage of sales to shop for Christmas presents throughout the year. Sometime in July, I wrap the presents and then send them the day after Thanksgiving when everyone else is at the mall.

The reality: My sister sent out my family’s gifts in September a few years ago, and I’ve been thinking that was a great idea ever since. Trouble is, it never works for me. My new goal is to have presents that I need to send to grandparents and far-flung family shipped out by December 10 (I never want to have to wait in line again at the post office on the 23rd!) Then I shop for my kids’ and close friends’ gifts at holiday sales. I’ve found that holding off on gifts -- ahem, procrastinating -- has some advantages: I don’t tend to overbuy since I have less time to accumulate gifts.

Organizational tip: Create a holiday hub somewhere in your house -- maybe part of your closet or a corner of your bedroom. Stash holiday gifts along with all your wrapping supplies in this one spot.


The Dream: Dressing up and going to each and every event during the holiday season, including the community tree lighting ceremony, friends’ kids’ concerts, and even organizing a neighborhood caroling night.

The reality: Sure, you probably could show up to every event you’re invited to, but is it worth it? You’re likely to feel like Scrooge before the end of the season—before his epiphany about what’s really important. After all, the point of all these get-togethers is to relax and enjoy friends and family. So make the most of them by going to a handful and don’t be shy about turning down the rest.

Organizational tip:
Prioritize your schedule. Make a list of all the holiday happenings and divide them into columns -- “Have to go” (your kids’ concerts), “Nice to go” (neighbor’s cookie exchange, kids’ classroom holiday party, office bash), and “Under Consideration” (second office party, community sing-a-long). Give each column its own color as you enter each event on your calendar. With your color-coded calendar, you can easily look over your day and if you’re feeling spent you’ll know what to skip.


The dream: A month of holiday meals made completely from scratch, selected from traditional family recipes and new dishes carefully chosen from cookbooks.

The reality: Christmas cookies for dinner, anyone? After making goodies to give away to friends, neighbors, your kids’ teachers, and everyone at work, the last thing you want to do is cook big meals. Instead, have a handy list of go-to, quick meals that you know your family likes.

organizational tip: Cook once, eat thrice. When cooking meals make extra and freeze a dinner or two for another day. Aluminum foil baking pans are life-savers during the holidays. These containers freeze and bake well, plus you can recycle them.


The dream: Every inch of your house scrubbed, vacuumed, and crumb-free. And of course it all smells like soft pine with hints of cinnamon and baked apple.

The reality: Your house looks like a department store on Black Friday with odds and ends strewn throughout each room.

Organizational tip: Keep a basket or plastic container in trouble zones, like your family room or kitchen, where you can place items that need to be put away. If you have company coming, you can easily fill the basket and stash it somewhere until you have time to go through it. Better yet, assign your kids to basket duty and have them do the clean up for you!

What do you do to stay organized during the holidays? Tell me in the comments below!



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