Monday, November 8, 2010

Getting Organized for the Holidays

If you think about it...Santa is pretty much the most organized person in the world.

He manages multiple lists, he works on a budget, he hires his own help when he knows he can't complete tasks on his own, he is always on time, he plans his holiday travel a year in advance, he entertains and hosts countless parties and he does all this with a jolly grin on his face. I admire Santa. I really do. And damn it...I am going to work my hardest to be as jolly as he is this holiday season :-)

But in order to do that, I feel like I need to be more organized this year. I did some searching online for "holiday organizing and planning tips" and I found some great websites, as well as an iPhone app that is a must-have for keeping track of my gift lists. I know I am not alone in the quest for holiday organization and planning and since Santa isn't available for a consultation right now, I thought I would share some of the great tips I found:

Plan Ahead and Use Your Calendar: Because there is SO much going on during the months of November and December, it's important to have your calendar ready to go. First, make sure all important dates are listed for your entire family to see. Have them on your personal calendar, as well as a family calendar that hangs in your kitchen or office. Communication is key, especially when everyone has their own parties, work events, etc. that fill up the weekends.

Make a List of Holiday Fun: Your holiday calendar should not just be about obligation. You should also make time to schedule in some fun holiday outings or activities. Make sure you reserve time for seeing Santa, taking an evening drive to look at Christmas lights, getting together with family or friends for some cookie baking, etc. Planning these things in advance will ensure that you a) have time and b) are prepared with supplies :-)

Make Gift Lists: I suppose this should go without saying, but keeping a list on your computer, phone, or even in a pocket notebook is crucial for successful holiday planning. If you are like me, you randomly pick up gifts here and there when an idea comes to you or when you find a good sale. If you do this for several months before Christmas, it may get confusing when you try to determine what you already have. Keeping a list makes it easy for you to keep track of who you need to buy for, what you already purchased, and where you hid it in your house. My friend Jenny said she needs to make a holiday gift map this year because she lost some gifts last year. HA! I have always been a paper person, but this year I downloaded an AWESOME iPhone app called Better Christmas List. Here is a screen shot...

This app keeps track of multiple lists and it calculates your budget for individual people. I am not good at math so this was a very helpful tool for me :-) Making gift lists ahead of time will also help keep you from forgetting your kid's teacher, your UPS man (that comes to your house 5 times a week) and your dog groomer.

Make a Christmas Card List: Because I don't send a Christmas card to every single person I have in my address book, I decided to make a separate Christmas list last year. This helped for printing mailing labels and adding new names and addresses when I get a surprise Christmas card from someone :-) Having a numbered list also helps me estimate how many cards and stamps to buy.

Make a Cleaning Schedule: In the middle of all the holiday madness, you still have to find time to clean your house. Planning ahead for thorough "cleaning and chore days" will help keep you on track. But in between those days, you can do one of several 15-minute quick clean-up routines. Here is a list for every room in your house. Now, if someone can teach my 10-month-old how to clean up after himself, I would be golden. Ha!! A few websites also suggested doing some pre-holiday purging. Clean out closets, donate old toys to make room for new ones, and reorganize your kitchen in preparation for holiday cooking and baking. I really need to do all of these :-)

Plan Menus and Make Weekly Grocery Lists: There is nothing I hate more than going to the grocery store, doing all of my shopping, getting home and THEN realizing I forgot the ingredients for a dip I promised to make for a party that weekend. In order to prevent multiple grocery store trips each week, I am going to plan all of my menus ahead of time and ask friends and family in advance what I can bring to parties. Organized Christmas has a great printable holiday menu planner to help with your list making as well.

Be Ready for Parties and Entertaining: If you know you are hosting a party, be sure to plan ahead when it comes to supplies, decorations, menus, invites, etc. I know that should go without saying, but sometimes waiting until the middle of December to buy holiday decorations is a bad idea because although items are on sale, there isn't much to pick from. Stores are already STOCKED with holiday decor so shop early and avoid the last minute stress. Getting invites out in a timely manor is crucial too so that people can plan to be there. A party notebook can help keep your event organized. Or, check out Real Simple for their holiday party checklist.

So...are you overwhelmed yet? Don't be. Most of the things on this list are things we already do to some degree anyway. But personally, I find it helpful to make a bunch of lists because the satisfaction of checking off the items is half the fun! And remember, if the ultimate goal is to de-stress this holiday season and be jolly...don't overwhelm yourself!! If organizing your house gives you hives...don't do it!! If participating in yet another silly Secret Santa exchange at work makes you lose sleep at night...tell them you want out. And if standing in line for 4 hours to see a miniature city of lights in the window of a department store makes you want to pull your hair out...skip it this year! The holidays should be I am going to take my own advice and skip anything that doesn't put a smile on face :-) This of course leads me to my final tip...

RELAX: It seems silly that we have to remind ourselves to relax this holiday season but we do. I think we all get caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget to put our feet up every once and a while. So even if you have to mark it on your holiday calendar, be sure to find time to light a fire, cuddle up with your friends or family, sip some hot cocoa, watch a classic movie like White Christmas and enjoy each other's company. I know that's how I hope to spend many nights this holiday season :-)

Well I hope all these tips helped you as much as they helped me! Be sure to leave comments with any other great holiday organizing or planning tips you have. And Santa...if you are reading this...any advice you have would be much appreciated :)


  1. My I-phone does not work, but I have it ALL covered. Hey! what about our trip to Chicago?
    talk to you later

  2. Love this post! The holidays seem to just run together then in a blink of an eye they are over...there are some really good tips that you have shared..that I will be using this year!! Hopefully there will be more time to enjoy..not just stress!! Thanks!!!

  3. I actually wish I had an iPhone! That app looks really cool. Holiday time can be super stressful and has been known to make me cranky even, but if I kept better lists, maybe it wouldn't be so bad. I still say you should just hire out.

  4. Jen, just have to ask, have you started listening to Christmas music yet? I bought a cd for the car, so that the boys and I can sing along for the next few months! I am already itching to put up the tree...when is it acceptable to put up the tree? Loved this post!

  5. You know I listened to my Faith Hill & Kenny G Christmas cds TO and FROM Chicago! HA! You have some great ideas here... unfortunately I don't think I will be able to be in the Christmas Spirit too much this year. I have a list of things I'd like to do... but we'll see. My gifts will also be very simple this year. I already have the kids' lists done and Brandon and I won't be doing gifts because we're going to Mexico (!!!).

    I will DEFINITELY have my real tree though!!! ;0)

  6. Love that Iphone app! Such great ideas :)


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