Monday, November 30, 2009

An Easy & Stress-free Holiday Planning Checklist

Keep stress at bay with this four-week plan which I have modified from Kimberly Fusaro's article posted on November 11, 2009 on

Your Holiday Planning Checklist

With all there is to do between now and New Year’s, the best way to avoid an end-of-year meltdown is to tackle your Christmas to-dos well in advance. For a head start—and a smooth holiday season — follow my step-by-step Christmas planner, which spreads tasks over four weeks, instead of two.

But first, you have to let go of the idea of a “perfect” holiday. Aby Garvey, the organizing and productivity expert at Simplify 101, suggests that we should strive not for a perfect holiday but one that that we enjoy and makes us happy. Ok, ready to kick off your happy holiday season? Then read on.

Week 1: Make Lists, Budgets, Organize and Schedule Time for the Tasks

1. Ask older, tech-savvy kids to set up online wish lists, which work like wedding registries. Amazon offers a universal wish list, meaning a person can “wish” for something from any website, and all of the wishes will appear in one place. [done]

2. Write your holiday card list, your email card list and update all your addresses. Divide it into three parts (those you will email, those you will hand-deliver and those you will mail) so you can spread out card-sending over a few weeks. Schedule to write those you need to mail so they will arrive in plenty of time. [done]

3. Buy holiday cards, stamps and gift-wrapping supplies. Have the kids stick the postage stamps on the cards for you. Make a contest, those that do all of them neatly gets a prize or more video gaming time! [done]

4. Carve out some non-negotiable “me” time on your calendar, for the remainder of the year, suggests Garvey, who signed up for a yoga class that runs through mid-January. “Yoga may not be your thing,” she says, “but stake a claim to a de-stressing chunk of time that’s just for you during the holidays.” [done]

5. Search your closet for extra items you bought but never gave as presents. Also seek any items you can re-gift to someone who could possibly use the item. For example, that lime green cashmere shawl you received from a co-worker gave would make a great gift for Aunt Tilly. [done]

6. Write your gift list and determine your budget. If you shop without either, you risk overbuying (say, getting way more for one child than another) and/or overspending. [done]

7. Carry with you a few blank holiday cards so you can write them out as you stand on line to pay at the supermarket, drugstore, etc. Set a date by which to mail all your holiday cards.

8. Sort through your holiday decorations. Replace burned-out light bulbs and save only the ornaments you cherish, suggests Krista Colvin, the owner of Organize in Style, a professional organizing company. The smaller your collection, the less you’ll have to pack and store at the end of the year. Donate extras to charity, and supplement what’s left with fresh greenery, which can be recycled. [I did this BEFORE I PACKED THEM LAST YEAR]

9. Shop for out-of-town friends and family members. “Not only are the stores less crowded earlier in the season,” says Garvey, “it’s nice to have this item checked off the to-do list before the season gets too crazy.” [done]

10. Hang your outside decorations. [done]

Week 2: Wrapping and Menu Planning

1. Set up a wrapping station, and wrap gifts as you buy them. [OR you can buy a whole bunch of gift bags and tissue paper which can be recycled year after year. One particular Christmas bag has been used and re-used for 10 years now.]

2. Try to tackle half of your gift list this week. Start off by doing some online shopping on Cyber-Monday. If you don't have any extra presents from last year and no re-gifting items, pick up a few just-in-case gifts when shopping. Make sure these are wrapped first and they are tagged with a post-it note indicating what they are, so they are ready to give. Items like luxurious scented candles, a beautiful picture frame or crystal vases are best purchased after Christmas. You should have extra bottles of wine you can give to a party hostess or a neighbor who drops by with an unexpected present.

3. Shop after work, when stores are less busy. While you’re out, pick up an unframed long mirrors and a series of pillar candles. Arrange the candles atop the mirror and adorn/fill in with greenery as a simple, elegant holiday table centerpiece or accent.

4. Write and mail a third of your holiday cards. Wrap a few presents and place them under the tree.

5. Plan your Christmas day and Christmas Eve menus. Avoid repeat trips to the supermarket by writing a master grocery list. Consolidate ingredients by using the leftover Chrismas eve ham for Christmas day brunch.

6. Take stock of your pantry and baking staples. Add flour, oil, spices and such to your grocery list as needed. Purchase all the non-perishables and store them separately (with a 2nd list) so you always have an idea of what still needs to get picked up before Christmas.

7. Order the ham or turkey from your supermarket’s meat counter or specialty shop.

8. Mail gifts to out-of-town friends and family members.

9. Buy and trim your tree this weekend.

10. Drop off party dresses or outfits at the cleaners.

Week 3: Finish Shopping and Decorating

1. Finish your gift shopping and packing those to be shipped. Schedule a post office or UPS run on your calendar.

2. Mail gifts to out-of-town friends and family members.

4. Write and send your remaining holiday cards.

5. Hang inside decorations.

6. Buy and trim your tree this weekend.

7. Clean the low-traffic areas in your home.

8. Schedule time or hire help or give kids extra allowance or video game time to help with straightening out and cleaning in high traffic or common areas. Things like using wipes to clean tv's, wipe windows and window sills, are easy enough for young children.

Week 4: Clean and Prepare

1. Finish wrapping all your remaining gifts.

2. Make sure your are well-stocked with a variety of beverages & snacks for impromptu guests of any age. Don’t forget mixers and garnishes. Keep these items in a safe area and out of hungry little hands instead of the pantry.

4. Clean your low-traffic areas.

5. Give gifts to babysitters (one night’s pay), newspaper carriers (up to $30) and other helpers in your life. Put the money in a personalized greeting card.

6. Take platters and serving dishes out of storage and clean them, as needed. Place a sticky note on each, to indicate which dish it will hold, so that any helpers will immediately know which platter you need.

7. Wash and iron table linens, then set the dining room table a few days in advance (with a plastic cover over it if you have children).

8. Make a list and shop for the perishables you'll need for holiday meals.

9. Finish cleaning your home, leaving heavily trafficked rooms for last.

10. Prepare all the make-ahead dishes as far in advance as possible.

11. Accept help! “Relinquish some control in the kitchen and you’ll have the time to enjoy your family and friends,” says Colvin, who keeps a “Why Yes, You Can Help Me” tin at the ready. On Christmas Eve and then Christmas, fill it with unfinished tasks written on strips of paper. When guests offer to lend a hand, point them in the direction of the tin.

Here's wishing you all a very Merry and Blessed Christmas!

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