Essential Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season (October 23, 2014)

Holiday decorations It’s totally doable (family drama aside)! How? Organization and planning!

Thanksgiving is five weeks from today. Hanukkah starts two-and-a-half weeks after Thanksgiving. Christmas is four weeks after Thanksgiving. New Years’ Eve is one week after Christmas. OK, I get that you know the holidays fall at or about the same time every year. So why do most people wait until the Very Last Moment to prepare for them? It can’t be because people want more stress in their lives.

Waiting until the holidays means scrambling to get everything done. If that describes you — but you’d rather be proactive and have a lot less stress — here are 37 tips in a simple step-by-step plan with a timeline. Many things can been done well in advance, as you’ll see below. With some simple organization and planning, you will reduce stress, save money and time, and increase joy. Isn’t that what this season is about?

To prevent the last-minute rush and stress, start now and spread out to-dos. Feel free to mix up the tasks in my plan to better suit your situation.  Delegate what you can.

To do in late-October/early November:

  1. Invite guests to your Thanksgiving dinner.
  2. If you’re hosting a more formal holiday party, write invitations, prepare them for mailing and put them aside. Depending on the type of party, send them two to four weeks in advance. Note in your calendar when to mail them.
  3. If you need to give even more notice, send a quick Save The Date card (paper or e-mail) and follow it later with the actual invitation.
  4.  Prepare holiday greeting cards for mailing and then put them aside. Note in your calendar when to send them.
  5. Make a list of things your children want in case you are asked for suggestions. (To prevent toy clutter, include items like a trip to Chuck E. Cheese, the zoo or other favorite activity.)
  6.  Make a simple chart for people on your gift list. Here’s how. Make columns across the top that read Recipient, Gift, Size, Where To Buy, Budgeted Amount and Actual Amount. Add any other columns you wish. In the rows, list your recipients. If you’re buying gifts for more than one person at certain stores or Web sites, review the Where To Buy column and get everything at the same time to avoid repeat visits.  Keep the chart in your smartphone or wallet so you’ll have it when you need it. If you are buying gifts from actual stores, getting them now will avoid items being sold out, completely full parking lots and huge crowds.
  7.  Check to see if you or family members need new clothes, shoes or accessories for the holidays. If so, make a list of items with sizes and stores or Web sites and get them now.
  8.  If you plan to shop on Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday, make a list of items by store or Web site so you’ll be ready.

To do in early-mid November:

  1. Invite guests to your December holiday events.
  2. Inventory your holiday decorations and gift-wrapping supplies, make a list of needed items and get them.
  3. Decide what foods to serve and select recipes.
  4. Prepare menu including beverages.
  5. Make a grocery list based on your recipes and menu. First check your fridge, pantry and cabinets to see what you have.
  6. Buy non-perishable items.
  7. Prepare make-ahead dishes and freeze them.
  8. Inventory your china or dishes, silverware, glassware, serving pieces and table linens, list any needed items and get them.
  9. If you’ll be a guest rather than hosting a party, get hostess gifts such as wine, chocolates or candles. It’s a good idea to get extras for last-minute invitations.
  10. Decorate for Thanksgiving.

To do in late November/early December:

  1. Declutter your house, one room at a time, and maintain it (at least the rooms your guests will see).
  2. Decorate for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or other holiday.
  3. Wrap gifts and put them away.
  4. Prepare guest room for overnight company.
  5. Mail packages to arrive on time.

To do in mid-late December:

  1. Get groceries.
  2. Clean the house.
  3. Do as many as possible almost-last-minute things (like setting the table or laying out serving dishes) a day or two in advance (if you have space).
  4. Bake cookies for Santa!

 If you’d like a plan with a timeline of what to do near, and on the day of, the actual holiday, see my blog post, What’s My Secret for Holiday Survival? dated November 21, 2013.

Except for what cannot be prepared in advance (like cooking the turkey), you will have almost everything done before the holidays arrive!

At Thanksgiving time, I give thanks to my clients, fans, family and friends. Have a happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving!

 

Product of the Month

TrakDot Luggage Tracker

 

TrakDot luggage tracker

 

 

If you’re traveling by air this season or any time, here’s some peace of mind about lost luggage. TrakDot, a palm-size cellular device, lets you know where your luggage is located. Just pair it with your cellphone and pack with your clothes in your suitcase. It’s FAA compliant. It runs on two AA batteries. There is a one-time activation fee and an annual service fee.

Here’s a twist. If your bag goes astray and the airline can’t locate it, you can tell them where it is! When you land, a text or e-mail is sent to your phone with the bag’s location. $49.99 plus $19.99 first-year service at TrakDot.com. (Warning: I found this Web site very difficult to navigate.) It’s also available at Amazon.com for $69.95.

 

Notable Quote

Life is uncertain. Eat desert first.  ~Ernestine Ulmer

 

My Upcoming 2014 Engagements

Saturday, November 8 — WIN workshop. Co-presenter at Women’s Independence Network’s (WIN) monthly workshop for women in transition due to divorce or widowhood. Lots of information, advice and resources are given by a divorce attorney, estate planning attorney, therapist, divorce coach, financial planner and, as the professional organizer, I talk about organization and, if applicable, home staging, downsizing and redesign. Workshops are held on the second Saturday of each month from 9:00 am-12:00 pm at DeVry University, Room 105, 1140 Virginia Drive, Ft. Washington, PA. The fee is $45. For more information or to register, go to www.allaboutwin.com (click on the circle for Montgomery County Community College if DeVry University is not shown), call WIN at 855-200-iWIN, or call me at 215.540.9401.

Friday, December 12 — Guest presenter on business organizing techniques for the new year to NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) Greater Philadelphia, PA chapter, 9:00-10:00 am at KenCrest, 502 W. Germantown Pike, #200, Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462.

Saturday, December 13 — WIN workshop

 

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An Organized Approach can help you with organization at home and/or work, home staging, downsizing or redesign.  Call 215.540.9401 or e-mail adriane@organizedapproach.com to arrange a FREE discovery call.