Day 1: Planning for Christmas {12 Days of Being Organized for the Holidays} | From Overwhelmed to Organized: Day 1: Planning for Christmas {12 Days of Being Organized for the Holidays}

Monday, November 17, 2014

Day 1: Planning for Christmas {12 Days of Being Organized for the Holidays}

Do you get overwhelmed during November and December?  Do you get to the end of Christmas Day and you're exhausted and wonder if it was all worth it?  There's shopping, baking, wrapping, card-writing, cooking, and decorating.  All in the midst of parties, gatherings, and celebrations with everyone and anyone you've had contact with all year!  It's a lot to juggle.  And it can easily become overwhelming.

But it doesn't have to be that way.  With some advance planning and organizing, you can simplify the holidays and get things done earlier, so you can breathe and actually enjoy this festive season.  Doesn't that sound good?

To help you do that, I'm going to be writing a series called 12 Days of Being Organized for the Holidays.  Each of the 12 posts will focus on one aspect of being organized for this special time of year.  I'll spread the posts out over the next 6 weeks, with an average of 2 posts per week.

Each post will have practical tasks you can to get organized.  If you've already completed those tasks {good for you!!}, feel free to do something else that's overwhelming you.  If you haven't checked these items off your to-do list yet, then spend some time working on them so you won't have to do everything all at once at the end.

OK, so now that I've told you about the series, let's get to today's post!  I'm going to kick this series off with some tips to help you plan out the next few weeks.


1.  Print Your Holiday Planning Sheets

You can be as detailed or as simple as you'd like to be as you organize for Christmas.  Here are a few options to help you get organized:

  • Find a few simple checklists to track the things that are most overwhelming to you (gifts, baking, cleaning, menu planning, etc.
  • If you already use a planner, you could add a section for holiday planning
  • Or you can create a whole separate Christmas planner to make plans and keep track of everything related to this busy season
  • If you prefer using a digital calendar and to-do list, you can use a different colour to denote all your holiday related appointments and tasks

There are lots of free Christmas planners and checklists available online so I'm not going to re-invent the wheel.  

Check out my Christmas Organizing board on Pinterest for LOTS of great printables!


2.  Brainstorm The Tasks You Need To Do Before The Big Day

OK, now that you've got your holiday lists printed, let's start brainstorming everything you need to do before the big day.  Break your tasks down to small, manageable tasks so you can see your progress as you finish them. 

Note: sometimes thinking about every. little. thing. that you need to do can be overwhelming.  That is not my goal.  {Hopefully that goes without saying, but I wanted to make sure you knew that!}  Keep in mind that everything you're listing today are tasks you need to do anyway.  And isn't it better to chip away at that to-do list a little bit every day, rather than having to rush to do everything all at once at the last minute?  Remember, the goal here is to be able to enjoy this season!  So, keep focused on that.

Here are some ideas to get you started, but make sure you add in any tasks related to your family traditions and celebrations.

Greeting cards
  • Take a family picture {Note: if getting the perfect family picture is frustrating, go for a fun one and show off your kids' personalities!}
  • Design & order photo greeting cards 
  • OR buy greeting cards & write them up (if you send cards to a lot of people you don't see regularly you can include a holiday letter to save writing the same thing repeatedly)
  • Address greeting cards
  • Mail greeting cards

    • Living areas (to make room for holiday decor & prepare for entertaining guests)
    • Kitchen (to make holiday baking and cooking easier)
    • Toys, clothing and entertainment (to make room for the new gifts)

    • Deep clean living areas before decorating (dusting, vacuuming behind/under furniture, etc.)
    • Deep clean kitchen before holiday baking and cooking
    • Plan your regular cleaning throughout the holiday season

    Planning & Buying Gifts
    • Decide on gifts - break it down into categories (e.g. immediate family, extended family, friends, neighbours, teachers, colleagues, hostesses)
    • If you buy gifts throughout the year, take an inventory of what you have and what you need to buy
    • Buy gifts - again break it down into the same categories

    Wrapping Gifts 
    • Buy gift wrap, gift bags, tissue, tags, ribbon, etc.
    • Set up a gift wrapping station with all your wrapping supplies
    • Wrap gifts - break it down into the same categories as you had for planning & buying gifts

    • Decide what you will bake this holiday season (for yourself, for gifts, for gatherings, etc.)
    • Ensure you have all ingredients you will need (and buy any that you don't have)
    • Schedule a time as early as possible to make anything that can be frozen or will keep fresh
    • Plan when you will do any baking that needs to be done near the end

    • If you like to make crafts for your family or as gifts, plan time to work on those as early as possible
    • Choose which crafts you will be making
    • Ensure you have all the necessary supplies to make each craft you plan to make

    • Bring holiday decor items out of storage
    • Indoor decorating
    • Outdoor decorating
    • Christmas tree
    • Declutter decorations you aren't using this year (unless there's a special reason you're not putting them out this year)

      Menu Planning
      • If you're hosting a dinner or party, plan your menu as early as possible
      • Delegate items to family and other guests if they offer
      • Create a grocery list
      • Buy any non-perishable or frozen items as far in advance as you can to avoid longer line-ups or sold-out foods
      • Buy the remaining food items the week before your event

      3.  Start Scheduling Everything

      If you spread out everything you need to do in the next few weeks, you won't be as overwhelmed and things won't fall through the cracks.  So, grab your calendar and the to-do list you just made, and let's see how we can make this as organized as possible!

      Start by filling in dates that are already booked (refer to your regular calendar as well).  This may take a bit of time, especially if you're coordinating schedules with several other family members.  It's important to get all the dates sorted out as early as possible though so you can work out any potential conflicts.  

      Holiday Gatherings
      • Find out dates for any special Christmas events at school, church, music lessons, sports teams, and any other extra-curricular activities
      • Schedule gatherings with friends that you see during the holidays (spread them out as much as you can so you aren't running from one to another to another)
      • Confirm dates and times for family get-togethers
      • Record all dates on your calendar, along with details of anything you need to prepare or bring

      • If you are traveling out of town during the holidays, mark those dates on your calendar, as well as tasks related to traveling (packing clothing, packing gifts you need to bring along, etc.)
      • If you are hosting out-of-town guests during the holidays, record those dates on your calendar too and add any tasks related to preparing for your guests (guest room, extra cleaning, meals, etc.)

      Add in any tasks that can be done early - this way if unexpected things happen (and they always do!) you'll still have time to complete these tasks. 
      • Greeting cards
      • Buying & wrapping gifts
      • Decluttering
      • Crafts 
      • Some baking

      Add in tasks that need to be done near the end
      • Baking
      • Cooking
      • Santa's gifts under the tree (note: schedule a time a week or so early to assemble toys and make sure everything has batteries and works - don't ask me how I know about last minute scrambling at midnight on Christmas Eve when the stores are already closed!)

      Schedule anything else
      • Now that you've got the early tasks and last-minute tasks scheduled, fill in the remaining tasks in other dates that are still open.

      Now you should have a detailed calendar with all your gatherings and tasks!  If you like checking things off a list, you can do that on your to-do list as you complete them or on your calendar (or both!).  If you get behind on your tasks, just bump them to another date.  It happens.  Especially at this time of year!  Don't beat yourself up about it.  Just move on and try to get back on schedule as quickly as you can. 

      Make sure you leave some "down time" to enjoy special traditions, like watching your favourite holiday movies while curling up with a cup of hot chocolate.  Or going sledding or skating.  Or driving around to look at the beautiful lights.

      So those are your tasks for Day 1 of 12 Days of Being Organized for the Holidays!  I'll go into more detail throughout the series on how you can be organized as you do some of these holiday tasks.  For now, you just need to get working on your to-do list and calendar.

      If you're looking for other holiday organizing ideas, check out previous posts I've written on the subject in the Organizing tab at the top of the page - choose the Christmas submenu. 

      What do you find most overwhelming about the holiday season?  Do you plan for the holidays? How do you get organized for Christmas?

      Happy organizing!

      Here are all the posts in the 12 Days of Being Organized for the Holidays series!

      I link up at these great parties - Check them out!


      1. WOW! You really are organized! I just started working on the Chrstmas card last night, what a headache! I've also vowed to do a full house clean before decorating, we'll see how that goes.....thanks for the tips.
        Charm Bracelet Diva {at Home}

        1. I do my best Kathleen :) We're working on cleaning the house before decorating too. Hoping to do that this weekend. Hope all your planning goes well!

      2. Great tips! I use my Microsoft outlook calender and use tags to categorize things which helps me. I also print out my recipe cards that have the prep time on them and when I host a holiday dinner my list for that day includes a time of when to start. I am a big fan of serving all my food hot so it gets tricky if I don't write it down and plan ahead. Two other things on my list are donate to thrift stores (I clean house a bit by giving away excess knick knacks, blankets, etc) and then I clean my fridge out. That way I have room for platters and desserts I can make ahead. Loved your tips

        1. Outlook's tags are very helpful Christine. I used to use Outlook a lot. I love the idea of tracking prep time for your recipes so you can coordinate everything and serve hot food! I'm big on decluttering and donating before the holidays too and that's a great tip to clean out your fridge... there's always leftovers during the holidays!

      3. These are great tips! I've only started on the gifts for other people. I need to house-clean and de-clutter before Christmas as well.

        1. Glad to help Renu! Good luck with your Christmas tasks!

      4. I need to be more organized about the holidays. I use the old list method and fly by the seat of my pants. Therefore I have a lot of last minute "oh nos". I am definitely going to have to incorporate some of these into my life.

        1. Flying by the seat of our pants works sometimes Cathy. As long as we can minimize those "oh nos" :) Lists and planning help me do that. I hope you're able to find the best system so you can enjoy your holidays!

      5. I have been waiting for this series! All great tips Hilda!

        1. Happy to deliver for ya Kathe ;) Thanks for the idea!

      6. I don't have a huge to-do list for the holidays, so I use a simple to-do list. But these are great tips! And ideas I never thought of before. Great organization!

        1. Sounds like you've got the perfect to-do list Kelly! I've simplified over the last few years but keep trying to find ways to simplify even more.

      7. what a great series, Hilda! many of the points in your list can be carried over into my everday life too. I thoroughly enjoy my family's Thanksgiving celebration, but it is so helpful to have some of these Christmas planning things in place early. Thank you!

        1. You're right Linda... these tips do apply to everyday life! Planning ahead and being organized definitely helps make the holidays more enjoyable for me. I hope they help you too!

      8. That's a lot of tips! I spotted a few that I can use! Thanks!

      9. I love a countdown! It really helps to look at the big picture and check the tasks off over time, instead of getting crunched at the end:)

        1. That the part I like best about planning ahead... there's always things that come up that I hadn't planned for and knowing I've already finished a lot of things on my to-do list allows me to add in a few "surprises" without being totally overwhelmed.


      I love hearing from my readers! This is a great place to ask questions, answer questions, and share your organizing tips. Thank you so much for commenting! I look forward to getting to know you better :)

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