10 Best Tips to Help You Prepare for Christmas
With the end of each year, I tell myself that I will prepare for Christmas better in the coming year. I’ll have all my recipes collected months in advance, the shopping will be complete, and all hand made items…well…made. So why do I fall short each year? It’s mainly because I fail to schedule it all into my calendar. So this year I’m making a new pact with myself–Im going to think way ahead, get my calendar out and start plugging in all the steps needed. No more trying to find things at the last minute and no more rushing. Want to join me?
My ten steps to prepare you for Christmas
Create or buy your calendar (or download this 2018 calendar) of choice and grab some pens. Make sure your calendar has large enough squares to write in and make notes. I like to create my own and leave room on the side for notes and ideas. So let’s get organized and prepare for a stress-less holiday ahead!
Just like with any goal setting plan of action, work backwards from December 25th to the date you know you can really begin to think about the magical day. For me, this is the first day in October. For people who work full-time outside the home, August or September may be a better month to start. I choose this day because Halloween and Thanksgiving can take on a life of their own, so those holidays have to fit into the plan as well. I also try to keep things simple, so those 12 weeks force me to not get too crazy and add in little extra things.
You’ll want to decide what you’ll make and purchase all the supplies as soon as possible after the new year. This way, you can hopefully hit some sales and begin working on them during the upcoming months. If I make ornaments for the kids, I try to make one each month, unless I’m mass producing something. I’ll stuff small hand-held projects into a bag and work on them while waiting at places or when visiting with friends. This inspires them to create…or it causes them to be added to your gift-giving list! Either way, I can knock things out when I have spare time.
First week in November – I combine my meal planning for Thanksgiving and Christmas because I’ll already have my recipes out. So we’ll knock both holidays out at the same time. Since others in the family help to contribute to the meal, this gives us a chance to decide what flavors we want to bring to the table and who will contribute what. Even though I love to honor family traditions, there are years when I want to break away and create new ones. We’ll try out some new recipes and decide which ones we want to use.
I like color, so I plan my meals to incorporate as many colors of the rainbow as possible. This means I also plan my meals around vegetables, not meat. If you are trying to eat healthier this just makes sense. You might start checking around to see who carries humanely raised, grass-fed turkeys, pork or beef. These may have to be ordered in advance.
First week in December – Yes, I still send and receive cards from family and friends in the mail! I hope this never dies. There are so many ways to change this tradition up with photo, handmade, pop-up, online cards and even Santa’s elves coming to your door with singing telegrams. Whatever floats your boat in the coming years, make sure you prepare ahead for this task and plug it in. If you procrastinate buying your cards and stamps, you’ll be rushed and less thoughtful with your sentiment. Since Thanksgiving has just ended, the paper cards are out on the shelves and online companies are offering sales on the newest trends to win you over from the competition.
Beginning of Fall – I choose this time of year to purchase gifts because the new styles of cool weather clothing are being brought out for shoppers to browse through. Stores are getting rid of warm weather apparel so summer sales are plentiful. I can’t encourage you enough to prepare by shopping local as much as possible, then fill in the gaps with online shopping. Yeah, I know online shopping is easier, but our economy depends upon your consumer support! Because you’re starting to build your gift-giving list now, you can take advantage of all the local sales around Thanksgiving. Shopping isn’t my thing, so I keep track of what people want year round on my phone and when I do go out shopping, I try to buy gifts I know people will love. Then I put those gifts into a secret storage space for birthdays and Christmas. No last minute shopping for this gal!!
Wrapping gifts (and mailing them out early)
Second week in December – now the stores are full of people, toys, decorations, people….and did I say people? Since I like to keep things simple and stay away from the crazy crowds, I’ll buy a roll or two of wrapping paper, tissue and ribbon right after Christmas, or right when it comes out in the stores. This way I have it ready when the creative wrapping spark hits me the next year. I’ve saved up some boxes over the years, so I always have something to put gifts into. To make things easy, I’ll wrap the gifts and write the person’s name on the bottom. Then I’ll stack them up in my secret storage place, and it’s done. All I have to do is make some fun gift tags and add the ribbons and bows the week prior to Christmas (or the night when Santa comes). Wallah!
BUT…if you’re going to be mailing gifts out, I would take care of the whole wrapping process, add in the thoughtful card (or Christmas letter) and stick it in the mail right away. Standing in long lines of people toting and scooting boxes along the floor with their feet is something I’d rather not have to deal with, especially in the cold. Last minute mailing of packages is not cool! You risk the loss and/or damage of goods more.
Clearing out the old to make room for the new
End of Summer or early Fall – If you have kids, then you know they need to prepare for school. Now is the time to get into their rooms and teach them to go through and toss old school papers and supplies and make room for the new. Now is also the time to go through toys and clothing that no longer serve their purpose. Wash and donate what you can. Items that never got used or worn can be re-gifted to friends or wrapped to put beneath the Salvation Army’s Angel trees. A yearly clean out of rooms is refreshing and gives you a chance to see what things got shoved to the back of closets and shelving. Christmas in July!!
Cleaning the house
Late September – If you didn’t get around to your spring cleaning, fall cleaning works just as well. So for the rest of the house, this is a good time to:
– clean out the kitchen cupboards and toss expired food items. Don’t forget beneath the sink!
– clean out the fridge and freezer and wipe it clean.
– consider some deep cleaning (vac under the fridge, oven, sofa and beds, wash windows, dust ceiling fan blades and behind furniture you haven’t moved in years. Who knows what might be hiding there!
– go through the closets and donate clothing that doesn’t make you feel good. Decide upon 4 main colors that you feel good in and build your wardrobe around them. It’s far easier to choose from 4 colors and sprinkle in other colored staples, than to choose from a rainbow of 20!
– go through at least one storage box that you haven’t gone through in years. Perhaps there are some treasures you can hand down or re-gift. 🙂 Plug into your calendar monthly storage tasks like this and you’ll be amazed at how many things you actually want to get rid of.
– make space to store items that you’ll replace temporarily with holiday decorations. Your storage space should work for you in an organized fashion.
– consider entertainment for the children in the family. This is a great time to get the board/card games out!
Decorating the house
This task differs from family to family. Some people choose to start decorating the day after Thanksgiving and others like to wait. Plug in a date that works best for your schedule and tweak it as needed. Start with one room at a time. I like to store the things I remove from shelves in the box where I took the decorations out of. Then I can bring that box up and make a quick swap back. Since my decorations are stored in our basement, I bring two boxes up then take them back down to bring another two up.
Make sure you schedule in time to take everything down after the holidays so this process is not delayed. As you go through your decorations, decide which ones you love and which ones you want to get rid of. Toss things that are broken, chipped, dented, missing pieces, faded and tattered. Just because you inherited an item doesn’t mean you have to keep it! Keep only the things you love and try to stick to one theme or color scheme. Decorating should have a meaningful purpose.
5-7 days before the big feast – It’s time to prepare the table for the first big meal. In my house, that meal is Christmas dinner on Christmas eve. I started this tradition because it allowed time for me to relax on Christmas day and spend time with the kids on Christmas day. Table coverings would be gotten out and ironed if needed. The table would be opened and covered. I would get all table and serving dishes out, along with matching napkins and napkin rings. I’d bring up the centerpiece and set out any trivets, bread baskets and water pitchers–all on one end of the table. I wouldn’t actually set the table until the day of that meal, when I would also get out the glasses. The room would already be vacuumed and dusted, including the chandelier.
Prepare the meals
1-2 weeks prior to the big day (or night) – First, I will start by asking you to think HEALTHY first, okay? Yes, this is a festive time of year and your loved ones will beacon you to set aside your health goals for a short time. But the question I have for you is, why? This is a great opportunity for family and friends to try delicious healthier options and feel good about eating a little more than they know they should. If you care about your own health, then share your favorite recipes with your friends (and share them with us as well!).
I start off by figuring out what things I can easily make ahead of time. I like to get much of the candy making and cookie baking out of the way and freeze what I can. That way they are done and I can give them as gifts and exchange the at parties.
- Breakfast – I always choose recipes I can prepare the day/night before when possible, like egg casseroles, frittatas, soufflés, wraps, breads, coffee cakes, and the like. For the egg dishes, all I have to do is pull the out of the fridge and pop them into the oven. Beverages and fruit have also been made and chilled. Festive ice cubes are ready to show off my creative talents as well.
- Dinner – Since this is my first big meal on Christmas eve, I have to have all my ducks in a row. I have a number of crock pots that I use. They have become less expensive and real time savers. They are used to keep things like potatoes, breads and vegetables warm. Once the meat is done and gravy has been made, the gravy is put into a small crock pot. I also use them to keep beverages warm. This is a huge time saver that allows me to prepare many things ahead of time so I can enjoy guests when they arrive.
- Desserts – I make these a few days before so my oven will be free for the main meal. I also want the oven to be free for dishes people bring….which hopefully have been already cooked! Once again, I stick to simple, quick recipes that aren’t full of sugar and refined flours. Since my family is gluten-free, this opens up a whole new world of delicious wheat-free options that are so fun to share with others. If you live in a climate where it’s cold, take advantage of the cold and use your garage, mudroom and porch to store covered dishes. I keep beverages out on my porch with a small trash can for corks and bottle caps.
Well, there you have it. If you follow these ten tips, you will enjoy the holidays with less stress and overwhelm. It’s important to prepare for gathering of any kind, and thee tips will help you no matter what the occasion. When it’s all over, and you’re ready to clean up after the holidays, you’ll have a plan you can follow each and every year…and share with you kids.
Tell us what you think of these ideas and please share with us what you’ve done to make your holiday experience a positive one.
Cathy lives in Roanoke, Virginia and specializes in supporting families who desire to change their relationship with health–the way they eat, feel and live. She is a certified Health Coach & Educator with a strong passion for supporting each client in their journey to feel stronger, healthier, and more energetic. Cathy presents workshops online and locally and regularly talks about real food, fitness, natural living, and all things ADHD.
Cathy is the creator of the Holistic Wellness Academy, an online training platform that will soon provide other wellness advocates a place to share their expertise with their clients so they too can learn how to eat smart, move more, feel better and live longer.