It’s the most wonderful time of the year again. But instead of “Ho ho ho!” I hear people ask “How how how?” How has the time flown so fast this year? How am I ever going to get this mountain of Christmas preparation done in time? Here are professional organizer Peter Walsh’s best tips that might help you keep a little calmer so that you too can experience more of the joy of the season.
I know you won’t be surprised to hear this, but I’m a firm believer that a little organization will go a long way — and never more so than during the hectic Christmas season. Before you even go digging out the decorations, grab a pad of paper and a pen, sit down at your dining table, and work on the lists I’m about to suggest. At this time of year, I truly believe lists can be a total lifesaver.
One of the biggest stresses we all have is thinking that we’re forgetting something. That gnawing feeling can keep you in a state of agitation. Making a list means you let yourself off the hook of having to remember everything. Just keep referring to and updating it whenever you need. And, of course, the earlier you start these lists, the better you’ll feel.
Start each list on a separate piece of paper or in notes on your phone or tablet; this option is better in my opinion as it means you’ll have your lists with you wherever you go.
1. The Decorating List
Think about an overall look for your home. Which rooms (and outside?) will you decorate? Will you have a tree? Tasteful and small, or over-the-top and sparkly? Instead of letting the decorations take control, you should be the one in charge.
It’s also important to have a timeline. When do certain decorating things need to be done for you to be happy? Having a timeline means making a deadline and that will make you more accountable to get things done.
2. The Commitments List
This should be a list of people who you are going to make contact with during this period. After all, that’s one of the best things about this season. Too often Christmas just shoots by and you realize afterward that you missed out on some great opportunities. If you give yourself this gift of renewing friendships, I promise you’ll have the best holiday season of all.
3. The Gift List
Start with the name of each person you need to find a gift for. Obviously, your family’s names will go here but also include anyone else that you want to buy for. If you know what gift you’re planning on getting for a person, write it down next to their name and include how you plan on getting it.
I’m a firm believer that when it comes to stuff, less is more, so I encourage you to think about gifts that are experiences as opposed to things. Plan a great day at the beach or at a winery. Cook a gourmet dinner (well, at least your version of it). Take the kids on an outing of their choice. Very few of us remember who gave what even a few months later. And, unless you know the person has a need for a specific thing, don’t clutter their home up even more.
This can be hard if you come from a family or group of friends who believes in showering their loved ones with stuff. Look, it’s definitely fun to unwrap a present, but if what’s inside the box doesn’t show that the person really thought about you, frankly, who needs it?
This year, suggest to your loved ones that you do a Kris Kringle gift exchange. In our family, the rule is that we each only buy one gift for one name drawn out of a hat. The value can be whatever suits your family but one “good” gift is much nicer to me than 10 small things that I probably don’t need anyway.
4. The Extra’s List
There are also other things to do, like clean the windows or buy a new roasting pan. Again, it’s a great idea to put a date of when these tasks need to be completed. I can’t leave this story without talking about one of my favorite traditions that my family has adopted at Christmas.
Knowing that there will be an avalanche of things coming into the house in December, we start the month with a purge and make a trip to the donation bin. It’s a wonderful experience for your kids, too — and a fantastic lesson on what the holiday season is all about. I highly encourage you to make decluttering part of your annual festive ritual.
Finally, don’t forget that this is the season of joy, happiness, sharing, and above all, family. Look for these things everywhere. If someone volunteers to help you, accept it — even if you know they can’t make a pudding as well as you can. Think of their offer as another gift they’re giving you. The gifts of more time and more friendship are the best ones of all.
This article was originally written by Peter Walsh. For more, check out our sister site, Homes to Love.