Good Morning Ladies!
Today is going to be a bit of a change of pace. We are in Merry Making Mode, (MMM for short) here at Sharing A Journey and Casa Nina. It’s definitely that time of year when our calendars quickly fill. We have a lot to do and even more riding on our success as Merry Makers each year. So I thought it would be fun to share a few hacks that have helped me make our Holidays more merry in that organized sort of way. I do best when I have a plan, and while some of you are master planners already, it’s just sort of fun to see what other people do, so be sure to share your best holiday planning hacks in the comments. Tomorrow, I will be sharing some super great gatherings to plan so that you can continue your Merry Making Momentum. So be sure to come back tomorrow. Now then, let’s grab a cup of coffee, and get started:
1.Print out a cute December calendar sheet. Your calendar is your guide for the month. I keep mine in a page protector with a pencil so I can see the whole month at a glance, and I can take my calendar in its page protector with me. I write in events, our meal plans and block out times to complete holiday chores. Oh, and don’t forget to add in any deadlines such as drop dead dates for mailing packages. Everything you plan to do must go on the calendar, no exceptions. And, use a pencil. You will likely have to erase a few things. Now you may wonder why I don’t just do this using my usual planner. My planner is huge and I don’t carry it around, I keep it on my desk in my office. My holiday planner in its page protector, along with a few additional sheets of notebook paper for notes and daily to-do lists are with me all the time when I have a lot on my plate. I use this technique when ever I have lots to do.
2.Get major chores out of the way early. In mid fall, we do a deep clean and declutter to make way for Thanksgiving entertaining and in preparation for holiday decorations. I always do the decorating the weekend after Thanksgiving and take everything down the 2nd of January. My house is always entertaining ready during this period. The day after Thanksgiving is the perfect day to get everyone to help. They need the exercise. You are actually helping THEM out. That makes you a thoughtful person and that’s always good.
The only exception to this scenario is the years we travel for the holidays. Perhaps I should make a planner for travelers and this one for people celebrating at home. If I hadn’t been decorating the house, I’d probably have some really slick planners all ready for you. It’s definitely on the list for next year!
3. Keep track of your gift giving. I use a spread sheet to keep track of the gifts I give each year. That way, I don’t give the same gift twice, unless I want to. For example, I always give my mother a wreath for Christmas. I order it the day after Thanksgiving so she can enjoy it through out the whole season and throw it away at the end—its a no clutter gift, and is great for a person who has everything and then some! Going back to my list, I can quickly access the name of the company I buy from each year.
Keeping spreadsheet can help prevent accidental re-runs as well. Every once in a while, I will get the feeling I’ve already given a certain gift—with my spreadsheet, I can make sure that doesn’t happen.
My list tracks what I bought, where I got it, the date I purchased it, and something new to keep track of, the return policy of the store. A few years ago, I made several purchases ahead that had a 30 day return policy. The recipient only had a day or two to make a return after Christmas, (the purchase was made on Black Friday and, frankly, I won’t shop there again). Also, I keep track of my online orders on my spread sheet. I keep it year to year and make notes of what worked well and what didn’t.
I use a page protector to keep receipts so that they are handy if the store doesn’t offer a gift receipt (I tape gift receipts to the gift right away) and write the name of the recipient on each receipt so I can easily access the right receipt if it’s needed. I make sure I save all the paperwork for gift cards as well. Brooke has received gift cards were not properly loaded, so it’s always a good idea to keep all of that paperwork with the recipient’s name on it, just in case…
4. If you send Christmas cards, save time by mechanizing. I used to print out the envelopes using a calligraphy font which made that whole process so much easier and faster. I’d have the envelopes ready in advance, and during some down time around Thanksgiving, I’d sign the card, slip in a photo of Brooke, and within minutes, the cards were stamped and ready to go out into the mail box. Now I use Paperless Post and do it by e-mail because we send so few cards any more.
5. Keep a list of fun and festive holiday activities like going to a holiday pops concert, where the best holiday decorations are, places Santa is likely to turn up, festive places to shop, parades, tree lighting events, and holiday movies you want to see so if you have unexpected guests, or you need a little extra boost of holiday spirit, you always have a few fresh ideas of things to do. These activities can be found in the newspaper, and on line. Cities, churches and chamber of commerce websites are great places to see what’s going on in your town. Also, Facebook has become a great place to peruse local events.
Bonus tip: Create family traditions. One year, we went to Dade City to a Christmas tree farm. We thought we’d be chopping down our own tree. Instead we found they had the best selection of fresh trees already cut, so we’ve been going there ever since for a tree or wreath. After, we go to lunch at Lunch on Limoges another activity I thought would be a one off. It’s turned into an important tradition for us, we love that place. We also take in a Christmas movie on IMAX and Roger and I go to a pops concert. Here in Florida, we have to work a little harder to get into the Christmas spirit, so we look for experiences to make the holiday special.
6. Pre-purchase hostess gifts. I love to pick up scented candles from Nest or India Hicks, Cranes Stationary, lux hand soaps and lotions (again from India Hicks), and beautiful coffee mugs I fill with premium hot chocolate mix and decorative marshmallows from Sur La Table or Williams and Sonoma. Having a few nice gifts on hand in advance prevents last minute stress when you are invited unexpectedly to an event or old friends come out of the woodwork.
7. Purchase smaller gifts in bulk—I love Stonewall Kitchen jams, so I used to buy them in bulk at the holidays for Brooke’s teachers and friends. I’d just make one large purchase, and voila! I had delicious and unusual gifts at the ready.
8. Pick up some cute holiday napkins, tins and plates for cookies and anything else you might need on hand for an unexpected guest. One evening we had friends over for a glass of wine. We ended up talking for hours, and I didn’t have anything to serve besides the wine and a little bit of cheese. It was no where near enough, we were all starved and ended up ordering pizza. It turned out to be a fun evening, but I didn’t like not being prepared, so I always make sure I have a few snacks I can make into a meal, and napkins and other festive accruements to give a Holiday feel.
By doing a little preplanning, and getting a few of the bigger chores out of the way while you are still on Thanksgiving break, you can enjoy the holiday season.