Three things you can do today to get organized for the holidays

Wishing you a holiday season filled with peace! {photo courtesy of Calde luci di Natale}

Because I help others organize their homes and lives, most must think I have:

  • not only my gifts purchased but wrapping wrapped up;
  • Christmas cards addressed, stamped and ready to be mailed the day before Thanksgiving so they arrive in boxes the day after Thanksgiving; and
  • my home decked out for the holidays by the time Thanksgiving dinner is cleared from the table.

The truth? As I write this:

  • Other than one{!} gift, I’ve yet to buy anything;
  • I have no clue what we’ll do for our Christmas card {much less what we’ll even wear!}; and
  • I probably won’t have holiday decorations out until after December 1st.

As the holidays approach, the building of excitement often begins to be overtaken by the escalating stress that inevitably takes over. While I attribute some of my lower stress these days to the overall shift to order I’ve made in different areas of my life, do these three things today to feel an immediate difference:

#1:  ASK:  What’s on your {and your family’s} list? In general what are your favorite parts of the holidays – what do you want to experience? During dinner the other night, I asked my family what they most wish for for the upcoming holiday season: emphasizing I wasn’t talking gift wish list!  Here’s part of what we came up with:

  • Attending the Nutcracker {something we used to do but hadn’t gone to in a while}
  • Making peanut butter balls {a holiday favorite – we ran out of time & didn’t make last year}
  • Spending an evening viewing Christmas lights
  • Walking through a nativity scene at a nearby church
  • Doing something to help others
  • Bringing holiday style to my window boxes
  • Decorating Christmas cookies {trial & error last year; learned some great tips – will share later}
  • Reading our favorite Advent book together each night {helping to keep us focused on what Christmas means to us}

Just getting to know what each family member wants to experience can sometimes be an eye opener.  It helps to know what to prioritize and can slide.

#2:  Establish a budget.  Maybe not the most fun part, but a crucial one.

A.  Know how much you have {are willing} to spend {without going into debt}.

B.  Make a list of what you’ll need to purchase, including:

  • gifts
  • cards, stamps, pictures
  • decorations
  • entertaining {if you’re having a party, all of the expenses involved with this}
  • travel
  • groceries {above & beyond what you normally would spend}
  • wrapping supplies
  • special event tickets

C.  Allocate amounts for each.

Tips: 

  • I do my holiday budget in an Excel spreadsheet. I list every item in one column and put a budgeted amount in the column next to it.  Using the auto sum button, I add the $ column and then play around with budgeted amounts for each item until the sum is where I need it to be.
  • After the holidays, indicate how much you actually spent {you can add an “actual” column}. Also, note other expenses you didn’t anticipate.
  • Next year, you can pull up that spreadsheet, “save as” that new year, tweak slightly and your new budget will be complete! {Last night I did my 2011 one in five minutes.}

Pocket file folder I use to keep organized during the holidays {this one is from Amazon; I got mine for a few dollars at Target}

#3:  Make – and use! – your own Holiday Organizer:  I use a Five-Pocket Letter File to keep me organized during the season. My tabs include:

  1. Ideas: Ideas I tear out of magazines are kept right here.
  2. Coupons: I’m not a huge coupon clipper but do clip during this time of the year.
  3. Receipts:  ALL of my holiday receipts go in this ONE place. {In an upcoming post, I’ll share what I do with my receipts and  how it kept me under budget the last two years!}
  4. Cards:  My Christmas card mailing list – along with a few extra cards, stamps and addressing pen – goes here.
  5. List:  My specific list of whom I need to shop for. I print out my budget list {above} then, using a pencil {which I keep in my organizer at all times!} I jot down ideas and cross off when that person is taken care of.

Tips:

  • Take some quiet, focused time to set up your own organizer – customize to best fit your needs.
  • Keep it with you. {I have mine with me throughout the season. I’ll take out what I need for that store, leaving the actual folder in the car.}
  • Before running out to shop, sit down and look through what you need. Visually think through where you’ll need to go for what. Do a little on-line research prior to leaving home to keep from having to run from place to place.
  • If you end up going over budget or find something else you’d rather give, you’ll have your receipt right there so you can return original item.  {Know return policies from the stores you purchase from.}
  • Plan trips out when stores are least crowded.  Or do you shopping on-line.
  • Streamline whenever possible!

Do YOU have a favorite way to stay organized during the holidays?  I’d love to hear!

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