Let’s begin by getting something very, very clear.
I am no organizing maven.
Exhibit A thru C: the current state of my purse. My makeup bag. The interior of my van.
And let’s just say that we could continue the Exhibits that would continue to prove my point of non-organizing mavenhood with further alphabetic entries all through our English letters and then we could move on to other languages and I could still provide you more and more proof.
There are some things I’ve learned through the years of running and chasing this booming brood of mine. Things that get me a bit ahead of the game when it comes the crazy busy rush that is Labor Day through New Year’s Day. Let’s just say that I figured some of this out by doing it the hard way first…and then second…and then third…and then…
Well, you get the idea.
Trial and error, baby. Trial and error.
But here are my top tips for front-end loading that stretch of holiday season that’s coming at us like a fast moving train.
- Think of the whole run of weeks, from September to the first day of January, as a series of projects, regardless of ‘holiday’. If there’s something for Christmas that you can take care of now, yes, even before the holidays that come before it, then do it. You haven’t broken some kind of holiday code. It’s about project management and the chunks of time that you can leverage to knock some stuff out early.
- If you’re a Fall Festival family or a Trick-or-Treat crew, go ahead the second week of September, yes, September, and get those big packs of candy and costume commitments. Yes, I know, I know, you’re a little worried about the candy being fresh. Really? It’s candy. Fresh or no is a side issue. Go ahead and stow a couple of the jumbo size bags so you don’t have to resort to the more expensive regular size bags when your local grocery runs out mid-October. And the costume thing? Trust me. Get ’em ordered. No taking-backsies by your kiddos. If you wanted to be Cinderella in September, then you shall be in October. It’s a rule. Tell your kids I said so. And check out these thoughts if you’re trying to decide about the whole costume and candy thing.
- Gather your Thanksgiving recipes, put them all on one document, make the shopping list for said recipes, print it. And keep it forever. After years of chasing down every stray stained paper and loose index cards with various recipes that I used a total of once every year, only at Thanksgiving, it finally dawned on me. How’s about getting all those things recorded in one place, creating the shopping list, and being done? Every year at Thanksgiving, I fall more in love with my previous self who created this genius. In a non-conceited way, of course. Simply out of pure admiration for how previous me has made the Thanksgiving prep oh so much easier.
- Yes, I know it’s still hot. But make it your goal, by mid-October, to get that Christmas picture made of the family. Stop rolling your eyes at me. Stop it and listen. You know you’re going to start getting Christmas cards in just a few weeks. And you’ll lovingly mock the first few you get, just to offset the panic. And then a few more days will go by. And you’ll get more flustered. And then you’ll be trying to book a photographer in the wilds of December. And then all of the sudden it will be January. And you’ll have card regrets. If sending out Christmas cards is important to you, start early. Many print companies run specials in October and November for customized cards. And if Christmas cards aren’t important to you, then don’t sweat it.
- Buy that Christmas wrapping paper the last week of October/first week of November. ‘Cuz sales. At least at Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby sells my favorite brand of wrapping paper, Brother Sister Design wrapping paper, complete with grid lines on the back so I can cut in a straight line and all kinds of beautiful prints. The paper (and other wrapping accoutrements) usually goes on sale at 50% off in that last week of October/early November window. It’s great to have the wrapping supplies I need already on hand when the Christmas gift shopping hits, and I’ve been able to get it at a huge savings.
- Put those Christmas card addresses in a spreadsheet. And print those envelopes. I don’t know why. I really don’t. But I, for years, hand addressed every Christmas card. Maybe I thought people would see that I cared more about them, that this wasn’t just some kind of mass mailing thing. But y’all. Seriously? The kind of time that it began to take? Craziness at one of the busiest times of year. So all you card recipients, listen up. I do care about you. That’s why we’re taking the family Christmas pic when the temps are still in the 80s. Yes, I’m letting my computer print out your address. Don’t take it personally. And there’s this: I mail my Christmas cards the Monday of the week of Thanksgiving. That way, when the post-Thanksgiving Christmas decorating hits, I at least know I’ve got the cards out of the way.
It only scratches the surface of all the fun and frenzy that is the lighting round of the 17 weeks between Labor Day and the start of the New Year. But thinking ahead of the game on the things you do every year to celebrate, and as much as possible, pre-loading those things, is a great way to make the season seem a bit lighter.