by Debbie Williams
It's that time of year again: the holidays are almost upon us. We know
it arrives at the same time every year, and yet it sneaks up on us year
after year. However, your holiday preparations don't have to be
stressful if you create a holiday countdown, a checklist if you will, to
halt the holiday madness:
Day 12 - BE PREPARED
Create a budget for your gift purchases and stick with it. This will
determine who is on your gift list, and how what you will purchase.
Then make a detailed gift list and keep it with you in your purse,
briefcase, or planner for quick reference. Write down a few ideas for
presents, based on the preferences of those on the list and hints they
have given you throughout the year.
Day 11 - SLOW DOWN
Utilize slow times to run your errands so that you won't burn out. Shop
for groceries in early mornings or late evenings (not during lunch hour
or after work), visit the malls during your lunchbreak while others are
at work or in the classroom, and try to avoid standing in line if at all
possible. Take bottled water and a snack for quick energy.
Day 10 - TAKE STOCK
Start stocking the freezer for quick meals. Just double a recipe every
day this week and you'll have instant leftovers. You'll thank yourself
in the busy days to come.
Day 9 - LIMIT INTERRUPTIONS
Learn how to screen incoming interruptions to eliminate stress at work
and at home. Use voicemail, caller i.d., and email filters to avoid
Day 8 - HELPING HANDS
Hire a babysitter or mother's helper to watch the kids while you shop,
wrap gifts, or visit your favorite day spa.
Day 7 - DELEGATE
Delegate simple decorating and gift-wrapping tasks to others. Small
children love to help by adding bows or gift tags to presents, while
visiting grandparents can polish silver or press linens.
Day 6 - MULTI-TASKING
Multi-task whenever possible so that you can play and work at the same
time. Watch tv while polishing silver, or listen to classical music
while ironing table linens. Try to avoid isolating yourself from the
rest of the fun while you're working on your to do's.
Day 5 - GAME PLAN?
Create a game plan for your holiday meal. Cook rolls, stuffing,
desserts, and meats in smaller portions for easy heat&serve dinners on
the big day. Focus your efforts on family time not kitchen duty.
Day 4 - CHECK IT OUT
Take an inventory of the linen closet so that there are no surprises as
you serve the turkey. Is your best tablecloth stained, or did Uncle
Bert's cigar burn a hole in one of your damask napkins? Maybe it's time
to assemble paper and plastic ware for the big day instead. (Sometimes
it's better to lower your expectations of a perfect tablescape than to
spend all your time washing dishes in the kitchen. I doubt anyone will
call the Entertainment Police!)
Day 3 - OPEN HEART, OPEN HOME
Consider having an open house rather than trying to squeeze in several
parties. Invite everyone to visit one home at staggered times for some
good cheer. This can work on the "big day", too, especially if all the
in-laws live in town. It sure beats driving around all day from house to
house to see those you love!
Day 2 - SPEEDY DELIVERY
Order take-out or pull a prepared meal from the freezer for a
stress-free meal today. Let the oven rest for tomorrow's big feast.
Day 1 - THE MAIN EVENT
Start the morning with easy preparations in the kitchen, leaving other
items for the last minute. Chop vegetables, mix dips, then assemble
snack trays for munching. Put the turkey in the oven, set the table, and
bake pies. Leave candles, music, and last minute preparations for later.
Leave the house to take a stroll around the block, enjoy a bubblebath,
or listen to some relaxing music before your family or friends arrive.
Enjoy yourself-- you've earned it!
And the day AFTER Christmas, make next year's "to do" so that you won't
have to work so hard again! Shop yearround for gifts, decorations, and
cards for those you love. Keep a running list of things you need, should
not do again, and tips for making things easier on you and your
household. Getting organized for the holidays is truly a process, not a
product, but with some effective planning you can enjoy the journey.
Debbie Williams is an author, speaker and organizing strategist who
offers tools and training to help you put your life in order. Learn more at