The holiday season is right around the corner, which means it’s time to start planning ahead for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s.
Choosing a menu, DIYing a couple of gifts, doing your Christmas shopping, and decorating your home takes time. So of course, all of this holiday preparation comes with lots and lots of stress.
And that’s not surprising since the holiday season always finds a way to sneak up on us! But to help avoid this stressful annual tradition, let me be your holiday checklist and help you prepare with some useful tips that will make everything run smoothly.
1 Make a To-Do List
Take a few hours, sit down comfortably, and start writing down all the things you need to do during the holidays well ahead of time. Be specific, too. Will you be hosting your in-laws? Then you’ll need to:
- clean the fridge
- declutter the closets
- get new sets of towels and sheets
- buy extra toiletries
- find a few activities to do with the family
Writing everything down and ticking each box will help you stay on target without getting too overwhelmed as the holidays approach.
2 Make a Holiday Budget
Decide how much money you’re willing to spend for the holidays and carefully break down a budget you’re comfortable with.
Once you know exactly how much money you’ll allocate to gifts, decorations, and food, it’ll be a lot easier for you to stay on track and not get tempted to spend money on things you can’t realistically afford.
Pro tip: when choosing a gift budget, categorize your friends and family members into groups. Allocate a budget to each group so you know how much you plan on spending on grandparents, friends, coworkers, children, uncles and aunts, and so on.
3 Shop Earlier in the Year
Creating a budget for everyone we’re planning on buying gifts for is key. Having done that, now, you need to stick to your budget and start shopping ahead!
Start checking out online websites to buy your Christmas gifts. If you see something you know a relative or a friend will love, buy it if it’s within budget and save it until Christmas.
Here are some of the best online shops where you can get a vast selection of cool gifts for everyone, including the little ones in the family:
- Uncommon Goods
- Present & Correct
- Bangle & Babe
- Urban Outfitters
- & Other Stories
- World Market
- Viva Terra
4 Declutter your Home
A clutter-free home is a happy home, especially around the holidays. And it’s never too early to start!
So, open the fridge and pantry and get rid of any leftovers and all those ketchup and mayo bottles that probably expired a year ago.
Throw away or donate old books and magazines that you haven’t touched in years. The same goes for all those toys that are sitting on a shelf collecting dust. Clean them up and donate them to children in need. Go through your closets and see if you have old coats and shoes you haven’t worn in a while and donate them, too.
Show the guest rooms and bathrooms some love by decluttering them from old shampoo bottles and expired products. Go through all the closets in the house and make sure that there’s plenty of space for your guests’ coats and suitcases.
5 Don’t Go Too Crazy With the Planning
One of the biggest mistakes people tend to make around the holiday season is obsessing too much about everything going perfectly. They focus so much on cleaning, cooking, and organizing, that they forget to have fun, too!
It’s important to remember to take care of yourself by knowing when to unwind, eating right, and exercising to relieve tension. Planning early helps you avoid stressful situations, too. That way, everything will go nice and smooth by the time the holidays come.
6 Sort Through Last Year’s Holiday Decorations
As we prepare to decorate our home for the holidays, we get really excited and start buying new garlands, lights, and Christmas decorations, only to realize we already have all of that sitting in a box somewhere around the attic.
In the process, you end up burning up three times as much money as you did the previous year!
Stop this from happening again by looking through all of our boxes of decorations early on, preferably a month before the big event. Leave no stone unturned. If there are lights, check them one by one to see if they still work. If they don’t work, toss them and add them to the list of things you need to buy. The same applies to broken ornaments or any other items.
7 Prep the House for Guests
Think of your house as a cozy hotel. No one wants to party in a house that isn’t prepped to accommodate guests. Write down a checklist of everything you need to sift through and organize before the big day:
- Make sure that there are plenty of extra hangers in the hallway closet for people’s hats, gloves and coats.
- You can designate an area in the hallway where people can put their snow boots.
- Check the guestrooms and see if you need to get new towels or sheets.
- Buy a few pretzels, fruits, and cheese so your guests have something to snack on when they arrive.
- Don’t forget to add bar soaps, cotton pads, makeup remover, and extra toothbrushes to your bathrooms in case your family members forgot to pack some.
8 Clear Out Your Memory Cards
There’s nothing worse than grabbing that smartphone or digital camera to take a photo or record only to find that there’s not enough space. So once the house is completely decluttered, it’s time to do a little digital decluttering too. Grab all the memory cards from your smartphone, video recorder, and digital camera, and transfer the videos and images onto a computer or backup drive. This will free up plenty of space to capture some brand-new memories over the holiday season.
9 Plan All Holiday Meals Ahead of Time
It might feel untimely to start thinking about what to make for Christmas, Hanukkah or New Year’s Eve. But prepping for a holiday meal ahead of time can save you a lot of headaches in the long run.
So, start thinking about what kind of meat you’d like to serve. Should it be chicken, turkey, ham, beef or perhaps a meat alternative like tofu? And what about the appetizers? The possibilities are endless, just like the dessert options.
Fortunately, there’s still time to think about the menu and come up with a game plan. The extra time also allows for trying out a potential new recipe on the family before making it on a specific holiday in case the recipe needs to get tweaked or scrapped altogether.
Oh and if you’re not in the mood to bake and cook everything from scratch, don’t sweat it! You can always get ready-made salads and frozen meals at the supermarket. If there’s a particular bakery in your area that offers tasty desserts and cakes, let them do the heavy lifting for you and place an order ahead of time.
With a little advanced planning, the holiday season can go so much smoother. Even if you’re only celebrating with your immediate family this year, getting a head start on preparing your house, your budget, and your schedule is the best way to keep yourself sane and ensure you are able to have a stress-free holiday.
For more ideas on slowing down this holiday season, check out Take the Hustle Out of the Holidays.
Your turn! What’s your number one tip for prepping for the holidays? Leave a comment below and let me know. I love to hear from you!
Sophie Agbonkhese is a writer, homeschooling mother of four, and a recovering overachiever (who occasionally relapses). She is the founder of My Cup Runs Over, a site dedicated to helping busy women simplify and enrich their lives. When she’s not writing or debugging websites, Sophie spends her time reading, dancing, bullet journaling, reading, gardening, listening to audiobooks, and striving fruitlessly to have a clean house for at least five minutes.