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You Can Have a Stress-Free Holiday

Updated: May 3, 2023

Here are our best tips to get ready for the holiday.

Set Holiday Goals

First take a deep breath! The thing you need to do before doing anything else is to establish what your values and goals are during the holidays.

If you feel overwhelmed by thinking about the holidays early, take comfort in the fact that by preparing for the holiday season now you will be way ahead of the game and much more present for the fun parts of the holidays when they arrive. This is perhaps one of the most important goal categories. Let go of emotional stress, anxiety, basically anything that hurts your heart. It’s nearly impossible to enjoy the magic and love of Christmas when you are letting negativity overshadow it.

Set a Budget, Make Checklists, & Check It Twice

Take an inventory before you buy. "It's very tempting to pick up new tableware and decorations," Lisa says. "Know exactly what you have before buying anything new" and set a budget. "Don't overspend. If a budget doesn't allow for cards this year, then send free e-cards," she suggests. Consider handmade gifts such as baked goods, photo gifts and customized playlists.

Simple, heartfelt gifts as well, especially those that make shopping easier. She enjoys buying gift cards that encourage loved ones to spend time together, like dinner and movie. When it comes time to wrap, throw a wrap party with your girl friends. "Invite your friends and family, and make it collaborative and fun."

It's important to create a space for all of your wrapping needs. "Keep a holiday storage bin for gift-wrapping supplies," Lisa says. "It will keep everything in its place, and you will know exactly where to go for the supplies the next you need them."

Make a list of everyone you will buying gifts for this season.

If you are making any gifts, make a list of what you are making, who you are making this for, the supplies you need, how much you need to spend, and when you need to start and finish the projects. If you have a vinyl cutting machine there are lots of cute ideas on pinterest. I have made pot holder gifts with Christmas baking quotes on them with a cookie mix in the pocket. Blankets that say “This is my Christmas Movie Blanket”

Set a budget for overall gift spending and break it down per person. When you are creating a gift spending budget, you will also want to make a budget for parties and dinners.

Food, drinks, and party needs can really add up and put a dent in your budget if you don’t plan for them. Make the turkey, 2 sides and dessert or save cookie baking for the day of and make memories instead of dessert. Let your guests bring the other food items and do not stress over all the unnecessary details.

Organize Your Holiday Items

Whether you are gearing up to host the big Thanksgiving dinner at your house (sending along best wishes to any of you tackling that feat this year) or just want to be prepared for an upcoming, and perhaps impromptu, holiday gathering now is a great time to take inventory of your entertaining items. Here are a couple of tips for organizing your entertaining items:

  • Take stock of what you have on hand.

  • Don't be afraid to reorganize a bit. Often when we are organizing clients' homes we store entertaining items in areas that are not quite as accessible as most of our clients don't entertain on a daily basis. That might not be the case this time of year. Don't be afraid to rearrange your kitchen or pantry to get some of those larger platter or holiday items closer at hand for the next month.

  • Get ready to re-organize. If your entertaining items are not currently as organized as you would like now is a great time to change that!

Restock your Pantry Staples

Whether you like it or not the holidays come with a lot of cooking and baking. And there is nothing worse than getting ready to bake up a delicious batch of cinnamon rolls or your sugar cookies just to find out you are out of powdered sugar or eggs.

Take this week to review your pantry and kitchen staples list. Check expiration dates. Review your back stock. And make a list. Chances are you are headed to the grocery store anyway this week so what is a few more items on the list.

Set Up Your Guest Room

Do you have guests staying with you over the holidays? There is something so magical and terrifying all at the same time about house guests. You want them to be comfortable and feel welcomed.

Now is the time to stock your bathrooms with all the extras. If you want to go the extra mile add in some nice toiletries they might enjoy during their stay.

First week of December

This week is all about planning and preparing for the craziness ahead.

  • Mail Christmas cards

  • Deep clean your home

  • Decorate your house

  • Ask everyone to make Christmas wish lists

  • Make a budget

  • Plan the menu

  • Buy the turkey or ham

Simplify & Streamline Your Christmas Cards

If you still mail out Christmas cards make a list of all the friends, family, and coworkers that you want to send cards to. You’ll also want to start keeping gathering the addresses of those you are sending cards to.

You can also keep track of cards you receive and add these people to your correspondence list.

If you are using photo cards, take your photo as soon as possible. This way you will have your photo ready when it is time to order your cards.

As for the often daunting task of card sending, Give yourself a break during the busy Christmas season, and consider sending cards at a different time of year."

"Automate your card list, “Enter contact information in a spreadsheet using separate columns for each category such as first name, last name, street address, city, state and ZIP code. Add columns for gift ideas, ages and birthdays. Refer to it year after year, without having to invent the wheel each time." Go a step further and convert a spreadsheet into mailing labels. Addressing cards is as easy as print, peel and stick.

Second week of December

This week you can start doing as much as possible ahead of time.

  • Buy all presents

  • Mail out-of-town gifts

  • Pre-make desserts you can freeze

  • Donate unused items

  • Sell items for extra cash

Start Shopping Early

Start picking up things like stocking stuffers and hostess gifts now.

It’s also a good idea to grab wrapping paper and cards now so you aren’t looking for them at the last minute.

You can also wrap gifts as you buy them unless you prefer the holiday spirit in full swing when you wrap gifts and like to wait until closer to the holiday and do a marathon wrapping session.

Keep It Simple

You can take note of traditions- old and new, food, movies, music, decorations, treats, and outings.

Keeping track of your favorite holiday moments and memories is both a great way to keep those memories over the years, as well as create a reference for yourself for next year so you can see what you want to do again.

Be prepared when relatives ask what to buy your spouse and children; Checking toy chests and closets.

As you pull the decorations out to decorate, declutter the items that are broken or have not been used in years. If you have memories attached to ornaments, make a box for each child that the memory is tied to so you can have a collection started for their first tree when they leave the nest. Keep only the best memories not all your unwanted items. "Resist over-accumulation, purge unused decorations and swap decorations with a friend." Before you decorate, "give the house a good cleaning," she says. That way, your house will be fresh-smelling and sparkly, in more ways than one. Make holiday decorating an event and enlists the family. Incorporate readily-available natural items such as boughs, holly and cranberries.

"If you like to set up decorations the same way each year, do not leave it to memory, “Write down steps, and take a photo of your decor and store in a binder."

A collection of shiny and festive Christmas gift wrap includes rolls of red, green and gold paper.

Plan Your Menu and Guest List

As your guests start to confirm they’re coming, they’ll start asking what they can bring. Take them up on their offers! People want to chip in, especially during the holidays. Let them make and bring their easy favorite food. It is easy for them and they can bring that every year and everyone knows every year what they are going to bring to contribute. Or Think ahead of some things they can bring that don’t require taking up precious oven space. Appetizers, veggie trays, buns, or wine are great options.

You can start by looking at the meals you will need to plan. Gather together your favorite recipe and keep them all on the recipe page. Choose your favorite appetizers, main courses, side dishes, and desserts and add them to each meal planning sheet.

Having this part of your Christmas planning finished will save you so much time when it comes time to cook!

If you make cookies or treats for the holiday to share or to have in your home for your family and guests you can make a list of what you plan to make and keep track of that as well.

Having the items you need to bake these will make it easy for you to bake ahead when a recipe allows for that when you have time.

Week before Christmas

There are things that you can do in the 1-2 weeks leading up to the big event that can really help you. It’s almost here! This week is when you prepare and get your home ready for the big day.

  • Wrap the last gifts

  • Buy batteries for gifts that need it

  • Prepare the table with place settings

  • Put together a Master Shopping List, including produce, dry goods, decorations, beverages, ice.

  • Clean out the fridge so there is more room for produce and prepared food.

  • Find your linens and dig out your serving dishes. Pull out your slow cooker too.

  • Do a final grocery run.

Use a Holiday Meal Cooking Schedule

· You can find pre-made schedules on Pinterest.

· And if something goes wrong, don’t panic. Serve up some appetizers from Sam’s Club or etc.

Set the Table the Night Before

Take the time to set the table the night before and it will be one less thing to worry about the next day. It also gives you a chance to notice things that you might not have thought of. Do the cloth napkins need ironing? Did you forget matches for the candles? You don’t want to find this out 30 minutes before your guests start arriving.

Take Some Time for Yourself

Starting the day off with some food (and caffeine!) will help you prepare to tackle your list. You’ll also be less likely to nibble on foods all day if you take the time to have a proper meal.

Set Up a Buffet

As much as I love family style meals where the dishes are passed around, they aren’t very practical for a large family dinner. Buffets offer a stress-free way to entertain during the holidays and let you keep dishes warm on hot plates and in slow cookers. It’s also easier for guests to get up and help themselves to seconds. Stack plates and bowls at the start of the buffet and keep napkins and cutlery on the tables. If you can, set the table away from walls and doorways, allowing enough room for guests to access it from both sides. If possible, keep desserts and drinks on separate tables.

Prep as much food as you can ahead of time

Save yourself the time on the big day, and make a dessert that can be prepared ahead of time, or again purchase your pies from a local bakery you love.

Think like a chef and get all your ingredients washed, chopped and ready to go. Some dishes may have the same ingredients and you can double up when prepping. For potatoes, you can chop them ahead of time and store them in pots with submerged in cold water until you’re ready to cook them.

Have Containers on Hand for Leftovers

Leftovers are one of the best parts of any holiday dinner. Purchase aluminum muffin tins to portion out leftovers. Each person takes just enough for one serving. Cover with foil and then it can go right in the oven to reheat.

Planning Travel

The final part of effective Christmas organization is planning your holiday travel. There are a few things you can do to make this entire hassle a little easier.

  • Double-check the weather and avoid traveling in dangerous weather.

  • Create a packing list ahead of time.

  • Buy presents online and have them shipped to your destination ahead of you, if possible, then wrap them when you get there.

  • Double-check flights for delays.

  • Organize travel documents like hotel names and reservation numbers, rental car numbers, plane tickets.

After the Holidays

Undecorate with ease by storing ornaments, wreaths and lights in separate containers that are clearly marked, Declutter again as you go. Christmas lights are always tricky to store, but there is a fast and inexpensive way to manage them with the leftover cardboard boxes or wrapping paper tubes. Cut silts around the edges/surface, and start wrapping the lights around the cardboard, threading the lights into each slit.

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