Friday, December 3, 2010

6 Tips To An Organized Christmas

Getting Organized
My holiday planner keeps all of my favorite holiday ideas that are tried and true at my fingertips, which helps me to focus on the reason for the season!  Here's a website to print off holiday planning lists:

After trying to simplify and streamline the whole Christmas season, and trying to remember the Reason for the Season, it's time to dig in and get organized.  Keep a notebook with a copy of your family's holiday calendar, lists like the ones that can be printed from the above websites, and a place to keep receipts and recipes.  Plan for travel arrangements, if necessary, and start the gift list.  Decide what your holiday budget will be.  Don't forget to include the cost of food served at parties and on Christmas.  

Keep your notebook with you always and refer to it often so you can buy a little at a time.  You might want to develop a plan of action so that you use the least amount of gas and energy.  For instance, look at your lists and calendar to see if you will be near certain stores when picking up the kids or going on every-day errands. 

  1. Christmas Greetings: Today, many folks are saying to give up on the Christmas cards, but I think it is still important to send cards to people who would really appreciate them, such as the widows in our church. I try to keep a list in my planner and I limit the number of cards I send out, say 20 or so. Then I review last years list and update. It usually changes from year to year. I usually send cards that I got for 80% off the year before, and I always pick a Christmas Card that depicts Christ's birth. I don't send more cards than I can sign by hand. Our family will watch a holiday movie like White Christmas and take turns signing each card with a little message. This means soooo much to the people we send cards to. 
  2. Gift Giving:  The first thing I do when planning gifts is look through my Gooseberry Patch Christmas books for homemade ideas. Also the many websites and blogs on the internet are great sources for unique ideas. It can be as simple as a plate of cookies. In fact, our family always tries to make goodies to give each year. I buy the tins and boxes the year before for about 80% off and fill them with all the good recipes we make each year, such as mocha fudge. These have been the most meaningful gifts to my dad who lives 3000 miles away. (Be sure to mail by Dec. 10th). The postage was expensive, but his response was priceless. (See my October Traditions post for sending goodies in the mail--coming Oct. 2011). I also like to tuck a Subway card in his gift because his wife is very ill and this is a useful gift for them to use. I've also given CVS pharmacy gift cards to family members who live near one and get their prescriptions there. We usually set a limit on how much to spend on gifts given to extended family. If you organize yourself early on, you will be surprised at how thoughtful your gifts will be. Be sure to include on your list where you have stored the presents. I recommend wrapping them right away. This can actually be done year-round for the best deals (especially right after Christmas).
  3. Traditions:  I like to put an ornament in the stockings each year. I just read an article in Martha Stewart Living where a family does this. They choose an ornament that has something to do with the past year, such as a child's graduation or wedding. An example they used was someone's visit to New York City was marked by giving them a "Big Apple" ornament. It can be as subtle or specific as you need. They also mentioned giving new pajamas as Christmas presents opened on Christmas Eve to make picture-taking easier the next day.  For more traditions visit 8 Christmas Traditions.
  4. Parties:  For parties, decide on what you can handle, whether it's a cookie exchange (cookie swap) or a dinner party. Set a budget and see what little things that really add up, could be brought by friends who will ask to bring something anyway. Be sure to ask guests at least two weeks in advance. Use only recipes that are tried and true. Keep decorations simple: few festive throw pillows, light-smelling candles, soft music, etc. Susan Branch has the cute idea of grouping all her pictures of "sitting on Santa's lap." Others have a collection of crèches to display. Have the music ready to go. Tried and true, I have a favorite CD that has tons of holiday music and I press the repeat button and forget about it. 
  5. The Food:  You can plan your menu in advance and MAKE A SHOPPING LIST! Allow 1-1/2 lb. per person (which will include leftovers). Shop for nonperishables two weeks in advance. Dressings, desserts, and yeast rolls can be made and frozen up to three months in advance. Place turkey on a tray in the refrigerator to thaw. Allow 24 hours for every 4 lb. of turkey. Place your frozen dressing, dessert, and rolls in the refrigerator to thaw 24 hours before you plan to serve them. Allow any of the unbaked items to stand at room temperature 30 minutes before baking. An island makes an ideal serving bar. 
  6. The House:  One week before the party, clean the house. Focus on public areas, the kitchen and bathrooms. Two days before the party, begin preparing food. Decorate the house and set any tables ahead of time. Block out several hours on the day of the party to relax and prepare. Enjoy your event! Clean up after the party--and enjoy the "thank you!" phone calls from your guests. After the party, debrief. Note successes and shortfalls in your party planner. It'll guide your next event.

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