I promised myself that this year, I would NOT get too rambunctious about the holidays and jump the gun! Usually about the second week of November, I’m worse than the babes and the big kids about getting out the decorations! When I took down the Halloween things and put out my November decorations on Tuesday, it was all I could do to keep on task and not just start pulling out some of my December things. The temptation was ferocious.... "Just start with the snowman tree. That’s not Christmas." So far, so good. The turkeys and harvesty things are out and about, the snowmen are still in their storage bin downstairs!
My mother announced yesterday that, unless there is a blizzard (which to her means a flake of snow in the forecast), she and her man friend are coming for Thanksgiving. We’ve had only one Thanksgiving together since my marriage to Doug! I’ve got much to do when I know my mother is coming to visit. Normally, I can have my house company clean within fifteen minutes. But, when Ruby comes to town, it means white glove clean, top to bottom, inside and out - even my closet, allllllllllll ready to pass the Ruby test. Since Mom’s only seen my Christmas tree twice in 28 years, I’ve decided to decorate for Christmas before she gets here. That’s not being over-zealous! Now I have a reason! (Or would you call that an excuse!?)
Way back when.... when I taught the home management and organization classes, I was really ubber ready and on top of it all. I decided that I needed my own reminders about being on top enough to enjoy the season, not just blur through it. And so, in reminding myself, I am going to blog a bit here and there over the next few weeks sharing some of the things that have worked for me over the years, as I put them to work! As excited as I am about decorating, I need to be about preparing!
THE NUMBER ONE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO DO TO PREPARE FOR THE HOLIDAYS (for moi!) The holiday notebook! Create a section in your planner or buy a small 5x7 notebook for the holidays and attach it to your body. For the next two months, don’t let it leave your side, for two reasons... 1) you need to have instant access to it to record your thoughts as they happen and 2) you don’t want any sneaky peeks to see what’s in it! Create page headers or tabs in your notebook for all of the lists your be keeping. Lists, lists, lists!! This way, they are all together, where you need them! Two other important additions: A) Attach an envelope to the inside back of your little notebook and place EVERY receipt for EVERY purchase IMMEDIATELY into the envelope! B) A calendar of everyone’s events... from school recitals to when to see Santa at the mall to holiday get-together to last mailing dates.
And on to the list of lists! My notebook includes:
- A few pages for each person in my immediate family or recipients of more than one gift. On this page, I note little hints that are dropped by each family member. We give a week’s advanced notice and then hold a family counsel (where each year, Doug always says that this will be a small and humble holiday season that we’ll focus on the reason for the season and I agree completely until I go shopping and fight the "give them everything they ask for" demons!) Each person makes a "want list" asking for whatever they want. As the big kids were older, I always asked.... "Tell me five things you want in each category: $5 or less, $10 or less, $25 or less, $50, $100, and your ultimate gift. This gives me an idea of what to shoot for. The less expensive items end up being the stocking stuffers and it’s always amazing to me how practical the things they ask for.... new make-up, specific toiletries, school supplies that are lost already or need replacing....things that I might otherwise not have bought but wound just end up having to buy anyway later. Over the next weeks, after the family counsel, they think of more things that they want or need and I add them to my list.
- As I shop, I note the prices of items on their individual sections of my notebook and where to get the best bargains. I also note the ads and discounts so that I can save wherever possible. Ex: Last year, Fred Meyer had games on sale for a STEAL. It was buy one, get one free. I bought one Scene It and got one free. That beat the heck out of Shopko’s 30% off. Walmart will honor any other ads if you can prove it, so put this one to use as often as possible!
- A page listing those others that you will be giving a gift to... extended family, friends, teachers, co-workers....
- A section for food ideas, menus, treats, recipes. (Note little things like "I doubled the batch for the family party." so that next year, you can refer back to last year’s notebook and not have to second guess your memory this year!)
- A section for clever gift ideas (you know, like the 2Liter of Sprite with the "May your Days be Merry and Sprite" tag on it. I ask everyone I know during the holidays, "What’s your favorite neighbor gift so far?"
- A page for people who will get treats
- A page of people who will get small homemade gifts
- A TO DO page for listing things that are out of the ordinary such as getting something special dry-cleaned, scheduling hair appointments, getting the dog groomed, when to order flowers and so on.
- A page listing where I hid certain gifts.
- A projected budget. This way you can check it often and try harder to keep on track.
- A page listing the gifts purchased and wrapped. Wrap as you purchase! This eliminates staying up til 4AM on Christmas morning. You don’t need to put the bows on yet. But, as you shop and bring the gifts home, wrap them immediately and write a number on each gift in the same location. (I write the number on the center piece of tape on the bottom of the gift.) Then I keep a list in my planner that is formatted under these headings: #/ GIFT/ FOR / WHERE PURCHASED / PRICE. If I need to exchange or even open before the holiday, I know where it is. By not having names but only having numbers on the gifts, this keeps away peekers.(More on gift-wrapping later)
- A list/section of expenses. Not just gift purchases. Write down everything you buy for the holidays from gift-wrap, tape, batteries, house decorations, postage, gas for shopping. It’s amazing to look back later and see EXACTLY how much you spent. And there is something about writing it down that makes you feel more accountable for every dime spent.
- A list of things that you would like to do next year for the holidays. We always hear of fun things that sound like great projects but it’s too late to do it this year. Keep a list and get started early next year on whatever it is that still "flips your trigger".
- A list/inventory of holiday DVDs and CDs is also good to keep on hand. I often see a CD and think I NEED THAT when Liza reminds me that we already have it. An inventory allows you to keep track of what you own and what you loan!
- A list of thank you’s to write. Lots of gifts are received before the big day. Keep track of who gave what and when so that thank yous are not a nightmare in January.
- A list of things that YOU would like for YOU! Then if your sweetie or kids ask, you can say, "I just happen to have my own list right here!"
You get the idea. Use this notebook to keep it all together. Make it work for you. Create lists that fit your needs. This list becomes your "Holiday Brain" from now until January 2 when the kids go back to school! And when the holidays are over, you’ve got a great record to keep on hand for further use. It really can make an immense difference in how well prepared and organized you are for the holidays ahead! So, get that notebook today and start getting it all together for the holidays!