By Sophia Noll
The Holidays are here and although it can be an exciting time it can also be one of the most stressful times of the year!! Company, errands, gift shopping, decorating, cooking and expectations abound while we try to juggle our already packed daily routines and plan for the holidays. It’s a recipe for disaster if one doesn’t have a plan.
A holiday planner is a great way to keep everything organized. You can create one with a three ring binder and some tabs. Examples for the labels would be… Invitations, Meals/Groceries, Cards, Gifts, To Do List, Cleaning List, a December calendar page, Party Plans, Guest List, Gifts Received (for writing thank you notes). For the “Gift” section make a page for each person on your list with gift ideas and clothing sizes, favorite colors, etc. Also place a December calendar page in the front of the binder for the “bigger picture” visual. You can write it all out by hand or use a spread sheet. Keep this binder with you at all times especially when you are out shopping. To avoid last minute stress spread the workload over a couple of weeks.
Speaking of shopping: A good time saver is to window shop online which will narrow down your ideas before you head to the stores. Shop when no one else does. Try going to the stores in the morning in the middle of the week. Or if you are pressed, skip the stores and order online! Most online stores this time of the year will gift wrap for free and have free shipping which saves time by eliminating those long lines at the post office. Gift cards are a great idea and cut out the guess work. Try using the free wish list on Amazon.com where the family can pick out items they would like so others can purchase them and have them shipped to the receiver or to the purchaser. This is great for relatives and friends who live out of state.
If you do go to the stores to purchase gifts it’s a good idea to wrap the presents as they come in so there isn’t a mountain to wrap all at once. It helps to have a “wrapping” station too where all the wrapping paper and accessories are located in one place. If your space is limited try using just white paper and decorate with colorful ribbons, glitter, real pieces of evergreen, etc… get creative!!! Keep all the supplies in a Holiday Storage bin which will make finding these items easy next year and can be stored away safely.
Entertaining is at an all time high during this time of the year. Whether it’s a full course meal or a lighter affair I encourage you to create a menu. Once that is accomplished make a list of items that will be needed and place it on the refrigerator with a pen close by or preferably in your holiday binder so you can add to the list when something comes to mind. Take the list with you when you go shopping to eliminate several trips to the store which would cost you precious time in travel and long lines of holiday shoppers. Inevitably there will be those few items that got left off the list but since it’s just a few items you can quickly go through the self check out line.
Here’s a tip for preparing for your overnight guest: Assemble bed kits by taking your flat sheet and fitted sheet and placing them inside the matching pillowcase. Then, when you have to make up the beds for the guests, it will be streamlined and simple.
Take an inventory of the items you have by laying out everything you will need, preferably on your dining room table. Know exactly what you have before purchasing. This way you will be able to see what you are missing and cut down on your purchases. Do you need more votives, spoons, serving platters… this gives you the whole picture. A good idea is to have your entertaining supplies (linens, silverware, decorations, glass ware, candles, etc) in one go-to-place which will again … save you time.
When it comes to sending Holiday cards you might want to give yourself a break and try sending cards at the first of the New Year or another time! If you do send them you can automate your card list by putting the information on a spread sheet and convert that information into printed mailing labels. Makes addressing envelopes child’s play … here’s a chance to delegate. If holiday cards aren’t in the budget there’s always the internet and free e-cards.
With gift wrapping, card addressing, meal preparing, washing clothes, cleaning, or whatever … always remember to delegate. In case you didn’t hear me … I said, “DELEGATE!!” You don’t have to be a one woman show!! Your family and friends are a great resource and can lend a hand if you will allow them to help. Perhaps you can splurge just this once and pay someone to clean before the guests arrive, or hire a professional organizer like myself to do some of the errands and items on the “to do list.” Ever thought about renting dishes? After the party all you have to do is put the dirty dishes in a crate and you’re done! Prepare as much food ahead of time as possible by cooking and freezing dishes a couple of weeks out. When someone offers to bring dessert or beverages, etc … don’t turn them down! This takes one more thing off of your list and again saves you a time.
Plan ahead: Do it in advance is my philosophy. From ordering the turkey to buying the ornament hooks! Set a deadline to have your shopping and wrapping done so you can kick back and enjoy the season. Plan ahead for next season too by shopping after the holidays for discounted items (cards, wrapping paper, decorations, etc) that you used this year!
As a Professional Organizer I see so much stuff vying for space in people’s homes. Make room for the new gifts … purge out the old items that no longer serve you. Perhaps we need to rethink how we approach gift giving. Instead of buying one more item that will end up in a thrift store one day have people on your gift list pick an organization you give to in their names. One example is Heifer International. It’s an organization working to end hunger and poverty around the world by providing livestock and training to struggling communities. Buying gift cards to movies and restaurants that encourage loved ones to spend time together is a gift that requires no space in your home, just your heart. Have a wonderful Holiday Season filled with love and peace. Keep the joy of the season and say good bye to the stress.
Give the gift of Organization this Holiday Season (Gift Certificates Available) Sophia (In Its Place) has been organizing people’s lives for the past ten years from Maine to Asheville. She specializes in Organization, Personal Assisting, Household Management, Staging Homes, Senior Downsizing, Event Planning, and Concierge Services. Sophia offers free consultations and can be contacted at 828-333-3045.