After the back-to-school rush is over, the next major series of events that follow are those that make up “the holiday season.” The holidays can be overwhelming because of the additional things that go on your “To Do” list, as well as the extra time and money that it takes to make them happen. It is no surprise that stress levels start to soar as the season progresses, but the best way to decrease this stress is to be well prepared. Here are few tips to help you organize for success this holiday season.
Begin with a Reality Check
Ronni Eisenberg is a time management expert and the author of “Organize your Life.” In her book, she reminds readers that the true ingredients for a great holiday are family and friends and having time to enjoy them. In other words, you might be so busy getting ready for the holidays that before you know it, you look up and they are over. For sanity’s sake, there is no reason why you (or anyone in your life) should set unrealistic expectations that end up decreasing your enjoyment of the season.
If you keep Eisenberg’s point in mind, it might be easier to sit back and look at the whole picture in a different way. I suggest you start your holiday organizing with a reflection about what this time of the year means to you and those that you love. What is important and what is not? How do you want to feel when the holidays roll in? Maybe jot down a quick list of all the things that you plan to do throughout this season and decide if they directly affect the way that you or your loved ones experience these special times. You might find that some of the items could possibly be passed on to another member of the family/group or crossed off the list altogether.
Have a family meeting to discuss everyone’s favorite holiday tradition and create time for these in your schedule. Now that you know what truly adds to everyone’s enjoyment each year, plan everything else around those events and politely decline extra invitations that do not fit with the plan that you and your family have created.
Select holiday outfits ahead of time or buy new ones as gifts so that everyone has something nice that fits and is appropriate for the occasion.
Start setting aside a little bit of extra money right now to cover some of the upcoming expenses.
Compile a list of people you are giving gifts to this year and have it with you at all times in case you have a new idea or go shopping.
Keep an eye out all year for the “perfect gift.” If you see something that is affordable, buy it and set it aside for later. Also consider buying a few small gifts that work for emergencies. Some ideas are a nice candle, a bottle of wine, or a basket of assorted snacks.
Take out all of the decorations from past years and see what you still like before buying anything new.
Donate, sell or give away anything that you no longer need or if want to make space for the new things.
It is often very hard to avoid buying the beautiful new holiday items that are in stores each year, but before you make the purchase take a moment to decide whether this is really worth having. Remember that you will probably use it for one of 12 months and will need space to store it for the rest of the time.
Use your gift list to create a budget. Note the estimated amount that you are planning to spend next to each name. Add that column up and make sure the grand total fits within your holiday shopping budget. Re-adjust your initial estimates if necessary.
If your storage space is limited, consider buying more generic items that could work for more than just one occasion. Instead of going with the typical holiday patterns, try solid colored items when you select tablecloths, candles, glassware, serving platters, pitchers, placemats, or decorative towels.
Complete the Task
Oftentimes the end of the holiday season marks a time when you are so tired that you would rather have a root canal than spend more time and energy to carefully take down and store your holiday items. Although this feeling is completely normal, you should try to avoid the urge to rush through the process because a little bit of organization this year will surely pay off when you save time, money and energy getting ready next year.
First, consider taking pictures of your decorations so that you can easily re-create or revamp the look the following year.
When it comes to packing all of your decorations away, store like items in containers that are labeled for each occasion. You can also list some of the main contents in the box so you know which ones to open first.
If you don’t like spending money on special materials for packing your breakables, you can always use old wrapping paper or shredded newspapers for stuffing.
The ideal plan would be to store everything in the same area but if you store things in different sections of the house, label and number the boxes or keep a master list of where everything can be found to avoid misplacing or forgetting items in the future.
In terms of the gift giving, go back to your list from this year and make a note of what you gave each person and how much you spent. Save the list and refer to it in the future for help with budgeting and selecting gifts .
If you find that you do not have the time or energy to accomplish everything on your own, consider hiring a Professional Organizer to help. Find a listing of local experts at www.napo.net.
Above all, the key to holiday planning is to remember the true meaning of the season and make time to create lasting memories with the people that you love.
Miami Springs resident Tatiana Knight is a professional organizer and member of NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers).