I LOOOOOVE lists. I get it from my mother. ;) It's a family trait. Lists and schedules... I'll tell you why I love them. For some people it increases the stress of an event. For me, it eliminates it, and gives me another day to have fun. I love thinking about the upcoming holidays, imagining what they'll be like, remembering the tastes, smells... the way the Christmas lights glow... And for me, all of this is aided by making a list and/or a schedule. I take a half hour or so and just think about everything that is coming up and allow myself to get really excited as I write down what I need to do to get it all done. For me, planning an event is probably more fun than doing it, and lasts a whole lot longer!
These tips actually don't come all from me, they come from this lady that came to a Relief Society meeting about "Cut the Crazy Out of Christmas." I really liked her idea. I don't do mine in a binder, though (although I should). I do mine on an Excel spreadsheet, because I never lose my laptop. I do lose everything else. :D
THE CHRISTMAS PLANNING BINDER
A few months before Christmas, start preparing your binder. This lady had a big fat binder that she had worked hard on one year with laminating and whatnot so that it would be really durable. She uses the same thing every year, just updates it. Here's the sections of the binder:
1) A calendar of AT LEAST November, December, and January. Hopefully by now the kids have brought home their curriculum from school, and you can see when the concerts are, classroom parties... also check church, extracurricular activities, work schedules, etc. to make sure you can plan in all those parties and things you are "obligated" to attend. Write them all in the calendar. If you can see right now that something is going to overlap, make the decision NOW on what is more important, or how you're going to attend it, and write it in. (I am still somewhat miffed about that time in seventh grade that my parents went to my brother's concert instead of mine, and whoever was in charge of the video camera mixed up the on and off and ended up recording a bunch of clapping and none of my songs...) Then tell whatever needs to be cut, that it's cut. Also make sure you write in if you're going to be traveling, or if someone is coming to visit. If so, add a day for packing or a day for prepping the house... whatever you need.
Next, you plan in a couple of project days. A day for cooking holiday goodies. Schedule at least one day for shopping. Finally, and most importantly, pick a day a week for just family quiet time. Whatever is relaxing for you, schedule it in! Two really important things for me are my family's new tradition of looking at Christmas lights, complete with a store-bought package of cookies that has a note attached: "You're our family's pick for Best Christmas Light Display in town!" (to be chosen by the kids and delivered anonymously... so fun...)... AND a temple trip. Whatever traditions are important to you, make sure you put them in, and take some time just to have a quiet evening in December. Trust me, you will be so glad you did. Those quiet nights can do wonders to rejuvenate and de-stress!
2) Gift list. Who do you need to give to? Who do you want to give to? What are you giving? Are there homemade gifts you want to do? Deciding this early will help get your early projects underway and also eliminate those things that are not important. My #1 problem with this list is that I ALWAYS lose my mind entirely the week before Christmas and end up buying a whole bunch of unnecessary gifts. Waste of money. So plan carefully. Budget if you need to, whatever works best for you.
3) Receipt pocket. A pencil bag, zip-lock bag, or just a plain envelope works really well to keep all those shopping receipts. It is a very good idea to hold on to those, and if you keep it with your binder, you'll never lose them. Plus, if your shopping list is in the binder, you can just take the binder with you to the store, check off the things you need to purchase, and then put the receipt in when you're done. Voila! Budget + organization = happy brain & wallet!
4) Decorations lists & pictures, if desired. The lady who told me about this wondrous binder had pictures of all her decorations in the places they went. She said once she decorated a place the way she really really liked it, she took a picture. She would also store the items according to location, not type. (The mantlepiece decor...outside lights...Christmas Tree... etc.) Then she would keep a picture in her binder as well as the box of decorations. She could hand the picture and the box to a husband or a kid and they can do it themselves (assuming they're old enough), and it comes out just the way she likes it. SO Smart!
5) Christmas card list. Now is a really good time of year to update addresses if you need them. Imagine how nice it would be to have an updated list ready to roll come the first week of December!
6) Recipes. I feel very fortunate to have a wonderful family cookbook that contains the majority of my favorite recipes. But nearly every year I try something new... sometimes with great success, others not so much. Having one place where you keep all your holiday recipes is awesome. You can easily add the successful recipe and pull out the failures.
I am certain there is more I am forgetting. If any of you have good ideas for what to put in such a binder, or what kind of planning you like to do before the holidays roll around, I would love to hear it! These "Holiday Prep" posts are to help ME remember everything I need to do, and hopefully help someone else too. They're not to be stressful, just fun. So let's share the wealth of all our combined knowledge! I'd love to hear your tips.