It's the most wonderful time of the year, but it can also be one of the most stressful. Expecting out of town guests? Hosting the family for a holiday meal? Traveling out of town? Is your guest bedroom ready and your dining table clear? Are your bags packed? If you said no, then read on.
Shopping for holiday gifts, preparing your house for visitors or getting ready to go away: put it all together and there's so much to do in what seems like so little time. It's important to be organized and prepared when getting ready for the holidays.
My first suggestion: make lists. Gift lists, packing lists, grocery lists and miscellaneous lists. But, (and there's always a but), put them in a notebook and not on several different sticky notes. Take this notebook with you wherever you go, write things down as you think of them and check off the items when you have completed them. There's nothing worse than leaving the grocery store and forgetting the most important ingredient of your meal.
Plan your trips wisely. Give yourself a set amount of time to get the task completed. This will help you focus on what you need to do, and help keep the distractions at bay.
Try to combine trips in one outing. For example, if you have to go to a few different stores on Rockville Pike, list the stores in the order in which they are located. Start at the furthest one and work your way back home. Number the stores in the order you are going and make sure each store has its own list so you can follow it while you're there.
When you get home, if you were gift shopping, try to sort the gifts by recipients in the bags they came in. This will help when wrapping to keep separate groups of gifts together. I did that this year for Hanukkah and it was so nice knowing I only had one particular bag of gifts to wrap on any given day. It was also nice to see each bag disappear quickly. I avoided a scattered, random grouping of gifts where I'd have to remind myself which gift went to whom.
The same process can also be applied to groceries, especially if you are going to more than one place for the holidays and need to bring different foods. Separate the food into custom bags, and put the bags in the fridge or pantry. If you happen to have a second fridge or pantry, even better, just don't forget that you put the other stuff there.
If you are preparing your home for guests, and you aren't ready, make a list. Using you are using a your guest room, take your notebook and do a walk-through. Write down what needs to be done. Bedding needs to be washed? Surfaces need to be cleared? Be specific.
Bring a few bags with you for trash, recycle, donate or relocate. When you have the time to set time aside (say 20 to 30 minutes), follow your list and get started. Having specific things to do and a set amount of time will again help you focus to complete the tasks. If you don't have the time to sit down and "go through" the stuff, at least see what you can remove from the room into one of your bags, and if what's left actually belongs in that room, see if you can neaten it up a little or put it out of the way for your guests. You can get back to it after the holidays.
If you are traveling, make a list of what everyone needs to bring. Put an asterisk next to those things you know you don't have – and make sure to add them to your shopping list. You can be as specific as you like with what you need to bring, just don't forget the most important things – the gifts. I just heard a story about someone traveling for the holidays and as she got on the plane she realized she forgot the gifts. Thankfully they were gift cards, so they can be mailed fairly quickly and inexpensively, but she was so worried about making sure she had everything she needed, she left one of the most important things. To be safe, put the gifts on the travel list as well.
During the holidays, you may be "stuck" with leftover food, more gifts than you expected, gifts you didn't expect, and extra paper dinning ware. Now's the time to get yourself organized for "after the holidays." Have too much food you won't eat in time? Get a bag for donating the unopened items to the local food bank or shelter. Received some gifts you don't need? Consider donating them – or gather them together in a "to be returned" bag. Put the gift receipts (if you have them) either in an envelope or tape them to the gifts directly.
Of course, organizing during and before the holidays doesn't have to get in the way of spending time with family and guest. If you do a little bit each night, then you can enjoy the time afterwards as well.