Christmas Sanity Protection Program

Tame the chaos of the holiday season and relax into December with this easy-to-follow holiday countdown. If you follow this plan, the packages will be wrapped and cards will be sent by the first week of December, leaving tons of time for winter fun.

Everything in Perspective

This holiday season, keep the focus where it should be: spending time with family and friends. Organization and sticking to the time line is the key, but remember this is a tool to decrease stress not increase anxiety. So assess its priorities against your own and make adjustments according to your family's favorite traditions, your time availability, travel plans, and budget.

Week 1: Halloween Week is for Laying the Foundation
  • Clean and inventory your holiday work spaces; make a place for gift wrapping, holiday card writing, food storage and preparation. Making space for these tasks will help you stay in control of the projects.
  • Create a holiday planner using a 3-ring binder, a notebook, or a computer file. Label sections: Calendar, Budget, Holiday Card, Gift List, Recipes/Meal Plans, Decorations, and Notes/Ideas. This will be a great resource to reflect on and modify year to year.
  • Finalize your budget for the holidays; include holiday cards, gifts, decorating, and entertaining.
  • As you make meals through the week, make doubles of dinners that will freeze and reheat well for use during busy holiday times.
  • Order your turkey and other specialty items for Thanksgiving.
  • Update and finalize your holiday card list.

Week 2: Planning and Organizing
    Create a gift list, estimating prices to make sure you stay on budget. (Don’t forget wrapping and shipping add cost to each gift!) Divide the list into four categories:
    1. Gifts to be shipped
    2. Big-ticket or time-consuming giftsGifts to be hand delivered
    3. Easy pick-ups

  • Talk with your family about your holiday card; choose a picture, theme, or style.
  • Order or purchase supplies. If sending a letter, write a first draft and send it around the family for editing and revisions.
  • Take inventory of your holiday decorations. Does anything need to be replaced or updated?
  • Clean out closets and less used spaces like guest rooms.
  • Freeze two extra meals and make a few batches of cookie dough for the freezer.

Week 3: General Preparation
  • Start planning menus for holiday feasts and collect recipes. Make preparation schedules and grocery lists.
  • Begin working on the first group of gifts and pick up wrapping and packing supplies as needed. Pack gifts that are ready to ship, print labels and postage.
  • Ship any gifts going internationally.
  • Deep clean and organize high traffic areas.
  • Finalize the holiday card list and print labels or address envelopes. Finish and print letter, if using.

Week 4: Focus on Thanksgiving
  • Focus on preparing for Thanksgiving. Grocery shop early in the week and make as many dishes ahead of time as possible.
  • Polish silver, clean serving ware and china, if needed. Label each serving piece with its dish and place serving utensil with it. This will help others help you on the big day.
  • Use frozen meals on Tuesday and Wednesday to save time.
  • Relax and enjoy time with family and friends!
  • Complete any online ordering and catalog shopping for holiday gifts.
  • Make the best of Thanksgiving sales by shopping for big-ticket gifts.
  • After Thanksgiving, pack away your autumn decorations and bring out the holidays.

Week 5: Ship Shape
  • Go over gift list and make sure everything but the easy pick-ups has been completed. If you were planning on making any gifts that are not yet done or started, make alternate plans and save that idea for another time.
  • Prepare and freeze final batches of cookie dough and a few more meals.
  • Plan a holiday card production party: sign, fold, seal, and stamp. Making it a family project will help it move along faster! Plan a great prize for completing the project.
  • Finish decorating inside the house, make room for the tree!
  • Order turkey, goose, ham or other specialty foods.
  • Drop off holiday outfits to the cleaners; make any clothing purchases necessary to make it through the season.
  • Stock up on bulk presents, for hostess gifts and just in case you forgot anyone. Wine, candles, serving ware, or fine oils and jams make thoughtful and easy gifts.

Week 6: Finish the Work and Prepare to Celebrate!
  • Do any deep cleaning or organizing that still needs to be done before the holidays. The rest of the month will just be for light cleaning and finishing touches.
  • Pack and prepare any gifts for domestic shipping.
  • Plan a family outing to pick up a tree and bring it home to decorate. You're so organized at this point, you can throw a tree-trimming party!
  • Begin to prepare any holiday foods that can be made ahead and frozen.
  • Hand-deliver gifts to teachers, service workers, colleagues, and others to whom you want to show your appreciation.
  • Finish any remaining shopping and gift wrapping.
  • Send holiday cards.

Now, enjoy the rest of December! Ski, party, pamper yourself, bake cookies at a leisurely pace, and use frozen meals to take stress off of busy days. Just have fun and give yourself the time and the energy to be filled with the spirit of the season.

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