If you're like most people, you made a vow last year that you would be organized enough to enjoy the holiday season this year. To give you a head start and help ensure that you really do have a good time, here are a few ways to get organized.
Start early. That means start now, not later. Begin your shopping this week, and even if all you do is get your greeting cards and a few gifts, at least you will be on your way to reducing the stress during the holiday season .
If at all possible, do your shopping during the week, starting when the stores open. Whenever you can, avoid shopping at lunch time, in the evenings and on weekends.
Going to small shops can often make shopping easier, because you get more personalized service, and they usually aren't as crowded.
On the other hand, if you have a large list of family and friends to buy for, larger, diversified department stores may save you driving to the smaller stores and may offer more specials.
Ask hard-to-please people to list on an index card three things they would like to receive as gifts. (If you're seeing these people Thanksgiving, you can do it then.) And don't forget that most stores (including bookstores and record stores) offer gift certificates--always a practical way to let the hard-to-please please themselves.
Whether you get a gift certificate or pick one of the three wishes on the index card, you're bound to save yourself hours of wandering up and down store aisles looking for that ever elusive perfect gift and agonizing over what to buy.
Continue to plan some holiday chores for each of the upcoming weeks, and you'll be able to prevent that yearly last-minute rush that invariably leaves you too tired and cranky to enjoy the festivities.
Order Stamps by Mail
You can now order your stamps by mail, so do that today. Make this the year you actually get your greeting cards out on time by spending one hour per evening, as you watch television or before you go to bed, addressing those cards.
As you do your addressing, put a red check mark next to the name in your address book. Next year, ask one of your youngsters or hire a teen-ager to do the addressing, sending cards to those you've already marked with a red check.
Set up a card table in an out-of-the way corner and put your wrapping supplies next to it. Wrap the gifts as you buy them, and, as soon as the tree goes up, place them under the tree.
In the meantime, no one will get into the gifts because they're already wrapped, and you won't be stuck with a lot of last-minute wrapping.
For out-of-town friends and relatives, you will obviously want to do that shopping first. And true to your promise of last year, you want to mail early. One way to save time waiting in line at the post office is to go to out-of-the-way, small post offices (such as those found in malls), or you can call UPS to come to your house or office to pick up your package.
You must weigh the package for UPS, and it will cost more than regular parcel post, but the time and aggravation you save is sometimes worth it.
Whether you use UPS or the post office, be sure to call in advance to find out exact wrapping requirements, and avoid being told at the post office that you must rewrap your package.
If a Christmas feast is scheduled at your house, it really isn't necessary that you do all of the cooking. When guests offer to bring something, let them! And if they don't offer, ask them if they would like to bring their "specialty." Most people will be flattered and happily do just that.
When guests come into the kitchen to help, don't automatically turn them down. The kitchen is often a great place to congregate and talk while the food is being prepared. So plan ahead some chores that aunts or cousins can do when they offer to help--people really do enjoy it.
Get your entire family involved in the work that goes into holiday preparations; don't be a martyr and try to do everything yourself.
Give each family member a list of three or four things to organize and do as their contribution. They'll think they got off easy if all they see on the paper is three things, and it will save you lots of time.
For example, ask teen-agers to locate the Christmas decorations and bring them into the house, get the big coffee urn out and clean it and help Mom or Dad put the lights up on the house.
Appropriate jobs for the man in the house might be putting the lights up, buying three gifts, buying the tree or bringing the folding chairs and extra table in from the garage.
Have someone else get out the holiday dishes and serving pieces and clean them, and do that extra cleaning that you usually do in anticipation of the friends and family that will be visiting.
If your family is smaller than the number of chores, you might want to hire someone for a day to help out.
When it's time to put up the tree, get the whole family involved or invite friends in to help. But be prepared to be the one who will most likely to have to finish up the tree and put the empty boxes away. You can try to keep friends and family interested by having special snacks on hand and some holiday mood music in the background.
Finally, take five minutes out of every day to reflect on the joys of the holiday season.
If you've spent time in advance getting organized and decking the halls, you'll realize more fully that it really is "the season to be jolly."