The holidays can be stressful and anxiety-inducing, but a little organization goes a long way. Here are some tips from Joanna Zucker to help streamline the process this year and for years to come.
Make lists of what you need early:
- Thanksgiving meal – Create a folder with copies of your favorite recipes and the accompanying grocery shopping lists. No need to recreate the meal each year (unless you like to of course) - simply pull out the folder with your menu and you're ready to shop.
- Christmas gifts – think about each person on your list from kids, to family, friends, teachers, caregivers, postman, paper delivery boy, cleaning ladies, and so on. Put your list in your PDA or purse so it is readily available to you for reference.
Determine how you like to shop. Are you a binge shopper? The type who just likes to take a day and either hit the local shopping area or outlet mall and tick everything on your list? Or are you the type who likes to pick up things as you see them. Either way always have your list with you (consider putting it on your I Phone, Blackberry, Palm or other device).
In early November sit down and fill out your holiday calendar. Think about: work events, events that you host, children’s school events, “memory making” events (ala going to see the tree get lit in town, viewing Christmas light displays, going to see Santa, Menorah lighting for Hanukkah at the Temple or Church events.)
Once you choose the dates for the events you will host, get your invite ready. Consider using: Electronic invite through Evite or other sites, sending your invite out via email to save postage, some trees and time. I like to buy nice decorated paper ahead of time when I see it on sale (Kinko’s and Staples are great places to look after holidays) and print them at home for those invitations that have to be postal-mailed.
Nothing is better than entertaining friends throughout the holiday season; it brings such warmth and joy into your home. Here are ways to simplify it:
- Pick signature events and stick with them each year, such as: a brunch, cookie exchange, wine and dessert party, stocking making party, and so on.
- Only ask for regrets. It saves you from going through lots of voice mail messages and saves your friends time too.
- Once you pick the event, create a file folder for it with:
- A copy of the invite (with the file name on it so you can find it on your computer)
- The invite list
- The menu
- Your favorite recipes
- Utilize Costco, Sam’s, your favorite grocer and others to “help” you with the food, supplies, and so on:
- Brunch: serve French Toast bake (which can be made the night before and put in oven), Egg casseroles (again can be prepared ahead of time, just put in oven to warm), Bagels, Muffins, fruit, Pastries, Sausage (which is much easier to make than bacon), Coffee and Juice.
- Cookie Exchange: this is a great one. You only have to make 2 dozen cookies. Everyone else brings 2 dozen as well. Lay them all out on a nice display table and then everyone goes home with an assortment. Serve light appetizers (again go to a warehouse club and find some) and ask others to bring drinks (wine, beer, hot cider, coffee).
- Wine & Dessert party: Find some good wine, bake a few of Mrs. Smith’s pies and you have a wonderful, warm evening gathering that requires very little set-up and cooking.
Keep your decorations very organized to make putting them up and taking them down as easy as possible.
- Lights should be organized and not tangled.
- Buy a pre-lit tree or wreaths if you can.
- Keep a box with all the timers together.
- Label your boxes by room or areas like "mantel," "front stair case," "front door," and so on.
- Don’t wait too long to decorate, particularly if you live in an area of the country with cold weather. Nothing is worse than putting up your outside decorations in freezing weather. We like to do it the Sunday after Thanksgiving. This usually gets us the warmest weather and ends a great weekend of family time. You don't have to turn the lights on if you think this is too early.
Go see Santa on a weeknight. The crowds and lines are exponentially longer on the weekend just adding unneeded stress.
Bring hot chocolate with you anytime you are going to an outside event. It keeps the kids warm and saves you money versus buying it there.
Take advantage of events at the places you have membership to. Our Zoo, museum center and local parks all have big holiday events that are free to us as members. Go as many times as you and the kids want.
If you are Christian, consider going to church on Christmas Eve. It saves the worrying about how to fit it in on Christmas day. This is very important when you have young children who need to eat at a certain time, want to open presents, and require assistance to get dressed. The Christmas-morning rituals and preparation to leave the house can be hard to do before noon.
Use online photo services for your holiday cards. (For more picture tips, check out Hurry up and Say Cheese. )
- We always take our picture at the end of our family brunch. It has become a tradition that the last person to leave takes our holiday card picture.
- I use Snapfish , but any photo site has a variety of cards to choose from.
- You can have them printed locally (usually at a drug store) if you are under time pressure.
- Keep a list of people you send it to with addresses on your computer and print labels
- Let the kids help you apply the mailing labels and stamps; they love to help and get involved.
- Consider making an annual gift tradition for your parents, grandparents or siblings.
- Each year I print a photo calendar and give it to my entire nuclear family. They love it because it gives them a synopsis of the kid’s year and they have their calendar ready to go after the New Year.
- You can also make mugs, golf towels, and other items that may work better for your family’s needs.
Joanna Zucker, Associate Marketing Director at Procter & Gamble and mother of three, has launched her first book Millennium Mom .
Millennium Mom  offers invaluable advice to working mothers on how to manage their busy lives. With more women working than ever before Joanna decided to capture her tips in an effort to help women like her. Millennium Mom  is an authentic and inspiring book written by someone on the front line of a dual career household. Joanna opens the doors of her home to her readers allowing them to imagine how they can lead a less stressed and fulfilled life with their family. For more information about Joanna and Millennium Mom, visit us at www.MillenniumMom.com .