Organizing Tips For the Holidays

A blurred monthly planner with a hand drawn evergreen tree in the only in focus block, and the words "Solstice up goes the tree" hand written in green ink. In the foreground, "Organizing Tips For the Holidays" is printed in fancy script.

Now that the weather’s turning, and the time for holiday shenanigans is coming up, it’s probably a good idea to get organized. These tips have helped me, and they may help you, too.

Learn Family Plans ASAP
This one can be especially tricky, since many families aren’t very big on making plans. My family can be very “Just show up whenever”, so it can make plans a bit difficult to stick to, but it always works out somehow.

It’s a little easier getting an idea of when out of town family will be in the area, though, because there’s more planning that goes into getting from point A to point B. By having a firm idea of knowing where who will be when, it’ll be easier to get an idea of how to structure your days during that hectic time of year.

Make a (Flexible) Schedule
One of the trickiest parts of the holidays is organizing time itself.

My husband and I hit both of our families on the holidays. We prefer to have different days, but usually, we spend a morning in one place and the evening in another. We have hosted, before, which comes with its own set of challenges, but we didn’t have to do the traveling.

Before you hit the road, though, you still need to prepare. Are you bringing a dish to share? Will gifts be exchanged? If you’re in an area like Minnesota, what’s the weather going to be like? Are there any road closures?

Setting time aside to shop, cook, clean and/or craft will help ensure you’ll get everything done, and hopefully encourage peaceful, fun gatherings. Just remember schedules rarely maintain their original shape when they meet other people or winter weather. By keeping a degree of flexibility, you’ll still have some wiggle room for spontaneity and adjustment.

And don’t forget to schedule downtime for yourself, if you need it! I’m an introvert, so I need time alone to recharge in order to enjoy the loved ones in my life. Self-care is just as important as caring for others.


Lists, Lists Galore
I’m a big fan of lists. Considering my working memory is spotty at best, I need to write everything down if I’m going to get anything done. For the holidays, I make three lists:

  • Card/letter recipients
  • Gift recipients
  • Deadlines for home and work

I try to send out cards and holiday letters every year, but that doesn’t always happen. I find that making a list early on helps me have everything prepared before Thanksgiving (for fellow US citizens), and ready to send out.

Since I make most of my gifts, it’s always handy to know beforehand what to make and what to buy. It gives me time to actually make what needs to be made and to find sales for things I need to buy.

I work from home now, so deadlines are a part of every day life, but when I worked outside of the house, it was still immensely helpful to know due dates as far ahead of time as possible. Once day-to-day obligations are out of the way, it’s much easier to accomplish what you want to get done for the holidays.

A closeup of assorted non denominational holiday cards

Designate a “Holiday Area”
I don’t mean to restrict your decorating to only one area of your living space, in this point. I mean to allot a room, closet or area to holiday prep materials.

I like to set aside all of the materials I’ll use for making gifts aside, and move wrapping paper to the same area for later use. By keeping the physical things you need in one spot, instead of scattering it throughout your home, you’ll be able to focus more fully on prep when you want to do it, and set it aside when you need to take care of other tasks.

Of course, hiding gifts from excited kids or spouses can make this point trickier. In that case, good luck in finding good places for the surprises.

Getting organized takes effort in the beginning, but once things get moving, you’ll find that investing that extra energy early on may save you frustration later.

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