Let’s talk about holiday organizing

christmas table

image credit: shutterstock

Last week I started my Christmas preparations by getting my gift wrap organizer stocked and ready and doing an inventory on my gift closet.  I try to get done whatever I can early so there is less to do in December except of course the eating and the singing but especially the eating.

But then I got to thinking about you folks in the US with TWO upcoming holidays so close together.  I can’t imagine how that all works out organizationally (don’t you just love that word?).  Here in Canada we enjoyed our Thanksgiving back in October so it’s out of the way and I can focus on Christmas all of November.  But for those in the US, your Thanksgiving and Christmas are so close together, one right after the other. Do you typically wait for Thanksgiving to be over before you start even thinking about Christmas plans or do the two just overlap somehow?  Do tell!

So as I’m making a list of posts I could do that could possibly help everyone stay organized this holiday season I want to be sensitive to your needs and what will be most helpful to you.  Would you take a few minutes to tell me what areas you struggle with the most when it comes to getting and staying organized for the holidays?  Is it the cooking, the cleaning, the decorating, the gifts, the parties, the baking, the activities, the scheduling, the cards?  Whew I’m exhausted just writing it all out.

I would like to address these concerns in upcoming posts where I can and perhaps share some incredible resources from around the web.  There are some pretty great ones out there that I can’t wait to tell you about.  No use reinventing the wheel as they say.  Actually who is “they” that says this anyway?  I have no idea but well you know what I mean.

For my family we keep things pretty simple at this time of the year.  Gone are the days of trying to do it all.  I gave that up long ago.  Each year I have to make some tough decisions about what we can and can’t do and to be honest I say no a lot and it means some people aren’t happy with me.  BUT my family is my first priority.  My two oldest are teenagers now and I’m constantly looking at them wondering where did the time go?  Time goes so fast and I want these years with them at home to be special.  But special doesn’t have to mean running here there and everywhere or spending large amounts of cash either.  For us it simply means time together hanging out, enjoying each others’ company.  Relaxing and eating (we must not forget the eating).  This is what is most important to us.  Knowing this bring so much clarity to the holiday decisions I have to make each year.

This of course will look different for everyone, but knowing what your priorities are ahead of time will make a huge difference in the things you say yes and no to each year. So take a few moments to think about what makes you smile during the holiday season, what brings you the most joy.  Ask your family the same thing.   Weed out the things that don’t contribute to that.  Negotiate and compromise.  For instance, if everyone loves a whole house decked out for the holidays but every one mumbles and grumbles when it comes to helping take it all down then maybe it means pulling back on some of the decor.  We only decorate the living room in our house so it’s pretty easy to put up and take down and everyone helps.  Negotiate and compromise.

And sometimes we just want to do it all because well it’s the holidays and there is so much fun to be had…the eating, the parties, the decorating (if that’s what floats your boat), the singing, etc.  Sometimes the decisions to be made are HARD because we want to do it all and we forget that we are only human and can only do so much.  We think we’ll be able to fit one more thing in, do one more thing, bake one more thing, attend one more function, until we’re smack dab in the middle of it all crying uncle.

Everything we say yes to requires something from us so don’t forget to factor all of it in.

Do we need one more list or do we need to do one less thing?

Anyway just some thoughts for you to swirl around this Wednesday.  Would love to know what you think.


Filed under: Holidays


29 Responses to Let’s talk about holiday organizing

  1. 1
    Mandy (@DailyCupOfGrace) says

    Yes, having 2 holidays close is stressful, but if we stay organized it can be done. Oh, and I love the word “organizationally” too! *GRIN*

    I want to know more about organizing gifts while waiting to give them! I hate the build up of clutter!

    • 1.1
      Laura says

      I hate that clutter too, I’ve got a great solution!! Coming soon 🙂

  2. 2
    Carol says

    I am originally from Canada, so it was an adjustment for my family to have Thanksgiving in November. Since we are unable to visit our family on Thanksgiving, our big excitment is Black Friday shopping. That is when I get ideas for my two older boys and we have fun shopping. My concerns are 1) making sure that we control our spending for Christmas. It’s easy to get into the buying mood. 2) Buying gifts that I can travel back to Canada with.

    Does anyone else have the problem at work where gifts are exchanged with several coworkers. I wanted to give a gift to a child instead of exchanging with my coworkers.

  3. 3
    Danielle says

    I usually am a one holiday at a time person. In the past, I didn’t put up Christmas decorations or think about presents (except for the ones I already had!) until after Thanksgiving. Then I was scrambling last minute to get presents and get decorations up that I didn’t really get to enjoy the holiday as much or put up as many decorations. This year, I think that I am going to break my rule and slowly put up Christmas decorations throughout November when I find the time. I have already thought about and made present lists!

    P.S. Your blog has really inspired me to declutter my house. It is constantly a work in progress but coming along slowly. I have two young children that slow me down (and help me accumulate clutter!), but I just need to remember that it’s not a race. Thanks for all your tips!

    • 3.1
      Aimee says

      I love this idea of slowly doing it. I am having surgery right after Thanksgiving, but I didn’t want Christmas up all of November, but if I don’t get it up before surgery it is likely not to get done.

  4. 4
    Fonda says

    I envision a Christmas with a beautifully laid table and gifts with handmade bows. My reality is paper plates and stick on bows that stay on half the packages. I would be happy with a place somewhere in the middle. This year I want to schedule some ‘down time’ to enjoy a movie with the family or to gather for game night instead of rushing out of the office to shop every evening just to cover all my lists. Stressing me out just thinking about it!

    • 4.1
      Correna says

      I agree here, I would like it to slow down a bit too instead of trying to do everything at once.

  5. 5
    Tragic Sandwich says

    Oh, it’s always the cleaning! If I can get things to be reasonably orderly, I can manage the cooking pretty well. We don’t do tons of holiday decorating, and our Christmas tree ornaments are pretty well organized. But cleaning is tough.

  6. 6
    mel says

    For me, it’s the cleaning (and the insomnia that plagues me this time of year) that leaves me so burned out that it takes all the fun out of decorating.

  7. 7
    Tammy says

    For me, its the hiding and wrapping of gifts before the holiday arrives. Presents do not appear under our tree until christmas eve/morning and with 4 kids aged 10 – 2, there’s a bunch to hide and sort and wrap. We do not have access to our attic space, and my kids play in the basement. I’ve taken to emptying out buckets of off-season, off-size clothing into bags that I can stash someplace to hide the gifts in the boxes in the basement.

    Also, we are FOREVER losing the tape and scissors… remember, 4 kids under 11. 🙂

  8. 8
    Aimee says

    My shopping is almost done for this year. I am having surgery right after Thanksgiving and we do most of our shopping online, so if I don’t get it ordered now it won’t get here in time. I am usually a “one holiday at a time” kind of girl, but who says pine garlands aren’t Thanksgiving-ish. My foes are trying to get my simple menu all out at the same time – it really is simple, but it seems to take forever. And #2 , although it is silly, keeping some kind of sane organization while the presents are being opened. No joke. Every year we lose something, the package opener (knife, scissors, etc get thrown away with the package), the presents (we open them ooh and awe, and somehow never see them again – like a tool set for my hubby a few years past, the batteries.

  9. 9
    Sarah says

    Honestly, I don’t see how you guys handle two big parties in October! I mean, here we have to prepare for the Halloween carnival, trunk or treating, and get the kids all dressed up for school celebrations to boot. To have to deal with a full out dinner as well in October would just about kill me, I think. Perhaps that’s why there’s two months until the next big holiday for Canadians. BTW-My sister lives in Victoria and her family insists on two Thanksgivings: the traditional Canadian and a smaller traditional American one in November. She has mastered the art of preparing most in advance and utilizing a crock-pot to keep things warm. That girl is a genius.
    Also, I refuse to go shopping in December. It’s a nightmare just trying not to hit somebody with your cart as you go down the aisle. I have already picked up the stocking goodies as they were out before Halloween had been laid to rest, and I ordered the presents through the internet. All of it had free shipping. The rest will be home-made gifts for my siblings and parents as per our family’s tradition. I think everyone is getting home-made raspberry rhubarb jam I made a few weeks ago and a loaf of home-made bread. Whew, luckily my husband put up the Christmas lights for Halloween and it’ll take about 10 minutes to switch out my Fall decor for winter (we chose white lights because they would have a longer seasonal life-time). We’re the type that leaves them up until February so I won’t even worry about them til then. Oh, the things we do to celebrate the seasons! I think I need a nap now.

  10. 10
    Jill Robson says

    I am in Canada so Thanksgiving was last month. We have just stepped over the last hurdle before Christmas, my sons birthday, which was last weekend.
    We usally keep gifts in our closet, because my son never goes in there. I do have to re arrange my wrapping paper and gift bags this year, and get photos and cards reading for overseas posting.
    I really hate to shop so christmas shopping is usually done in one day. We drop my son off with his Grandparents and we go to town.( with much needed coffee breaks).
    Laura we also only decorate the main floor so clean up after christmas is easy, and with a lively 2 yr old border collie and a cat we haven’t put up a tree the last 2 years.
    We usually put up outside lights around this time of year before the snow flies.
    I too am really looking forward to the eating.

  11. 11
    Becky L says

    Oh dear me, yes Christmas is coming and I don’t like it to appear so soon right after hallowe’en in the stores. For me I love to bake and decorate. i usually put up the tree the Sunday after Thanksgiving so we have a few weeks to enjoy it. I get my husband to help me by putting up the tree and we decorate it together. I find it hard to stay up with cleaning, all year actually. I get sorta lazy but gotta stop doing that. Clutter is tops on getting rid of, always! (I am working on that for thanksgiving since I need the table I’m using for my computer….it’s a mess!) I feel like I want to dump it all! HA!

  12. 13
    Kari says

    You think having Thanksgiving and Christmas back to back is hard….add in a daughter who was born 5 days BEFORE Thanksgiving and a son who was born 5 days BEFORE Christmas!!! So we have 4 major events around here in two months! Yeah, I pretty much go crazy! With 4 kids the hardest thing for me is keeping the house clean enough so that I’m not doing a major cleaning EVERYDAY!! Especially this year since we’ll be hosting my brother and his partner for 6 days around Christmas and we are hosting Christmas for my husband’s family on Christmas Eve and my husband works that day until 8:30pm so I’ll be getting everything ready pretty much by myself!!! Whew! I’m tired just writing all this out! SO I guess what I’m taking forever to say is that I can’t wait to read your tips on having an organized and stress free holiday season! lol

  13. 14
    Melissa says

    My oldest turned 10 yesterday, so I try not to jump into Christmas too early. Once we get through her birthday party on Saturday I have big plans to get all Christmas stuff taken care of before December 1. I think I can get close. I have great ideas for everyone so far this year and we’ve already made grandparent gifts at the paint-your-own-pottery place, which I love. Usually we get our real tree after Thanksgiving sometime and do the shopping right up until the end, but this year I’m determined not to be that last minute person. Lately it feels like pretty much everything is up to me, so I’m going to do it my way on my time this year. I’m excited. I’ve also decided to wrap all gifts in brown paper and use washi tape to decorate them. I’m way too excited about that. We’ll have Thanksgiving twice probably, with each side of the family, and I have no idea how Christmas will work out, but everyone is now in town with us, so it should be awesome.

  14. 15
    Tracy says

    A lot of people in the US wait till after Thanksgiving to start any xmas plans (hence black friday) and won’t play Christmas music until then. For me, it’s just one big marathon of Holidays- they kind of go together.

  15. 16
    Jean says

    We have “Thanksmas” with my parents & siblings, so the bulk my holiday buying & gift-giving will be over in a few weeks. You would think that would give me LOADS of time to do some baking & get Christmas cards done, right? WRONG! This is where I need help… 🙂

  16. 17
    Elizabeth in SC says

    I like to write down ideas for Christmas in October. I look at my décor and decide where I will put wreaths, lights, and tree, then I write down a plan about the outdoor décor. I don’t put EVERYTHING up every year, I pick and choose based on what “theme” I may want to have. This year, I want to do an “Old-Fashioned” Christmas, so I will use décor that will reflect a simpler Christmas, one that fits the budget and one where we have fun as a family. I will use décor that I already have to accomplish this and I might just buy one or two new things. Then on the week-end following Thanksgiving, I do my outdoor décor first and then slowly add the indoor decorations. I like to do a little at a time so I’m not overwhelmed
    As far as gifts, I have teens and 20 yr-olds, so I like to give them gift cards and maybe one item they REALLY want. I don’t spend a great deal.
    My ideal Christmas is when we do things together throughout the month of Dec. and not just on Christmas. We clear all the calendar by the 15th and spend time just with family. Usually our church Christmas party is in early Dec. so it works out. One of my sons’ birthday is Dec. 19 and I will allow friends over for that and I do make it a point to give him gifts chosen for his birthday. I never combine Christmas and birthday with him, as he deserves to celebrate his day.
    Baking is simplified. I just do fudge and maybe 2 kinds of cookies, then I freeze them. When I want to give a plate of cookies and fudge to neighbors ,or someone who drops by, then I have them on hand.
    I need the most help with finding time to cook for the everyday meals in December. I will lose track of time, or I’ll be too tired to cook and we go out way too much for fast food….ideas on how to accomplish this would be appreciated!

  17. 18
    Lynne B says

    We don’t do a lot of Thanksgiving decorating but usually do gather with family (Navy family but luckily live close to in-laws & sister-in-law at this duty station) over great food. We are expecting our newest addition any time after Thanksgiving so my husband has taken on our part of the family’s food prep (mainly the turkey) with my 8 y.o.’s help. Her birthday is Dec 6th so we usually decorate for Christmas after that with some good purple (Advent) decorations before then. A great tradition that helps with the close holidays and birthdays is to celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas which unknown to the stores is actually _AFTER_ Christmas. We put away the decorations after Ephipany just in time for my son’s birthday.
    Regarding your question, especially in years like this when expecting a newborn, I try to do as much gift shopping throughout the year but then can’t find or forget where things are by Christmas. I’m trying to do better using a digital OneNote binder but fear writing in code is going to sink me by the time we reach the holidays. Any suggestions that have worked for you or your readers about location of gifts and recording ideas for gifts that enable me to keep them a surprise would be welcomed.

  18. 19
    Denise says

    I have to “confess”… I’ve already started my Christmas cards! I host Thanksgiving and know that the next couple of weeks will get busier and busier. I don’t stress myself out about cards like I have in the past about getting that perfect Christmas-y picture. I receive cards from others who were on their summer vacation, so I thought “why not”? I found a picture of my boys that I really liked and ordered them at the warehouse store, got them last week when it wasn’t rushed and chaotic. Today I just stamped my address on them. Next I want to take my time and address them to the ones I know I want to send them to. That way, after Thanksgiving is done and the Christmas hustling begins, I’m ready to pop them in the mail!

  19. 20
    Leann says

    I have a planning binder I use, we average 1-2 big events a month with birthday parties and holidays. So I plan ahead, I look for Christmas presents all year long and we figure out gift exchanges in summer at our family reunions so I can get spread the shopping out and buy 1/6 of the gifts per month starting in June. That way by December I only have the last minute gifts/perishable gifts left to buy. This is a lot easier for me to budget also. I try (emphasis on TRY) to get my wrapping done early but always end up staying up super late Christmas eve to wrap all the presents. My two biggest struggles are wrapping and de-cluttering my children’s toys. With my children only being 15 months apart (oldest just turning 2 in September) I can never seem to get ride of enough toys.

  20. 21
    Damian says

    My mother-in-law loves to buy gifts throughout the year and often stashes them away in boxes, bins, and pretty much where ever she can find a place. Heck, today she even found a gift for my niece that was to be given in 2005! She obviously needs some organizational structure as many of us do.

  21. 22
    AJ Thomas says

    I usually start in Sept. God gave me my sweet bundle of joy about 1.5 week after Thanksgiving. So, I try to have all presents bought before thanksgiving so that I can decide what she gets for Christmas and what is for birthday and I stay out of the stores from Thanksgiving until the New Year except where necessary (I need food). I try to have Christmas cards done before Thanksgiving, so I can focus on birthday party. Once that’s done, we put our tree and focus on Jesus.

  22. 23
    pam says

    I had to giggle when I read the comment about tape. I can relate; a few years ago I started buying extra tape year round; and each of my girls get a personalized roll of scotch tape in their stockings 🙂 (tape is the best 33 cent toy out there!!)

    I plan ahead for buying gifts … lists of ideas, places where the sales are best, budget, etc. I buy little things throughout the year, but the bulk of buying is on black friday. (online)

    Decor is a family affair and we make it fun!

  23. 24
    Laurie says

    Instead of hitting the stores the day after Thanksgiving as so many do, I make that my decorating day. We get the tree up and decorated and get out other decorations. It puts me in the Christmas spirit and ready to spend the rest of December getting ready!

  24. 25
    kalynbrooke | Creative Savings says

    Oh goodness, I already feel like I’m saying Yes to too many social functions. Need to step back and regroup!

  25. 26
    Mariele says

    Hello! If you believe it is stressful for the Nordic countries do not want to know what it is here that not only ends one calendar year also ends one year of school and work. Prom, final exams, entrance exams to high school or college. Addition and after the end of the year practically last drink we left for our vacation destination. The celebrations are prepared along with the suitcases, hotel reservations and tickets! Uff! What stress!


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