Imagine heading into December feeling on top of all your tasks - from present buying, card writing, house cleaning and calendar planning.
Imagine spending the month of December focusing instead on the joy of Christmas with your family - decorating the tree, visiting the neighbourhood lights, attending parties and get-togethers, and enjoying your family's unique Christmas traditions.
With a little over 1 month til Christmas, now is the perfect time to start planning and getting organised so the chaos and stress of the busy season doesn't completely take over your life. Who's with me?
1 | Use a planner
A Christmas planner is a must for getting prepared for the busy season. Whether you make one yourself, or use a printable copy (like the one I've created for you that's all yours by clicking on the button below!), they're simple to put together but will save you a heap of time and energy. You'll want checklists for gift buying, ideas for making and baking, grocery shopping, budgeting, and holiday to-do's. A planner really is the best way to stay organised for December!
2 | Set a budget
It's all good and well to create lists of all things you'd like to buy for Christmas - be it home decorations, food, gifts - but creating a definitive budget will prevent the spending from getting out of control. All those extra gifts, parties and eating out can really add up!
Setting aside a little money each month throughout the year is a great habit to get into, so you're prepared for some extra spending #2017goals. Setting a budget for each different category, as well as the amount you'll be spending on each person, will also help. However you approach it, it's a good ideas to have a set budget going into Christmas so you can keep track of your spending.
3 | Aim to get your shopping done before December
I've yet to achieve this one, but this year my aim is to completely stay out of the shops in December, and get the majority of my shopping done in November. Not only will you avoid the crowds, packed carparks and frantic atmosphere of shoppers in a rush, you'll be feeling a lot more relaxed with this major task out of the way.
If you can't quite manage to physically get to the shops, online shopping is a great idea, with many stores offering free shipping. However, don't leave this to the last minute or you'll run the risk of gifts not arriving on time! This includes gifts for friends and family overseas - get the presents shipped off in plenty of time, or organise for vouchers or gifts to be delivered from the specific region to further cut down on costs.
4 | Set up a gift-wrapping station
A gift wrapping station - whether it's the full kit and kaboodle like mine; or a simple basket or box filled with wrapping paper, scissors, tape, pens and ribbon - is a big time and effort saver as you'll have everything you need on hand.
Have a look now through your wrapping paper stash to see if you have enough for this Christmas - chances are you have plenty to get you through and can avoid any unnecessary cost of purchasing more. If you're feeling crafty, decorated brown wrapping paper, or paper created and decorated by your children, is a nice touch.
Wrap your presents as you buy them and you'll be well ahead of the pack!
5 | Get ahead with your card writing
Purchase, print or make your cards in advance to save yourself last minute scrambling. Whether you have to send loads of cards to friends and family, or just a few to immediate family and close friends, aim to write a few cards each day throughout November.
6 | Start on the handmade gifts
Homemade presents are always appreciated as they show that bit of extra thought and effort, particularly those made by children!
When it comes to handmade gifts, aim to keep it simple but thoughtful. There are plenty of ideas on Pinterest for easy handmade gifts that would be perfect for teachers, neighbours and grandparents. Things like photo books, framed photos, artwork or baked goods can be made by the kiddies, while a donation to charity, or the promise of an experience such as an evening out, tickets to a concert or a special day, will always be well received.
7 | Get your Christmas decorations organised
If you did a good job of packing up your decorations last year (see how I go about this process here), they should be easy enough to pull out and start decorating - I can't wait to put our tree up this year in our new living space!
However, if the decorations were all just thrown in a tub as you tried to clear away Christmas as quickly as possible (been there!), you might need to do a bit of sorting and organising first to work out which decorations you'll be using this year and which ones you can pack away.
Whether you stick with your exisiting decorations, or add in a few new ones, try to pick a colour scheme to make the whole house look cohesive. Changing your theme is easy enough, you could just leave one colour out of your regular colour scheme and add in a new one. Concentrate on decorating just the rooms that will be seen over the Christmas period and try to have fun with it! Decorating the tree and house can be a lovely and creative family tradition if you've got everything you need ready to go.
PSST.... Have you grabbed your free planner yet? There's 11 pages of organising goodness in there to keep you on track this Christmas!
8 | Plan and create your Advent Calendar
If you're going to do an Advent Calendar for your kids this year, you'll need to get it organised before December 1st! For the last few years in our home, we've focused on a fun new Christmas activity each day rather than treats. It's made the whole month more fun and exciting - nothing like the anticipation of watching your kids opening a new card each morning!
I created activity cards for my kids' Advent calendar - there are 70 to choose from so you can schedule the bigger activities (such as visiting Santa, seeing the lights) on your less busy days, and the easier ones (sharing a Christmas story, writing a letter to Santa) on the busy days! Lots of family fun. (You can get the your Christmas activity cards right here).
9 | Bake ahead
Wanting to create some baked goods for your friends and family this year? Make a start on it now while you've got the time! Baked cookies and biscuits will keep in the freezer for up to 3 to 4 weeks. Make sure they are cooled completely and wrapped either in cling film or stored in a plastic container (separate layers with greaseproof paper).
Most raw biscuit and cookie doughs can be kept frozen for up to 4 to 6 weeks. They are easiest to freeze in a log that you can cut slices off and bake from frozen. The following cookie doughs with lots of butter and fat will freeze well:
- Gingerbread biscuits
- Chocolate chip cookies
- Butter biscuits
- Peanut butter cookies
10 | Start cleaning the house
Try not to leave all your house cleaning to the last minute - instead aim to do a bit at a time over the next 6 weeks. Schedule a weekly job into your calendar, and attend to any little repair jobs around the house, to save stress and energy in the final week of Christmas. If you don't have time, you might consider hiring a one-off cleaning service.
11 | Declutter your home
December is also the perfect time to do some decluttering! Get your children to sort their toys before Christmas (see how I do it here), and donate unwanted toys and clothes to those less fortunate. Not only will it get your kids thinking about how others might be spending their Christmas, but having decluttered spaces will undoubtedly clear the way for all the new gifts.
12 | Menu plan
Whether you're having a casual get-together with immediate family, or a traditional Christmas Day lunch or dinner, it pays to be prepared with the meal plan. Try to stick to things you know how to prepare, rather than trying something new and complicated. Take the time now to start thinking about what you'll serve. Consider portion size and how many people you're catering for. You might even ask people to bring a dish to cut down on the amount of work you have to do!
It's also a great idea to have a meal plan for the month of December - stick to easy meals for those busy nights, such as tacos, pasta, homemade pizzas, bakes, eggs etc.
13 | Online shop for groceries
Nothing is worse than having to forge your way through a packed supermarket during those last weeks of December. Stick to online shopping for your groceries (and presents!) and all you need to worry about is being home for the delivery. Winning!
14 | Get your calendar sorted
If you feel stressed even thinking about all the events coming up in December, sit down with your calendar and write things out. Sometimes just doing this allows you to focus on one day at a time, rather than stressing about all that lies ahead.
Books nights out with friends and family in advance to avoid struggling to find a date that suits everyone. If you've got traditional activities you like to do with your family, such as when you'll get the tree, when you'll see the lights... perhaps even a date night (!), then schedule these events into your calendar.
If you've got too many things on and are feeling overwhelmed, don't be afraid to say no. There's always the rest of the year to catch up with everyone!!
15 | Plan for some down time
Christmas can be overwhelming, but especially so for children as they can get over excited by all the different events. It's ok to have some down-time - watch a Christmas movies or do some relaxing craft activities or baking - which will probably be a relief for you as well! Plan these things into your December schedule now, and remember to enjoy the time so you can create lovely memories for you and your family.