Let me share with you the four steps I took to move from Christmas Chaos to Christmas Calm.
1) Write up, then type up, your Christmas Countdown. This is what mine looks like:
- Buy Christmas cards for next year (I do actual Christmas cards, not photo cards).
- Go to post office and buy Christmas stamps (I did this today, and saved myself the postage increase happening Jan. 21, 2018)
- Shop online for after-Christmas sales - Christmas themed items for next Christmas (it can be gifts, partyware, decor, wrapping paper, etc.)
- Place large empty box or Christmas bag into closet for gifts bought throughout the year, with post-it note for who it is for, or you will forget!
- Type up Christmas card list and be sure to save it under the correct year. Do this now. Please don't wait until next December! (No need to print yet.)
- Go to Big Lots for Susan Branch calendars - for me, mom, and 2 friends
- Do I have a picture of child or family I want to include in card, or do I need to do a photo shoot?
- Look over accumulated gifts, write them down on my gift list.
- Make hair appointments.
- Call friend to see if she is interested in Pageant
- Mail Christmas packages now to other countries, or even across America, in order to avoid long postal lines. If you didn't do it in January, buy Christmas stamps now.
- Saturday before Thanksgiving - Shop Cost Plus - use coupon that came in mail in Oct or Nov. This store usually has an unannounced sale the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Shop for stocking stuffers, candy, scone mix, and gifts. They have great retro-toys for stocking stuffers.
- Go to Dollar store for packages of 8 Thank-you notes to be used for Christmas and birthdays. Buy enough for the year.
- Week before Thanksgiving - get haircuts for everyone; paint toenails.
- Thanksgiving week - Order from ChristianBook.com. They usually have a sale that begins the Monday of Thanksgiving week. Be sure to use a free s/h coupon. Sometimes it is for a $35 order, other times you have to spend $100. Don't jump the gun - be sure to make sure there is an early-bird sale going on.
- Prepare for Thanksgiving. Shop early in week. Be thankful!
- Undecorate from Thanksgiving and Decorate for Christmas
- Outside Lights
Elgin Tree Farm
- Send picture from phone to a place like Walgreens when they run a special. I only needed 60 pictures for my cards, but it was cheaper to order 75 at 10 cents each. I put the extras in scrapbooks and frames, etc.
- Update card mailing list with new addresses and deletions. Print a copy for you to keep in your Christmas binder and cross off as you send cards, and also print your labels. The copy is for when you wake up at 2:00 am and say, "Did I send a card to Aunt Mary?" Or when you receive a card and you want to add the person to your list for this year and next.
- Begin mailing Christmas cards - add a personal note, especially to people you rarely see, and the elderly
- Make a list of your favorite stores, thrift stores, boutiques, Christian stores, and craft fairs that you don't want to miss.
- Begin buying gift cards at restaurants that offer a special, such as Olive Garden - buy $50 and get an extra $10 card back for yourself. Del Taco offers coupons with free items, Chick-Fil-a has their calendar with freebies. You won't get these extra "goodies" if you buy giftcards from the grocery store. Make notes of which stores offer what for next year.
- Shop. But remember, "The gifts of life are really feelings, not things. Make this a FEELING Christmas, instead of a HAVING Christmas." ~ Pam Young and Peggy Jones
- Attend community Pageant 2nd weekend of December. I make a note in my calendar and Christmas binder on what street to park on, what time to arrive, which day is best to attend, reminder to dress warmly with mittens and hats, and any other notes I would need to tell a friend we are bringing for the first time.
- Cleaning begins. Go room by room, beginning with your bedroom. This isn't a time to redecorate. This is a time to purge, declutter, dust and vacuum.
- Make room for new toys by deciding WITH your children which toys they can part with. Helps to either give items to a thrift shop they are familiar with, or sell on ebay in the coming year. Clean their room in a CIRCLE so that no area gets missed.
- Begin wrapping and labeling gifts. Did you know that most children have never unwrapped a gift? They've only received gift bags? When I heard this I began wrapping all of my son's gifts and birthday gifts for his friends, and others. Wrapping paper is just more fun! I often will use "old-fashioned" labels that don't stick as well. One little girl thanked me. She told me that I do things the right way - the storybook way. I even heard my son say to several people, "My mom isn't lazy. She WRAPS ALL her gifts." (And I let him make a huge mess on Christmas morning - we don't use trash bags as we go along. We make a big mess and clean it up later. It's delightful!)
- Watch Christmas movies.
- Decide what meals will be served at anything you are hosting.
- Mom's Homeschooling Group party with white-elephant gift exchange
- Christmas Eve gathering and gifts for game exchange.
- Attend a candle-light Christmas service.
- Christmas Day
- Christmas with family - We host family on December 26. Last year we bought cooked chicken from Ralphs grocery store with mashed potatoes and rolls. I heated up some baked beans, green beans, corn, and mac and cheese for the little ones. It was SO simple and cost less than $50. No stress and everyone seemed to like it. My husband is the pickiest and he loved it, so this will probably be a tradition.
- Annual visit with friend - make list of all that is needed to bring and keep it in Christmas binder
- Undecorate on 12/31
- Write thank-you notes
- Enjoy New Year's Day at home and plan for the coming year
2) On a separate piece of paper, write down who you need to buy gifts for. Type it up. This will go into a page protector to be used annually in your Christmas binder.
Print a second copy, put the year at the top, and write down what you bought for each person. Because sometimes you buy things in a series, and next year you will know if you got Season 4 or 5, or book 3 or 4.
Make a column for gifts received from these people. This list will be used for Thank-you notes.
Gifts for: Gifts received:
Aunt and Uncle
Family "game" exchange
Paper delivery guy (keep Paper's address in binder)
Mail carrier (know his or her name!)
Barber (extra tip)
3) Grab a 3-ring binder. I keep white binders of various sizes on hand. The Christmas binder will be thin. When buying binders, also buy a 50 pack of page protectors - they come in SO handy! You will also need labels (30 to a page) for printing addresses for Christmas card labels.
4) Keep binder in a special place where you won't forget it. Add:
- The Christmas stamps you bought
- List of stores with Christmas specials (buy gift card, get $ back)
- List of stores where you want to shop
- Cute return labels
- Christmas stickers
- Christmas stories
- Ideas of events you'd like to attend in the future (parades, harbor tours, boat parade, tree lighting, etc.)
- Ideas of traditions you'd like to include that focus on the real meaning of Christmas
- Gift ideas that celebrate Christ
- Christmas charitable giving - decide with your family which organizations or people to give to
- Favorite Christmas magazine articles on decorating
- When you get a notice that someone has moved, put it into your Christmas binder to update your labels in November.
Doing these 4 steps today (or really, really soon before you forget), will move you from Christmas Chaos to Christmas Calm!