From Christmas Chaos to Christmas CALM

Priscilla Poynter
I spent many, many years unorganized. After reading countless books and decluttering, I just had my best Christmas ever, even though I was ill Dec. 21 & 22.  I had NO STRESS.  Everything was on schedule! 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 MY list looks like:
Christmas Countdown


  1. Buy Christmas cards for next year (I do actual Christmas cards, not photo cards).  
  2. Go to post office and buy Christmas stamps (I did this today, and saved myself the postage increase happening Jan. 21, 2018) 
  3. Shop online for after-Christmas sales - Christmas themed items for next Christmas (it can be gifts, partyware, decor, wrapping paper, etc.)
  4. 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!
  5. 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.)
  6. Put an empty plastic shoebox on shelf to fill with items for Samaritan's Purse during the year.


  1. Go to Big Lots for Susan Branch calendars - for me, mom, and 2 friends
  2. Do I have a picture of child or family I want to include in card, or do I need to do a photo shoot?
  3. Look over accumulated gifts, write them down on my gift list.
  4. Make hair appointments. 
  5. Prepare Samaritan's Purse shoebox.


  1. Call friend to see if she is interested in Pageant
  2. 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.  
  3.  Make a list of your favorite stores, thrift stores, boutiques, Christian stores, and craft fairs that you don't want to miss
  4. 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.
  5. Go to Dollar store for packages of 8 Thank-you notes to be used for Christmas and birthdays.  Buy enough for the year.
  6. Go to Rite-Aid and buy Bob's Candy Canes.
  7. Week before Thanksgiving - get haircuts for everyone; paint toenails.
  8. 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.
  9. Prepare for Thanksgiving.  Shop early in week.  Be thankful!

After Thanksgiving

  1. Undecorate from Thanksgiving and Decorate for Christmas
  2. Outside Lights
  3. Tree 
    Elgin Tree Farm
  4. 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. 
  5. 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.
  6. Begin addressing Christmas cards - add a personal note, especially to people you rarely see, and the elderly.
  7. 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.  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.
  8. 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


  1. Mail Christmas cards.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!)
  6. Watch old Christmas movies and cartoons.
  7. Decide what meals will be served at anything you are hosting. 
  8. Mom's Homeschooling Group party with gift exchange.
  9. Christmas Eve gathering and gifts for game exchange. 
  10. Attend a candle-light Christmas service.
  11. Christmas Day 
  12. 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.
  13. Annual visit with friend - make list of all that is needed to bring and keep it in Christmas binder
  14. Undecorate on 12/31
  15. Write thank-you notes
  16. 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 
Gil Elvgren

Small children
Family "game" exchange
Son's friends
Paper delivery guy (keep Paper's address in binder) 
Mail carrier (know his or her name!)
Hair dresser
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!


How to Thrive on One Income

  • Is the desire of your heart to be at home with your children?
  • Are you on the fence about coming home because you don’t see how it could possibly work? 
  • Do you not have children, but desire to be a homemaker just the same?
  • Are you already at home but need help in making ends meet?

Every woman has financial concerns about coming home and surviving on only her husband’s income.  It is scary to contemplate…your heart will begin to pound as you prepare your budget and realize that there is absolutely no way to make ends meet on only one income…but you WANT to be at home!

A book full of encouragement, Janine has given you straight-forward guidelines, and financial principles found in the Holy Bible.  

She shares her action plan of over 125 little steps to help you gather your courage, step out in faith, and successfully thrive on one income!
Take delight in the Lord, and He will give 
you your heart’s desires.  Psalm 37:4

“Do you have a higher calling and purpose for your life?  The need to live on one income?  This book is for you!  Whether it’s raising children, doing charity work, or fulfilling God's calling... the practical tips and encouragement you need to make it possible, are found in the pages of this book.  

“Janine is an inspiration.  She shows what courage, diligence and persistence can bring:  a simple life with priorities, contentment, and joy.”  ~Dawn Segawa, champion for God, and At-Home Mom
Thus reads the back cover of my new book,
How to Thrive on One Income.

It was because of readers of this blog, and women with whom I correspond on e-mail, who wrote me such sweet comments, that I was encouraged to put my story in print for the world to see.  

At each step in the process I asked God, "Is what I'm writing TRUE?  Does it align with Scripture?" and He would put a scripture or a book title in my head.  I would read it and say, "Yes, it does align.  It is true.  These people are saying the same thing.  It worked for me, and it worked for them.  It will work for others."  

Whenever I got cold feet and prayed, "Am I really to do this?" all publishing obstacles would be overcome, usually within hours.  "Should I really say this, Lord?  Am I coming across too harshly?"  I would re-read what I wrote, and would either edit or feel a sense of peace -- yes, I should say THAT.  Someone needs to hear it. 

So I kept plodding along, day by day.  I would think I was done, and every day God would show me more!  I thought I'd never finish!  But it is finally complete.

I'm so thankful for the sweet comments of my blog readers, such as:

Rebecca - I just found your blog through the Women Living Well link-up. I have already read almost all your posts. I currently work full-time and am completely overwhelmed but I am longing to be home caring for my husband, children, and home. This post in particular was very helpful. I cannot way (sic) to try your suggestions. Thanks for the help! :)

Judith - Coming home from work is so worth it!! I quit my job over 25+ years ago and never looked back. That is a wonderful list of ideas and worth lots of people reading it. Thanks for sharing this over at WholeHearted Wednesdays. Have a great week!!

Tiffiney - Hey Janine, I just love this post! Like I said in my comment to you on my blog - we are kindred spirits. You have my heart with this post. I live in a little house on the freeway and I've been busy making it a beautiful place to live these days with my fall harvest decor. I just love this and I'm sharing on welcomehomeministry.com's fb page!

Elizabeth - Hi, Janine...I'm going to echo my girl Tiffiney, whom I have to thank for leading me to you, and say that we are kindred spirits. You had me with this: "I am a Keeper at Home, the one who watches, guards and maintains our home…the vital center of our life. My intent is to have our home be a sanctuary of love, peace, warmth and order." YES! Me, too! Looking forward to following you from now on! :)

and Kelli - Wow, this is such a great post. You have no idea how much I needed to hear some of this. I couldn't agree more with you, especially in regards to the daycare reality. Thank you so much for sharing this.  Praise God!

Praise God, indeed!  I so hope my book will be a huge blessing in helping to bring more mothers home to raise their children, and other women who would also prefer to be homemakers.

May God bless you, too.



Table of Contents

Introduction – I May Not Be Rich, But I Am Wealthy
1)  Accumulating Choices, The List Illusion, and Making Home Happy
2)  Planning My New Life
3)  I Held the Key to My Own Happiness
4)  How to Clean Up Your Own Credit File
5)  Buying a House
6)  A Mortgage
7)  Empty Houses
8)  How Did We Get Here?
9)  Having A Vision for Home
10) Another Type of Empty House
11) What You Do With Your Income
12) A Bills Calendar
13) Praying Over Your Budget
14) How I Paid Off Our Car Six Months Early
15) My Top 27 Steps for Grocery Shopping
16) Finding My Way Home
17) What I No Longer Use and Other Thrifty Steps
18) 80 Steps Towards Living on His Income
19) You Are So Lucky!
20) On Being and Staying Debt-Free
21) What if I'm Not Making Ends Meet Now?
22) What If...
23) Working Towards Contentment
24) “Mama…Work?”
25) An Overheard Conversation
26) Consider BEFORE
27) The Prequel to Living on His Income
28) God's Provision
29) Sparrow Math
For Further Reading
The Most Important Decision of Your Life