It’s undeniably the best time of the year. It’s the season to spend time with loved ones, give to those who are in need, and of course, get into the festive and merry spirit by decorating and partying. Although it’s a magical season, it’s also a hectic and busy one, that can definitely creep up on you and throw some unwanted stress your way, it is December 2nd already. But don’t freak out over perfectly wrapped gifts or the most delicious cocktails, the first step to actually enjoying your holidays is to not worry about making everything just right, and the second, having a plan!
I honestly can’t believe that Christmas is right around the corner, and with all the pretty comes endless parties and unexpected gatherings, so in order to keep us sane this season I’ve created this Step by Step guide to help you plan Christmas and the holidays like a pro, even if you don’t have a organized bone in your body. Organization is key to successfully entertaining during the holidays, and by successfully, we mean actually enjoy it! Here’s to planning a stress-free holiday that leaves you plenty of time to enjoy this time of year with the ones you love…
4 to 6 Weeks Before
Create Your Gift List
You may not have all gifts picked out for everyone on your list, but create a list with everyone you intend to buy gifts for. As you create your list, jot down several ideas of gifts that come to mind as you write each name. Then do your research, catch sales and start purchasing items. If you’re considering DIYing gifts, keep that time in mind too and schedule when you will make your gifts.
Start Gift Shopping, Steadily
If you’re anything like me, you may have been picking up potential gifts, stocking stuffers and cards throughout year. Now it’s time to get prepared and ready to complete your Christmas gift shopping, preferably by December 15th. This is the perfect amount of time needed to mail items across the US or other international countries. It also gives you plenty of time to buy stamps and gift wrapping supplies too, which will save you from any unnecessary, and frustrating, last minute runs.
Make a Master Schedule
Once holiday party invites start coming in and various tasks begin being schedules, use them to create one master calendar which will serve as your main reference for all things holiday related for this month. By now you should have already envisioned what you’re planning your holiday to look like, that way you can get right into decorating and creating.
image via Loreta Blog
4 Weeks Before
Get into the Holiday Spirit
Most will officially wait until after Thanksgiving to decorate for Christmas so now’s your time to take a break and decorate! Put up or buy your tree now, and place some holiday music, it’s undeniably the best thing to get into the holiday spirit. Nothing wrong with bringing the merry and festive mood into your home early!
Prep Gifts & Holiday Cards
Start purchasing gift wrap, bows, tape, boxes, stamps, holiday cards, return address labels and any wrapping supplies you will need. If you prefer to designate a special night to wrap your presents by the tree like I do, then prep each gift as you buy them by removing tags and placing them in boxes with tissue ready for gift wrap. And don’t forget to place a post-it note on gifts indicating each recipient. It’s an easy tip that will make you actually enjoy wrapping gifts. Once you purchase your holiday cards, you can start writing them out so that they’re ready to be mailed out, the latest, two weeks before December 25th.
If you’re still missing gifts and are looking to the internet for ideas, make sure you get those purchases made now to ensure your items are received in time and you’re not wasting an esseive amount on shipping costs.
Check Your Inventory
You have your decorations and lights in your home up, now is the ideal time to check your inventory for kitchen utensils, dishes, glassware and pantry for ingredients you will need this season. Restock any cooking and baking basics, like flour and eggs, and make sure to them regularly to your grocery list. Also do a household check of things you have stored, like items for unexpected overnight holiday guests, and see if anything needs updating or replacing.
image via Devon Rachel
3+ Weeks Before
Before mid-month is the ideal time to start sending gifts to out-of-town loved ones. There’s nothing more disheartening than taking the time to pick out the perfect gift or write the most thoughtful holiday card, only to have it be received after Christmas. So get ahead of everyone else rushing to the post office sending last minute shipments.
If you’re hosting the holidays this year, take some time to sit down to figure out the dishes, cocktails and dessert you plan on serving. I like to create an ideal master menu, since we do both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, it’s also the time to check to see what other guests are planning to bring or even designate apps, dishes or drinks to others to take some of the pressure off of your. Once you’ve figured out your menu, create a master grocery list. Write it down or keep it on your phone, but make sure to have it on you at all times, that way, especially for non-perishables, you can slowly begin buying ingredients every time you grocery shop. If you need to order special meats, fishes or ingredients, start putting in your orders now.
Start Thinking Wardrobe
The holidays are synonymous for parties, whether planned or last minute. Save yourself the frustration of feeling like you don’t have anything to wear this season by going through your wardrobe and getting an idea of what you might want to wear. Having a few outfits already picked out will save you time and stress, as well as the time to buy something you need to.
image via Always with Butter Blog
2+ Weeks Before
Gift Check & Wrap Everything
Check your gift list and make sure you haven’t missed anybody. Set a day to purchase any remaining gifts, and finish all your pretty wrapping. Hopefully they’re ready to go under the Christmas tree, in stockings or gift bags for loved ones.
Grocery Haul & Start Food Prepping
Aside from perishable produce and ingredients, you should have been already stocking your pantry. Buy eggs, butter and any other refrigerator ingredients that will keep, as well as wine, beer and liquors. You know what you can also do now, start making and freezing cookie and pie doughs!
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1 Week Before
To save you some serious time, choose different rooms and start cleaning them four weeks out, leaving common areas you will be entertaining in, like the kitchen and living room, to a few days before. A week out do a deep clean, you’ll notice that you appreciate your pretty decor even more once your home is clean and organized. Clear out your refrigerator and make room for dishes and ingredients that will be coming. I don’t know about your, but an organized space allows me to think clearer when tackling tasks and avoid feeling stressed.
Start going through and choosing serving dishes, cutlery, table linen and platters you intend on using. Clean and prepare all your tableware, by labeling what you’ll use them for that way when desserts and dishes are you’re not scrabbling to find just the write plate for your table. If you’re doing a centerpiece, order flowers from the florist or pick them up from your local shop. Assemble your centerpiece and any other decor pieces you plan on setting onto your table.
Final Grocery Haul
On your final trips to the grocery store, pick up fresh goods and any ingredients you’ll need for making your Christmas dishes. Also, stock up on any household items you need to keep your home feeling extra festive, yes candles and candy canes, but also extra toilet paper and garbage bags.
image via Lark & Linen
Days Before Christmas
Start Cooking & Baking
Whether you’re hosting or taking a dish to somebody else’s holiday meal, stick to your preplanned schedule and cook/bake your dishes with plenty of time to spare. Get as much done ahead of time, like baking desserts and prepping vegetables for sides and salads, so there’s little work to do on Christmas Eve and Day. If you’re having guests staying over, bake up some make-ahead breakfasts for the days to come.
Set the Table & Bar
Since you’ve prepared your linens and serving ware, setting the table will be a breeze. Depending on the day of the week, I like to set the table, including all seating, the day before the holiday. It’s one of the easiest tasks you can do ahead, and will save you endless frustration come Christmas Eve. This includes setting up the bar and other stations you plan on serving food too!
image via Glitter Guide
The holiday season is short, but it can be a hectic and busy time. After the last months of outdoing yourself, you deserve some time to dress up, and gather with loved ones. Relax, set the mode with seasonal melodies, pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy the holiday!
image My Leitmotiv
With this Step by Step guide, you will be sure to get through any Christmas challenges with ease and success, who knows you might even find a new joy in entertaining. Good luck!