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It is hard to believe it, but Christmas is right around the corner. With it comes the excitement of Christmas carols, parties, cookies, and a lot of magic for kids. For mom’s however, there can be a LOT of anxiety that surrounds the Christmas planning. As the glue that keeps the family running, you may feel like you are running on “E” before you even get to the height of Christmas prep season.
If you are also like me, and you LOVE this season, you can easily overextend yourself with ideas and plans. You want to do all the things but fail to even enjoy the season yourself.
This year, I refuse to do that, so I am starting early! Follow this Christmas checklist for a holiday season that is both magical for your family and enjoyable for yourself!
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When should you start preparing for Christmas?
When I think of the best time to begin getting ready for Christmas, I honestly consider starting at the beginning of the new year. Hear me out! I know you may be looking at me sideways, but cultivating a calm holiday season starts with intentional living. This means doing everything with foresight and anticipating how you can make the next step easier.
Some of my fondest holiday memories as I got older, were putting the Christmas decorations away with my mom. She has always had a way of being intentional about everything she does, and her Christmas decoration storage process was an art and a science! This intentionality of organization and completing each task with purpose made her decorating in the next year so much easier.
In order to best prepare for Christmas next year, commit to completing the decoration process with intention by creating an organization system for your decorations this year.
Aside from this, however, you can reasonably begin your Christmas preparation 3 – 4 months in advance. This Christmas timeline allows for ample time to minimize overwhelm in your current season with thoughts of what is to come.
How do I start my Christmas planning?
Begin your Christmas to do list by making a list of all the best parts of your family’s Christmas celebration. Ask yourself what makes your Christmas special! What traditions of the season do you absolutely love? If these traditions also tend to drain all your energy when completed at the last minute, you’ve found the things that you should plan in advance.
Planning your holiday season ahead of time can help ensure you enjoy a stress-free Christmas. Some ideas of activities that you may want to consider placing on your holiday planning to do list include:
- Advent observations/traditions
- Decorations (indoor and outdoor)
- Christmas eve menu
- Christmas day menu
- Christmas parties hosted and attended
- Holiday Cards
- Gift list
- Schedule and children’s performances
- Christmas bucket list
Make sure you walk through your entire holiday season. If there is anything that you enjoy doing or a tradition that is an integral part of your holiday celebration, make sure to add it to this initial prep for Christmas checklist.
Prep for Christmas with a Christmas Checklist
Once you have created a list of Christmas preparations you are ready to complete your holiday checklist. The rest of this article will be a comprehensive holiday to do list that will walk you through your Christmas plans and give you an idea of when to start each task.
Three to Four Months Before Christmas to do list (August – September)
Create a Budget
All Christmas planning begins with a budget. Finances during this season can be the cause of a lot of holiday stress. Avoid this anxiety by determining how much you want to spend and how much you are able to spend for the holiday season. Divide out that total amount by the different tasks that will cost money and then stick to it. This will become your boundary if it isn’t in the budget.
Make a gift List
Create your complete gift list. Make sure you determine how many gifts you want to give, gauge the number of “party gifts” you want to give. Consider how many gifts will be homemade and how many will be store bought. Keep your budget at the forefront of your mind for this step.
Start looking at Pinterest for ideas
This is one of my favorite parts of getting ready for Christmas. Its also a mindless way to begin preparing your Christmas checklist. Consider creating a Holiday Board for all the new ideas of the season. You can also divide that board into different categories, such as decorations, holiday meal, baked goods, holiday party ideas and more.
Create a decoration plan
Are you planning on having a natural tree? Decorating the mantle? Dancing holiday lights display? Consider getting an idea for what you want, then determine what you have already. Make sure that you search for inexpensive of budget friendly ideas to make your decorations plans come to life.
Start planning your holiday menu
If your family is anything like mine, the holiday menu is consistent. There are family favorites that are made every year, and we only adventure into new food when it comes to on or two desserts. After the large feast of thanksgiving, this works for us. If you enjoy trying new recipes, however, consider looking those recipes up. Grab a holiday meal planner to help you create the perfect holiday menu.
Create a holiday bucket list
For the last two years in Alaska we have said we wanted to go to the North Pole, and we have yet to make it. Usually because of the busyness of the season and our lack of planning for this outing. For this reason, you should create a holiday bucket list of local Christmas activities and begin plugging those into your holiday schedule. This way you can prioritize the things that you determined to be important for your family celebration.
One to Two months before Christmas Checklist (October – November)
Shop for supplies for homemade gifts
By now you should have your holiday gift list finalized. Now is the time to start shopping for the supplies needed for your homemade gifts. Remember that homemade gifts may cost less, but they also take more time. Making sure you are stocked in the first or second week of October will give you plenty of time to prepare the gifts.
Start making non-perishable gifts
Once you have the supplies, I recommend starting to make the non-perishable homemade gifts. This could even be done ahead of time if you enjoy giving crocheted or knitted gifts.
Create your holiday command center
This could be a fun item on your Christmas preparation to do list. Consider making a hallway table the command center for all things holiday. Place a wall calendar or Chalkboard calendar up. Use this area to display Christmas cards or to house any items that can be used as white elephant gifts in a pinch.
Create a schedule
Use your holiday command center to create a schedule and plan for the season. Mark the days that kids will not be in school as well as any travel plans you may have. Make sure to schedule days that are off limits for parties to enjoy some of the items on your bucket list.
Bake what you can freeze
Many holiday baked goods can keep if frozen for months before you need them. If you enjoy lots of holiday baked goods, consider baking and freezing some of your holiday favorites.
Plan Christmas cards
Whether you are looking for a matching pajama theme or holiday cards where everyone is dressed in their Sunday’s best, starting to plan your Christmas cards early helps you to beat the rush and receive the best product possible. Determine if you want to take a family photo, or create a card that also includes a family update letter. Whatever your style, planning now will save headaches later.
This also includes gathering your holiday cards address list. Consider reaching out to family members and asking them if there have been any home changes.
Take holiday pictures and finalize cards
Once you’ve planned the cards, it’s a good idea to go ahead and book/take your photos if you are planning on them. Many photographers have holiday season mini sessions for excellent rates. They also often require time to process and edit your photographs. Having your photos done by the first week in November at the latest allows your to prepare your Christmas cards ahead of time without stress.
5 weeks before Christmas planning checklist (Last week of November)
By this time, Thanksgiving is right around the corner as well. One thing that has significantly made a difference in my Christmas planning sanity has been to make some of my menu similar. For example, I make greens for Thanksgiving and freeze some for Christmas. I will usually make my sweet potato pies for both holidays during Thanksgiving as well. Be sure that your menu is well rounded, this means veggies, starches, meats, carbs.
Finalize gift buying/making
In the final weeks of November you would like your Christmas shopping to be mostly complete. Many people may enjoy the bustle of Black Friday shopping, but remember the purpose of planning is to enjoy the season, and minimize stress. I generally strive to have my holiday shopping done the week before thanksgiving.
Begin scheduling party plans
By this time, holiday parties are being put on the calendar. I recommend setting the boundary for how many holiday parties you want to attend and try to be firm with that. Parties are TONS of fun, but many times, attending all the parties comes with some sacrifice. Often that is doing the things you look forward to for the holiday season in the first place.
This week I like to start pulling out my Christmas decorations to inventory. This allows me to know if there is anything that I will need to replace, it also helps me to get a sense for how I want to recreate the ideas from my decorating planning. I also put my Christmas decorations up before Thanksgiving. It’s okay, you can judge me.
Four weeks before Christmas preparation checklist
Decorate indoors and outdoors
If you prefer to wait until after the Thanksgiving turkey has cooled before you begin decorating your home, then now is the time to start decking the halls. You should have already prepared your list of needed décor both indoors and out, now is the time to start putting those lights and mistletoe up.
Wrap gifts that will need to be sent
If you did not wrap as you purchased, you should go ahead and wrap up and box up gifts that will be sent through the postal service. These should be ready to go at least 2 weeks before Christmas.
Put out advent calendar
Depending on what version of advent calendar you chose, you will either set it up or pass them out to everyone in the family. This week marks the 1st of December and the 25 days of Christmas countdown.
Purchase Stamps and Label Cards
With the holiday season on our heels its time to prepare to send our goodies. Prep ahead of time by purchasing stamps in bulk now. You may also consider purchasing
Three weeks until Christmas
Send Christmas Cards and gifts
The general consensus is that holiday gifts should be sent 10 days in advance, but you never want to have to worry about delays. I recommend sending gifts at least 3 weeks ahead of time to account for delays and the busyness of the season. For cards, this allows people to enjoy the card for several days before the season is over.
Order meat or buy for freezer
If your Christmas plans include an ordered honey-baked ham or turkey you will want to place that order now. If you will be making your own holiday meat consider purchasing frozen and keeping it frozen until closer to Christmas.
Purchase non-perishable foods
While you are in a food shopping mood, make your entire Christmas menu shopping list and begin purchasing the non-perishables. Pro-tip (buy batteries now) TRUST ME!
Two weeks before Christmas
The holidays can be busy and messy, so this would be a great time to deep clean the home. Make it a game, put on holiday music, and drink eggnog or hot coco and get the home clean and ready for company if you are having any. Its also relaxing when you get to enjoy the season in a tidy home.
Oftentimes we set the table just for the day. Why not enjoy your china and the look of a well set table by placing setting out now. Not only will this cut the amount of things you have to do at the last minute during the holidays, but it also allows you to enjoy more festivities.
Wrap gifts for local family and friends
It is a relief to get the gifts for others out of the house and on their way, but this still leaves the gifts that need to be wrapped at home for those living in the local area. Take some time to enjoy a holiday playlist and get wrapping. Or, purchase super cute bags. (This is my jam!)
Take time to knock off some items on your Christmas bucket list
With all the time spent preparing for Christmas, you deserve a chance to enjoy some part of the holiday season that doesn’t include you working to get something done. Revisit your Christmas to do list (the bucket list) and pick something to do during this weekend. If you are feeling fun and you’re Christmas planning checklist is dwindling down, pick two or three things!!
One week before Christmas
Purchase fresh ingredients
Purchase fresh ingredients from the grocery store as needed. Also consider the gifts that you have prepared for the family in your home. Determine if there are things besides batteries that may be needed for these gifts to work, and purchase these items.
Two days before Christmas, I start cooking. I do this because, I want to enjoy my entire Christmas Day and most of Christmas eve. If you have followed the checklist pretty closely, you likely only have this holiday task left.
Christmas planning for a stress-free Christmas
While the holiday season can be a stressful time, it does not have to be. You can enjoy as much of the season as you want if you start early and begin getting ready for Christmas ahead of the rush.
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