The holidays can be an overscheduled, stressful time of year. From gift giving, to what to cook and decorate with, to what to wear for your holiday party outfit, you need a system in place to help you to get it all done with grace. The best way to get through the season relatively unscathed is to go at it with a plan!
Starting with all things edible
A huge part of the holidays, from Thanksgiving through to New Year’s Eve, is about eating. Even if you’re not throwing your usual annual parties this year, there will be gatherings where you’ll want to bring your best appetizers to share, or dinners with the family that need to be managed.
Getting your kitchen prepped and ready is key:
- Make sure your kitchen is spotless at the start of the holidays. For one thing, you’ll be less stressed about people coming in and witnessing a bit of a mess, but also, you’ll find it easier to put your hands on the gravy boat the very moment you need it. Wipe down all the dishes and glassware, as well as platters and serving dishes and cutlery, to make sure it’s all ready to use.
- Get rid of extra kitchen clutter. If you tend to use the island as a repository for mail, lunch bags and other detritus the rest of the year, get rid of it! Same with small appliances that you don’t use all the time. You’ll need every bit of counter space you can find.
- Purge the pantry of any past due items, reorganize what’s left and make sure you have everything you need for your favorite recipes. A mad dash to the store at 7 p.m. on party night is best avoided! Snacks are an important addition as holiday periods mean lots of people, big and small, milling about claiming to be starving! Stocking up on essentials like water, canned goods, wine, beer, cocktail mixes, and so on, just makes good sense. Don’t forget napkins, paper towels and toilet paper!
- Make menu plans for parties for the entire duration of the holidays. It will save you time and energy in shopping and cooking if you can plan it in advance. This is also a great time to check in with any guests who might be coming by, or staying for a few days, about food allergies or intolerances that you need to be aware of.
- If you can cook or prep certain items in advance – cookies and desserts, come to mind, as well as casseroles for the freezer—do it! Save yourself time in the kitchen when you’d rather be in the living room, enjoying a glass of holiday cheer.
Decorating the inside of your home for the holidays is an important part of the process and, like the food preparations, needs a little planning to get it right.
- Go through all your decorations and throw out broken pieces that are simply adding to the clutter.
- Before you go buy anything else to add to your existing collection, think about a theme or color scheme that would work inside your home. If you work with a theme, you’ll choose pieces more judiciously and spend less time getting it all coordinated and pleasing to the eye.
- To change decor from Halloween to Thanksgiving and then on to Christmas it’s best to have clearly labeled storage bins for each type of decor so you can switch them quickly and easily.
- Don’t forget music, which is so important for setting a festive mood.
What to wear
These days, a lot of you will have pared down your wardrobes for work at home scenarios, but if going out on the town or to friends and family is in the plans for your holidays, you’ll need to look out for what everyone is going to wear.
- Check what fits, what needs repairs or cleaning and what doesn’t fit and can be donated or thrown out. For yourself, for your kids… Make sure you aren’t stuck panic buying an outfit for your little ones because they outgrew last year’s outfit six months ago!
Check your gift list… twice
There is nothing worse than forgetting an important gift, so like Santa, make a list and check it twice.
- Get your shopping done as far in advance as you can. For one thing, you’ll avoid the crowds and the possible disappointment of items being out of stock or unavailable. Supply chains are tighter this year, post pandemic, and it’s not time to add to your stress by having to scramble. The only caveat here is that kids are likely to change their minds about what they want from Santa, so don’t go too early for their items!
- Have a supply of gift cards or other simple gifts, like wine or chocolates, on hand for the person who gives you one that you weren’t expecting, or in case checking your list twice still doesn’t prevent you from forgetting your boss!
- Don’t forget wrapping paper, gift bags, tags, and tape. You can never have too much of these and classic colors and designs don’t go out of style, so you can hold on to the leftovers for next year.
Planning for company
Whether just for an evening of cocktails and nibbles, or for family staying for a few days during the holidays, it’s important to plan ahead for company.
- Even if your invitation says “Cocktails at 8”, you should always be prepared for a guest or two who might need to stay the night. Having some extra toothbrushes and paste, a few t-shirts for sleeping, and sets of clean sheets and towels, will make a surprise guest easy to manage.
- For a planned stay of a few days, having essentials for your houseguests makes it a smoother event for everyone. Set up where they are going to sleep so it’s as comfortable as can be. Little touches like a few toiletries, guest towels, water bottles and a little sign that tells them what the WIFI password is are all excellent and welcoming details.
- Make room in closets and dressers for extra coats, boots, and clothing by storing some of your own items in bins or hanging racks, in the basement or garage, just until everyone goes home again.
- Check that your first aid kit is stocked and has a supply of allergy medications, cold and flu meds and other over the counter remedies for anything from headaches to heartburn, so you can manage any small incident without having to run to the store.
Finally, remember that it is the holiday season and it’s the time to be with loved ones and reflect on the year gone by. Overscheduling and stressing out are the enemies of these joyous moments, so go over your calendar and make sure there’s time earmarked for the little things, like the local tree lighting ceremony, or just a twilight walk in the brisk, wintery air. You’ll be glad you did because some of these little moments are the best memories of all.