Hard to believe that Christmas is right around the corner! The snow we've received in the Northeast in November has shortened the fall and helped me transition right to winter, and that means all things CHRISTMAS!
Few things cause more stress or feelings of frazzled-ness that adding the Christmas preparations onto our already-filled plates: on top of our families and work and home and volunteer obligations, we add parties and gifts and cards and gifts and travel and baking and gifts and wrapping and special events and a million other big and little details that all come with the holiday.
Sigh. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, indeed.
So what does a professional organizer do to help keep everything running as smoothly as possible? She makes a Christmas Binder that holds all of her lists, recipes, reminders, ideas, coupons, receipts, and anything else related to pulling off a panic-free holiday.
I started my binder a few years ago and it has revolutionized my prep for the holidays. I started with a red (of course) Better Binder from Staples, which you can find here. The Better Binders are super durable and come in great colors (but of course you'd want to stick with red or green, right? No one uses a pink Christmas binder!).
Inside I put some dividers (I like these from Avery) and a bunch of page protectors. I also include a couple of poly envelopes, also in green and red.
Now the fun begins... think about all the things you do for Christmas. What would be most helpful in keeping you organized? This is fully customizable for your situation and what you want to include. For me, the following things were important:
1. Christmas Notes
2. Gift Lists
3. Receipts from shopping
5. Christmas Card List
6. Our Christmas Card/ Kid's Letters
Other things you could include:
Black Friday/Cyber Monday Shopping plan
Travel plans and details
December Calendar to keep track of school, church, and family functions
Christmas Bucket List (things our family does every Christmas)
Movies to Watch
Kids' Outfit checklist (for parties, pictures, church services, Christmas Eve pajamas)
Party Planning Lists
Giving List (for charitable donations or volunteering time)
There are TONS of great Holiday printable planning tools online... if you search Christmas planners on Pinterest, dozens come up. These are cute ways of populating your binder- just print it out and hole punch it right into your binder.
I don't use a printed planner, just my own lists and categories. Here's what I keep in each of my sections.
Christmas Notes includes a running list of things to try, ways to do something differently next year, what I need to buy (tissue paper, paper plates and napkins) and what I have plenty of (gift wrap), and a general place to put notes. I am a super planning dork, so after the decorations are put away and I'm settling in for a fresh January start of the year, I take a half hour and make these notes on how things went and what I need to remember for next year. This is where I've noted where I bought my kids' holiday outfits, which recipes to double, how many Christmas Cards to order, when to make the fudge with my mom, and who to remember to give little holiday gifts to. I also try to reconcile my spending with my budget so I know how much to save throughout the year for next Christmas. That way, when I open my binder in late November for the following Christmas, I have a solid running start.
Gift Lists includes who I'm buying for, what I'm getting, how much it costs, and if I have to ship it. I also make a chart for myself of ideas I've given to relatives for Christmas gifts for the kids so I haven't duplicated. (Again, I'm a super planning dork.)
Receipts from shopping go into the poly envelopes, away from prying eyes and easily accessible in case we need to return or exchange something.
Recipes includes our family-famous fudge that we make every year, and a few cookies that I only make around the holidays. I keep these recipes here so I always know where they are and I don't have to thumb through my cookbooks to find them.
Christmas Card List includes names and addresses for our cards. I also update this every year after the holiday and reprint it. I mark in the corner when I updated it and place it in a page protector for next year.
Our Christmas Card/ Kids' Letters is a bunch of page protectors with a dated label on each. Inside the page protector I put three copies of our Christmas card (one for each kid, two for each kid if there are pictures on the back of the card), and the letter they leave for Santa on Christmas Eve with the cookies. I also put their wish lists. My plan is to someday (SOMEDAY!!) make each of them a Christmas scrapbook with our cards, letters, wish lists, and some pictures from each Christmas. That way they will have a nice book with 18 years of memories at our favorite time of year. Someday. But until then, I have a place where I put them so when I am ready, I can grab my binder and have them all at my fingertips. Someday. :)
Gratuitous pics of my babies when they were littler in their dated page protectors:
The goal of all of this is to have it work like your brain works and your family operates. What do you struggle with? What makes up your holiday celebrations? Print off a pre-made planner or make one up yourself. Customize it however you like, but I can tell you that having a binder to put all of it into has been a game-changer for me. I keep my binder in my office closet, right near my other paperwork binders. You'll want to keep your binder where you'll remember to use it and easily accessible.
Christmas is a blessed, glorious, busy, overwhelming, most wonderful time of the year. Start your binder and help yourself feel more in control!