Christmas and the winter holiday season is full of wonderment, with sparkling ornaments, gift giving and family celebrations. But few would call it relaxing. Many of us are trying to make the most of the season while also maintaining our regular schedules. Working towards a more organized Christmas with our expert tips can help.
Professional organizer Debbie Lillard often shares her advice for making holiday preparations less stressful and more fun by getting organized and getting help from family. She talked to us about her most effective tricks.
Holiday Time Management
For many, good time management is even more important around the holidays, with so much to do in just a few weeks. Debbie—who has three children and a large extended family to take care of—shared her schedule for getting it all done in time for Christmas:Week 1 - Shop for gifts, order Christmas cards and decorate outside.
Week 2 - Shop for gifts and decorate the inside of the house.
Week 3 - Wrap gifts, send Christmas cards and decorate the tree.
Week 4 - Shop for food, bake cookies, and enjoy!
Decorating for the Holidays
Bringing festive garlands and sparkling lights into the house always makes it feel like the holidays; but dragging the boxes from storage and getting it all done can sometimes feel like a chore. Debbie suggests capitalizing on the tradition some families already have of decorating together to make the project fun and festive. Pull all the holiday storage boxes into one room and put everything out on a table. Group the items by where they go and then each member can take a space to decorate. Play holiday music to get into the spirit!”
Organizing Gift Wrap
Gift giving is one of the joys of the season, and for many of us that includes making each package look as special as the thought we put into buying the present. At the end of the season, however, wrapping paper often gets tossed out of the way, to the bottom of a closet or somewhere else where it gets crumpled. Debbie suggests buying one of the many gift-wrap organizers available on the market.
“Whatever you use, keep it all in one place with tape and scissors. For gift bags, I put all the Christmas ones inside the biggest bag I have and all other occasion gift bags go in another.”
She also emphasized smart shopping to avoid ending up with too much bulky gift-wrap and bows, or items that don’t match. “Keep it simple with a few styles of wrapping - one for kids, one for adults, and re-use any gift bags you already have when possible.”
Sending Holiday Cards
With the convenience of email, sending holiday cards seems to be a fading gesture because it can be so time consuming! But if you still love the old-fashioned tradition, Debbie again suggests turning it into a family event to save time. “You can do it one evening while watching TV. Update your list of addresses and create mailing labels. Then someone signs the card, another seals the envelope, another sticks a stamp and return address label on the envelope and that's it. The old "assembly line" approach works great!”
For incoming cards, you can purchase a display stand, such as this one from Pottery Barn, or get crafty and make your own. “Just use a simple string and some clothespins hung on the wall with hooks, and clip on the cards as they come in.” She also had a clever suggestion for the photo cards that are so popular now. “I cut out the photos after the holiday and put them in my own photo album!”
Packing Up Decorations at the End of the Holiday Season
“When the holidays are all over, it’s time to pack things up and put them back in storage.” Debbie admits it’s the saddest part of the season. “I like to do it quick like ripping off a Band-Aid!”
It’s another way to bring the family together one last time. “Put away any gifts that are still out; un-decorate the tree, putting each ornament in its own box or bag, or wrapping it in tissue. Have one container that is all ornaments and mantel decorations. Then go around the house like a scavenger hunt and bring everything back into one room. For packing, wrap soft items like linens, stockings and garland around the breakable items, if they don't have their own box. Strands of lights can be wrapped around a plastic cord wrap Then put everything back in your holiday storage bins.”
If you’re in need of new storage bins, Debbie likes the red and green color-coded ones that come out this time of year. Otherwise, simply label the outsides of the boxes.
Then it’s time to put back the regular house decor that may have been stashed over the season. But to avoid the total comedown after the holidays, Debbie admits she likes to leave out a few little things just a bit longer, “I leave the candles and wreaths up another week. Then they get packed away in their own box until next year.”You can read more of Debbie's suggestions on her website, Space to Spare.