This Sunday, it will be two months until Christmas Day and just about one month until Thanksgiving! Don’t you love this time of year? (I do! I do!) As the weather gets cooler, the blankets come out, I make a lot of homemade soup, vests and scarves reign once again, and the world just feels cozy and warm for a couple of months. Just today, I bought two holiday-scented candles!
Many of us dream about a Pinterest-perfect Christmas, only to abandon thoughts of sweet homemade gifts and precious traditions to instead dive deep into survival mode, scrambling to get the bare minimum done so that we can make it through the holiday season. That is NO way to live, especially at such a special time of year.
So! Now that I’ve identified the problem, let me offer up a few solutions. Here are a few things that you can do now to have a dreamy, low-stress, memorable holiday season!
1 | Order Holiday Cards
If you plan on sending out family holiday cards, now is the time to order them–they usually take 2-3 weeks to be printed, unless you want to pay lots of money to expedite them. (I ordered mine last week 🙂 ) My favorite places to order beautiful holiday cards are Minted, Tiny Prints, and Vistaprint (this is not sponsored).
So, hire a photographer, ask a friend to shoot your family, set up a tripod, or use a photo you’ve taken sometime during the year (or go with a photo-less card)–and get to ordering!
Online designing is very simple; just upload a photo, add some text, and choose the quantity. Some sites even offer a professional designer review for free to ensure that your photo is high quality and everything is lined up nicely.
Not only is it important to order your cards ahead of time to allow for printing and shipping time, it’s also important to allow yourself time for addressing and stamping the envelopes, and getting them in the mail!
2 | Finalize All Travel Plans
Frankly, you probably should have done this earlier to snag the best (although still expensive) flight deals for the holiday season, but if you haven’t yet: do it today. This means everything–take off work, hire a petsitter, inform your friends and family of your travel plans, book flights, reserve a rental car, book a hotel room if you need one…even request for the USPS to hold your mail online if you’ll be out of town for more than a few days!
After you’ve finalized everything, write it all down. You may feel like you have a good grasp on your plans today (and will remember them), but the busyness of Christmas parties and company events and shopping and pageants and end-of-the-year craziness hasn’t set in quite yet! Write down every part of your travel plans in detail on your calendar and also in an email that you can send to yourself and your family/friends you’ll be staying with if you’re traveling. (Don’t forget flight numbers and times so that they can track your flights, especially with the increased risk of inclement weather, delays, and cancellations.)
3 | Shop For Gifts
You knew this would be on my list, right? Some people *say* that they gift shop all year long…which does make sense for budgeting both time and money, but I don’t know anyone who actually does it. (I probably would be someone to do this given my extreme planning nature, but I moved three times in the past year, and I was not about to schlep gifts to and fro in addition to all of my household items!)
What I did this year instead was put away a little money here and there for Christmas gifts as well as add to a “To Buy Christmas Gift List” on both Amazon and Etsy, which are the sites where I buy most of my gifts. That way, around this time of year, I can start adding items that I’ve selected for different people into my online shopping cart, buying them, and wrapping them…all before I have to start paying extra for shipping in order to receive items in time.
If you’re not a big online shopper, carve out a couple of evenings or a weekend day in the next few weeks to hit the mall (or wherever you shop!) before the hoards of people start flooding every store.
4 | Start Thinking About Your Wardrobe
If you have an extensive wardrobe, this may not be for you. As someone with a relatively minimalist wardrobe, full of mostly neutral colors, I always like to buy a new holiday outfit or piece of jewelry–it just gets me in the spirit and makes me feel good! That being said, I can’t afford to purchase just anything that I come across that strikes my fancy…I have to shop smart. (I also buy much of my clothing online, so I have to allow for shipping time.)
Because of this, I start scouting my favorite clothing sites (J.Crew Factory is my top fave! #notsponsored) at the beginning of October, looking for good deals on festive outfits. It’s a good idea to plan ahead if you have a formal Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, a fancy New Year’s Eve party, or any other holiday event that will require a special outfit. That way, when the event comes, you can be fully excited and prepared…and not stressed about what you’ll wear!
I usually have my Thanksgiving dinner outfit, Christmas Eve outfit (we attend church and a formal dinner), and Christmas Day outfit mentally picked out by the beginning of November!
5 | De-Clutter & Get Your Décor Ready
Many of you probably already have gorgeous Autumn wreaths, pumpkin displays, and other adorable Fall décor around your homes. We, however, don’t have the space to store a lot (read: barely anything) in our tiny apartment, so we decided not to decorate much for Fall (we bought some yummy Fall-scented candles instead), so that we could go all-out for Christmas, which we both prefer anyway.
If you wait until you’re tired and stressed about the holidays to think about decorating, you won’t do it! It will easily be the first thing to go off of your list. Sure, you’ll throw a Christmas tree up, but you won’t decorate the way you want to…where your house feels magical and warm and you never want to leave your spot on the couch, admiring your beautiful space.
First things first, it’s about to be the end of the year and you likely need to get rid of some stuff that’s wasting space in your home and mind. I’m in the middle of reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up after dozens of people recommended it, and I have to say, it has changed my perspective on clutter and organization completely. (There are some out-there, strange, spiritually-off things that the author suggests; just ignore those and focus on the bottom line.) This book has put a huge fire under me to get rid of junk and stuff–so much so that Riley and I have put a massive cardboard box against a wall in our living room that we are daily filling with items that don’t “spark joy!” (Read the book, it’s great.)
Once your home feels clean and refreshed for the holiday season and new year, and you actually enjoy being in your space, it’s time to decorate. Some people like a minimalist Christmas tree and nothing else, while others love a house completely decked out from top to bottom. Wherever you fall, start thinking through your décor now. Not only will it build excitement and joy in your heart as you anticipate spending time with the people you love over the holidays, it will also give you a good idea of what you need to get out of storage, what you need to DIY, and what you need to buy.
I was just shopping at Michaels and Target today planning our apartment Christmas décor–we can’t wait! We both love the month of December and Christmastime: it’s my birthday month, Jesus’ birthday month (well, it’s when we celebrate it 😉 ), Riley’s birthday month, Christmas Eve (my favorite day of the year), our engagement-iversary, and New Year’s! Can’t wait to share how we make our little 773 square foot home sparkle! 🙂
(Obviously this would be the longest section–what can I say, I love to organize!)
6 | Plan Your Holiday Traditions
As whimsical and magical as it is to think about just deciding to bake cookies or watch a Christmas movie with friends or visit a live nativity, the reality is that life usually gets in the way of such things if they aren’t planned. Do a little research on holiday bazaars, craft shows, Christmas plays, festivals, tree lightings, etc. in your area and mark your calendar with their information. As you get closer to those events, you can begin to nail down your plans.
Additionally, consider adding a new holiday tradition or two to your repertoire (especially if you don’t have many!). Regardless of the season of life you’re in, there’s likely something new and special that you can do to feel closer to God and your loved ones this holiday season. Pinterest has loads and loads of great tradition ideas to add to your list; but as you add traditions, remember, don’t go overboard! Choose just one or two, and decide how you’ll make them happen now, so that when it comes time, all you have to do is pick a date!
Perhaps my favorite Christmas tradition is making a gingerbread house every year. As a little girl with a December birthday, I had a big gingerbread house-making party every single year. My friends and I LOVED the table full of candy and icing that we got to use to make a sweet little house (pun fully intended!). Growing up, I used graham crackers (my parents would stay up late the night before painstakingly creating 30 little houses), but now I just purchase a kit like this one from Michaels.
7 | Find A Place To Volunteer
Christmas is not about presents and cookies and gorgeous décor, though all of those things add to the wonder of the season. It’s about God becoming man, which changed all of eternity. Celebrating and spreading Christ’s love, peace, and joy is what this season is about.
So, choose a day when you and your friends or family members can go and serve someone else. Your time and actions will hopefully bless others, but you are almost guaranteed to be more greatly blessed. Your perspective on the holidays will change from one of I have to to one of I get to. To find holiday volunteer opportunities in your area, simply Google “Volunteer opportunities in ______” or something more specific like, “Christmas volunteer opportunities in ______.” The web is a great place to start.
If you have time, you could even volunteer once or twice before the holidays are in full swing, so that you could be a leader among volunteers when the organization you’re serving at will likely be much busier.
The impending season isn’t meant to be chaotic; it’s meant to be peaceful. A genuine celebration of life that gave life, not spastic shopping and angry decorating. Take a little time now to go through some of your holiday details so that you can enjoy this upcoming season with only joy in your heart–no stress!
What do you do throughout the year to prepare for the holiday season, if anything? What are your favorite traditions? Do you volunteer over the holidays? I’d love to hear! 🙂