By Jody Mullen
When you were a kid, were the holidays magical? If so, be sure to thank the family members who made them so special for you. It’s only when you become a parent that you realize just how much effort your own mom and dad put into making family holidays memorable and fun. Like so many things in this life, it’s difficult to truly appreciate everything your parents did for you until it’s your turn to make it happen.
Speaking of difficult, you know what I find challenging? Keeping sane and organized during that period between Thanksgiving break and Christmas Eve. We’re trying to put up the tree, decorate the house and the yard, and bake cookies — while finding ways to include the kids, of course. There are events at school, family gatherings, and holiday parties, and that’s on top of school, work, and extracurricular activities. Oh, and did I mention that you should be shopping for gifts, hiding them when they’re delivered, and wrapping them when the kids are asleep? It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.
This year, make a few small but meaningful changes to stay organized throughout the holiday season. You’ll conserve valuable time and energy that you can spend with your children and loved ones instead.
Family Holidays: Life Gets Hectic
If you’re the parent of young kids, I don’t need to tell you that life is pretty busy 365 days a year. From the morning rush to after-school activities and homework, our children require so much of our time and attention, even on days when they’re in school for seven hours. When the winter holidays roll around, it’s difficult not to think You’re kidding me. I’m going to have even more on my plate now? It’s tempting to double up on the espresso shots in your festive peppermint white-chocolate mocha. That energy has to come from somewhere, right?
This year, make a promise to yourself that you’re going to slow down just a little. Regardless of which holidays your family celebrates or what your traditions are, this time is supposed to be about making special memories. That can feel next to impossible when you are pressed for time, so here’s how to stay organized and on top of your priorities.
How to Stay Organized This Holiday Season
Make a To-Do List
I find it easier to knock out my chores and errands when I can see them in list form. I sometimes like to write them down on a piece of lined paper and cross them off one by one. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment to draw a line through a task when I’ve completed it. If that’s too old-fashioned for you (or if you’re likely to lose the paper), use a to-do list template or create one of your own.
Use Shared Calendars
At the beginning of the school year, the staff at my kids’ school releases a downloadable calendar of all school events from September through June. It transfers perfectly to my laptop’s calendar, which syncs to my phone. Check with your kids’ schools to see if they offer something similar — it’s a great way to stay on top of parent-teacher conferences, concerts and performances, and class parties.
If your kids are old enough to use smartphones or tablets, you might think about creating a shared family calendar for everyone to use. If you have to work late and won’t be available to give rides to evening activities or games, your kids will be aware and make alternative plans. When Grandma announces the date of her annual holiday party, you’ll all know which weekend to leave open. Check out the Apple iCloud calendar, Google calendar, or one of the many available family calendar and organizer apps.
Save Time With Quick Recipes and More
Staying organized and prioritizing your most important tasks can be highly effective time-savers. Still, if you’re struggling to fit everything in, here are a few easy ways to get stuff done quickly.
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Treat Yourself to a Pre-Lit Christmas Tree
If you love decorating your Christmas tree but aren’t married to the idea of having a real one, invest in a pre-lit artificial one this year. There are many attractive ones on sale for under $100, which is a great deal for a tree that will last for years to come. You can even purchase a tree with lights that shift from traditional white to brightly colored with just the touch of a button. When the holiday season has ended, you can disassemble your tree for easy attic or basement storage within a matter of minutes. Or, if you have the space, you can leave it assembled and stash it in a closet for easy removal next year!
Use Easy Cookie Recipes
Who doesn’t love baked holiday goods? I’ve loved them ever since I was young enough to leave cookies for Santa, and since nowadays I am Santa, I like to make sure we’re well-stocked. When I have the time, I like to use my mom’s classic sugar cookie recipe, which requires allowing the dough to chill in the freezer for several hours. But when I need to whip up a batch of Christmas cookies for a party, I use some of my favorite quick recipes. I love how easy and versatile cake mix cookies are. You can prep the dough in just five minutes, and it’s easy to make them festive for the holidays. Use holiday-colored M&Ms or sprinkles to make them seasonal and festive.
Do Your Shopping Online
I don’t know about you, but I’m so grateful that online shopping has become such a big part of our economy. If I don’t have to get in the car, drive to the store, park, browse the aisles, and wait in the checkout line, I’m a happy camper. It saves me so much time, and I’m able to avoid the crowded parking lots, stores, and long lines.
Shopping online has made the holidays so much easier for me. My favorite sites store my shopping lists, suggest ideas for holiday gifts, and often offer free expedited delivery. And when you purchase from smaller online gift shops, like someone’s Etsy store, you’re supporting small businesses. I find that shopping from independent artists and artisans means the experience is more personal. It’s much easier to get in touch with the owner of a small shop about a custom order or other special request.
I hope the ideas I’ve shared with you here are helpful in the coming weeks, no matter how busy things may get at home. Please don’t be too hard on yourself — no one is perfect! Your kids will remember the time you spent with them and the memories you made together, not the batch of reindeer cookies you burned. The love and laughter you share are what will have them feeling gratitude about family holidays well into their adult years.
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