Did you ever have a year when you just couldn't get your act together to buy a Christmas tree, let alone decorate it? The holidays can be overwhelming with so many to-dos to accomplish, and pressure to feel jolly all the while. Before your “ho ho hos” and “fa la las” turn into “no no nos,” try this trick for keeping your holiday season sanity. You can actually enjoy the winter holidays if you use my secret weapon: the Holiday Notebook. Here's how to use this tool to make your holidays stress-free.
The Holiday Notebook
It's not just Santa who needs to make a list and check it twice. We've all got lists galore at this time of year, and keeping track of them all is a trick in itself. The Holiday Notebook has saved my hide, and my holidays, for the last 10 years or so. It really changed the way I approach the entire season. It's where I gather all of my holiday recipes, receipts, and Christmas card address list. I even include a minute-by-minute schedule for my holiday party prep. (What goes in the oven first: the baked brie or the pigs in blankets?)
It starts with shopping for yourself!
The first step towards holiday season sanity is buying a three-ring binder. Get some pocket dividers, transparent plastic sleeves and notebook paper, too. Next, add these to your Holiday Notebook and mark the dividers with relevant categories. For starters, I suggest Traditions, Calendar, Recipes, Gift List, Holiday Card List, and Holiday Notes.
Schedule family traditions
Gather up your family to make a list of favorite Christmas traditions. But here's the thing: you don't have to do them all. Decide as a group which activities are must-dos and which would be nice, if time and budget allow. Things you thought everyone loved may not be essential each year. For example, maybe The Nutcracker has lost its luster, or no one actually likes caroling around the neighborhood.
Next, list all of your holiday traditions in the Calendar section of your Holiday Notebook. Writing out all of your holiday to-dos will help to organize them before adding them to your primary calendar, whether that's on the computer/smart phone or a family wall calendar. Make sure that “buy Advent calendar” happens before Advent actually starts. Schedule your cookie baking, writing your holiday cards, tipping the trash collector, and riding around to look at holiday lights. Realize that there may not actually enough time between Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus to get it all done. Mix up a holiday cocktail and dive in anyway.
Choose holiday recipes
Now it's time to grab your recipe cards or make copies of favorite holiday recipes from cookbooks and slip them into the plastic sleeves for easy cleanup in the kitchen from the inevitable batter spills. Head to Pinterest and print out all of those tasty holiday dishes you've been meaning to try. Then, put them in your Holiday Notebook in the Recipes section. This will save you time in hunting down recipes and deciding what to make each year. Plus, you can mark up recipes with notes on how to improve them next holiday season, like “A dash more vanilla” or, “Two dozen wasn't enough!”
Organize your holiday card list
Go on the hunt for last year's holiday card list. In the future, it will be easier to find because it will be right where it should be: in your Holiday Notebook. For a smart solution, organize your list via an Excel spreadsheet and print out a copy. Be sure to add “prepare holiday cards” to the Calendar section of your notebook, too. Plan a night where the whole family can help address and stuff envelopes while watching a favorite Christmas movie or TV special.
Create your gift list
Finally, create your gift list to keep track of what to purchase for whom, and to stay within budget. Hide your gift list in that secret inside pocket of your purse or winter coat so no one will find it. After the holidays, slip it into your Holiday Notebook so that next year when you start shopping, you can remember what you gave everyone next year. (Is it just me that finds herself giving the same people the same gift year after year? No more! Thank you, Holiday Notebook!) I suggest saving receipts in one of the pocket dividers or plastic sleeves here so that if anyone needs to return or exchange gifts after the holidays, you know where to find them.
Decorate your Holiday Notebook
With all of that extra time you have created for yourself, pour yourself some eggnog and decorate your notebook. If you want to get fancy, treat yourself to an adult holiday coloring book and colored pencils or markers to create a festive cover for your Holiday Notebook. After all, it's going to be around for years to come.
And voila…holiday season sanity saved!
One of my favorite parts of the Holiday Notebook are the notes I keep from year to year about the holidays. I track who arrived first to our family holiday party, who left last, and who showed up on the wrong night (there’s always someone!). I write down what gave us the biggest laugh, and what we could do differently next year. As my children grow older and the years run together, I really enjoy remembering Christmases past. Ultimately, if the holiday season brings you more joy than stress, it's a win for the whole family.
What are your tips for keeping your holiday season sanity? Let us know in the comments below!