By Nicole Gabai
Published in Cape Cod Parent and Child
December • January 2007

It’s December, do you know where your jingle bells are?

Can you believe the holidays are just around the corner? When I said that to my 5 year old nephew Gabriel, in the car the other day, he thought it was the funniest thing he had ever heard! He thought when I made a left turn, there would be Santa and his reindeer, a big tree and falling snow. Well, it almost feels that way.

With a little planning, lots of lists, and some simple solutions, you can make this year’s celebrations more relaxing, meaningful, and more enjoyable while you’re sipping eggnog by the fire and hosting large family dinners with long lost relatives.

First Things First

There are a million reasons why clutter accumulates at home all year long. But there is no better time than before the holidays to de-clutter. Set aside 3-4 hours on a few different saturdays and you’ll start the preparations off on a high note.

Here are some specific ideas to give attention to:

  1. Clothes closets – if you haven’t worn it in 1 year – give it away to someone who will. Same for the kids closets, too. Tell the kids Santa only comes to an organized house! Whatever their ages, the message is clear – if everyone helps out, the season will be that much more joyous.
  2.  Kitchen cabinets – Take a good look at all the mix-matched sets of glasses and plates. Give away those that are no longer a joy to use. You can buy a new dish set at Wal-Mart for under $30 and a set of new glasses is even cheaper at Christmas Tree Shop. You’ll start the holidays off in a festive mood!
  3. Important papers and stuff – You know all those little pieces of paper floating around? You know, the ones on every counter top and in every extra basket? Add 2 very important files to your filing system – “TO BE FILED” and “TO BE REVIEWED.” Now, when you sit down at your desk, you’ll feel so much better knowing all these papers and notes are at least in a file. Take some time to sort and file away all these notes. To really keep things in order during this busy season, make an effort to regularly open and sort your mail, put things away when you’re done with them and do small chores often so they don’t become huge.
  4.  The freezer – Take a good long look at all those plastic containers of, well, you’re not quite sure what and begin tossing out all the left-overs and half-eaten goodies to make room for the extra ice-trays and ice bags at holiday time.
  5. Update the Christmas and Channukah décor – If the blinking tree lights didn’t work last year, they probably won’t work this year either. You know the ones I am talking about, that string or two you have all rolled up at the bottom of the holiday decorations box. Toss it, forget about it and spend a few bucks on some new strings.If you are missing all the needed candles for the menorah, then now is the time to stock up and give the menorah a quick polish too.
  6. Kids toys – kids getting a new video game this year? Give the old one to charity. He’ll never go back to version 1 anyway. Any old and gently used toys no longer a favorite or under appreciated? Now is the perfect time to donate to your favorite church, temple or charity. (see sidebar for local ideas)
  7. Driving directions – This is a great file to have in your filing system all year-round. However, at this holiday time, it’s especially handy to have copies of directions to YOUR house. Have these typed in your computer and it will save time when you can shoot an e-mail to friends and relatives.
  8. Holiday gifts – Start collecting holiday gifts for everyone on your list. Another great time-saver is to keep a file all year long of gift ideas. That way, you can easily surf the internet for lots of those gift purchases.
  9. Create a timeline – This is a master list with all the to-do’s that need to be done before your special event, whether it’s a dinner party, or a breakfast on Christmas morning. Once it’s all on the list, transfer a couple of to-do’s onto each day before the big event. As each item is accomplished, cross it off the list! It’s very gratifying.
  10. Lists, lists and more lists – Making written or typed lists for the holidays will make it much easier to remember everything. Excellent lists to have at this time of year are:
    -gift lists
    -budget lists
    -meal planning lists
    -holiday card lists
    -event lists
    -activity lists
  11. Help is on the way! – Ask for, and accept help. It’s the best way to ease the stress. When I throw a party it’s usually a big undertaking. It’s much easier when I know I can count on my friends to lend a hand. Some people bring wine and beer, some pitch in to help set up or clean up and some bring food.
    Relying on others means giving up some control – I let guests bring whatever food and drinks they would like to bring, and then just go with the flow. It’s half the fun of celebrating and my friends feel more involved in the joy of the event.
    Even the superwomen among us (uh, who are they, really?) can’t do everything on their own. Give yourself a gift this season, and hire a babysitter for an evening or a few hours during the day so you can have some downtime, or spend some alone time shopping or ordering gifts online.
  12. Mailing Lists and holiday cards – One option to make your life easier is to send New Year’s greetings instead of adding holiday cards to the Christmas list. I always tried to send my cards before the end of December and then I realized I could make my life a little less stressed by extending my deadline. My cards don’t get lost in the shuffle of dozens of other cards in the end of December and I can take a little more time to write a more meaningful message as soon as January rolls in.
    To keep your mailing lists up to date, keep all your data stored in the computer using “Outlook.” It’s the best for keeping track of names and addresses. And keep in mind that the best time to update your holiday card list for next year, is at the end of this year’s holiday season. Add, modify or delete as needed.
  13. It’s a wrap – Keep all your rolls of paper, tape, bows and decorative bags in a Gift Wrap organizer. You can find a great one at the Container Store or on-line at Stacks and Stacks. When all your shopping is complete, spend an evening or two wrapping gifts and you won’t be digging throughout the house trying to find all the elements you need.

When all is said and done, it’s the time spent with friends and family that really makes the holidays meaningful. Don’t try to be perfect. I give you permission to just enjoy the season and the company you’re with. Happy organizing and happy holidays!