I know that to many, it is way too early to talk about Christmas. Actually, the holiday is only 4 months away. If you have always wanted to simplify your holiday and make it into something far less stressful, then early planning must be involved.
In our home, Christmas is always a simple celebration. We have always wanted to focus to be on the meaning of the holiday and not the stacks of gifts or the stress induced by the over scheduling of parties and gatherings. Another tradition we have established comes from one I have done for many years prior to meeting my husband. We give handmade gifts more often than store bought.
For me to enjoy a no-stress holiday season, I start early. By this time of year, I already have made notes on what I am going to give to others at Christmas. I designed a gift list and a planning form for handmade gifts that is available as a free printable Gift Planning Pack.
I have started a “wish list” for each child on Amazon so that if anyone asks what the kids need, I can refer them to their lists. This is very helpful with family who live a distance away. The lists contain things that the kids are interested in or are in need of. Pookie’s list contains therapy toys and items that he likes to use at his therapy sessions or art supplies that he loves to use and runs out of quite frequently. For him, art is a communication tool as well as a fun activity. Little Miss also loves art, but in a different form. She also has other interests, such as being a book worm! She reads for several hours every day just for the enjoyment of it. Between now and the end of October, I will be gradually buying the kids a few things off their wish lists to add to their Christmas stockings.
Some gifts take time to make. Things like an afghan are not made in a day or two. They have to be planned out. One thing I am making is homemade vanilla. This takes only minutes to make, but has to sit for a couple of months for the flavors to blend properly before use. Homemade soaps, if you are not making the melt and pour type, need some time for the bars of soap to fully harden. If used before they have hardened completely, the soap melts away too quickly. The harder the bar of soap is, the longer it will last. So, I like to let them cure for a couple of months. The same goes with any other specialty type items like bath salts or lotions.
Having a list of things that you are wanting to make also gives you a checklist for planning your supply purchases. I can calendar when I have to make items like the vanilla, then make sure I purchase the supplies ahead of time. You can take advantage of sales and buy the supplies when the prices are cheaper or you have a good coupon to use. Having the list also gives me a checklist to mark off as I go along so that I can see at a glance what still needs to be finished.
Yesterday, I bought some yarn and a tote to store the supplies in. I wanted to be able to keep everything close at hand. Now, if I have a few minutes to sit down during the day or after the kids are in bed at night, I can take out a project and start working on it. As soon as the project is done, it can be wrapped and placed in another container until the holiday. I love this method of holiday prep. It gives me the time to get things down in a relaxed manner instead of having to rush around later.
If there are people on the gift list who will be getting a purchased gift, I have plenty of time to look around for a good price. I know that at the holiday sales, there are often deep discounts, but for me the headaches of dealing with traffic and large crowds just isn’t worth it. That is one reason why I love shopping online. Another is that it saves on fuel. To shop for holiday gifts, I would have to travel at least 40 miles to the town where I grocery shop, or at least 70 miles to a large city.
A fun aspect of starting the preps early is that we have plenty of time to make cards and decorations. A search on Pinterest will yield many ideas for holiday decorations and gift ideas for kids to make. The kids and I can sit at the table and make crafts for the season or upcoming holidays once a week for the next two months. This will give us plenty of decorations for our tree or gifts to give to others at Christmas.
Another area of the holiday preps that I like to plan out ahead of time are the holiday meals. Having the meals planned out ahead of time allows you to be able to start gathering ingredients in advance. In the past, I have kept a box in the pantry area just for storing the extra ingredients that I purchased for the holiday meals. This insured that they were not used ahead of time. I remember one year when I purchased pumpkin a month in advance. That year, happened to be one in which it became hard to find cans of pumpkin. We were lucky in that we bought it early. If I gradually buy the ingredients that I need to purchase, then when the holiday arrives, I will only have to buy the last minute items such as the meat which goes on sale for a great price right before the holiday. In some years, because of buying the bulk of the ingredients ahead of time, I had enough grocery budget to buy two turkeys at Thanksgiving. This allowed me to have more than enough meat to home can and add to the pantry.
Whether you make gifts or buy them. Planning ahead will help make the season go easier. If you have tips on how your family makes the holiday season stress-free, feel free to add them to the comments.