I honestly do not know where the days, weeks and months went.  I glanced at the date on my computer screen and saw that the holidays are only a few short weeks away.  Though preparations for the holidays can be very exciting, they can also be quite nerve-wracking if ill-prepared.  The holidays can creep up on us and before we know it, we’re rushing around the malls, trying to figure out the menu for the big family dinner we may be hosting, and then there’s the mad rush to get the house cleaned and ready for guests and entertaining.

For me, there’s nothing more exciting than having the family together for the holidays!  A big, hearty, home-cooked meal enjoyed with loved ones, the smell of Christmas (lots of cinnamon, citrus and pine), the warmth of a fire burning, Christmas music playing in the background, kids playing, adults laughing, and festive decor all make for happy memories.

I love this season the most.

I try to plan at least two months ahead and start getting everything organized so I don’t have to panic and stress. But let’s face it, that doesn’t always happen!

For some, the holidays are anything but relaxing and can be a source of anxiety. Fret not!  No matter when you start planning for the holidays, I’ve got some tips that can help.

Make a (To-Do) list and check it twice!

It’s one thing to have an idea in your head about what needs to get done.  If you actually put pen to paper (or insert in your smartphone as a note or reminder), you’ll actually get things done.  To be even more organized and efficient, how about entering your “to-do” items in your smartphone’s calendar?  For example: Monday at 10 AM, send out invitations or e-vites to guests for Christmas dinner.

A Shopping List is your best friend

Before you head out into the big, wide world of shopping malls and specialty stores, make sure you know what you’re getting.  Start by first writing down the names of your gift recipients. Decide what you will be getting that person.  Add it to the list.  One of the biggest time suckers is going to the mall in search of a present for someone and not knowing what to get that person.

Gift Budget

Have an amount that you will be allowed to spend and while you’re at it, make sure you budget how much you will be spending per gift recipient.  This will save you a lot of surprises and it will also save your wallet.  If you can stick to your budget, it’s smooth sailing from there!  It’s so easy to be at the store and see an item “on sale” or discounted and think, “I should just throw this into the cart. So-and-So will like this!”  Though the thought is there, if you keep adding random items into your cart, in addition to your items already on the shopping list, the $$$ quickly add up.  Also, if you’re the type that doesn’t keep track of what you’re spending, it can make for a very expensive holiday.

Don’t be afraid to delegate!

Of course, we’d all like to be able to do everything for everyone and make this a holiday everyone will remember.  Everyone will remember it, but you don’t have to put all the weight on yourself.  Delegate!  Instead of cooking the entire meal yourself, get one person to bring a salad, another to bring a dessert, etc.  Get the kids to tidy up their toys and their rooms.  Get your partner to spot clean the living room.  Perhaps the morning of the day the guests arrive, get Hubby to clean the bathroom if you like having your bathroom all sparkly for visitors.  To be honest, loved ones are coming to visit you and not your house.  This said, I always feel happier when the house is clean and tidy for guests. I also like not giving my mom a chance to write with her finger “clean me” or “I’m dusty” on my TV screen.

Setting Limits

This is a good thing!  Remember, you don’t have to buy gifts for everyone you know.  You can limit it to just family or include only close friends.  You can make an agreement with loved ones to only have gifts for the children.  Setting limits is not only responsible, but it’s also necessary.  We have some close friends (about five families) that we spend a lot of time with. Our kids are the same age and each year we do an old-fashioned Christmas where we have a lovely meal together and the kids exchange gifts.  Only, the kids have to make each other gifts.  It’s really special.

It’s okay to say NO!

With the holidays come invitation after invitation for parties, dinners, events and more.  Sure, t’is the season to be jolly, but stretching yourself thin can be stressful and you can also end up worn down…and ultimately, sick!  Pick and choose the events you’d like to partake in, and people will understand if you’ve got too much on your plate.  I happen to suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), but have recently learned that I cannot triple or quadruple book myself anymore.  Everyone needs to be able to slow down and just do what they can.  People will understand.  Your body (and family) will thank you too.

Make a date…with yourself 

Prepping for the holidays can be busy, but doesn’t have to be stressful.  To ensure that you are taking time for yourself after all the running around and prepping, make a date with yourself!  Take the time to go for a coffee at your favourite coffee shop.  Get a manicure or pedicure.  Have a soak in the tub.  Whatever you do, make sure to take time for yourself.  You’ll be energized and ready for all the holiday fun to come!

People won’t remember the egg nog you forgot to make or the kids’ greasy handprints on your fridge.  What they’ll remember is the memories you created together.

Christine is an ESL teacher, mother, wife, freelance writer, social media community manager, and blogger outreach coordinator. She’s also a bento-making mama with a love for cooking, baking and hosting big dinner parties. She lives on a farm with her husband (Hubby), daughter (Little One), beloved canine babies (Chance & Cupcake), a bunch of rambunctious barn cats and some really stubborn cattle. Read her blog at Life On Manitoulin.