How to: Organize for an Easier Holiday Season
Ready or not, it's November, and the holidays are officially upon us again.
Does this strike fear or do you feel on top of it? If stressed, don't panic.
Sure this may feel easier said than done, but this week I'm offering up all sorts of holiday advice to get you through with ease and even a little sparkle.
- Today - How To: Organize For An Easier Holiday Season
- Tuesday - How to: Side Step Sales Traps and Stay on Your Holiday Budget
- Wednesday - How to: Maintain a Self-Care Routine During the Holiday Season
- Thursday - How to: Plan a Holiday Party
- Friday - How to: Plan a Party Menu + a Bonus Martini Recipe
Very first step?
Take a big deep breath and know that you'll be ok no matter what happens.
Now let's dive in.
Home - a.k.a. "Dammit, why didn't I clean out this clutter before now???"
If your home is a hot mess, the urge here is most often to panic and then throw everything into a laundry basket or box and tucking it all into the closet for "later."
If guests are coming over in under an hour, this is a perfectly acceptable and temporarily successful tactic. You do you.
If you have more time, then the name of the game here is to focus only on getting the excess out of the house. Often this is enough for a short-term solution.
Here's your "quick clean" plan:
First, remove obvious trash.
(We're starting here because in most homes that I work in, much of the clutter is trash that never got thrown away. Random, but that's how it be sometimes.)
- Grab a trash bag. Go to the front door of your house. Working clockwise (or counter-clockwise) around the first room, remove all items that are trash, broken, unrepairable, hate, etc, and throw them away.
- Repeat this process for every room/area that guests will be in.
- Get all that trash out of the house.
Pro tip: for this step you can also get a second bag (recommend a different color or use a paper bag for recycling) and divvy up between trash and recycle. However, for this step focus ONLY on removing trash and recycling.
Alternatively, you can also make removing items to recycle as it's own step, then move on to the donation items.
Now repeat the same process while removing items to go to donations.
Before you ask: YES. Trash/recycling and donations as two separate steps for a reason.
If you have too much to think about, it's easy to get overwhelmed, then stressed out, and then give up because you think you can't get it all done. When you focus on only one task at a time - i.e. collecting and throwing away the trash - it feels easily done and you can successfully complete the task.
So stick to the plan!
- Grab a bag or box. As above, move through each area of your home, one room at a time, removing items that are in decent enough condition, but you no longer need, use or love.
- Once these things are pulled, drop them off at donations.
Pro tip: Don't overthink it. The point here is to make a quick sweep of the house to create space and make things look neater. Put on some peppy music and focus on only what you want to get rid of and create some "so fresh, so clean" space. This space gives the illusion of a neater, tidier home. You can go in for a deep clean, clutter and organize after guests are gone.
At this point you may have created enough space for the house to look good enough. (Good enough is perfectly acceptable!) If not and you still need to hide things away then do so...but not before you've removed everything you don't need, use, or love and gotten it out of the house!
And get it really, truly out of the house. Put it at the curb for garbage pick-up. Drop it off at your favorite donations center. Piled up in the garage doesn't count. This step is *super-duper* important.
Decorations - a.k.a. - "Why didn't I organize these before I put them away last year?"
- Locate and pull out all holiday decorations. Sort through and make sure everything is still in good, working condition. Repurpose, recycle, donate or trash what you no longer love or what may have become damaged from time.
- Separate everything out and sort like with like. Outdoor, indoor, tree, etc.
- Decide when you're going to decorate and write it down on your calendar. If you've don't have too much, you can do it all at once. If you do more elaborate decorating then you do it in stages.
- If there are any decorations left over after you've finished decorating your home, give them another look and decide if you need to keep them or not. If not, donate now.
Disclaimer: some people have multiple, themed sets of decorations. This is a different case from merely unused items. Pack them up neatly and label with the holiday and theme. This will make things easier in the future.
At the end of the holiday season, throw away everything that got broken or damaged this year. Pack everything up keeping like with like. While putting things away, tell Future You "you're welcome." Future You is grateful.
Gifts - a.k.a. "Why didn't I buy gifts through the year so I didn't have to do it all at once when stores are landmines of crazy?"
Make a list of everyone you're gifting this year. Also include gift ideas, where said gift can be purchased, and the max amount you want to spend so that you'll stay on budget. This tidbit of organization will help you so much once you get to shopping.
Already purchased some gifts through the year? Pull them out and get them wrapped and labeled. Anything you can get done ahead of time is a fabulous thing.
Pro tip: if your schedule allows it, the best time to shop is first thing in the morning on a Monday. You'll practically have the place to yourself, and it's dreamy. #workfromhomeperks
Parties and Events - a.k.a. "Why did I agree to do this? I only use my kitchen to store wine and whiskey."
Throwing a party this year? Make your invite list and send your invites out now. Getting on people’s calendars early will help others with their party plans.
Start preparing and planning for your party now so you have time to breathe and look like the ultimate hostess. More tips on how to do this coming on Thursday and Friday.
Pro tip: Want to entertain but the thought of planning a holiday party among every other holiday party makes you worry that nobody will show? Plan a post-holiday party in January! In going from over-scheduled to nothing-scheduled, many people feel a post-holiday slump. The sight of a casual cocktail party in the "dead" of January is always a boost. Of the people I know who do this, it is always well attended and easily one of the best parties of the year.
Parties and Events - a.k.a. "Why did I R.S.V.P. 'yes?' I'd rather binge on Netflix."
What will you be attending? School, work and family functions. Travel. Friends parties. Special holiday shows like The Nutcracker. Look at everything you know you'll be attending, get it on your calendar, and metnally prep for it.
Pro tip: Block out and prep time and drive time needed. It's oh-so-easy to overschedule yourself during this season. Seeing prep and commute times on your calendar will give you a more realistic vision of everything happening.
And saving the best for last:
The grand plan: a.k.a. the Master Calendar...or as I called it through my event planning years, The Timeline.
(Yes capitalized because it is that important.)
Put everything down on a single master list and calendar:
- When you’re going to decorate.
- When you’ll be in a certain part of town near the store you want to buy X's gift.
- Travel plans.
- When you’ll go to the grocery store for party foods.
- When you’ll make x dish to freeze ahead for x party.
Every. single. thing. no matter how small or minor it may seem goes onto the list. This way you can get things out of your head and into a single place where you can see everything you need. Then, to make sure you don’t feel overwhelmed, only look at one day at a time.
Pro tip: if you like to keep track of things electronically, I highly recommend TickTick. It's a simple outline form task manager that is super-easy to use and stay on top of everything. I wrote a start-up guide here.
Follow these tips to have an easier, more organized holiday. And don't forget to come back every morning this week for more tips to get you through the holidays!