Halloween is over and we’re coming up on Thanksgiving pretty quickly. Then we really enter the holiday rush. And we get swamped. Overwhelmed. Stressed. We all want to have a happy holiday season- no matter what holidays we celebrate. But, often our best laid plans fall apart. The good news is, you can plan for an actually have a holiday season that is happy and less stressed. I can’t promise you won’t have any stress, but you can really cut it down. All it takes is a little planning and starting early. How early? Now. Here is my 30 day guide for preparing for the holidays. It requires one thing each day, but after the 30 days are up you will be way ahead of the holiday curve.
If you stumble across this post after the 30 days begins that’s ok. Start whenever you see this. If you don’t have 30 days until the holidays, that’s ok, too. Just combine days when you can until you’re caught up. The goal is to do as much as you can in advance. Feel free to move days around if you need to. This is not a rigid schedule. It’s designed to help you prepare. There are no hard and fast rules.
November 4- Plan
The best way to prepare for anything is to plan. The holiday season is stuffed to overflowing with activities, celebrations, parties, etc., etc. etc. No one can do everything. Today, take a little time to determine what is most important to you. What celebrations does your family find the most meaningful? List everything you do during the holiday season and rank them. The top ranked activities are the ones you must do- those things that the holidays would be all wrong if you didn’t do them. The lower ranked things? Those are the ones you do because you feel like you have to but don’t find any meaning from. Mark those off the list. You don’t have time to do things that you don’t find meaningful. Now, you have a list of the things that are most important to you. Just realize that it’s ok if you don’t get to everything on the list.
November 5- Set a Budget
This is pretty straight forward. No one enjoys starting a new year in debt from all they spent during the holidays. Set a limit on how much you will spend. Then, break that down into categories. If you plan to spend $500 during the holidays, set part of that aside for gifts. How much will you use to purchase supplies? Holiday foods? Ceremonial items? You’ll need cash for parties and events. Budget it all out and stick with it. You’ll feel so much better after the season ends to know you didn’t break the bank.
November 6- Freshen Up Your Holiday Mailing List
Who do you plan to send cards to? Freshen up that list. Remove anyone that no longer needs to be on there, add any new ones. Make sure you have contact information for everyone. If you send digital holiday greetings, make sure you’re prepared with information for everyone you’ll send it to.
November 7- Holiday Meal Plan
Today you’re going to lay out your holiday meal plan. Think Thanksgiving Day, Christmas, Chanukkah, Yule. Whatever holidays you celebrate between now and January 1st. Even New Year’s Day is included. If you have a special meal on any of these holidays plan it out now.
November 8- Clean Out a Closet
It doesn’t actually have to be a closet. Pick a place to keep all of your holiday items and get them together. Wrangle up your gift wrap, scissors, tape, small decorations, etc. Put it all in one place. This will also be where you store your gifts later.
November 9- Rest
Take a day off from the holiday prep. I’m an advocate of a weekly day of rest. The specific day doesn’t matter. I have Saturday built in for religious purposes. Many people have Sunday for their day of rest. Either of these is fine. If your spiritual tradition doesn’t designate a day, pick one yourself. It’s truly rejuvenating to have a day just for you.
November 10- Purge
Go through your house and box and bag everything you don’t need. You’ll be bringing in lots of new stuff over the next two months, and you’ll need a place to put everything. Get ahead of the game now by getting rid of what you no longer need or want. This can also help other people have a brighter holiday season.
November 11- Donate
Today is the day to donate everything you purged yesterday. All of those bags and boxes need to be taken out of your house and donated somewhere. Thrift stores are a good place to start. Just get it out and donate it somewhere that it will be used.
November 12- Take Inventory
Now that you’ve downsized a bit it’s time to take stock of what you have in the way of holiday supplies. Lots of times we end up buying things we don’t need because don’t know what we have already. Raise your hand if you’ve done this. Mine’s definitely up!
November 13- Supplies List
So, now you know what you have. Make a list of all the things that you need for the holidays. Do you need new cookware? Write it down. How about wrapping paper. It goes on the list. Need a new tree? List it. Whatever you need in the way of holiday supplies goes on this list.
November 14- Grocery List
Once you have your supplies list make a grocery list. Anything you need for your holiday meals that can be bought in advance goes on this list. Include your turkey unless you absolutely need or want a fresh turkey. If you don’t mind having a frozen one list it now. Will you need more flour and sugar for baking? Think of any holiday foods that can be prepared ahead of time and frozen. List the ingredients you need for those now.
November 15- Shopping
Today you’re going to go and purchase everything on your lists from yesterday. You’ll likely be making several stops, so plan for the grocery store last.
November 16- Rest
November 17- Meal Prep
Cook it up today. All those holiday items you can make ahead of time? Do it today. Also think of any casseroles, lasagna, etc. that you may want to make ahead of time for dinners later. Prepping meals today and putting them in the freezer will make it easier- and lighter on your budget- when you’re in a hurry with no time for making dinner later.
November 18- Gift List
Make a list of everyone you need gifts for this holiday season. Then list out exactly what you want to give them. Keep your budget in mind. Will you be purchasing ready made items, making gifts, or a mix of both. It doesn’t really matter. Just list out everything you plan to give to every person you plan to give to.
November 19- Another List
Now that you know who you’re giving to and what you’re going to give them, list what you need. It doesn’t matter if you have it or don’t. If you need it for a gift, write it down.
November 20- Organizing
Take the list you made yesterday and determine what you already have. No need to go shopping for things you don’t need. Gather up anything you do have and make a list of what you don’t.
November 21- Last Minute Thanksgiving List
Make a list of everything you need for the remainder of your Thanksgiving meal. You’ve already prepared items, and purchased anything that was storable, but you’re likely to need fresher items, too. Make that list today.
November 22- Thanksgiving Shopping
Go shopping for the items on your list from yesterday.
November 23- Rest
November 24- Cleaning & Turkey
If you bought a frozen turkey, you’ll need to set it in the refrigerator to start thawing. This is definitely based on the weight of the turkey so you may need to have done this a few days earlier or maybe tomorrow. But in general, this is a good day. Also take time to clean your house today. If you’re having guests for Thanksgiving you definitely want a clean house. But even if you’re not, you want your house clean so you feel less stressed.
November 25- Holiday Cards
Prepare your holiday cards today. Write your annual letter, sign all your cards, whatever you do for sending holiday greetings, do it today. Address and stamp the envelopes. It’s all done today, except the actual mailing. If you send emails, write them out now and save them in your drafts. If you post on social media, create the post and schedule for later.
November 26- Rest Day!
This is one week when I change up my rest day. You’ll see why when you get to Saturday.
November 27- Thanksgiving Prep
Cook everything you can today and take anything you already made out of the freezer. Get as much done today as possible. It will be less work tomorrow!
November 28- Happy Thanksgiving
Enjoy your feast!
November 29- Decorate
I hate the Black Friday crowds so I refuse to go out shopping today. Feel free if you like. If you absolutely need a deal for something and don’t want to go out, buy it online today if you can. Otherwise, this is the day for decorating. Put up your tree. String your Chanukkah lights. Set up the menorah. Put up any decorations you like. Have fun with it.
November 30- Shopping
While I normally don’t shop on Saturday I do today because it’s Small Business Saturday. It’s not nearly as insane as Black Friday. You get really good deals. And, I like to keep as many of my dollars local as possible. Go out and purchase any items you are giving that are ready made, and make sure you pick up the supplies you need for any gifts you plan to make.
December 1- Gift Making
Today is the day for making any gifts you plan to create yourself. Have fun.
December 2- Gift Wrap
Wrap all those gifts!
December 3- Mail Day
Post office time. Mail your cards and gifts today. It won’t be long until the lines at the post office are insane. If you do electronic holiday greetings send the emails today. If you post a general greeting on social media, go ahead. Get it done.
That’s it. You’re done. Now, you’re ready to enjoy the holidays. All that’s left is the parties and celebrations. And cleaning and prepping for any holiday meals the rest of this month. But, you’ve got it planned out by now so it should be a lot less stressful. Go have fun. Enjoy the season. Happy Holidays!