tips to shop early for Christmas gifts from Lela Burris
Winter Holidays

7 Ways To Jump Start Your Holiday Planning

Learn how to start your holiday planning early and create a solid plan in case things go wrong.

Have you already started decking the halls with every single sparkly thing you’ve got stored in your attic? Or do you like to wait until after the turkey has been carved, packed up, and turned into chowder? Whether you kick off your holiday season at the beginning of November, the beginning of December, or December 23rd, it’s never too early to start your holiday planning.

I’m not talking about planning where each tree ornament will go, I’m more on the lines of getting everything in place so you don’t have a full-on mental breakdown in the baking aisle of the grocery store. Or the middle of the living room at your boss’s annual cocktail party. Yep, the real-life truth is, holidays are stressful. And jam-packed. And really freakin’ overwhelming.

So before you hit that emotional explosion, let’s get some plans in place to help you be cool as a cucumber this year. Or at least part of the time.

Holiday Season Planning Tips

Evaluate Commitments

You’ve heard this a thousand times, but now’s the season of the year where it matters the most. Here’s the dealio, my frazzled friend. You’ve already got a lot going on, right? If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be hanging out with me learning how to get organized. But in T-minus 24 hours, ‘ish is going to start hitting the fan.

Your kid is going to bring home ten flyers on all the stuff you’ve got to attend at school and all the things you have to buy for those events. Your job is going to get overwhelmingly crazy. Your husband’s family is going to plan parties for the same night your family has planned parties.

And at some point in the next two months, you’re going to want to get a full night’s sleep, at least once…

So before your calendar starts blowing up with events and appointments you can only pull off if you had four clones, go ahead and evaluate the commitments you’ve already got. You’re going to need some extra time this season, so start by weeding out the things that aren’t priorities. Trust me, everyone will understand.

holiday planning and organizing tips from Lela Burris

Keep A Calendar

If you don’t have a calendar, you need to go out and get one [or start one on your phone] today. Without some kind of written system, you’re going to forget birthdays, miss events, and double-book yourself all over the place.

I highly recommend a dry erase calendar in a central location of your house so everyone in the family can always see what’s going on, as well as add to it easily.

If you’re more into digital calendars, I definitely suggest using a Google Calendar. You can create one shared calendar for the whole fam, and it updates in real time so everyone is in the loop, no matter how many changes are made.

Set Up A Family Command Center

This one ties into the calendar, especially if you’re going with a dry erase calendar or large printed one. It is more important now than ever to have some kind of command center to keep all the important stuff your family needs to know and keep up with.

Aside from the calendar, add sections for incoming and outgoing mail (because this is the year you actually get your cards out in time), invitations and party info, important documents, to-do lists, and anything else you need to keep up with and access quickly. You can also keep your Holiday Planner here for easy reference to all your upcoming plans.

Get Comfortable Saying No

You’re about to have invitation after invitation thrown at you. If you said yes to every party, every volunteer event, every school function, every family get-together, every charity drive, and every ask for help, you’d have to quit your job, abandon your family, and live in your car for the next two months.

Seriously, I know it’s dramatic, but you can’t help but laugh because you know you’ve thought that before!

I’m giving you permission, right here and right now, to just say no. You don’t have to say yes to every single thing.

Worried about hurting feelings? Explain to the host that you just have too much on your plate right now, but you appreciate the invite. You can even take it a step further by sending a nice card with a sweet note. Everyone is busy this year, and they’re all saying no to things, not just you. They’re going to understand.

christmas themed nightstand


Get Your Home Ready Now

There’s nothing more stressful than having to scramble to get the house clean one day before your weeklong guests arrive. Wait, there is something more stressful…it’s having to scramble to clean the house one hour before your surprise guests drop in.

You know that phone call…it’s the one we all dread. “Hey girl! I’m out shopping in your side of town and I thought I’d stop by for a visit! See you in an hour!” Cut to you in your sweatpants surrounded by popcorn crumbs from your Popcorn Garland DIY Project.

By taking time to get your house cleaned up and ready for guests now, you’ll be nice and chill when the guests come rolling in. Check out this post for how to get your home ready for the holidays and a free downloadable cleaning countdown calendar.

Set Guest Visits And Travel Plans In Stone

This isn’t the time to be wishy-washy when it comes to traveling and house guests. If you know you’ll be going out of town to visit family or friends, or you’ll have someone lodging in your guest bedroom for a while, you need to get the details in concrete ASAP.

Why? Because this is what will govern all of your daily and weekly plans.

Everything else on your schedule will work around your travel plans and house guests, not the other way around. You don’t want to commit to the six hour school fundraiser bake sale on the same day your grandmother is visiting from three states over. Guest and travel commitments take priority. Always.

minimalist christmas decor holly

Be Prepared For Change

Change is going to happen. There’s no way to get around it. Events will get rescheduled, you’re going to get a migraine, the weather is going to be crappy, your youngest kiddo is going to throw a tantrum of the century, and the dog is going to throw up on the rug.

Things will likely pivot weekly, so try to keep a flexible mind and know that things probably won’t go as planned.

Need A Step-by-Step Guide to Rocking the Holidays?

Grab the Printable Holiday Planner Kit from my new Binder Kit Collection Library. It has November and December calendars, Black Friday shopping and gift-giving lists, party planning sheets, wrapping paper and greeting card lists, and even a tradition tracker for next year.

I use this planner for Thanksgiving and Christmas every single year, and it keeps me from stress-eating all the turkey and Santa’s cookies while no one is looking. (Sorry, Santa!)

How do you keep your holiday plans in line? Drop a comment below, I’d love to hear what works for you!

Originally posted November 2018. Updated November 2020.

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