I personally think that when stores begin to stock their shelves with Christmas decor while most of us are stocking up on school supplies, we get tricked into thinking we have plenty of time before December 25.
We wonder why we have to walk past an aisles of Christmas ornaments to find the craft supplies needed for homecoming decorations. As we shop for Halloween costumes, we may even roll our eyes at the audacity of stores putting their holiday stuff out earlier and earlier every year.
Then we blink and Thanksgiving is over. Suddenly we are left wondering why all those shelves of Christmas items are already picked over. As moms, we can unnecessarily stress ourselves trying to make everything perfect for everyone else. (Take a listen to “Mamas Make the Holidays Possible” from Momfessions Podcast.)
I have never been a fan of waiting until the last minute. I’ve come up with a few ways to prepare ahead of time so that when Christmas comes around, I can actually enjoy it along with capturing the magic for my kids.
1. Off the Job
I am a teacher, so one of the joys of Christmas for me is getting the same winter break as my children. I get everything lined up for finals and those last few days of class as soon as I return from Thanksgiving. I also plan out and prepare the next few weeks of lessons for the spring semester when school returns in January.
When I put my final grades in, I want to leave my classroom knowing that everything is in place. I don’t want to think about work, so I can really enjoy that time with my own kids. Most jobs don’t get a built-in Christmas vacation, but preparing work assignments ahead of time is such an important way to enjoy time away from the office. For you this may look like a vacation somewhere, a long weekend off, or even just a dinner with friends and family.
Whatever time your job allows, plan ahead so that you can leave it behind for a moment to really enjoy your loved ones. When people say that “your presence is present enough,” that is true, but the gift really only counts if you allow yourself to actually be fully present.
2. It’s Better to Give
I keep a running list on the Notes app on my phone with names of people I would like to gift presents. It seems like every year I find something that is perfect for a family member or close friend, so I buy it, put it away, and forget about it. Now when I purchase something I intend to save for Christmas, I write it down in my notes next to the person’s name.
It is even helpful to group your list into categories, like writing down how many teacher gifts you want to get. Don’t forget to make a list of what you want, too! When you do this early, it helps you not to forget anyone. Having a number in mind helps when you are out and about and come across the perfect something to pick up. Be sure to document your purchase on your gift list so you can remember what you tucked away come December.
For my own children, I started following the rule of “need, want, read, and wear.” It is exactly what it sounds like. Four gifts total for each child. The price range is up to you and can change with age, but it keeps everything easier for me and doesn’t overwhelm my kids with too many presents.
My kids are little and don’t really need much right now, but for your high school junior, this “need” may look like a laptop for school. At this stage, the “wear” for my girls looks like a leotard for dance class, but one day this might be a special pair of shoes for prom.
To avoid overspending in the few weeks before Christmas, I try to purchase the “need, read, and wear” gifts in advance and save the “want” until closer to. Little kids tend to change their mind often. I want them to have the joy of opening something they really are excited about on Christmas morning.
3. In the Kitchen
If you have freezer space, now is the time to utilize it. I like to take time on fall weekends to bake cookies and other treats that can be wrapped and frozen. It is a lot easier come December to get in the spirit of decorating Christmas cookies when you can get right to the decorating and not have to clean up the baking mess.
For holiday meals, I like to plan them ahead of time so I can stock the pantry. If you know you are having company, start doubling your soup or chili recipes so you can freeze them and pull them out on nights you would rather visit with your guests than spend time cooking.
If the kitchen isn’t your thing and you prefer take out, make a note on your calendar now to get your order in. If you want to enjoy you favorite tamales for Christmas dinner, chances are so do a lot of other families. Order early so you don’t miss out.
4. Decorate Now, Enjoy Later
My philosophy is decorate as early as makes you happy. People seem pretty set in their ways on this one. Wether you like to put up your tree the day after Thanksgiving and take it down on December 26, or decorate on Christmas Eve and enjoy your tree until Three King’s Day and beyond, to each his own. And no judgement if you have already started! Most important, the holidays are meant to be enjoyed and a little prep can take away a lot of stress.