The holidays typically send most families into high-stress mode. But before you panic, "The No. 1 thing is put the pressure on paper," says Deniece Schofield, a home management expert and author of several books on organization, including Confessions of a Happily Organized Family. "Make sure everything is written down, because if it's in your head, it's stressful," she said. To keep stress to a minimum and stay on task, Schofield recommends starting a notebook and making lists to keep yourself organized and save time. The real key is to get your planning under way ASAP. Here are more of her helpful holiday tips. McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers
Keep a schedule. List the many things you have to do and work around.
Get your ducks in a row. Make a gift list for you and your family. Do you want to make or buy them? Also list your Christmas card recipients. Most experts also agree that this is time to evaluate your budget. Be realistic. You'll want to be able to stick to it.
Use your waiting time. Take advantage of little chunks of time to plan things, make your lists or work on little craft projects. You can do this throughout the year, but especially during the holiday season.
Gift lists. Create a list of what you have given people as gifts. That way you don't risk giving something you've already given. While you're at it, start next year's gift list. Keep your radar up during the year and make notes, so when it comes time to shop, you have a list of things people will enjoy.
Decorations. Take inventory of your holiday decorations, make a list and identify what box they're stored in. When you're boxing them up at the end of the season, sort and store them by room, not by what they are. Then next year, you can decorate from one box and room at a time.
Get wrapping. Set up a card table in a corner of a room and make that your gift-wrap center, so when you buy something, you can wrap it right away and avoid the last-minute crunch. Stand up rolls of wrapping paper in a waste basket, or hang in a garment bag. A desk or wrist tape dispenser releases strips of tape with one hand. And those spindle paper towel holders are great for storing and dispensing rolls of ribbon.
Holiday house cleaning. Houseguests are often a key part of the holidays. But this isn't the time to clean out the basement or reorganize storage closets. Ultimately, your goal should be that you're not embarrassed by your home and that everyone will be welcome and have a good time. Just do those things that pertain to that direct goal.
Tackle the big meals. Holidays are often about the food. If you're playing host, do a lot in advance, and realize that a lot of things can be reheated just before guests arrive. If you're hosting a casual affair, have your guests contribute a dish or drinks.
Evaluate what worked. After the holidays, ask: What would you have liked to do this season, but you ran out of time? Which of those things could you plan to do now or do earlier in the year so you don't run out of time? Will your gift list change next year?
Then work ahead for 2010. With some people, you can pick things up during the course of the year to save time and money. And don't forget to take advantage of after-holiday sales. Just be sure to write down what you bought and where you have stashed it, so you're ready to go next year.