A Professional Organiser’s Guide To The Holidays
With so much to remember and organise it’s no wonder many of us end up stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted by the time the day to celebrate comes around.
So I thought I would call upon my fellow organisers at the Association of Professional Organisers and Declutterers (www.apdo.co.uk) to bring you a top tips guide for the holidays!
I like to pick up Christmas food and treats during my usual food shops in the weeks leading up to the big day. Clear a space in the kitchen or larder, or even a large tote or box to keep it in. Easy to see what you already have/need and makes the most of the supermarket deals and stops Christmas puddings or condiments getting lost in the back of the cupboards.
Prepping Christmas dinner the night before is a huge must for me. I like Christmas morning to be focused on the kids and having a lazy breakfast, not peeling veg.
When it’s time to cook I write down times that everything needs to be done/put in the oven so I’m not standing in the kitchen stressing that I’ve forgotten something!
Be realistic with your time and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make everything from scratch and tick everything off your list alone. Is anyone really going to mind if the mince pies are shop bought or that up didn’t spend hours simmering the cranberry sauce?
Now is the time to clean out the fridge and organise it ready for the inevitable extras we buy in December.
I love lists - there are also lots online to help people with timings leading up to Christmas and for food prep if it is your first year.
I cook in advance and freeze - blanched veg, gravy, stuffing balls, yorkshire pud, chocolate bombe (as an alternative to Christmas pud). I save a few little jobs for the grandchildren to do on the day too. They love it!
Book a slot as soon as you can for food delivery - you can add items and then amend the day before the delivery - warning - I once filled it with cases of wine to reserve it and forgot and just had wine - organisational fail!!!
Don't panic and forget to enjoy the day. As long as there is something to eat (cold or hot), you are all together and that is the spirit of the time of year. Be thankful and enjoy.
Get recipes for leftovers now. GoodFood Christmas this year has recipes for leftover chocolates and cheese.
Buy a few extra bottles of fizz or boxes of chocolates for unexpected guests who may turn up with gifts!
Coordination - one especially for those with children. Talk to grandparents, godparents etc and share ideas for presents. This helps avoid duplication and answering the question "why would Santa bring the same present as Granny bought me, I thought he saw everything!
I have a list of gifts wanted and bought for each child showing Santa, parents, grandparents and so on...usually on a password protected spreadsheet but works just as well on the back of a cereal box!
My tip would be having a Secret Santa for adults in the family. My children pick names out of a hat & tell each adult who to buy for. We set a £‘s limit & open presents over a meal each family contributes to. It means less present buying, less cost & is great fun.
Buy experiences for family and friends, to make memories, share quality time and cut down on clutter. It also gives you something to look forward to if it is forward planned.
For example: theatre tickets, lunch out together or visiting an art gallery/museum followed by afternoon tea.
It works for children too. One of my gifts to my grandchildren this year is to take them fossil hunting on a Norfolk beach, followed by posh fish & chips!
Wrap presents as you buy them and make (another) list. Then you know who is left so you don't over buy.
If you don’t like a present e.g. work secret santa, put it to one side for charity and not in a cupboard just in case. Your initial reaction is usually the one you mean!
I always start with a list! What I need to buy, what do I need to do and include dead lines like last day you can order food, last day you can post cards.
If your kids are anything like mine writing Christmas cards for class friends can become tedious when done in one hit. I like to buy cards early then have them write out just a few each weekend.
Decoration day is a big deal in our house! And over the years we’ve built up quite a collection of festive trinkets. When packing them away I like to group them together room by room. Makes putting them up the following year a little quicker and easier!
I get bedding and towels for guests sorted now. A Christmas Eve box can be done now too (Christmas Pyjamas, a book, hot chocolate etc).
I sort games out in advance. Lots of free ones online - easy games that you don’t have to buy or gain more clutter - the sock game went down well last year - a pair of socks filled with identical objects - a walnut, marble, 1p, 2p, a teaspoon, paperclip etc and then someone calls from a list and a person from each team has to find it. There is an official game but we didn't need more stuff in the house. For copyright we called it the stocking game!!
I also like to suggest with clients who have children that they go through the toys with them and suggest that some could go to make room for the new ones Santa will bring. If they are older it’s good to make them aware of children less fortunate and about donating to charities like Barnardos who will re-purpose.
The kitchen is at the heart of the home so a good clear out now will remind you of what you already have (so you don’t duplicate buy) and what you need to purchase. Don’t forget to ditch those old mulling spices from last year as they will have lost their potency!
When putting up Christmas decorations take down other pictures, nick-naks and ornaments in place. That way, when the time comes to take down the decorations you won’t feel like the place is empty as you’ll have something to put back in their place.
Get decorations down early and sort out the ones you won’t use and donate them to charity. They can make max profit this time of year.
Also check what cards you have in stock & write a list of what's needed to save over buying/duplicating. Donate any cards you've had a few years but don’t seem to want to use.