Home organization 101: Holiday list making
"Making a list…and checking it twice." And you thought that song was about Saint Nick! List making is a time-honoured way to get through the year's busiest season. Here's how to plan.
• Create a binder with labelled sections (follow the headings below, adding ones for other sections if you need to).
• Insert plastic pockets in each section to hold loose items, like receipts in the Gifts section and stamps and address labels in the Cards section.
• Print and place calendars for November and December at the front of the binder. Colour-code all of the entries you make: events in red, to-do items in green, and so on.
• List generic entertaining supplies you need -- frozen hors d'oeuvres, dips, crackers, cheeses, olives, drinks, napkins and desserts.
• Compile holiday menus with the dates and names of guests.
• For each event, prepare a list of guests (with room for notes of acceptances/regrets, allergies), budget, menu, caterers/help, to buy and to do.
• Make shopping lists for all events to reduce trips to stores.
• Decide how much to spend; keep a running total of all purchases.
• Create a master list, dividing it among the weeks remaining until mid-December (this should help you avoid frenzied last-minute shopping trips), and try to stick to once-a-week excursions.
• Photocopy recipes and place in this section.
• Make a master list of ingredients, including quantities.
• Plan baking sessions. Invite a friend and work together to complete your combined lists; you can split the cost of ingredients and divide the bounty.
• Computerize your list and make labels.
• Next to names, note things you might forget. For instance, if a card arrives from a newly blended family and includes new stepkids' names, jot them down.
• Keep envelopes from cards received (stash in the plastic pocket) and later record return addresses to generate next year's card list.
• Create a list of items you need now, like lights, candles and greenery.
• Note decorations you'd like for next year (new colour scheme? different theme?) and buy during post-season sales.
10 time savers
1 Job share
Enlist help from loved ones; share every task, from the gift list to household chores. Hire household help, if you can.
2 Be prepared
After Halloween, buy and wrap some generic gifts -- ornaments, chocolate, wine, candles, fancy soap (use Post-it Notes to identify) -- for when someone unexpectedly drops by with a present or you're rushing to an engagement.
3 Kitchen's closed
Cook double quantities of dinners once a week in November and freeze half. You'll have four frozen dinners for December.
4 Shop smart
If you can, go early midweek -- there will be fewer lineups and better parking.
5 On time & online
Whenever possible, buy items through company websites.
6 Shop less
Cut back on gifts -- there are other ways to show love and affection. A heartfelt letter with a small token can be just as meaningful.
7 Group effort
Have a decorate-the-house party. Put on music and serve yummy food.
8 Dream teen
Know a teen who needs to make some money? Pay them to help you bake, or babysit while you shop or wrap presents.
9 Gifts that give twice
Instead of presents, make a donation to charity on behalf of like-minded friends and family.
10 Going places
Have directions ready and try to avoid any rush-hour driving.