At the Party Company we are all about helping those special occasions, big or small, go with a swing and also making life simpler for you, Christmas being no exception. We are all parents here, so we know just how busy family life gets; juggling work commitments, homework, after school clubs during the week etc. Weekends can pass by in a blur of cleaning, laundry, food shopping, kids’ activities and parties. Now, add in at this time of year gift shopping, sending cards, Christmas parties, decorating, cooking, wrapping – the weeks leading up to Christmas Day can be more hectic than ever… it should be a time for fun and creating new memories, but instead of looking forward to Christmas, we can sometimes end up almost dreading it! There seems to be too much to do, so much expense and not enough time…
So, we thought it might be helpful to pull together some of the best tips we could find, from the web and from friends, to help us all feel a bit more in control in the run up to Christmas. We want festive fun, not a stressfest!
As with everything, the key to success is in the preparation, so we have broken down these winning ideas into manageable chunks for you to carry out over the next four weeks. If that sounds like a plan to you, then read on friends!
- Start now, by writing a ‘To Do’ list for general things that you can tick off and add to as necessary. Keep it in your handbag for easy updating while you are out.
- Have the kids written their wish list for Santa? Online printable versions save time! Do they have an advent calendar to start counting down the days?
- List any important dates such as the last posting day, school carol concerts/nativity play/ Xmas party etc.
- Use up whatever food is in the freezer to clear some space.
- Christmas card writing can be a headache, so get all the family to pitch in and write some. Why not also create a mail merge document for labels of all the addresses, to avoid hand writing envelopes? Once it’s done you can relax and use it year after year. If you are simply too busy to write cards, you could consider sending e-cards (the Jacquie Lawson ones for example are gorgeous and a pleasure to receive). Or use the money you would have spent on cards and stamps to make a charitable donation – just mention to people that’s what you intend to do when you see them or if texting/emailing them.
- Write or print off and fill out a gift list – like this one below courtesy of A Typical English Home – to keep track of who you have bought presents for and any gifts you still need to buy or make yourself .
- Bulk buy stamps as well as a range of batteries ahead of time, also wrapping paper – but first check how much you stashed away last year!
- Plan your food needs for the whole festive season – make a shopping list and clip any recipes that you want to use.
- Try to buy one or two items (non-perishable) each week from now on and put them in the store cupboard – it will spread the cost and should help you avoid an ‘mega shop’ closer to the day, which can only be a good thing!
- If you wrap and store presents as you purchase them, you will avoid a mammoth wrapping task later on when you are busy with other stuff.
- Prioritise some fun activities – consult the family and decide what Christmas traditions are really important to you, then schedule them in.
- Get those Xmas cards sent, if you haven’t already.
- Stock up on a few cleaning essentials such as stain remover, carpet cleaner etc and spare cloths, also paper towels and extra loo rolls.
- Have a good clean around before the tree and decorations go up, it will be much easier than trying to clean round them later. Pack away as much general ‘stuff’ you can live without for a couple of weeks, really clear the decks, before you put up the tree and decorations otherwise things will feel horribly cluttered.
- There are lots of ideas for frugal, festive decorations that won’t break the budget. Use your fake tree again or decide when you are going to buy a real one. Create a beautiful holiday home for Christmas by getting the kids to make cotton wool snowmen and paper snowflakes. Supplement their creativity with some inexpensive, oversized paper decorations – they really pack a punch when hung in groups and give an instant Christmassy feel. We love those nostalgic paperchains too, available in our online shop.
- Bake some Christmas foods and freeze half.
- If you have a frozen turkey, work out when you need to start defrosting it and make a note on your calendar.
- Wrap any last minute presents.
- Think about any Christmas games you want to play to keep every one entertained.
- Get all the laundry done and out of the way, including bedding if guests are coming to stay, but don’t put sheets on the bed until just before they arrive, to ensure they still smell lovely and freshly laundered.
- Pick out yours and the kids outfits a few days before, so you know that everything you want is washed and hung up.
- Have you enough plates and cutlery for everyone? Think about whether you will need spare chairs for the dinner table and borrow some if you don’t have enough, no one wants to sit with their Christmas dinner on their knee if it can be avoided. Even camping chairs are better than a cushion on the floor! Or set a kiddies table to one side where little ones can eat, to free up space at the main table – they will love it anyway, especially if they can eat off gorgeous festive disposable plates, with plastic cutlery too, to save on the washing up!
- Put wine or champagne in the fridge.
- You can roast the meat the night before if you wish which will keep the oven free the next day for the other stuff you need to cook.
- Veg can be prepped or even cooked the night before, too. But if you prefer not to do that, but know that cooking everything the next day could be a bit too much, then why not ask guests coming to dinner to bring a dish to share the load?
- Decorate the table with a centrepiece and/or candles and get the family to lay the table, polish glasses and put out place cards if needed.
Don’t try to be Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson all rolled into one. Accept that your best is good enough! There is usually way more food than everyone can eat, so even if the odd sprout gets burned or you forget the cranberry sauce, it doesn’t matter. You are not being judged, the family just want to come together and have a good time. Keep perspective, keep the cooking simple and share out kitchen jobs if it helps, or if you prefer being in there alone and undisturbed, get the family to occupy guests, ensuring they are kept topped up and out of your hair.
If you are having guests to stay over Xmas, or entertaining on boxing day as well as Xmas day, then make it easy on yourself by buying disposable tableware. There are some gorgeous designs that look really festive and all co-ordinated. Tablecovers, plates and napkins, coloured plastic cutlery and impressive cake stands all add to the Christmassy feel and definitely make it easier when it comes to clearing up. They are not expensive and save so much hassle, stress and time; no need to keep track of how much clean crockery and cutlery you have left and especially ideal when catering for larger groups, plus they also add a lovely decorative element to the proceedings!
Now, I know it’s a bit soon to be thinking about next Christmas, but if you remember to do a quick inventory of items before you pack them away, making a note if something got broken for example, you won’t forget to replace them. You could save egg cartons for storing baubles and keep track of what present you gifted people the year before, so you do not double up next time.
So, to sum it all up
Keep your expectations realistic and know your limits, we are not all superheroes! It is perfectly fine to take short cuts – e.g. disposable tableware, and shop online – Christmas presents and groceries can all be bought easily this way, just make sure you check estimated delivery times. If you buy the same type of present for all of your nieces and nephews every year (books, crafts, clothes) it will save both time and effort, leaving you with more opportunity to relax and enjoy the holiday season.
Try and do as much as you can early on, but equally don’t stress if you still have some last minute shopping to do – if you are lucky you might even get some great bargains closer to the 25th December.
There are lots of organising apps for your smart phone, to ‘ping’ you reminders if that helps. Ask friends for recommendations, I recently heard about the Cozi app – that could be one to try.
Don’t lose sight of the values of the holiday season and what really matters to you and yours. Holiday giving doesn’t have to break the bank! Save money and simplify gift-giving – friends, teachers and others will be touched if you take the trouble to make something for them, it is so much more personal.
Wishing you an organised and Merry Christmas from,