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Monday, September 19, 2016

Preparing for the Winter Holidays

OK, I know some of you are going to hate me, but today I'm talking about getting organized for the holiday season. Yes, it is September. Yes, I also cringe when I go to the stores and see Halloween and Christmas stuff already out. But friends, we all know the holiday season gets crazy FAST. By getting some of that initial prep work out of the way early, we'll all save ourselves some headaches later. Trust me!

Here are some of the things I like to work on early to start preparing for the holiday season:

1. Draw names for Secret Santa gift exchanges

The adults in my family switched over to "secret santa"-style gift exchanging a few years ago and I've grown to love it. None of us is, you know, very wealthy, so being able to pool our resources into getting one nice gift has been nice. The challenge has always been that we live far apart, so it was hard to draw names to figure out who was assigned to who. Also, someone would draw their own name, and people wanted to have someone other than their spouse, so we would end up drawing 5 times and pretty much knowing who had who by the time we were done.

Last year I found this website and it made the whole process so much easier for us (I swear I have no affiliation with this company nor am I being compensated for mentioning them- I know I sound a bit like a commercial right now): My family just drew names this past week and I was reminded again of how awesome it was. You can tell it who each person should not draw, ask your assigned person questions anonymously, add wishlists, and anything else you could think of that you wish a digital name drawing program could do.

2. Set up my holiday calendar

As a music teacher, mom, friend, and church musician I get a lot of last-minute invitations to parties and requests to provide music for events as the holiday season gets closer, and I find I am too stressed / busy to figure out what I can and cannot realistically do. So usually I end up saying no to almost everything, to be honest. I try to go through now and map out all of the concerts, travel dates, family gatherings, and other major events in my calendar now so that when other parties and small events come up, I can more easily look and see if I am actually available or not. If you need a calendar, I have a free one you can download here so you can print off just the months you need.

3. Start making gift idea lists

I mean gift ideas for myself and for people I am buying for! Honestly I tend to have a much easier time coming up with gift ideas for other people than I do for myself. By starting these lists now, I can add things to them when I come across something or think of a great gift idea, and I can wait and watch for sales so I get the best deal on them as well. This is especially helpful for filling my girls' stockings- I try to pick up a few random items here and there (stickers, little dollar toys, fun socks etc) so that I don't have to go scrambling around right before Christmas. I use the gift planning pages from my holiday planner for this and it has been so helpful!

4. Select all of my holiday concert repertoire

This one obviously only applies to the music teachers here, but it is a huge part of my holiday prep. I always make sure I have all of my programs and concert repertoire selected by the end of September so that I have time to work out the logistics, rehearse my groups, and have everything prepared without having to rush right before the performances! With so many different programs happening around the same time it is impossible for me to keep track of everything otherwise. I use the rehearsal notes and concert planning pages from this performance planner set for this and boy, does it make my life easier!

5. Make my holiday bucket list / advent calendar

Each year I make a list of small but fun holiday-related things for my daughters and I to do each day of December leading up to Christmas. In the past I've waited until November to do this and I found I was a little overwhelmed, so this year I'm getting started with my list now! You can find my list for 2-3 year olds here, and my list for 3-4 year olds here. Trust me, I keep my list SUPER simple so there's little work for me, but it is a lot of fun! If you're curious about the DIY advent calendar I use to hold the list of activities for each day, you can read about that in my blog post here.

OK, I think that about covers it! I know some people want to savor the end of summer and beginning of fall as long as possible and would hate to think about the winter holidays at this time of year- that's fine! Whenever you are ready to start preparing for the holidays, I hope you find this list helpful as you start to get organized.

What are your favorite tips for preparing for the holidays? Which things do you try to get done first to get ready? Leave a comment! :)

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