For most people the next few weeks will be a swirl of activity: shopping, baking, wrapping gifts, attending parties, decorating, entertaining. It all leads up to the big day — whether that is Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s or some other day for your family. One way to stay organized during this busy time is to create checklists.
Some experts recommend that you create an entire binder of checklists, but if this is your first time, start with one or two lists and then apply what you’ve learned. You can always invest in a binder for next year.
Your master checklist should include the general things that you need to complete for the season. Be sure to put a deadline for each item as well as any notes. This master checklist will help you generate the individual lists that come next.
NOTE: for this list and those that come later you can include things you’ve already done, such as Thanksgiving or shopping you completed in the early hours of Black Friday. This will help you write next year’s list and it will feel good to see some check marks right at the start.
For your master checklist, consider these types of items:
- Make gift list with notes on prices/stores.
- Buy presents for family, friends, co-workers, neighbors.
- Wrap & deliver presents.
- Bake cookies for cookie swap at work.
- Bake treats for family and neighbors.
- Create list for Christmas Dinner.
- Plan for party.
- Get costume ready for daughter’s pageant.
- Buy outfits for office parties and other events.
- Buy tickets & pack for holiday trip.
- Decorate house, tree, and outside.
- Send holiday cards.
- Make reservations for New Year’s Eve.
- Buy decorations at “after Christmas” sales.
- Pack all holiday supplies & store for next year.
- Revisit checklists and make notes for next year’s planning.
Now, take a look at a few sample checklists.
- Pull out decorations from storage.
- Sort decorations according to condition – if they are faded, torn, broken, etc., and can’t be repaired, throw them out.
- Decide what decorations you actually want to use, taking into consideration new purchases, changes in home decor, specific theme, etc.
- Buy any replacement or new items, such as replacement bulbs for tree lights, or a new wreath for the door.
- Decorate living room/family room.
- Decorate kitchen.
- Decorate front lawn/roof.
- Decorate back lawn.
- Purchase/put up tree & trim.
- Store all removed items in tubs that held holiday decorations.
- Make a list of all cookies, candy & other treats to make, including target dates.
- Decide on recipes to use.
- Make shopping list(s) according to store.
- Check condition of baking pans and related equipment and replace as needed.
- Purchase any containers or display needed for finished products.
- Make a schedule for baking, either all in one day/weekend or one day a week.
- Write a checklist of items for each baking session.
- Package and/or gift wrap.
- Make a list of all the people who will receive gifts.
- Annotate the list with gift ideas for each.
- Research availability, price, and store for each gift.
- Consider hand-made gifts or passing on heirlooms if appropriate.
- Make a detailed shopping list by store, including sale days, method of payment, and specific sizes, colors, etc.
- Plan gift boxes, bags, wrap for each gift — consider recycled, reused, & handmade options.
- Shop for/make/gather gifts.
- Show for/make/gather wrapping supplies.
- Wrap gifts.
- Research ticket prices or travel-related expenses.
- Purchase plane, train, bus, tickets/rent car/acquire maps for driving.
- Make packing list for entire family.
- Make arrangements for gifts, shipping ahead if necessary.
- Make arrangements for gifts coming back home
- Purchase any items needed for trip, such as new luggage, travel toiletries, snack food, etc.
- Create a “departure” checklist of last minute items.
- Create a “return” checklist for your return trip.
- Set date, theme, & guest list for your party.
- Buy/make invites & send.
- Check inventory of entertaining supplies, such as dishware, party platters, table linens, glass ware, etc.
- Mend/clean supplies as needed.
- Purchase new supplies as needed.
- Outline menu for event.
- Create shopping list for menu (or work with caterer).
- Shop for food items.
- Shop for beverages.
- Arrange any special entertainment.
- Follow-up on any delinquent RSVPs.
- Make schedule for decorating and setup prior to party.
- Prepare all food.
- Prepare any party favors or special items.
- Setup for party.
- Dress & welcome guests.
These checklists will get you started on the process. As you become more familiar with working with them, your lists may become more detailed or you may discover shortcuts that work for you. Adapt the process as you need to. The goal is to make planning more organized and efficient so that you can reduce your stress levels during this busy season.