Christmas Without the Chaos

Christmastime can be one of the most stressful times of the year. There are so many things we want to get in, but it can feel overwhelming. Here are a few tricks to pick and choose from that will hopefully make your Christmas season less chaotic.

First of all, start your Christmas planning on December 26th. More than likely, you have the day off, but aren’t too busy as all the hustle and bustle has finally passed. This is the perfect time to jot down a list of what you do and don’t want to repeat next year. Plan out your to-do lists (cards, gifts, decorating, food), and create a schedule that will space activities out enough to avoid too much at once. Put reminders into your phone now for eleven months into the future. You will be glad you made your plans while everything that went right or wrong is still fresh in your mind.

Start the Season with a To-Do List

Here is a watchlist to help you get started:

Use Paper Clips as Ornament Hooks

This one is ridiculously simple, but incredibly useful. If your ornament strings break or the hooks get lost, just pull the two loops of the paper clip in opposite directions to open it up. Hook the small end onto an ornament, and then push it tight to keep it from falling off.

Create a Christmas Tradition Box

Of course, all your decorations will need a jumbo storage box (or two or ten) to be properly organized in the off-season. But for the extra special items which are regularly used during the Christmas season, create a decorative way to keep them front and center (on the coffee table, next to the fireplace, or below the tree), to make sure none of your favorite Christmas traditions get missed. Movies that you have to watch every December, books that get read to your children each year, Christmas games and anything else that has a special sentimental value can be collectively turned into an interactive Christmas decoration.

This can also come in very handy when you are traveling every-other year and want to make sure your family’s special things get included in the celebrations.

Create Christmas Card Flip Books

Rather than toss cards at the end of the season or stuff them away somewhere where they will never be seen again, punch two holes in the cards and place rings through them. Cut a piece of paper to make a cover and you can have a book of Christmas cards for every year. Keep these in the box described above to peruse on December nights. It will be fun to see how people change over the years.

Save Electronics Wires

You know the sturdy black coated twist-ties that come with electronics. You get them all the time and probably throw them straight into the garbage. Save them in a drawer for Christmas time. They are ideal for fixing strings of lights to garland, or tree branches. The coating makes them safe to use with electronics and the black color actually blends in well with dark pine branches.

Thicken Artificial Trees with Garland

One of the biggest downsides of artificial trees is that their branches are so much less “leafy” (“piney?”) than those of live trees. You can easily fix this problem by winding garland through the branches. Save yourself some time and wind lights around the garland before putting it in.

Label Decorations by Location

Have you ever unboxed all your decorations and then tried to remember where each one fit best last year? Save yourself this trouble by labeling all your decorations by which part of your home they go in.

Use Clear Removable Hooks

Hang garland, lights, Christmas card clothespin lines and other decorations with clear hooks that can easily be removed at the end of the season (or left up mostly unnoticed all year long). You will save your wall plenty of nail holes.

Wrap Lights Around Cardboard Boxes

You already have plenty of cardboard boxes around this time of year, no doubt. Put them to use to keep your Christmas lights from getting tangled while in storage. Cut a box open to make a piece of cardboard about the size of ledger paper. Cut it into the shape of a thick capital letter i. Wrap your lights around it to keep them in order.

Bonus: this will also make it much easier to string lights onto your tree. Just unravel them slowly as you go around.

Create a Card-Writing Station

Whether you are writing a detailed note in each card, or just signing and sealing, it will go a lot faster if you are prepared. Preparing Christmas cards can often feel like a chore, so set up all you need in one box so that you can get a couple in each time you sit down at the table. Your box doesn’t have to be fancy, and you can usually fit everything you need into the box that store greeting cards come in.

What to include?

  • Recipient List
  • Cards
  • Envelopes
  • Stamps
  • Return Address Labels
  • Pens
  • Correction Tape
  • Scotch Tape

Buy a Gift Card a Month

Perhaps you have a list of people for whom you like to get a gift card at Christmas. But buying several all at the end of the year can be financially stressful. To avoid this, consider buying one a month over the course of the year. Just be sure to check on expiration dates (though many companies are getting rid of these). Unlike physical gifts, gift cards can easily be stored through the year without taking up space. Set up a box to store your cards with a list of the people they are being saved for. If your other Christmas storage items are easily accessible, keep it with them. Otherwise, keep it somewhere safe where it won’t get lost, like in your home office area.

Create a Kid Tree

If when your child comes home with a homemade ornament, you are incredibly excited to add it to your living room tree, then God bless you! But, if the thought of a tree covered in strings of macaroni and soda bottles covered in green tissue paper gives you nightmares, don’t feel guilty. Just get a miniature tree. Designate it as your child’s own tree and they will be delighted to have ownership of their very own tree.

Reuse Halloween Candy for Your Advent Calendar and Gingerbread House

Whether your child still has a mountain of candy in their Halloween bucket that you don’t want eaten on top of all the cady they will get at Christmas, or you just don’t know what to do with all the leftovers that trick-or-treaters never came to claim from you, those treats can easily be transferred into a reusable Advent calendar.

And if making a gingerbread house is a favorite yearly tradition, go through that bucket early to pick out which items would make it even better (even if you buy a packaged gingerbread house kit, the candies that come with them are not always as enjoyable).

Candy canes are often taped onto cards, used as decorations and stuffed into goody bags. You probably have a ton of them, and most of them are probably broken. Rather than toss them, crush them up with the back of an ice-cream scooper (right in the bag) and:

  • put them in hot cocoa for a nice mint flavor
  • sprinkle over a bar of chocolate, warm for a minute, then place in freezer for a few minutes to solidify
  • save them as an ice cream topping

For more games, decorations and activities to do this Christmas, check out:

For the Christmas story for children and activities to go with it, check out: