What's your best tip for keeping your home organized during the busy holiday season?

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17  Answers

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Following along on our Holiday Shine Challenge at Mommacan.com. I actually complete the challenges I post, right along with my readers. Those 52 pick-ups and 5 minute dashes are life savers during the holidays.
I adore my holiday planner and I adore Christmas so this is my favorite time of the blogging season!

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My tip for keeping the home organized during the busy holiday season is to keep up your normal daily routines. I have simple routines and I always feel less stressed when my house is clean and everything is organized.

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It's especially difficult keeping your home clutter-free when it's holiday time and there are kids living with you. My best tips are to do a few sweeps of the house during the week and keep your decorating simple. When you have a lot of stuff and a lot of decorations it can feel overwhelming. And doing a few clutter-removing sweeps each week will keep your spaces under control.

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Lists - write out everything that needs to be done, all the presents that need to be bought or made, all the events you have to attend. Prioritise to get as much done as early as possible. If it's all getting too much for you, work out what can be dropped, whether it's lowering your standards fore home cleaning, buying a cake and cookies instead of baking your own. Remember, it's a time for celebration, not totally exhausting yourself!

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Write it down. It sounds so simple, but having creative ideas, must dos, and delicious meals-to-try all floating around in your mind is very distracting. Start by creating a master list of everything! Write down all you need to do, buy, and cook this holiday season. Don't try to organize the list yet. Even if the list is longer than the lights that will be strung around your home, just write it all down! We can only manage what we identify so give yourself time to think through all you'd like to accomplish this season and then we can start sorting and making the list more manageable.

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Make a plan! Start early and decide what you will and won't do for the holidays. I am big on making lists and writing things down so I start at the beginning of November and plan out what needs to be completed when, then everything just starts to fall into place. I want to enjoy and take in the holiday season not watch it fly by in front of me. A plan helps tremendously!

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Plan ahead. I think everyone starts out the holiday season with the best of intentions but somehow the season always sneaks up on us! But if you do your best to prepare ahead of time, you'll avoid a lot of stress during crunch time. I live by lists - grocery lists, to-do lists, gift lists, etc. Lists are a great tool to help you get all of those tasks out of your head and in order so you can plan accordingly.

For example, get your holiday meal plan in order in advance and begin purchasing items that can be frozen, or non-perishables that can be stored. Also be sure to stock up on the basics, like flour, sugar, coffee, etc. Don't forget to stock up on paper plates, plastic cups, paper towels, napkins, and toilet paper as well. (You don't want to be washing dishes during the entire holiday instead of hanging out with your family!)

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Keep an ongoing list and select three most important tasks off it to complete each day. In addition take 10 to 15 minutes before bed to whirl around your home putting things back where they belong and giving a quick general tidy.

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Never leave a room empty handed! Going up stairs to change a diaper? Take that basket of laundry up with you. It might seem simple, but I always leave things near the stairs, so that next time I go up stairs, or down to the basement, I can take that laundry/book/toy/crockpot back to its proper spot. It saves time, instead of making a trip just for that item to be put away.

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Try to do a few little things each day. I work full time and have a full time blog and I'm a full time mommy. I need to stay on top of things like dishes and laundry. If I can keep those things at bay, I feel pretty good about my house. Each night, and especially during the holidays, I take care of any dishes, keep things off the counter tops and sweep the floor. I also throw a load of laundry in and fold a clean load. I find that if I make sure to do these things each day, it motivates me to do even more.

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I like to keep a binder as a command center for all things holiday. There are sections for gifts I need to buy, holiday meal plans, calendars, school function details, etc. It helps to have everything in one spot to reference quickly.

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Go through kids toys now and determine which ones they have outgrown and which ones should be donated before they receive more toys during the holiday. Develop an efficient organizing system so that you are not overwhelmed and new toys can be easily accommodated.

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About 5 years ago, I started a spreadsheet on my computer to help me keep up with the overwhelming task of buying gifts! Between my kids, relatives, teachers, even the neighborhood Christmas party, there are so many gifts to remember! Now I simply copy and paste last year's list into a new page in the workbook, and then I delete out last year's gifts. As I come up with gift ideas and purchase the items, I track everything in the spreadsheet until I'm able to write "done" in the far right column for each person. It's impossible to forget anybody this way! It also helps me keep gifts among my children more even so I have a handle on what I've already bought each of my four daughters (it can be hard to remember your purchases when they are shoved in closets, under beds, and in the attic--especially if you bought some things way ahead of time!)

Perhaps best of all, I can refer back to previous lists to make sure I don't duplicate gifts that I've already given in years past. For example, I love to give books, and I can't always remember if I have already given a certain book beforehand. Now I can simply refer back to my handy spreadsheet, and I can confidently give that book without worrying about repeating myself! I can't tell you how much this system has helped me stay more organized during the most hectic time of year!

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I think home organization comes in many forms. For me, organization comes in making sure I am on budget, my meals are planned, and having freezer meals prepped and on hand for when we have an unexpected illness or a busy day. I also find that wrapping presents as I get them as well as keeping some on hand {for unexpected gifts from friends} helps me stay organized and not behind.

Budget: We start budgeting for Christmas early in the year. Usually around July I have figured out the budget for the rest of the year and have started setting aside money each pay check to make sure we hit our planned target to spend for Christmas. We keep a list of items purchased {along with the total cost} so we know where we are at with each purchase and how much is left in the budget.

Commitments: We use a family calendar so that we know where and when we need to be somewhere. Making sure to be mindful of the little's bedtimes is a must in this house because if they are exhausted the next day, it makes for a long day~ especially when you fit homeschooling into that equation.

Wrapping as you go saves time and stress. There have been many years where I would wait until the week of. Not a good idea when you still have parties to attend and Santa items to assemble for 4 kiddos.

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I am a huge list maker. It's the only thing that keeps me sane during any busy time- especially during the Holidays. I'm also an extremely visual person, so seeing things written down- and sometimes color coded- gives me a great sense of what needs to be done and the best way to tackle it. Checking things off of a list is such a rewarding feeling!

I also try really hard not to overcommit. Staying on top of things around the holiday season requires time, and if you commit to more than you actually have time for, you'll find that your house of cards starts to fall very quickly! Say no to the things that don't matter and focus on what's most important.

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Early and often is probably my best tip! Most people get overwhelmed because they leave everything to the last minute and instead of having a few weeks they have days or even hours to get things organized. Start earlier in the year working out gift plans, you can even start purchasing gifts early to spread the cost. By starting to plan early you can you look at all the details, feel less frustrated and set a schedule to get everything done.

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