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You are here: Home > Organizing Advice > Holidays > Carving Your Christmas…Elephant?!
Carving Your Christmas…Elephant?!
by Judy Warmington, Woman Time Management

“Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house not a creature was sleeping not even a mouse; the stockings weren’t hung yet, the tree was still bare we assembled and wrapped and then pulled out our hair.  The children were noisy and jumping on the bed and the thought of gift giving caused nothing but dread. We had nothing for grandma; we’d forgotten the poor dear so we vowed to plan ahead for gift giving next year.”

Well….it’s next year!  If your Christmas memories include sleepless night wrapping presents and rushing to 24 hour stores for last minute gifts, I’m here with some ideas to help.  No, I can’t add more hours to your day, but I can tell you how to plan ahead and, hopefully, breeze through the weeks before Christmas.

This is the time of year we seem to need time management more than ever but, we need to begin well before Nov. or Dec.  Oops!
Using concepts from the basic info from Woman Time Management I believe you can find help to get and stay organized for all holidays.   Sometimes we feel like we live in a Pressure Cooker – and this is one of the most “pressured” times of the year!  Oh, there are always a few who claim there’s nothing to getting ready for Christmas – just put up a tree and get a turkey! (Men?)

Much of the pleasure of a Merry Christmas & happy unharried holidays are based on using good organizational techniques and time management principles.  I hope to help you create more TIME with your family and the projects you CHOOSE to undertake by making optimal use of your available time to prepare for the holidays with minimal STESS.

First – put away the old Christ- mess… being DEPRESSED, FRANTIC / UNDER PRESSURE / AND OVER BUDGET!  The goal is to have a Christmas in which you enjoy the ultimate spirit of GOODWILL, where there is PEACE, a RELAXED ATMOSPHERE, and where you can enjoy FRIENDSHIPS AND KINSHIPS….without being left with a MOUNTAIN OF UNPAID BILLS and a PILE OF UNFINISHED PROJECTS.
You really CAN organize Christmas and make it the special time of year it was meant to be!    Obviously, most of us don’t have the luxury of devoting all of our spare time during Nov. and Dec. to holiday activities.  All the things you WANT to do can bring PRESSURE if you don’t bring your WANTS & NEEDS into a manageable schedule.   But…..Let’s all admit it – CHRISTMAS ISN’T SPRUNG ON US AT THE LAST MINUTE!  It’s always the same date.  There are always 365 days between Christmases and yet we still find ourselves saying, “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S ALMOST CHRISTMAS TIME AGAIN!
You may as well face it – when HALLOWEEN is over, there are only 7 WEEKS left and the RACE IS ON!  And then, you can’t really count the week of THANKSGIVING or the week of CHRISTMAS…so we’re left with 5 WEEKS to “Get our Holiday Act Together!”   HO!  HO! HO!

There’s a saying in time management that applies well to this time of year:  HOW DO YOU EAT AN ELEPHANT….? Before we begin to CARVE this little fella – you first need to decide your GOALS or PURPOSE in celebrating Christmas:  IS IT TO DRAW THE FAMILY TOGETHER? / TO IMPRESS OTHERS? / TO HAVE FUN? / TO INCREASE YOUR SPIRITUALITY? / OR PERHAPS, JUST TO SURVIVE THE SEASON?!

BITE 1:  GETTING ORGANIZED….(Use your HEAD!) Grab a pen or pencil and write down all your NEEDS / WANTS to be ready for Dec. 25.  Write in a special section in your planner or holiday notebook.   This planning should begin in OCT….BAKING / DECORATING / GIFT GIVING / and the MYRIAD of little things to be taken care of.   WRITE IT DOWN - Confucius say, “Short pencil better than long memory!”
Christmas is a “mass” to Christ so we must remember:
The small details make all the difference between CHRIST-MASS and CHRIST-MESS!

Once you have this list organized it won’t vary much from year to year, nor will the deadlines.  You’ll learn a lot about REALISTIC DEADLINES the first year you do this.  You might include things like:  SHOP FOR GIFTS TO BE MAILED / SHOP FOR GIFTS FOR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS / SHOP FOR GIFTS FOR FAMILY / MAKE OR BUY CRAFT ITEMS / COMPOSE & DUPLICATE FAMILY NEWSLETTER / TAKE FAMILY PHOTO / BUY CHRISTMAS CARDS? / MAIL CARDS / WRAP GIFTS (gift bags are great!) / GET THE TREE / DECORATE THE TREE/ PUT UP OUTDOOR LIGHTS AND DECORATIONS … BAKING…AND SO ON…
As things progress be sure to REASSESS often.  The main thing to check is ATTITUDE.  Make sure it stays positive in spite of normal tension and interruptions.  If you’re feeling too pressured, EVALUATE your plans and look for possible things to:  CANCEL / COMBINE / OR CAST OFF (Delegate or don’t do.)  Ask yourself often:  WHAT IS THE WORST THING THAT WILL HAPPEN IF I DON’T DO THIS?  Not much? = CANCEL!

Remember, Christmas is about PEOPLE … and you have to decide WHO the most important ones in your life are.  They’re the ones you want to spend time on and with.  The most important person is JESUS CHRIST!  Ask:  Where is He in all your activities?  Don’t cut Christ out of Christmas.  Speaking of cutting…..

BITE 2:  CUTTING THE HOUSEWORK IN HALF (Cleaning) this means that you keep up with the basic household routine.  Keep up with clutter – PEOPLE DON’T USUALLY NOTICE DUST AND SMUDGES BUT THEY NOTICE CLUTTER.
Start with the large items first and where VISITORS ENTER keeping in mind these mottos:

Motto:  An Uncluttered house looks cleaner than clean house.
Motto:  Keep up is easier than catch up.
Motto:  Don’t put it down – put it away.

Avoid taking on too much at this time of year – in fact, MOST ACTIVITIES COULD BE ELIMINATED IF NECESSARY!  Recognize you can’t do everything, but you can do more if you get organized.   

Speaking of more……

BITE 3:  GIFTS & GIVING…. Again, make a LIST and keep in daily planner.   To kick the spending habit and control gift giving:  DRAW NAMES / AGREE UPON TOKEN GIFTS (i.e. mission or garage sales) / GIVE TO CHARITY (i.e. Preemie Project, Cure International, etc.) / GO TOGETHER ON GIFTS / DETERMINE LIMITS / WATCH OUT FOR TIME TRAPS (i.e. homemade gifts) / CONSUMABLES (i.e. theatre tickets, movie passes, restaurants, fruit, candy, piano, golf, tennis lessons / OS GIFT CERTIFICATE!

Keep in mind your BUDGET and remind yourself that PEACE / JOY / HAPPINESS don’t necessarily come from having MORE.  
This is a heavy subject….let’s move to a lighter one.  Lighter?  Or, is this what makes us heavy? The spare tire effect!

BITE 4:  BAKING & FOOD PREPARATION…(midriff of elephant)
In your mind review last years baking:  DID YOU DO TOO MUCH / LITTLE?   If you had peanut butter literally sticking around until March, then this year don’t make as much!  On the other hand, did you run out of goodies last year?  DID YOU GAIN 10 LBS. BECAUSE OF TOO MANY GOODIES?!   Ask your family what food items they really enjoy most at Christmas.

Evaluate and make this year’s list from there.  FIND A FOOD ‘GIFT’ THAT YOU GIVE EVERY YEAR (i.e. pumpkin bread, peanut brittle, chocolates, turtles, etc.)  MAKE MEALS AHEAD – FREEZE FOR BUSY TIMES (Recommended books: Easy Does It Cookbook and Cooking Among Friends.)

Have-to-syndrome – you DON’T HAVE TO!  (Buffet / Rent Community Room / take turns hosting / people bring a dish) K-I-S-S METHOD……This works for decorating too…..

•    Time to dejunk the Christmas “stuff”  (hand-made by kids)
•    Time for a new look?
Main thing to remember:  Home and Christmas décor should reflect the personality of your family and create the atmosphere you wish to nurture.  (Casual vs. Fancy-fussy-frilly?)  NOT A CONTEST W/YOUR NEIGHBORS!

BITE 6 – KIDS & PETS …under foot?
PETS – put them in the family photo (short lives) and keep the house safe for them.  This is NOT a good time to add a pet to your home!

KIDS – let them take part in your Christmas preparations.  But…be careful to maintain their regular routine so they don’t become exhausted by the time Santa arrives!  During the waiting time:
•    NATIVITY SCENES (1 Char. Per night @ dinner/give set)
•    SPECIAL PROJECTS (popcorn on tree / tags /cookies)
•    PARENTS – Give parenting books!

BITE 7 – SPREADING GOODWILL TOWARD MEN (heart) Christmas is a good time to nurture the value of SERVICE to others.  It helps turn hearts away from COMMERCIALISM – From WHAT WILL I GET?   -   To - WHAT CAN I GIVE?
Plan at least 1 FAMILY SERVICE ACTIVITY to reinforce thinking of others:

Whether you are living alone / are grandparent’s w/empty nest /Have a home filled with children … seek others with whom to share activities, friendships, and service.  Remember that goodwill is a COMMODITY that EXPANDS to reward both the giver and the receiver.

Let’s expand this to….

BITE 8 – MEMORABLE TRADITIONS (backbone of the elephant) Tradition saves TIME – TEMPER – TENSION.

Traditions bind our families together.  They are comforting.  It takes time to build lasting relationships, especially in these times when we are so busy / specialized / and transient.

Traditions can help us know WHO WE ARE and BUILD SELF ESTEEM.  They can give a feeling of continuity / security / and joy in Christmases to come.

Traditions passed down from generation to generation will give us ROOTS.  They may be very involved or very simple.  But, they need to be REEVALUATED from time to time.  The most important thing about Christmas traditions is that you have some to USE / ENJOY / CHANGE / DISCARD (if need be.)

Before you know it – it’s all over!  

It’s Dec. 26 – whew!  It’s all over….now what?  EVALUATE… and begin plans for next year.  I encourage you to take inventory SOON after Christmas while the activities are still fresh in your mind.  WRITE NOTES ON NEXT DECEMBER'S CALENDAR!
•    What worked?
•    What didn’t?
•    What needs changing?
•    What was wonderful?  
•    What wasn’t?
•    Was God glorified?

Evaluating helps us to refocus.
In the beginning, Christmas was essentially a day of spiritual observance, without any of the fanfare and color we now have. There were no bells / no carols / no lighted trees / no big banquets. Some claim the added commercialism, frolic, and fun detract from the original intent.  (The birth of the Savoir!) I believe we can enjoy these traditions, taking in the glitter / gifts / parties / food, and still enjoy the peace / goodwill / joy / happiness / and spirituality…..IF…

•    IF we can maintain a pleasant attitude…
•    IF we can organize so the holiday doesn’t steal time or $ needed for other necessities…
•    IF we can gain control of how many extra obligations we take into our lives.\

It is a special challenge to keep the gift giving and receiving in its proper perspective and to keep all those materialistic thoughts and desires tucked away where they belong, so that the true meaning can be remembered as the first and foremost purpose of this season. 
You CAN do it, but it takes a lot of planning... preparation… perseverance… prayer!

Some information gleaned from “76 Ways to Get Organized for Christmas:  and make it special too” by Bonnie McCullough

Judy Warmington is owner of Woman Time Management in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area.  She is also partners her business with Treva Berends of The Organizing Specialists, a Professional Organizing business that trains new organizers and then manages them in a referral network.  They have trained over 300 new organizers from 25 different states.  Judy is a member of NAPO and Faithful Organizers. Learn more about Judy and her services at either or