How to plan your way to a stress-free Christmas

What do you really want for Christmas?

If you’re anything like I was a few years ago, it’s more time and a lot less stress. And after an extremely difficult 2020, we all deserve a bit of fun this December.

With so much to do in the run-up to Christmas, it’s easy to end up feeling more overwhelmed than festive as the big day approaches.

This was me a few years ago. But I was determined to change and found that with the right plan – and realistic expectations – it was possible to ‘do Christmas’ with minimal stress.

My top tip for having more fun this Christmas is to work out what’s most important to you and ensure you schedule in time to do those things.

For example, if you really want to do some baking this year, decide when you’re going to do it, put it in your diary, and make sure it happens.

Don’t let other things that are less important creep in and ‘steal’ that time from you.

To reduce your stress levels, the key is to do everything as early as you can. For example, buying and writing your Christmas cards and stocking up on wrapping paper.

I recommend starting your Christmas tasks in October at the very latest.

I know, I know, October isn’t Christmas. But, honestly, it’s when most of us need to start planning and doing.

It’s also important you remember to be nice to yourself – you might not ace it this year, or even next year.

But if you keep making a few little improvements, each Christmas will be more organised and more fun than the last!

I’ll leave you with my topline timeline for completing holiday tasks – I hope you find it useful!

Things to do in October (or before if possible!)

how to plan for christmas in advance

• Plan the festive season (as best you can)

Review what’s really important to you and your family this Christmas. Make plans for what you’d like to do – and can do – depending on Covid-19 restrictions come December.

Also, think about who you buy presents for and why. Is it time you had an honest chat and agree not to exchange gifts with wider family members this year?

Make a list of festive traditions you enjoy, have time for, and can do safely according to the latest Covid-19 restrictions.

Plan budgets, food, and activities accordingly.

Oh, and don’t forget to schedule in some self-care and downtime!

• Book activities

With some festive events and activities unable to go ahead this year and restricted numbers of people allowed for those that do, it’s a good idea to book as soon as you can.

Check the cancellation policy in case new restrictions mean events don’t go ahead.

Also, make appointments for December haircuts and beauty treatments as they’re snapped up early in the run-up to Christmas.

• Write your Christmas cards

Yes, I mean it – in October! You might not get them all done now, but if you at least determine how many cards to buy, how many stamps you need, and have everyone’s current address, you’ll be ahead of the game.

best christmas planning tips

• Start Christmas shopping

Lots of shops and websites have Christmas cards and wrapping paper for sale in October, and it’s a great idea – particularly this year – to do your shopping early.

Some supermarkets open their Christmas food ordering service in October and allow regular customers to book late-December food delivery slots. Get in early to bag your turkey and your preferred delivery and collection times.

Write a list of everyone you need to buy presents for and decide what you’re going to buy them. Wrap as you buy!

Things to do in November

• Declutter

Declutter the house and, if the children are willing, sort through their old toys and give any unwanted items to charity.

Have a look through your Christmas decorations – are any broken or do they need refreshing?

Go through your fridge, freezer, and cupboards to see what forgotten food is lurking. Create space (and save money!) by using up food that’s nearing its best before date.

Help others and donate any unwanted tins and packets to your local food bank.

• Christmas baking

If you’re making Christmas cakes and puddings, it’s traditional to make them on the last Sunday before Advent, a day known as Stir Up Sunday (22 November).

Remember that mince pies, cakes, and savoury dishes like stuffing and cranberry sauce can also be made in advance and frozen.

Things to do in December

• Deck the halls

It’s finally time to put the decorations up and get the house looking festive!

• Send your parcels

Post your Christmas cards and ensure any parcels are sent in good time.

• Buy your tree

Pick a healthy-looking tree with firm needles and remember to water it regularly and generously.

Christmas week

• Last-minute shopping

Buy all the fresh food and drink you haven’t already stocked up on.

• Go outside

It’s easy to become frazzled at this point in the festive season, so make sure you plan some outdoor activities, even if it’s just a wintry walk in the local park.

Christmas Eve

• Do as much prep as possible

Get ahead with as many jobs as you can, whether that’s setting the table or peeling vegetables – it’ll save you valuable time and headspace on the big day.

Work out when each element of your Christmas dinner needs to go into the oven in order to be ready at the time you’re planning to eat it!

Write down an easy-to-follow timeline to help keep you on track.

• Remember to relax!

You’ve done the hard work, now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Watch a film, read a book, have a bath – do whatever helps you chill and make you happy!

Merry Christmas!

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