Plan Ahead for the Holidays!!

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Guest blogger Jennifer Tankersley, creator of ListPlanIt.com shares her “Six Pillars of Holiday Planning.”
The holiday season is a time for family, friends, and festivities.  It can be the most wonderful time of the year with its lights, foods, and togetherness; or it can be a dreaded time of stress, anxiety, and pressure.  The key to a happy holiday is in planning ahead.  
Creating a guide of things to accomplish before the rush of the season is a great way to get started.  Actually including your goals on your calendar will help you hold yourself accountable.  Know that whatever steps you take to prepare ahead for the holiday season will help you feel that much more confident and in-control.  Here are what might be considered the six pillars of holiday planning, to start you thinking about ways to make this holiday season your best yet!
Gifts
Start soon to inventory any gifts you’ve purchased throughout the year.  Talk to family members, perhaps sitting them down with catalogs or a few pre-selected websites to discover what is top on each person’s Wish List.  Create a thorough Gift List including a space for each person form whom you plan to make or buy gifts.  Begin shopping online and in stores whenever you are able.  Schedule time in your calendar for shopping and/or making gifts.
 
Cards
Many people find sending holiday cards the perfect way to stay in touch with friends and loved ones, both near and far away.  Think about getting this done before the holiday “crunch.” Plan ahead by scheduling times to choose a card or design, purchase materials and stamps, schedule a photo opportunity if desired, address envelopes, write an update on yourself or your family, and assemble the cards.  Nothing completes a holiday card like a personal note to each recipient, but if that bogs you down, simplify!
Meals
Holidays offer multiple opportunities to host or contribute to large, family meals during this season. Create menus for holiday meals as soon as you are able. Don’t forget to list any cookies/candy or food gifts you may be planning.  Gather all of your old family-favorite recipes.  Scan the internet for new possible food traditions. Remember to keep it manageable, and don’t feel shy about inviting family and friends to being a dish if you are hosting. Once your menus are established, create a shopping list for each menu.  Note which recipes can be made ahead and then schedule shopping, baking, and cooking days into your planner or calendar accordingly.  
Home
Preparing your home for hosting feasts, parties, and celebrations is another way to share enjoyment of the season.  Organizing storage, eliminating unnecessary household items, and/or doing a fall “spring cleaning” are all ways that you can begin now to prepare your home. Some people hire a professional organizer to help with this step. Holiday decorations of all shapes and sizes will begin to emerge from basements and attics soon.  A simple vow not to put anything out until it has a dust-free surface to rest on is a good motivation for thoroughly cleaning your house in time for the holidays.  But, don’t be reluctant to gift yourself by hiring cleaning help if needed.
Festivities
Whether it is a brunch, an afternoon tea, a cookie exchange, or an evening gala, many people will find themselves host to some type of holiday event.  If you plan to host a festive gathering, you’ll need to make a guest list, create a menu, schedule the event, and confirm or complete a myriad of other details.  Lay all the steps out on paper as a to-do list, put them in a logical order, schedule them in your calendar or planner, and begin to take action.  There are also special holiday theatrical performances, seasonal activities, and family and community gatherings.  Choose what will be most meaningful to you and your family.  Experience the season.  But also plan for some needed down-time. One of the rewards for planning ahead is the opportunity to relax and enjoy the celebration. 
Giving
What are the holidays if not an opportunity to give?  Yes, there are expectations from family members.  Yes, there are traditions that “must” be carried out.  However, we should not forget that the meaning of the holidays is to give, whether it is through some sacrifice of our time, our abilities, or our resources.  It truly is better to give than to receive.
Jennifer Tankersley is the creator of ListPlanIt.com, which has hundreds of lists, checklists, and planning pages that you can create & manage at home or on the go to put your world-and your holidays-in order. She also writes 100DaystoChristmas.com, which begins September 16 (exactly 100 days to Christmas) and offers a daily dose of inspiration and motivation to get you through the busy holiday season.
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