The Holidays are Coming and It’s TIme to Get Organized

I’M IN! I have signed on to the challenge of NaBloPoMo month to write a post each day in November. I am starting a cookbook project this month, tentatively titled: 100 Years of Christmas Recipes and Traditions in the Marquis Family. I have recipes for five generations in my family, and will be sharing some in posts, along with the stories and traditions that have been passed down. I will, of course, be including some of my thoughts and ideas as well. These posts will necessarily be first drafts of course, to be edited later. As a new blogger, I appreciate your encouragement and comments in my journey and welcome your joining the conversation as the holidays approach, to share your traditions on the daily topics. I expect to learn much about my family, blogging and writing (and hopefully some of your traditions as well) during this engaging November exercise in creativity.

IN MY FAMILY, we don’t think about Christmas as just one day. We begin to plan for the winter holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas no later than November 1st – so our planning covers activities for the period from November 1st – January 1st. There is a lot of excitement in the air- and early November is the time to get organized! I don’t want to ever be so rigidly organized that I can’t live a spontaneous life. And there are days when I set aside all plans to participate in something unexpected or maybe just have a do-nothing day because that is what I want to do. The holidays with all the expectations and hoopla can be very stressful, leaving us to feel pushed and pulled in all directions.

BUT, HAVING SOME DEGREE OF ORGANIZATION, assures me that I will finish the goals I set out for myself. Pre-planning also lets me decide what I choose to do, and eliminate what I do not want to do – ahead of time.

THERE ARE TWO GUIDING PRINCIPLES that have served me well over the years as a busy working mom and professional woman.

1. I read a quote somewhere that I keep posted over my desk.(It used to reside on my refrigerator.) “I can accomplish more in one day than most people can in one week, because I am organized.” I have seen some of the lists my grandmother Marquis made. She was a mother of six and bookeeper for the family business. My mother made to-do lists – and my sister does too. Technology has greatly aided our ability to plan. I use apps to make lists and to keep a calendar. I do use a paper calendar for Christmas pre-planning.

2. Many years ago, when I had accepted my first administrative position, I read in one of the organizational guru’s books that successful executives had one thing in common: they decided at the end of a working day what they would tackle the next day of work. When they cam to work the next day, no time was lost in deciding what to do – she just started at the top of the list for the day. I have continued this practice for many years and look forward to quiet time at the end of the day to decide what I will do the next day.

SO, LET’S BEGIN our organizing for the Christmas season. In a very busy holiday season, things run so much more smoothly with investing time in pre-planning. Then we can enjoy the festivities with much less stress. The first thing to do is to organize my calendar.

CALENDAR:
I USE A LARGE CALENDAR, with space for writing notes in each cell, and enter the following information:

1.- SOCIAL EVENTS we will be attending (e.g., Nutcracker, Christmas symphony concert, plays) and social invitations we accept from family and friends, as they come in.

2.- ENTERTAINING we want to plan for at home during the holidays (e.g., tree trimming party, dinners, receptions)

3.- THE DATES SPECIFIC GUESTS will be visiting overnight (with names and number).

GIFT LIST
I USE AN APP ON MY iPHONE to make a list of each person that I will be buying a gift for this season. The phone is always with me, so I can add ideas as they occur to me, or check my list if I am out shopping, and I see the perfect gift. When I purchase it, I add the amount paid, so I can see what is complete and what is left to buy.

MENUS FOR SPECIAL DAYS
1.- I PLAN THE MENUS for each entertaining event, as well as for the days guests will be staying in our home during November and December. Thanksgiving and Christmas eves and days, I plan menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner and evening snacks – as well as the days we will have overnight guests. The menus are typed for each date. If I am preparing a special recipe, I add the cookbook and page number for easy reference. Having the menus posted in the kitchen lets guest know when meals will be on the table so they can plan their day, and you can easily assign willing guests to assist in preparing selected foods.

2.- I MAKE WEEKLY SHOPPING LISTS from the menus. It takes a couple of hours to plan all the menus and weekly shopping lists, but investing time early is SOOOO worth it. I no longer have to struggle about what to cook or what to buy at the grocery. The planning is done.

BAKING
I PLAN SEVERAL BAKING DAYS to prepare foods I can make ahead and store in freezer for the holidays (e.g., variety of cookies, holiday breads like pumpkin breads, Christmas eve bread, basics for pumpkin soup A and other entrees that can be made ahead and frozen). If unexpected guests arrive, I always have something to pull out on short notice. I love baking days! I put on some Christmas music and cook and bake and sing to my heart’s content. This is a special time to be creative – maybe prepare some new and unusual foods, as well as old-time favorites the family will be looking forward to savoring once again.

WHEN THIS PRE-PLANNING IS COMPLETE, I am ready to enjoy the remainder of the holidays. The many free spaces on the calendar give me multiple choices for when I want to shop, put up the tree, decorate the house, write the Christmas cards, visit the frail family members, go caroling and so on. Based on the plans already on the calendar, it is easy to look over and decide when there is time, and desire, to add something that comes along that looks like fun. Trust me on this. Hanging in there to complete pre-planning is really worth it! Now we can enjoy the holidays.

DO YOU HAVE OTHER SUGGESIONS FOR PRE-PLANNING?

Sue Marquis Bishop 2013

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2 thoughts on “The Holidays are Coming and It’s TIme to Get Organized”

  1. I am usually quite organized for the holiday season too as our family is like yours in the preparation and planning through January1. This year, however, I am at a loss. The very first thing I like to do is get my house in tip-top shape and I start with a good cleaning. I have to do this before the decorating starts. BUT, our youngest moved back in after graduating college and between her and her dad, the mess is more than I can handle. So I told them NO DECORATING this year. We’ll see how they respond.

    1. Hi Pam,
      YOu are so right to mention cleaning of the house prior to decorating… I couldn’t even feature sitting down to do other holiday activities unless the house is clean. A clean house means a lot to me – as it does for you it seems. One of the nicest things I do for myself is have a cleaning woman do the basic cleaning once a month… then I keep up the rest. Thanks for bringing that up..and for sharing your thoughts on the subject.

      It’s very clear to me that it is the woman in the family that brings the holiday season to the home. I know that may not be so in some families… but it is my experience that the woman in charge of the home is the one who orchestrates it all and brings everything into fruition. I wish you well as you see if this strategy works or you come up with another one to get the job done. If the decorating is important to your enjoyment of the season… I’m rooting for you to pull it off somehow. Hope you share what happens. Maybe someone out there has tackled a similar situation and has creative ideas. SueMB

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