Get Organized For The Holidays

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Get Organized For The Holidays

A little planning now to get organized for the holidays will save you time and money! Use these easy tips to reduce your stress this holiday season!

Get Organized For The Holidays
by Jill Cooper

The best way to relieve stress at the Holidays is not with a bubble bath (although they are fun) but by being organized. Even though I’m not normally a big “list” person, at Christmas I not only write a list but I write enough lists to fill a book (making up for my lack of lists the rest of the year ;-).

We wanted to create a cute calendar for readers that would list what you should do on each day, but every household is so different it was hard to put together something that would tell everyone when to do what. We didn’t want to make anyone feel locked into a particular plan. It can almost be more stressful trying to follow someone else’s plan than to have no plan at all.

So we came up with a compromise. It’s a list of some general things that need to be done at Christmas that will help you get organized for the holidays. If you are attached to the calendar idea, take a calendar or day planner and, using this list, write down the day you want to get something done. For example on December 1, “Put up inside decorations.”

If it is easier, simply hang the list by the calendar and then just mark things off as you do them. This is just a guide with our own hints and ideas. You can add to or take away from it as necessary.

The key to a low stress holiday season is to remember that the more you spread things out, the easier it will be. Doing just a few things each day is much easier than waiting for the last minute “Holiday Squeeze” (and it won’t make you look like you accidentally fell into the clothes dryer.)

Here are some things you can do to get organized for the holidays and reduce your stress:

  • Many types of cookies freeze well. Mix up the dough several weeks ahead and freeze. That way all you have to do later is bake them.
  • For cookies that you can’t freeze, measure all the dry ingredients and put them in a plastic bag. I often do this three months early. Be sure to label the bag so you remember what is in it.
  • If you make your own pie crusts, make them ahead of time and freeze until you need them.
  • Several months ahead of time, put a bag or container in the freezer and throw in those unused heels of bread or slices of dry bread to use for dressing.
  • If you make cornbread dressing, make up you dressing in early November and freeze.
  • Deep clean the house.
  • Set up a wrapping table or collect your wrapping things all together in one area so you can quickly and easily pull everything out to use. Wrap gifts as you buy them, not all at once at the last minute.
  • Make a list of linens and dishes that you will need for meals.
  • Put up outside decorations.


For more helpful tips to make organizing, cleaning and laundry easier, take a look at the Keeping It Clean e-books.



  1. Amber L. Snyder says

    I love your website and look forward to receiving it. I would like to see an area where we can share and enjoy traditions of others for the Holiday season.

    • says

      Amber I have just spent the past week scheduling all of our Nov. and Dec. posts with all of our holiday ideas and among them are lots of readers tips, ideas and traditions which they do during the holidays so keep your eyes peeled.

  2. Linda Aube says

    I was positively salivating for your recipe, Pumpkin Crunch, listed on today’s newsletter. However, the link is broken. Will you be fixing it soon?
    Keep up the good work. And thank you for all you do.

  3. says

    Love your web site. Wish when you clicked on recipes that there was a print. Whole page, 4×6, or 3×5 size. If I do not make a copy I foget where I saw the recipe, and or the whole page prints but the recipe. Thanks Sandi

    • says

      We had problems with that feature and had to take it off because it was messing up the site. For now just copy and paste it into a Word Document and then print. It takes about 20 seconds longer.

  4. says

    Hi Everyone,
    Your Christmas “To Do” list is so easy and covers everything but the tree! Jill, will you have the candy wreath video available again this year? It was so helpful and fun to watch. My grandaughter loved it and everyone in it looked so holidayish. I think I have fallen asleep about a dozen times with your books resting on my knees. I have used Digging out Debt so often it’s becoming worn out, and I can’t wait to begin making the gift baskets for Christmas. You come up with the greatest personalized baskets!
    Tawdra, your humor about the kids and husband is awesome.

    Thanks so much for all you do for us and I wish you and your families the happiest, healthiest, and most peaceful holidays.

    Carol Gabriel

    • says

      We will be having many more Christmas things being posted in the next few weeks. We will have more ideas for gifts, gift baskets, recipes, decorations, after Christmas sales and so much more. Each day we will be trying to post at least 2 more posts on Thanksgiving and Christmas ideas. We are trying to get things moved which takes a long time but once we get things on there you should be able to look up Christmas, Easter etc. and other things any time of the year that you want.
      And thank you for your sweet compliments. Most of our readers are so nice and encouraging to us and we do appreciate them. Thanks again.

    • says

      Why thank you grandma. I tease Michael (who is usually taking the pictures) that I am sure he tries to get the worst shots of his mother in law. HA!HA!

  5. Mary Engstli says

    I’d like to make an addition to your wrapping station. I take a piece of string, yarn, ribbon, and cut it a bit shorter than the span from the tip of my right hand to the tip of my left hand. I slip on a disposable roll of adhesive tape on the string, ribbon, or yarn, or use one of the “donuts” that is round, and has a cutter on one side. On one end, I tie a pen I’ll use to write out gift labels, and make comments in my Christmas gift list. On the other end I tie a msall pair of scissors. I put this on my neck, and as I’m working wrapping gifts, I have the three most important items at hand. Since I try to use all the wrapping paper I have, I always start with the largest gift, and progress to the smaller ones, using every scrap of ppaer I can. The paper can easily hide these items, and this contraption saves time. looking for them. When I’m done wrapping, I hang it up so it’s ready for the next time.

    • says

      Mary what a super good idea. They do that with sewing things (scissors etc) but never thought of tape and wrapping things. I wish I had gotten this tip a couple of days ago. I have two grandsons with birthdays this week so have been wrapping like crazy and guess what I spent the most time doing????– You got it looking for the tape and scissors and that was while I was even using them. Thanks for the tip.

    • says

      Well, that’s a big “duh”moment for me! I hate wrapping gifts just because I’m always digging for the pen, scissors and tape! I would hope if all three were together I would be able to find it! Great idea!

  6. says

    I do a terrible job at wrapping and I hate my husband doing it since he is so icky picky. He learned how when he was a manager at Kresges.
    For childrens presents I buy stockings or hats like santa,s or elves with saying on them. I just picked up 3 fuzzy ones the other day for $1. each.
    I put all sorts of little things in them chalk, crayons, knitted hats, dinky toys for the boys, little dolls for the girl a granola bar and juice box and definetly a book or two.
    Then the big gifts are ordered on line and shipped to them or I put money into my sons account with instructions for the parents to buy a gift the child wants. Usually 50-100 dollars. We usually spend about $125. on each child.
    If it turns out they make it here for Christmas the hats are hung as stockings by the beds.
    The drinking box and granola bar are so the little ones can wake up when ever and not have to wake adults up to feed them.

  7. Angie M. says

    Just wanted to say thanks Jill and Tawra for the Holiday tips. It sounds like you have been working hard the last week or so to get all of this organized. I am SO excited to read these tips and look forward to getting on your website each day.

    I am planning this to be my most frugal, simplest and happiest Thanksgiving and Christmas yet. Thanks to all of the wonderful tips from you two, I’m actually optimistic that it can be done! :)

  8. heidi g. says

    Another great idea that i use every year is to collect small items that are cheap to free all year round and put them into individual ziptop plastic baggies labled with each family members name — after the halloween candy sale i simply add candy and wait for the stockings to be hung on christmas eve. Filling them is a breeze since everything is bagged and has their names on it – some years i even have time to wrap the boxy items like toothpast and facial tissue!

    • says

      Boy Heidi our readers have some of the best ideas. That would make things go smoothly. I do something similar with the gifts but never thought about doing it with the stocking stuff.

  9. Bea says

    Jill, You ARE SO PRETTY. AND your kind heart shows in your face. I just LOVE THIS video. You should do more! And I really like that wreath. It’s so beautiful and creative. And including scissors on a ribbon is a great idea.

    • says

      Thank you Bea. That is so kind of you to say. I tease my grandkids every Sunday morning and say “I woke up this morning and guess what I saw in the mirror?” They use to say what? and I reply “The most beautiful Nan in the whole wide world” and they laugh and my grown kids roll their eyes. They don’t say what any more now they just reply in chorus “The most beautiful Nan in the whole wide world.” I love it that I have them so well brain washed. It gives us all a good laugh first thing in the morning anyway. :) :)

  10. Bea says

    Jill, You don’t look old, and the Bible says that women have such usefulness when they are mature. And remember how God blessed some “older” women in Scripture with babies? God wouldn’t think you are old. You are the age He meant you to be at this time for His purposes, and age really only is a number. Also, kids don’t know any better. And it’s funny your grandchildren think they are “old” because kids that age usually want to be older. So they are unusual in that respect. I think the media is what makes people feel “old.” It’s only to sell their products and get rich. So never think you are “old.” You were created to be the age you are, “for such a time as this” as Esther was, and you are doing a great job being a Proverbs 31 woman.

    • says

      Bea that is an idea. She has been pretty good most of the year though except for her “cute” remarks she makes and she has given me some really cute grandkids so guess I’ll forgive her. :)

  11. Bea says

    Jill, I forgot to tell you. I went to Family Dollar yesterday and bought a 4 LB bag of mixed hard candies for $2.50. It was 50% off and it’s perfect to make the Candy Wreath. I also went to my closet and found some wire hangers so I’m ready to go. Can’t wait!

  12. Lindsay says

    Yeah, that is such a great idea for my house. I really need to try that next year!! Ha ha, I looked at this a little late. :)

  13. Grandma says

    here is a definet must for the to do list.
    you want to wear something you have already because A you look good in it. and B because you don’t want to spend extra money on getting a new outfit.
    Try it on. Yes it fit great 6 months ago but unfortunately our bodies change just a tad as the year goes by.
    Nothing is worse than getting out of the shower and picking out your beautiful outfit and finding it is now a size too small. I say small because sometimes if it is a size to big it is still doable.
    But when it is small there is little hope of feeling good while parading around any party.
    So try it on a month before so you can try and modify your body or bite the bullet face the crowds and get something else to wear.
    been there done that a few too many times.

  14. susan says

    Hi Jill and Tawra.

    I always love your newsletters and look forward to getting them on tues and thurs, but am I doing something wrong these look like the same as last years news letters and when I look under the comments they are old. What am I doing wrong? I just love the good tips you all give us.Please help me figure this out so I want miss out on anything


    • says

      You aren’t doing anything wrong. We are re-running some of the newsletters. Both mom and I have been really sick and we are working on 3 new books so we had to do it or drop dead. :-)

  15. Sandi says

    If you wrap the gifts as you buy them, MARK THEM CLEARLY! I’ve heard of several clever ways to mark them so nobody can tell before hand which is theirs, but I can’t even remember basic everyday things, much less what’s in what package for whom if I don’t mark it ahead of time. That’s why for years I did the marathon wrapping the night before Christmas. Now I use labeled or numbered gift bags (usually either recycled gift or new cloth shopping bags) so I can put things in as I go.

  16. Carol says

    I do know that I like to have a couple of ham slices cut off when I buy a ham and the last time the butcher would not do it because of liability issues, so I don’t think my store will cut my turkey in half.

    • Grandma says

      Carol ask them how they get ham slices and ham steaks if there is a liability for cutting them.
      Better yet ask them what days they do cut them for the store and ask if you can get them to cut your that day.
      We used to shop at a family owned grocery store and they were all very accomodating for their customers needs.
      The butcher dept. would get your order ready for you if you called in and said you were going to be there the next day if you were out of town and driving in.
      They even for me if I called in a week ahead of time put the order into their freezer so it would stay frozen during our camping trips.
      I don’t know if they were extra nice to me because at Christmas and just have a gift day because I like you we would take in a bottle of wine to them.
      But they were so it seems a little kindness gets things done your way.
      Wish they were still around in more than name. The family sold the business and everything went down hill. the products and the staff. It just isn’t worth the 1 hour trip anymore.
      Now I buy turkeys when on sale and small at the grocery store here in town. Although the last 2 I bought were so tasteless I may start buying 2 or 3 when we hit the bigger stores in the city.
      Times change when your town is dieing.

  17. says

    Just had a terrible experience. Our grandchildren are all fixing up or adding to a new home. We bought 2 of them gift cards in different denominations. When the one family wanted to use their card they were told it was half of what the card said. In checking with the other family, we found the store had marked them wrong. WHAT A MESS. Better do single shopping.

  18. grizzly bear mom says

    HELP! My friend is throwing a Thanksgiving dinner for 1,000 Hurricane Sandy victims in south Jersey that are still without power or homeless. Many of my DC co workers said they would give me their leftover bake sale goods. Is there a way to ensure they stay delicious (like saran wrapped in in the freezer) for a week? How best to transport them from work on the 2 subwasy to the train to my car to 200 miles away? Any ideas on how and where to get more desserts?

    • says

      Boy you do have a situation. First since you will only be freezing them for 1 week and unless you have a bunch of fish in your freezer they should be ok in their original packaging or one layer of saran wrap. If it was going to be longer you would maybe have to do something different but a week they will be fine. If you are still worried keep them in their original packaging and slide them into some plastic grocery bags.

      As far as hauling them I’m not sure if my advice will work because I have never ridden a subway before but this is what I do when hauling huge amounts of gingerbread men around. I get a large cardboard box from the grocery store. About 3 1/2 ft x 3 1/2 ft or what ever size you can comfortably balance on your arms. I try to get one that is only 4-5 inches deep or high but they are hard to find so you may have to cut it down or if you find one which isn’t too tall you can use that. This doesn’t have to be exact. Then lay everything out on your box and carry it like that. You will be surprised how much you can fit on it. I can carry 25 dozen individually bagged cookies that way.

      Now if you can handle it I some times take a second box that is a few inches smaller then the first and fill it and set the large box on top of that. I can sometimes stack 5-6 boxes like this with the smallest always on the bottom. Of course the bottom box needs to have the sides slightly taller then the highest thing you are putting in it. It is so simple but hard to explain. I wish I could show you but maybe you can understand.

      As far as more desserts you might ask some bakeries or places like Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks and such if they have any end of the day items they could give you. I use to get Dunkin donuts all the time and I know Starbucks gives my mom’s church their leftovers. Check with the bakeries at the grocery stores too my aunt gets some from there for the senior citizen place that she lives in.

  19. grizzly bear mom says

    Delegate and learn to say no. You don’t have to do everything. If you are the best cook/shopper/gift wrapper/etc and it gives you joy, do that. Otherwise delegate to someone who can do it just as well as you. Assign relatives dishes to bring for holiday dinnners. Let someone else wrap gifts-the paper only stays on a few minutes anyway! Have your teens purchase gifts on your list. It’s your holiday too!

  20. Bea says

    Grizzly Bear Mom, Check with the subway before you try to take a lot of packages on there. The public transportation where I live limits the amount of bags and carry on stuff you can take on, because of using up seats and space for other passengers. Good luck. Maybe some Church can volunteer to help you with your cause since it’s charitable.

  21. says

    Since I have been broke long before it became fashionable (LOL) so have been doing festive holidays on little money as long as I can remember. Some tricks of the trade for me include:

    Decorating – I shop at Goodwill and have designer decorations for literally pennies on the dollar, I never buy in stores anymore. I also use natural found decorations such as branches and pinecones.

    Food – I purchase our Christmas turkey when the sales get the cheapest and put it in the freezer for Christmas. Starting before Thanksgiving I keep an eye on sales and stock up for Christmas meals as well. When I plan my holiday meals I check the cupboards and pantry first. After seeing what I have on hand I plan my meals according to what ingrediants I already have a lot of. Then I find recipes that either match the ingrediants I already have or use very inexpensive ingrediants.

    Gifts – I start in Sept and start selling off items on ebay for Christmas money. Then I watch every last black friday, cyber monday, etc sale like a hawk only after I force my children to let me know what there wishes are. I only buy for my children, just stuff a stocking for my boyfriend and usually spend under $20 for a nice gift for my mom. That keeps the costs down a lot.

    Cards – I purchase my cards at Goodwill where I normally get nice boxes of brand name cards for about 49 cents. I then take random pictures of the children that I have taken with my cell camera over the course of the year and pick out a picture for everyone and then add a paragraph about their current grade and interests under the pictures and send this out as a christmas letter. The relatives love this and it saves the cost of professional photos, matching outfits etc.

    Activities – We do stay at home inexpensive ideas to make the season festive. We have collected a stock of favorite holiday movies that we use for family movie night, or we have a board game night or go out to look at decorations and lights.

  22. mellie says

    Hi Tawra,

    I love your site! So much help in so many different ways. One question I have is: I like to clean my winter/Christmas tops and sweaters with Dryel, but I cannot find it anywhere, so do you have a recipe for cleaning these sweaters the same way as I would with Dryel? I appreciate your help; thanks so much.

    • says

      First let me start by saying that Dryel does not clean the clothes it just freshens them up and helps with the wrinkles. I say this because it may make a difference to you and how you need to clean your garment. There really isn’t a super good recipe for this because no one can duplicate the bag that Dryel uses but some have tried mixing 1 tsp. of Borax and 1 tsp. oxy bleach into a cup of warm water. You dip a rag in it and squeeze out all of the excess water then toss this and the garment in either an old Dryel bag or an old pillowcase then toss it in the dryer. You can add some essential oil to the mix too if you would like.

      Another thing you could try is slightly wetting a rag with Febreeze and tossing it in the dryer. This would help some but isn’t quite the same as Dryel. It is the steaming action from it’s special bag that gives it it’s unique results. When I experiment with anything like this though I either use old clothing of mine or get something from a thrift store when I first try it.

      • mellie says

        Thank you, Jill! You truly have been a big help. Now I can go on and take care of my garments.
        Blessings to all of you. And Happy Thanksgiving.

  23. Maggie says

    Xerox paper boxes work great for carting things around. I found pies and cakes don’t wiggle around too much when they are put in these boxes. If you want boxes with low sides, just use the paper box lids. We use them for putting on the floor of the car in the back when taking casseroles to and from places and they don’t move around. You can put rolled up newspaper around the outside of the dishes and it keeps them in place.
    My son always takes cakes and pies and a turkey that he makes for his office on the subway into Wash DC and does not have a problem.

  24. grizzly bear mom says

    Pies for Hurricane Sandy victims:I recycled my church’s holiday bazaar, my office’s bake sale items and some from other offices’. I faxed requests to those military commissaries by me and a store know for giving. I’ll also call the groceries, coffee shops and 7-11s by me. The problem is most stores only give to the needy near them, and only give gift certificates. The homeless can’t use them, and the NJ stores are tapped out. As it was I used one of those give away shopping bags. If I’d thought of it I’d have packed all in a xerox box with a lid, tied with baker’s string and carried it home on the trains using the x made from the string. (As it worked out someone else in my office took 1/2 of the leftover home to their homeless person in DC-thank you Lord for an abundence of leftovers! I plan to pack all in the car in the xerox boxes and tie them shut otherwise my Siberian Husky will indulge his sweet tooth! I can see it now-driving up the NJ turnpike with one hand and holding my dog’s collar to keep him away from the goodies! Thanks so much for your suggestions!

  25. grizzly bear mom says

    Dryel “cleaning: Am I missing something or does this cook the stank into your clothing by masking them with a chemical smell? To me that sounds revolting.

    • says

      No actually it really works good to freshen the clothes. You don’t use it on stinky clothes, what you use is for is clothes you have had hanging in the closet over summer that can be a little “stale” or if you have something that is clean but has wrinkles in it and can’t be ironed easily and things like that.

  26. Pat says

    This isn’t exactly Christmas , but might help. I just made up another batch of your biscuit mix from “Dinning on a Dime”. from it I made biscuits one day to go with supper, and then a couple of nights later I was running late and made a quickie supper of pancakes and bacon still using the mix. 2nights ago I made a chicken stew and used the last of the mix with some dried parsley added and made lovely dumplings to go with it. Definitely a time saver, and a money saver on busy days! I only made a single batch of the mix, but plan on doubling it next time. Also I am using your crisp recipe ( for apple crisp), but I double the crisp part and put some on the bottom of an 11×9 dish, then I change the filling to what ever has been on a good sale. So far I have made apple, apple and cranberry, pear, and pear and cranberry. Dh, loves them all. I cut back the sugar and have also used splenda ( also cut back that amount). Next I plan to stew some plums and use them as the filling ( hubbies suggestion).
    This past while has seen huge unexpected bills, and last month we went 2 weeks with only a 15 dollar spend at the store. Just using the pantry and the freezer! I am so ashamed to say that the freezer didn’t even look like it had been used! So have cut my spending on meats this month too, and only stocking up on powdered milk, and more vegies.
    For Christmas I would like to make the no bake Christmas cake ( need to find the recipe again) and of course Shortbread ( it wouldn’t be Christmas here without it). That will be my baking for us. I always take my shortbread to the cookie exchange …. what would I do for treats without it?….and that takes care of all my Christmas baking. I have our Christmas Turkey ( free) with grocery store points at Thanksgiving. Also I bought a spiral ham that was on sale ( mistake?) for less than the plain ham, so that takes care of New Years too. We don’t exchange gifts between dh and myself, but I do send the kids ( all in their 40’s ) the funds for their Christmas celebration, what ever day they hold it for all the grand’s and families to share) That takes care of them and they can spend a little extra on what they like. None of them needs anything, but they enjoy all getting together over Christmas, and whatever day it is they celebrate Christmas. For many of them it is the third or forth Christmas in a week so they don’t need another Turkey if they don’t want one. Prime Rib, was last years choice!
    I enjoy visiting them in the Summer, and having them here, Christmas time I’m happy they are not on icy roads. Just our way now the kids are grown. A much slower time, and a time to enjoy the beauty of Christmas, the lights, and the Church pageants and services.

  27. Mary Jane says

    Jill, I enjoyed your comment early on, about how you say to your grandkids “When I woke up this morning and looked in the mirror, guess what I saw?” Your answer was “The most beautiful Nan in the world”, and how quickly your grandkids learned to say the answer by rote, when you asked. When my grandkids come and stay for a few days over spring break, I have to deal with some fussy eaters, who will take things to extreme if given too much choice about meals. I started using a sense of humour when dealing with them, and I guess I used an answer too often, as one day, I asked the question, and they answered by rote, and in unison. “Can we have such-and-such , instead of such-and-such, for dinner?” “We get to eat such-and-such at so-and-so’s house.” They would ask. I would answer, “This is Grandma’s house….” and before I could finish my sentence, they would chime in, “..not Grandma’s Bar and Grill. There are only 2 things on the menu…Take it or Leave it..” Then they would burst out laughing. Your story reminded me of these clever 7 and 9 year old kids.


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