November 6, 2021  

9 Things You Can Do Now To Get Organized For The Holidays

Use this guide to plan ahead so you can enjoy a stress-free holiday season! These simple tips will help you get organized for the holidays.


The holiday season is such a magical time. All of the fun traditions and hosting family gatherings and shopping for the perfect gifts are exciting yet oh so stressful, right?

I’m determined not to let the holidays sneak up on me this year and made this list of nine things I can do now that my future self will thank me for. I want to live in the moment and truly savor the holiday season this year – and the more little tasks I can do now, the less stressed I’ll be in mid-December.

Now I will completely admit that the pressure of last-minute tasks always gets me motivated. But I’m thinking if I can even do just four or five of the things on this list before the holiday frenzy really sets in, I’ll have a good headstart and can stress a little less.

Enjoy the holiday season to the fullest this year by planning ahead a little further. What are a few simple tasks you can do now that will make things less stressful come eggnog season?



Plan Ahead For The Holiday Season

1. Fill in your November and December calendars

Finalize your holiday plans now and add them to your calendar. This includes solidifying dates for family gatherings, adding in school activities, finding the dates of local events and festivals, etc.

I recommend adding these to your planner or online calendar. You can also get access to printable November and December calendars by joining my 4 Ways In 4 Days To Get Organized For The Holidays Challenge or you can get basic monthly calendars from this post.

Here’s a checklist of the holiday happenings you’ll want to make sure are on your calendar:

  • Family gatherings
  • Holiday parties
  • Class parties
  • Work parties
  • School concerts, dance recitals, and performances
  • Local festivals and events
  • Photos with Santa
  • Family pictures
  • Dates when guests will be visiting
  • Travel days
  • Baking days
  • Shopping days
  • No-school days
  • Days off of work or your work schedule

2. Finalize Your Budget

Now’s the time to finalize your holiday budget. Be realistic about how much you can afford this year. If you need to grow your holiday savings fund, get specific about how you plan to cut expenses or earn extra income leading up to the holidays.

Start with the basics of creating a list of the categories of holiday expenses you will have and then assign a spending limit to each category.

Here’s a list of holiday budget categories to get you started:

  • Gifts
  • Postage & Shipping
  • Decorations
  • Food
  • Entertaining
  • Clothing
  • Events & Activities (tickets, souvenirs, food)
  • Travel
  • Holiday Cards
  • Holiday Photos
  • Wrapping Supplies
  • Charitable Giving

We personally set a holiday savings goal early in the year and that gets its own budget category in YNAB, the budgeting tool we use (it’s seriously amazing). I try to set aside a little money for the holidays every month so that our holiday savings fund grows all year long.

Related: Need a Budgeting App? Here Are 9 Reasons You Will Be Obsessed With YNAB


3. Compile Your Gift List

Take a few minutes to create a comprehensive list of all of the people you plan to give gifts to this year. Don’t forget to include family, friends, the Secret Santa exchange at work, neighbors, teachers, and any gifts you buy for giving trees.

If you already have gift ideas in mind for people, go ahead and write those ideas down next to their names.

Now you have the beginnings of your gift shopping list! Take some time in the coming week to brainstorm and narrow down ideas for each person so you can start shopping!

4. Create Family Wish Lists

While you have gifts on the brain, go ahead and take some time to create wish lists for each member of your family.

Ask your older kids to write their lists and start lists for your littles. And don’t stop with your kids–also compile lists of gift ideas for your spouse and yourself.


5. Do A Little Cleaning & Decluttering

The more you can do to remove clutter and deep clean your home now, the better off you’ll be later. Grab a trash bag and a big cardboard box, set a timer for 30 minutes, and see how much you can quickly declutter from your main rooms. Gather up all of the trash, old packaging, broken items, etc. and toss them in the trash bag. Collect unwanted items in the cardboard box and donate them.

Identify a few areas of your home that could use some extra cleaning attention, set a timer for 30 minutes, and get to work. Maybe this is deep cleaning the bathrooms or washing the windows or doing a big dusting spree. No matter what you decide to tackle, any deep cleaning you can do is a great way to work ahead and get organized for the holidays.

6. Make Your Food Plan

If you host holiday gatherings, go ahead and start planning the menu now. Decide what you plan to prepare this year and send out any food requests you’d like guests to bring. Everyone will appreciate the advance notice so they know what to plan for!

And if you tend to need cookies or treats or side dishes for holiday gatherings, work parties, school activities, etc., go ahead and plan the food items you will bring to those events.

Writing all of your food plans down in one place gives you a head start! With the decisions of what to make out of the way, you’ll be able to jump straight into grocery shopping and food prep when the time comes.

Join the free 4 Ways In 4 Days To Get Organized For The Holidays Challenge to get access to my free holiday menu planning page!


7. Organize Your Gift Wrapping Supplies

Take a quick inventory of your wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, gift tags, tape, etc. Decide what you will need to purchase to fill in the gaps and shop for those supplies the next time you’re running errands. Stores bring out the holiday wrapping really early so it’s an easy thing to cross off your holiday to-do list early!

While you’re taking inventory of your wrapping supplies, go ahead and take a few minutes to organize it if needed.

8. Get A Head Start On Holiday cards & Invitations

News flash: you don’t have to wait for the holidays to order your holiday cards! Design and print them now so you have one less thing to think about later.

Here are a few options for family photos:

  • If you take professional photos and don’t have those scheduled yet, get those on the calendar asap. Many photographers host mini-sessions so you can get a few family photos during a short photo session for a reasonable price.
  • Have a friend snap some photos for you! We visited an apple orchard this fall and my sister took a few family photos for us so I had photos ready to use for our cards.
  • Take a fun family selfie and use that! One quick tip is to get everyone’s faces closer together than feels comfortable–that always makes for a cute photo.
  • Look back through the photos on your phone or social media and find a few candids for your cards.

And even if you don’t have your photos taken quite yet, most of the online card websites allow you to save your designs so you can choose a template and add your text now, leaving a placeholder for your photo(s). I LOVE using Mixbook for our family Christmas cards!

In addition to the cards themselves, you’ll also want to finalize the list of addresses to send your holiday cards to! Dust off the list from last year if you had one and start contacting people who have moved for updated mailing addresses. Such a great way to get organized for the holidays!

Related: Time-Savings Christmas Card Tips & A Free Printable Address List


9. Make A Family Bucket List

Write down all of the fun, festive things you would love to do this year. Fill your holiday bucket list with activities, events, and fun family traditions that create memories, remind you of the reason for the season, and give you a chance to relax and enjoy this wonderful time of year.

A word of caution: Make sure you keep your list realistic and doable!

I could list 50 things I’d like to do to celebrate the holidays, but I really only have so much room in my schedule. Brainstorm a big list and then scale it back to the items that are most exciting and meaningful to you. You don’t want to have such a huge list that it becomes a chore to try to check everything off!


Planning ahead and spreading out your holiday preparations and activities is a great way to enjoy a stress-free holiday. I hope these tips gave you some ideas of things you can do to plan ahead!

You’re invited to join my free “4 Ways In 4 Days To Get Organized For The Holidays” Challenge. It’s a great way to dive deeper and get some free printables to help you get organized for the holidays.

Looking for more holiday inspiration? Take a look at these blog posts:

Have a fantastic day!

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About the author

Emily Counts is the founder of Small Stuff Counts, a home and organization blog she created in 2013. Her goal is to help moms make home life easier so they can create beautiful, organized, and thriving homes. She shares life at home as a mom juggling two young kids and being a working mom with a corporate job. The Iowa-based blogger lives in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, two children, and rescue dog. Emily has collaborated with brands including The Container Store, Cricut, Command Brand, Bissell, Sam's Club and Rubbermaid.

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  1. Thanks Emily! These are great ideas! I’m determined to enjoy the season more this year instead of being a frantic grandma! I’m starting on your lists tomorrow!

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