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A Step-By-Step Guide to a Perfectly Prepared Christmas or Thanksgiving

Updated on October 20, 2017
cherylone profile image

I may not be an expert when it comes to preparing for the holidays, but I sure do have a lot of experience.

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The Big Holidays Are Right Around The Corner

Every year, the holidays seem to come faster and faster, and if you are like me, you are never ready. I try starting early, but how early is too early? For that matter, does starting early make a difference? How long can you store things you bought ahead of time? Here are a few things you can do today to get your parties, gifts, and fun all squared away without much fuss, time, or bother; and the best part is they will be excellent.

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Table of Contents

  1. Who wants what
  2. Make a list. Make a lot of lists.
  3. Don't make it hard on yourself when it comes to supplies.
  4. Prepare ahead for everything possible.
  5. Wrap, mark, or record early
  6. Food preparation
  7. What does all of this have to do with getting ready in record time?
  8. What you can do to make it even easier on yourself
  9. It all boils down to this.

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Who Wants What

I never know what my grandkids or kids like since I don’t live with them. I can’t just guess and hope they like it, right? So I send a request (by phone, e-mail or through the post) for ideas. I ask for them to tell me what the kid’s want, what they need, their sizes, their favorite colors and anything else they feel will help me with my quest for ‘good gifts’. Of course, the sooner you ask, the earlier you will get a reply, but I have found that kid’s wants change based on the commercials that appear more often as the holidays get closer. So I wait a bit before asking. I also ask for things the adults would like and what their favorites are. You would be surprised to find out that the cute little knick knack you bought for Aunt Hilda may not be as cute to her as it is to you; or that Grampa Joe really doesn't want a framed picture of his Scarecrow. Find out first before you buy.

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Make A List. Make Lots Of Lists.

You need to know who you will be buying gifts for as well as what they would like. You will also need to know what requirements you need for decorations, party supplies, food and whatever else might come up. Make a list of who and what, then cross off the items as soon as they are purchased (or completed). I find that making a separate list page for each person or occasion means I can make changes, make corrections or add items without having to go to another page. This prevents my having things in four different places (for example). One page, one person; one page, one food list; one page, one party; and you can get any questions you might have answered easily once you know what they are because they are on the page (along with the answer).

Don't want to feel old because you can't remember? Don't sweat it! With a list you will be on top of everything and you don't even have to make the lists known to anyone else. Be sure they are complete, though. I once made a list of every person I needed to get a gift for and then recorded each gift as I acquired it. But, I made a crucial mistake that year because I couldn’t remember if I had wrapped the gifts or not. I think I pulled them all out twice to see if they were wrapped. Now, I mark that on the list next to the item. Be sure to toss your lists once the holiday is over so you don’t mistake this year’s list with last year’s list. Oh, and keep the lists a secret until the holiday is over.

Lists Can Be Helpful

Have you ever felt you needed so many lists that you had to make a list of the lists?

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Don't Make It Hard On Yourself When It Comes To Supplies

For instance, if you have a large party that you are preparing for, don’t pull out the special china and the crystal glasses because they will, without question, get cracked, chipped or broken. Plus, who wants to take the time to wash them all when everyone else is ‘partying hardy’. So get paper plates, clear plastic cups and glasses, plastic silverware and paper table clothes. When everyone is done, you just roll it up and toss it away. No muss, no fuss and no time away from the party. You can keep a marker near the cups and have everyone mark their cup for reuse. That eliminates a huge stockpile of used cups every time someone wants a drink.

To make things even easier for yourself, try asking your guests to all bring something. Most party goers won’t mind picking up a table cloth or a bunch of cups on their way to the party. Of course, if you are throwing a formal party, that might not be a good idea.

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Prepare Ahead For Everything Possible

If you need to make food for the party, or set up a date or even get a gift, try to do it as soon as you can. For instance, if you need to make party treats. Most treats and drinks can be made ahead of time and frozen until the party. No time to freeze and then thaw? Just make it a few days ahead and store in the fridge. Reserving halls or special rooms need to be done as soon as possible to ensure you have it on the day you need it. Don't forget to send out invitations early, what kind of party would it be if no one came to it?

Even buying your decorations can be done ahead of time. Every time you go shopping, take your lists along and pick up what you can from each one. By the time the party date is here, you will be all set. But don’t worry if you haven’t been prepping for months because most of the themed items won't be available early. Also, much of the food will have to be done right before the party anyway. Just do what you can.

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Wrap, Mark Or Record Early

For all of the gifts you buy, be sure to wrap them early, that way you won't have to bring them out in a grocery bag or something. First, write them on your list, then just wrap them when you buy them (or get home) and you will be ready (don’t forget to track what you have and what is wrapped). Of course I know that time constrains make it hard sometimes, so check your lists often. Without a notice that the gift is wrapped, you know you have some work to do.

You can mark your gifts with special little items because you will have more time to set them up.

Food Preparation

Make or purchase finger foods for your party. These can be something as simple as a box of cookies, or as fancy as Swedish meatballs. A vegetable tray, a fruit tray and a cheese and cracker tray are all great ideas for a party and they take no time to prepare. Slow cookers are great as well because you can pack in all the fixings and then let it cook all day long. This works for meatballs, sauces, beans, soups or anything else you find. Be sure to include bread or rolls to the mix as well as chips and different types of dips. Once again, try asking your attendees to help by bringing something to eat. I find that asking for rolls, chips, crackers or something similar is not much of a burden on them and it makes my job much easier.

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What Does All Of This Have To Do With Getting Ready In Record Time?

Yes, some of it sounds like 'gather it all over time and then you won’t need to rush at the last minute' advice, right? Well you are correct. That is what I have been saying, to a certain extent, but all of these steps can be done just before the party with great results. I like to do these things as early as possible so I don’t find myself strapped for money. Things can, however, be done quickly especially if you have help. Here is how:

  • Ask for help purchasing supplies and/or food.
  • Try assigning someone to ‘oversee the project’ while you handle food preperation or cleaning details.
  • Let the kids help. They can do little things like bagging up the favors or setting the table.
  • Let the older kids decorate so they don’t ‘have to cook or anything'. Give them free reign and watch the fun happen.
  • Ask to borrow trays or platters if you don’t have any. That way you won’t have to buy them for a one-time use.
  • Get creative with the things you need; like you could take a milk jug and cut and paint it for holding hot rolls (don’t forget to line with thick towels to keep it from melting).
  • Use nature in your décor to save money. For instance: ever-green branches are great for the holidays and you can dispose of them in the woods so they can help feed the ground as they weather.
  • The idea is to involve everyone in the party process instead of you doing all of the work and never enjoying the party yourself.

Remember the saying--The More The Merrier? It means that more hands make the task go faster.

What You Can Do To Make It Even Easier For Yourself

  1. Set up a decorating party and have everyone come over to help the day before.
  2. Ensure that there are enough people bringing something (and what they are bringing) so that you know what will be coming and what will have to be provided by you.
  3. Use small plastic pools filled with ice to keep the drinks cold.
  4. Use cookie trays to bring food or supplies to the party table.
  5. Get the cake made by a store or baker if you can.
  6. Get food trays premade if you can.
  7. If everyone will be eating at the table, put the favors and name tags on the plates so everyone knows where to sit and remembers their favor when they go home.
  8. Keep it simple. Ask people to bring their special item to the party.
  9. Ask For Help! I can never stress that enough. Don’t do everything yourself.

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It All Boils Down To This:

  • The earlier, the better.
  • More hands means easier tasks.
  • Supplies can be cheap and still look good.
  • Make lists to keep you organized.
  • Don't worry-the party (gift, etc.) will be great!

© 2017 Cheryl Simonds

I would love to hear from you.

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    • cherylone profile image
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      Cheryl Simonds 4 weeks ago from Connecticut

      I hope my article will help you get things done in record time. Cherylone

    • Nancy Owens profile image

      Nancy Owens 4 weeks ago from USA

      Hi! I like your ideas and especially the photographs. Early this morning I just published a hub on a similar topic. We must be on the same wavelength when it comes to getting ready for the holidays. Mine was more about the big meal and getting ready to cook it, Lol. It is a lot of work just to get the house ready , do all the shopping, baking, cleaning, and all that just to be ready to cook.