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

Updated on September 3, 2019
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.


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.

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.


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 kids' 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 fairy you bought for Aunt Hilda may not be as cute to her as it is to you, or that Grandpa Joe really doesn't want a framed picture of his Scarecrow. Find out first before you buy. And make sure you get a list by asking for it, a lot.


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.


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 cloths. 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.

There are many stores now that have clear 'crystal' items you can use. They can make any table look formal. Many times I have been saved by a relative who stopped to pick something up for me on their way to the dinner. So don't be afraid to ask if you forgot something, even with your lists.

Use What You Have


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. Remember, anything that can go wrong sometimes does so be prepared. Have extra of everything. Order cakes and balloons ahead of time and pick up just before the party.


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 constraints 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. After work, early in the morning or on your lunch you can wrap something. Just bring one item and a sheet of paper. Then you can embellish when you get home.


Mark Your Gifts

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. 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.


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 preparation 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 rein 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. And you are done in record time.


More Ideas

  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 (another list).
  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 dish to the party.
  9. Ask For Help! I can never stress that enough. Don’t do everything yourself.
  10. Relax, you got this!

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!


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Cheryl Simonds

I would love to hear from you.

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    • cherylone profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Simonds 

      2 years ago from Connecticut

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

    • Nancy Owens profile image

      Nancy Owens 

      2 years 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.


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