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Making (and Using) a Christmas Planner

Now is a great time to create a Christmas planner! Why? Because the best way to have lots of good ideas for the upcoming Christmas season is to have a place to save and organize your ideas as they come.

My Christmas planner is a large binder, where I have sections for things that are most important to me: Gifts, Cards, Cooking, Decorating, Entertaining, and Crafts. Each section holds the key to what has worked well in the past, as well as new ideas I’d like to try.

Organize Your Ideas Section by Section

Gifts: This section has a computer-generated gift list that I update each year, adding new friends, family members or colleagues, and removing those for whom a gift is no longer appropriate. After each name, there is a space for recording gifts that have been purchased throughout the year. At the end of the list, there is a space for writing ideas for certain people as I think of them. I also keep gift ideas torn from magazines with notations on whom may like them.

Cards: In this section is another computer-generated Christmas card list that also serves as an address book when necessary. Each entry has the contact names and addresses (including names of children) and I keep it updated with each address change I receive. I also keep favorite past Christmas cards in the divider pocket for inspiration.

Cooking: Here I keep my favorite recipes that I plan to use again, as well as new recipes that I’ve found and know will fit my needs during the busy Christmas season, including those for large groups and that can be made ahead.

Decorating: For this section, I tear out and keep Christmas images that speak to me, that create the kind of vibe or color scheme I want for my home at Christmas time. When it comes time to decorate, I have inspiration at my fingertips.

Entertaining: I host an ornament exchange mid-December, and Christmas Day each year. In the past, I have also hosted a Christmas luncheon for friends. I love creating a festive setting and picking up new ideas to make these events special.

Crafts: Christmas crafts always make me smile. I keep patterns and directions for handmade items in this section, and when i am thinking of making a gift or a special decoration, I look here first.

Create a Christmas planner and use it to organize all your good ideas throughout the year. Come November and December (and even before then), you’ll be glad you did!

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Red and white Christmas fabrics

After Christmas Sale Savvy

If you’re like me, on December 26th, the last thing you feel like doing is fighting a crowd at an After Christmas Sale. And maybe, like me, you have thought that by mid-January, everything is so picked over that the time for Christmas deals is long past. But here are six things worth looking for now that will save you time and money next Christmas season:

  • Indoor and outdoor lights – Check the Christmas clearance bins for specialty lights such as icicles, snowflakes, larger globe ot LED strand lights that might still be left. Home maintenance and hardware stores may have a larger selection on sale through the end of the month.
  • Christmas fabrics – These actually go on sale before Christmas arrives, so the selection may be dwindling, but you can still pick up festive plaid flannels and winter motifs for quilting or pajamas, or whatever sewing projects you’ll want to start in the summer months.
  • Wired ribbon – Honestly, I don’t think you can ever have enough wired ribbon. Great for wrapping, of course, but it also can be used in a million different ways for decorating the house and tree. Look for unusual patterns or colors you know you’ll use.
  • Odd ornaments – Most of the ornaments will be picked over by this time, it’s true, but it is worth a look for the odd, one-of-a-kind or funny ornament that will make a great topper for a gift or stocking stuffer for someone special.
  • Food containers – Often tin containers for cookies and other treats are still available, as are unusual containers, such as the “Chinese food” boxes in Christmas prints I found last year. So do a quick count of anticipated hostess or neighbor gifts and stock up now.
  • Boxed Christmas cards or invitations – If you don’t use personalized, printed cards and invitations (or even if you do, but always need a few extras), now is a great time to pick up a box or two of cute Christmas cards to use as needed next season.

Finally, don’t forget to shop the outlet or sale pages of your favorite online stores in January, where you’ll often find cute decorations, ornaments, and specialty gift items that can be easily stored for next Christmas.

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Gray cat under lit Christmas tree, sorry to see the Christmas decorations cleaned up.

Mastering the Christmas Decorations Clean-Up

We are now one week into January, and for many this will be the week to take down the Christmas decorations. While Christmas decorating is a big job in itself, taking it all down now can seem at least as daunting and much less fun. I admit that I often have the strong urge to throw things into plastic containers and worry about it all next season. But that will just make next season’s decorating more frustrating.

Here’s how you can make the clean-up easier and next Christmas less stressful!

The “Fed Ex” Method of Sorting and Organizing Christmas Decorations

I begin with the “Fed Ex” method of creating a “hub” from which I will organize everything as I store it. I collect all the decorations from around the house (except the trees) and bring them to a central location – which, in my case is the kitchen table. Once gathered, I can sort and re-group the decorations by type or by the room I typically put them in – or I can just to store them in containers in a way that makes the most efficient use of the space. By working with everything at once, I can also see which decorations are ready to be retired or donated, and I start a running list of what I need for the following year.

Tree by Tree by Tree…

Once the Christmas decorations are stored, I start on the trees. The ornaments come down first and are individually wrapped in paper towels (if breakable) and then placed into plastic zipper bags. While initially it may seem like a lot of paper and plastic, I can honestly say that I have used the same paper towels and bags for over ten years – and with no broken ornaments!

The bags of ornaments are carefully placed in the clear plastic containers, grouped typically by tree. In other words, the fancy ornaments for my larger tree go in two containers (I have a LOT of ornaments), and likewise each of the two smaller trees has its own container, too.

I use wired ribbon for the tree garland and toppers, and so once the ornaments are packed, I carefully wind the ribbons and place them in the containers as well. The tree skirts are washed or spot-cleaned and laid on top.


Last, I pack up the lights. I keep them together in one container with the extra boxes of lights that I have in case there are strands that aren’t working next season. (This is a great time to stock up on lights as everything is on clearance!)

As I unwind the lights from the tree branches, I check them one more time by plugging each strand directly into a socket. I place those that don’t fully light into a bag to be recycled. Many communities now offer a place to drop off Christmas lights for recycling through the month of January.

Finally I take the trees down and store them in their large nylon bags. Later, I’ll take down any outdoor lights or decorations and store them together in one container for easy decorating next season.

It usually takes a day or two to take down and carefully store all of the Christmas decorations, particularly if I group them differently or do a purge of older, less-used decorations. But it is time well-spent, because come next November, I will be able to decorate more quickly and enjoy the Christmas season that much longer!

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