Handling the Holidays: Part I | APHW Skip to main content

Handling holiday prep

Black woman in a golden sweater, jeans, and a red antler headband stands in front of 4 squares; clockwise from top left: 2 Black children opening presents, a home's exterior fully decorated with Christmas lights, a Black dad carrying his son on his shoulders to put a star on the Christmas tree, and a close-up of a decorated gingerbread person

Whether your gift list is a mile long or you’re making a holiday feast large enough to feed the neighborhood, the holidays can be hectic. Want easy ways to avoid getting overwhelmed during the holidays? We’re here to help!

Use the information below to keep your ducks in a row and pull off a phenomenal holiday season with less stress.

The second half of November: Getting started

You may start hearing Christmas music immediately after Halloween, but beginning your prep in the last 10-15 days of the month should give you ample time to prepare. Kick off your end-of-year errands with these tasks to lay the foundation for the weeks ahead.

Pro Tip: You don’t have to get ready for the holidays all alone ­– save yourself some stress and ask for help! Whether it’s handling daily tasks or helping out on the day of, they’ll probably be happy to oblige.

Thanks-give yourself a list for everything

The first week of holiday prep will focus primarily on planning for Thanksgiving. Make a list of the following so everything and everyone can easily make it to your holiday table.

  • Meal ingredients and supplies (ice, a butane lighter for holiday candles, etc.)
  • A running guest count, including the number and age of any children attending
  • Activities for children, adults, and the whole family!
  • Who is responsible for bringing serving spoons, storage containers, drinks, etc.
  • Dietary restrictions and mobility concerns

Try seasonal menu planning 

This is meal planning with a twist: It focuses on dishes made with foods that are currently and regionally available. Seasonal menu planning offers many benefits, such as:

  • Helping you organize what you have to determine what you need
  • Focusing on exploring local, in-season ingredients and dishes
  • Opening the door for new family traditions

Stock up on holiday greeting cards

Holiday cards of all sorts are already available, which makes it easier to avoid an emergency trip to the nearest gas station or drugstore.

Keep a clear list of greeting card recipients on hand, and purchase cards, e-cards, and stamps early so you can skip long lines at the post office while still sending loved ones sweet thoughts they won’t soon forget.

Give your home a full workup

The last few weeks of the year can be a blur. Set aside a few hours now to give your home a proper deep clean and check off these crucial tasks.

Look through your holiday home décor 

Before you display your indoor and outdoor winter decorations, inspect them for any broken or missing pieces, and see if décor used for one part of your home can’t be repurposed elsewhere.

By taking inventory before putting them up, you can make one early trip to get what you need—saving you a last-minute trip for parts, replacements, or batteries. 

 

Five adults of different races and sexes prepare a meal together

 

The week of Thanksgiving: Game time

The guests are arriving, the sound of laughter fills the air, and the table will soon be set. Take these steps for lower stress and more enjoyable holiday meal preparations.

Begin food prep early

A couple days before you start cooking, clean your oven and create a cooking schedule, complete with a list of dishes, their corresponding chefs, and the appliances, pots, and utensils each dish needs.

Pro Tip: Use this same cooking schedule as a template for gatherings later in the holiday season.

To reduce overburdening your kitchen appliances, design the schedule to alternate between hot and cold dishes to allow your oven, stove, and dishwasher to rest.

Start gift shopping

The earlier you start, the less stressful it is – especially if you shop online! To save time and frustration, ask people what they’d like early, and make an organized list like Santa Claus.

Pro Tip: Get a handful of alternative gifts for hotly-requested items. This can help you stick to the budget by preventing overspending on impulse gifts.

The first half of December: You’re on a roll!

You’ve officially made it through Thanksgiving. Now, the focus shifts to celebrations and gifts! Here are a few tips to help you tackle the next couple weeks of holiday events.

 

Two white women wrap a Christmas present surrounded by several rolls of red and white gift wrap

 

Simplify your life with bulk gift ideas

Your seasonal gift giving may include multiple gatherings with a host of family, neighbors, coworkers, and more. Prevent things from getting too complicated or expensive by buying or making gifts like these in bulk.

  • Holiday cookies or other desserts 
  • Coffee
  • Infused oils or spice blends
  • Candles
  • Cold weather accessories, like mittens or ear bands

Make December easier with early holiday shopping

Getting gifts may encourage the whimsy of the season, but handling your Christmas shopping list in the first half of the month gives you more time to sit back and enjoy it.

Having all your gifts purchased and delivered early means you can also avoid longer lines, higher shipping costs, and items being out of stock — not to mention your gifts arriving after Christmas.

Set the tone by trimming the tree

Trimming the tree early in December’s second half makes sure this focal point is ready on time, preventing last-minute frustration from broken ornaments and tangled lights. It’ll be close enough to your main event to stay fresh and allow you to enjoy it.

Create a holiday playlist

Whether your event is an annual gift exchange among friends or a quiet holiday dinner with family, set the mood with the perfect holiday playlist to take your gathering to the next level. You can put together a mix of your family’s favorite songs, or go the quick route by choosing one of several playlists that have already been curated.

Queue it up on the day of the event before guests arrive, and enjoy the ambience it sets for the rest of the night! 

Keep your holiday party energy going

Many of us work during the holiday season. Avoid holiday burnout between functions by setting up the essentials for the influx of events.

  • Clean your party outfits, shoes, and coats, and keep them in an accessible area of your closet
  • Stock your fridge and cupboards with ingredients to make seasonal desserts.
  • Wrap your presents as soon as you bring them home, and keep a small box of wrapping supplies where you can wrap presents while you relax.

 

A woman puts a wreath on a wooden front door

 

Keep your home feeling lively with winter foliage

Decorating with winter foliage, like the ones mentioned below, adds a beautiful, natural touch to your indoor winter decorations.

  • Winterberries
  • Black tulips
  • Winter jasmine
  • Glory of the snow

To ensure freshness during your holiday gathering, do not bring your seasonal foliage indoors until one to two days before your event. If you’ll be stringing lights near your greenery, make sure your bulbs, cords, and electrical connections are intact and safe!

The second half of December: The home stretch

With just days remaining until the main event, it’s time to focus on the essentials to pull everything together in time. Follow these tips to check off the most important tasks before your guests arrive.

Finish giving your home a winter clean

Once you’ve finished wrapping presents and putting up all the decorations, all that’s left is to get your main living areas presentable. Put on your favorite holiday music and rock out as you give all the rooms your guests will visit a quick winter clean.

Divide preparations for your holiday feast

Break your holiday feast preparations into two lists: One for the night before and one for the morning of. By splitting the work, you reduce stress, frustration, and the likelihood of food ending up burnt, undercooked, or forgotten.

The night before your event, save time by preparing the foods that will keep well overnight, such as potato dishes or cold sides.

The morning of your feast, refer to the cooking assignment list you made earlier in the season, and use modern tech for an easier time before, during, and after preparing the meal.

Bonus tip: Holiday shipping made easy

Though shipping is a whole lot easier than dropping off gifts near and far (sound like someone you’ve heard of?), it can come with its own challenges. Follow the steps below to make holiday shipping a whole lot easier:

  • Review your contact info early to avoid gifts getting returned or sent to the wrong address
  • Check your local post office or delivery service location’s holiday hours to plan accordingly
  • Save yourself gift wrap and tape by knowing which stores offer to wrap and ship presents

Armed with these tips, you’ll have smoother sailing through your end-of-year festivities. Happy holidays!

Visit us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram to tell us your thoughts!