Christmas preparation tips

As we perch on the edge of December, gives you some tips on getting through the next three weeks and staying sane.

Mums have at least 25 things to remember every day, according to recent research. That’s your average mum. When you factor in mums who also work, the list might become slightly longer. If you also then factor in Christmas, the number could double since mums still seem to shoulder the major part of the Christmas organising work.

So how can you remember and do everything without collapsing under the strain? The answer is through honing your already well-oiled organisational skills and using trusted time-saving methods.

As we perch on the edge of December, gives you some tips on getting through the next three weeks and staying sane.

1. How to remember everything: do not rely on your memory alone. This is the sure fire way of forgetting the most important stuff. Write everything down as soon as you think of it on a calendar or other list device which is in a known place [this avoids having to play hunt the list later]. The fact that you can score things off the list once you have done them makes you feel you are accomplishing something even if you are adding more things than you are subtracting.

2. Advance planning: draw up a Christmas master list with various subheadings, eg, presents, food, cards, school/childcare. Some subheadings may have a sub-sub heading, eg, presents for immediate family; presents for people overseas; presents for wider family. Place a deadline by each category. Having a deadline somehow makes it seem like you are more organised. For overseas presents, this will be set by the Post Office latest posting dates. For others, it may be set by when you are going to see wider family members [you might be able to get their presents in the post-xmas sales if you can bear to brave them]. Don’t make the deadlines 24th December. You will live to regret it.

3. Cards: for children over 5, get them to write their own list and sign their own cards. Remember to include teachers and teaching assistants as they are likely to send you a card. Remember that many people nowadays give teachers presents at xmas. You might want to buy chocolates/mince pies, etc in bulk for last minute presents for people like teachers, neighbours, etc. 

4. Presents: if you can do them all online in November/the first week of December, you will reduce your xmas stress [check the last dates, though, for sites like Amazon to cut any stress if presents don’t arrive in time]. However, you might be the kind of person who thrives on endless exposure to Slade and long queues. If you do, but want to cut down the time you spend shopping, plan in advance what to get and where to get it from. You can reduce time by choosing a theme eg books or a particular shop[s] so you spend less time queuing. Book a babysitter for the kids or organise a playdate. Try and make it as stress-free as you can. Take a friend or partner, if this helps. You could throw in a meal, even if it is your local cafe, just to make an occasion of it [if you can afford it after spending on the xmas presents]. After all, it might be your only time out without the kids for months/years, if new research is right. Check if presents need batteries. Check if they look complicated to put together. These are the things that can make or break your Christmas Day. Remember, children, particularly the younger ones, have no concept of the value of things so they are likely to be equally content with something that costs a fiver and looks exciting than something hi-tech that costs a packet. Seek out bargains via Ebay, charity shops or the like if you need to save money.

5. School: find out as early as possible when the plays, etc, are and what they are. Keep all costumes simple – base them, where possible, around either a mask [old cardboard box painted] or a sheet. You can spice them up with glitter or tinsel. Try not to view the Christmas play as a test of your maternal instincts. Reserve all competitiveness for things that you can actually win and don’t exhaust you in the process. Be creative with the materials at your disposal and remember it only has to stay in one piece for possibly one performance. Teachers often give tips if you ask or may have spares from last year.

6. Childcare: many nurseries close for Christmas and childminders may not be around. Plan ahead. You may have more relatives around at Christmas who can help out if you have not been able to book time off. Network with other mums who might be able to do you a favour one day if you return it when you can. Networking with other working mums is the best idea since they will understand the quid pro quo element best.

7. Food: again, advance planning is advised in case everything is sold out by the week before Christmas, but if you leave it till the last minute you could get some bargains. It depends how important it is to your family to go with the whole traditional trimmings business. You could rope the children into making crackers and decorations for the table [and for the tree]. You could bake pastry shapes [trees, stars, etc] and get the kids to paint them and cover them in glitter. Don’t complicate your life by overdoing the Christmas spread. It’s just one meal after all and children tend to go off eating the leftovers by the day afterwards. Get the kids to help out with baking mince pies, etc. Put on a Christmas CD and some tinsel and make it part of the celebrations.

8. Remember to give yourself breaks along the road to Christmas. If you get everything done early, you could, for instance, book a family night in with duvets and a good film. Who knows, it might calm down the children too.

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