Only in America would we make two holy holidays into the most exhausting events of the year! We try to keep up all of our normal activities and academic studies and then add another twenty hours per week to our schedules for the extras. There was never a season that cried out more for efficiency than an American November–December.
Here are some tips that will ease your workload during this “bus-bus-busiest time of year.”
1. Use your computer for Christmas greetings this year. E-mail newsletters to friends and family.
2. Instead of hand-addressing cards and letters, print labels with your computer.
3. Teach your children to place stamps and return address labels on envelopes.
4. Decide with your husband what your gift-giving budget will be and then stick to it.
5. Give a coupon promising to pray daily for the recipient for the next year.
6. Give an experience gift: a show, a park, a picnic.
7. To save money and draw the children into gift-giving, make homemade mixes, jams, or breads for gifts. Make these as far in advance as possible.
8. Pay attention to your friends’ favorite things and use these as gifts. My friend Irene loves Butter Brickle ice cream with caramel and chocolate sauce; an invitation to an ice cream social for two would be the perfect gift for her.
9. Wrap gifts as soon as possible after you purchase them. Use them as decorations, placing them in small groups throughout the house—they give the whole house a festive air, and you won’t have to store them until Christmas.
10. Instead of hosting meals through the holidays, offer an appetizer or dessert buffet when you want to get together with several friends or families at once. Better yet, let each guest bring along a plate to share.
11. Plan ahead what table decorations and place settings you want to use for each holiday event. Polish the silver, wash the glassware, clean the candlesticks—whatever needs to be done so you can avoid the last-minute rush when you’re busy with food preparation.
12. If you plan to use cloth tablecloths and napkins, iron them well in advance and hang them over a padded hanger in your closet. To make a padded tablecloth hanger, roll a hand towel over the straight part of the hanger, securing it with safety pins.
13. If you will have houseguests, do any deep cleaning in November. You can do the bathrooms and vacuuming the day before.
14. Plan meals for houseguests.1 Spread your shopping over a few weeks to ease the budget.
15. Purchase extra bathroom tissue, paper towels, and facial tissues. You will go through these paper products quickly.
16. Consider buying a large container of liquid hand soap; fill your hand soap dispensers before guests arrive.
17. Plan when the perishables (such as produce, bread, and milk) will be purchased and by whom.
18. Here’s an idea for those of you who decorate several rooms for Christmas: as you remove items to make room for your Christmas décor, place them together in boxes or bins for storage. If one room’s items are all together, replacing everything after Christmas will be a snap.
19. After the holidays, pack up the Christmas decorations in bins or boxes according to which room they will be used in. Pack tree ornaments and lights together. Next year you can just pull out one room’s décor at a time to avoid the stress and mess of doing it all at once.
20. Decide early in November what goodies to prepare this year. Think about a nice balance of sweet and salty, rich and light.
21. Research ways to make your favorite recipes more healthy. Try a new recipe or two from that stash of magazine clippings you’ve been saving.
22. Make a shopping list for ingredients you don’t keep on hand; buy a few items each week or as they go on sale. Be sure you have mini–paper liners for candies and any other specialty items your recipes require.
23. If you do lots of baking at one time, buy yourself extra baking sheets, mixing cups, and beaters for your mixer. You will use them for the rest of your life.
24. Plan your baking day carefully, especially if you plan to bake several batches in a row. Decide which recipes work well together from a preparation point of view. Perhaps they have several ingredients in common. Or maybe they can all be baked at the same oven temperature.
25. Assemble ingredients and utensils for each recipe and bake the bar cookies first since they go together fast. While they’re baking, mix up the next batch.
26. Mix dough for round cookies and chill; roll them into balls for baking while you’re quizzing the kids’ spelling words or math facts or watching a Christmas movie.
27. Or you might mix up a recipe that needs to be refrigerated the night before. Children can roll the dough into balls while you get a batch or two of other cookies baked.2
28. Set aside time every day to remember why we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. Make sure that whatever activities you choose during this season direct your thoughts toward the God who became man—Immanuel, God with us.
© 2013 by Marcia K. Washburn. Marcia and her husband homeschooled their five sons for nineteen years. Visit www.marciawashburn.com for books, articles, and speaking presentations. See her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MarciaKWashburn.
1 See http://www.marciawashburn.com/Homemade ConvenienceFoods.html for easy, tasty recipes that can be on the table in fifteen minutes or less.
2 Write to Marcia at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free copy of her favorite cookie recipes.
Marcia Washburn is mother of five homeschool graduates. Visit www.MarciaWashburn.com for books, articles, and to sign up for her newsletter.