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by Maria Gracia

Now that the holidays are here, make it a goal to avoid holiday stress. Get organized with these simple tips, and spend your time enjoying the warmth of the season.

USE A NUTCRACKER. Don't you just hate when you're getting ready to bake and you can't get those small vanilla extract bottles open? Simply grip the cap with a nutcracker and it will be off in an instant. This is a great time saver! (Works well with nail
polish bottles too!)

MAKE A LIST. CHECK IT TWICE. Make written (or typed) lists for the holidays and it will be much easier to remember everything. Excellent lists to have this time of year are gift lists, budget lists, meal planning lists, holiday card lists, lists to tell you where you stashed your gifts, event lists and activity lists.

AVOID LINES. Avoid malls on the weekends when they're most
crowded. If possible, shop during the weekdays, and shop early in the day. Avoid the post office on Saturdays, and during lunch
hours. Better yet, stay home and do all of your shopping from the Internet or mail order catalogs. You can get almost anything you want these days, from the comfort of your own home.

GET YOUR KIDS TO HELP YOU. Need a little bit of help organizing your house, and keeping it organized this month? Your kids could help. Tell them that Santa only comes to an organized house. No matter how young or old your kids, the ultimate message is still clear. If everyone helps out, the season will be merrier.

USE A TABLECLOTH FOR THE BIG STUFF. Need to wrap a very large gift, and wasting time wondering how you're going to do it? Buy a large, paper, holiday tablecloth and use it to wrap your super-size gifts.

GO THE SIMPLE ROUTE WITH MEALS. Rather than making the holidays a big production, if you're trying to save time and reduce stress, go the simple route. Cook simple dishes, or have meals catered. Meet everyone at a restaurant. Buy your meals pre-cooked from your supermarket. Ask everyone to bring over their favorite dish. Bake one or two varieties of cookies, instead of five. Think simple.

BUY SOME EXTRA GIFTS. Don't you hate it when someone gives you a gift, and you have nothing to give in return? Buy a few general gifts that could be given to anyone. Videos, restaurant gift certificates, candy or nice stationery work well. Wrap the gifts, and write a very small code on the bottom of the gift so you'll remember what's inside. When someone drops by with a gift for you, you'll have an exchange in seconds!

SAVE MONEY 'AND' TIME WHEN GIFT BUYING. Here are my top four ideas to do so:

  1. Ask everyone to make gift lists for you that include 3 gift
    choices under $25 (or whatever amount you choose) and where they can be purchased. Make your own list of 3 items for them. Exchange your lists, and you're guaranteed to give what people want and to get what you want. This really helps to avoid clutter caused by gifts received that you and your recipient's don't need! (Thank goodness fish ties are finally gone . . . or are they???)
  2. Rather than exchanging gifts, perhaps you can suggest that
    everyone agrees to put the money towards a group dinner or excursion. This works great for the home, or the office!
  3. Give gift certificates, and ask for gift certificates. They
    don't clutter. They don't cost much to ship. People can buy what they want. It's a win-win-win situation!
  4. Instead of buying gifts for everyone, determine if you can get a group of people to have a Secret Santa gift exchange. Basically, everyone puts their name in a box. The box is then shaken to mix up the names. Each person chooses one person's name from the box, but doesn't tell anyone which name was picked. However, he/she is responsible for buying a gift for the person selected.

When the Secret Santa wraps his/her gift, he/she just puts TO:
(his/her recipient's name), but doesn't indicate who the present
is from. All gifts go in one general area.

On gift giving day, the recipient's find their gifts and must
guess who their Secret Santa is. If they can't guess, the Secret
Santa's confess.

This is a fun way to celebrate, and saves tons of time and money!

Christmas Holiday Planner
AUTHOR Maria Gracia - Get Organized Now! Want to get organized? Get your FREE Get Organized Now! Idea-Pak, filled with tips and ideas to help you organize your home, your office and your life, at the Get Organized Now!
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