It's the most wonderful time of the year...or is it? We all have some smug friends who get everything organised months in advance, but for many of us, Christmas is a total headache. But there is a way to enjoy a stress free festive season - and you can start working on it right now.
The key to Christmas organisation is that dreaded word: planning. As the countdown to the big day gets closer, divide your time and tackle a few tasks each week. This way, you can join the ranks of the smug planners for the first time. Here are some recommendations for avoiding a nightmare before Christmas.
Get started by making a schedule: where are you going to be over the all-important festive season? If you're planning on having a Christmas party, then this week you should send out invitations. If you leave it too late, your friends may well make alternative arrangements, and your party could become a damp squib.
Dig out your box of Xmas decorations. You may not want to set them up just yet, but it's worth taking a good look at them. Are any of them broken, threadbare or generally past their best? Don't wait until next year - order some new additions if you need to.
You'll also want to clean up anything that's looking a bit musty after being in storage for a year. Give your Christmas tablecloth a wash, and be sure to check that the Xmas tree lights are in working order. Do this with plenty of time, and you'll be able to tackle any problems early, rather than finding yourself in a last-minute panic.
Time for the biggest part of your Xmas preparations: shopping! You don't want to waste time or money, so first make a list of everyone you need to buy presents for, and give yourself a budget. It can be worth picking up a couple of small generic presents as extras, in case someone gives you a gift and you have nothing in exchange.
Doing an online shop is the best way to organise your presents. It's easier, less stressful - no need to force your way through crowds - and you're more likely to find what you're looking for, rather than ending up faced with empty shelves and that sinking feeling. You'll save time, as you can do it from home, and you'll also save money, without impulse buys to distract you.
For peace of mind with your Christmas presents, you might want to look at Click & Collect options from online shops. The post at this time of year tends to go haywire, and there's nothing more embarrassing than turning up empty-handed to a Christmas party and mumbling an apology about the present being on its way. Click & Collect gives you the convenience of online shopping without the worries.
We're getting closer in our time-saving plan! Now it's time to turn our attention to the house. Clean it from top to bottom. It's not fun, but it's definitely worth it. If you have guests coming to stay, make sure you've got extra bedding and towels.
It's also the moment to start thinking about food. Which meals are you going to be catering for over the holidays? Decide what you're going to prepare, and make a list. Don't forget about the extras, like boxes of chocolates or cheese and crackers, that you'll want to have on hand for snacking.
Make plans with your friends about when and where you're going to see them over the holidays. Even if you're generally more of a spontaneous type, this is a great time to keep a diary. Many of your friends might be going away for Christmas, so if you can only get together the week before, now is the time to organise meeting up for coffee, going ice skating, or taking a trip to look at the Xmas lights.
We're on the home stretch now! Clear out the fridge before you do your food shopping, to make sure you've got enough room. The rest of this week will probably pass in a blur. You've got Christmas parties to attend, decorations to put up, and presents to wrap. Double-check arrangements with your family and friends.
Keep notes to make sure you don't forget the little details. Are you having a Christmas jumper day at work? Pick up a funky (or ridiculous) jumper to join in the fun. Is there an office Secret Santa going on? Get a present for your target. Above all, stay calm. You've come this far, and everything should be more or less under control. If you're cooking on Christmas Day, you might want to make a schedule of steps to follow to get everything on the table at the right time.
It may seem like a lot of planning, but going to bed on Christmas Eve feeling relaxed and calm instead of stressed is absolutely priceless. Now just close your eyes and wait for Santa!