If you're due in December or January and you haven't created a plan for tackling the holiday season to-dos, a) you're not alone and b) it's time to get started.
Nobody wants to be scrambling around, going store to store, making last-minute decisions on gifts and food and plans just days before a holiday celebration... especially someone who's more than eight months pregnant! The best way to avoid the hectic last-minute activities is to plan, plan, plan, followed by do, do, do.
Some people are natural list makers and planners. The rest of us... struggle. A lot. This post, my friends, is for us. With a few extra steps toward early organization, you can allow yourself a little more calm and little less chaos as the holidays -- and your birth -- get closer.
1. Create a master plan. This is the first and most important piece of your entire holiday planning. Consider it your blueprint, your map, your ticket to peace and everlasting happiness (ok, slight overstatement on that last part). Your master plan should include anything and everything that requires your time and attention, including:
- Holiday budget: before you tackle the "what," address the "how much"; come up with a budget that you want to spend/have to spend and stick to it; this can also help you pare down your list of to dos
- Decorations: use this as a "who's doing what and where" list; if you want them up by November 23, for example, give you and your helpers plenty of time and the necessary supplies, including items you want to replace or add
- Gifts: include recipients' names, budget, ideas, and mode of delivery (ie, shipping or by hand)
- Meals - hosting: list the dishes you plan to serve, dishes others may be bringing, list of attendees, and anything else that needs to be purchased or prepped for the occasion (ie, table linens, house cleaned)
- Meals - attending: list who's hosting and the date, the dish and/or gift you will bring, and any other pertinent details (ie, outfits needed in case it's themed)
- Holiday parties: plan for gifts, outfit, babysitter, and any dish needed to bring
- House prep/cleaning: if you're hosting, you'll probably want to spend some time (or pay someone else to spend some time!) to clean and organize your house; use this area to plan for that, including the list of areas to clean and who will do what
- Holiday cards: plan for the picture(s), including scheduling a professional photographer if desired, and where you will order your cards; also include related tasks like updating addresses, purchasing stamps and address labels, and stuffing and sending out
- Baking: if you love to bake during the holiday season, you have to plan for it! include what you want to bake and for whom (ie, if you give away neighbor gifts or send out treats), as well as a supply list
- School events: if you have older children, you know the time is coming: holiday parties, treats to share with the class, poster projects, dress up/pajama days... the list goes on; get ahead of the game by populating your calendar with the events and creating a to-do/supply list in advance of each item
- Supplies: there are lots of odds and ends that crop up throughout the weeks during holiday season; try to plan in advance for things like wrapping paper, tape, cooking supplies, pantry staples, and other little things
- Calendar: dedicate a blank calendar just for holiday tasks, which leads me to our next step...
2. Assign dates and deadlines. A master plan without assigning due dates is pointless. When you assign due dates for items, be sure to work in the pre-steps leading up to the main activity. For example, if you want to mail holiday cards on December 1, but don't plan dates for the taking the photo, ordering the cards, and stuffing the envelopes, you will likely miss your target. Use your holiday calendar to populate the events and sub-tasks and then check it daily!
3. Share the love. And what I mean by that is to share your holiday master plan and calendar with your partner, spouse, a close family member, a dear friend, or even a good neighbor. Sharing will help achieve two things: invoking the help of others for your holiday vision, and enabling others to carry out plans in the event you go into labor earlier than expected.
4. Schedule intentional downtime. Even when you take the time to plan for the holidays in advance, it's a time that can leave you feeling stressed and worn out, especially when you are already prone to feeling anxious and exhausted during pregnancy! To counteract this, plan for time away from holiday activities, whether it's a pampering session (pedicure, massage, hair salon), a good nap, time with a friend over lunch or coffee, reading a book for pleasure, or curling up on the couch to binge watch your favorite new series.
Planning and forethought almost always help a situation feel less stressful. But you know what else helps? Simplifying the season. Setting expectations for gift giving. Saying "no" to extra commitments. Getting rid of activities that feel like joy-less obligations. Modifying traditions to take more off your plate. Replacing perfection with "good enough." When you create your master plan, consider how you can make it smaller and more simple. Review each to-do and ask yourself, does this make me feel joyful? If the answer is anything less than a "yes!" then consider getting rid of it. Your very pregnant self will thank you for it later.