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10 things to do now to ensure a less stressful December

I looked at my calendar today and realized we are now in the last week of October.  Seriously!?  How did that happen!?  A few years ago I shared a post on tips for ensuring a less stressful December and after realizing how quickly the busiest time of year is sneaking up on us all, (yikes!) I decided to update that post (lots to add and change!) and share it again.  I’m all about enjoying the season we are in and not rushing on to the next one, but here’s the truth — December is BUSY.  And for me, sipping hot chocolate while driving around looking at Christmas lights in pajamas with my kids is much easier (and more enjoyable) when I’m not stressed about a million things that need to be done.  In the past 13 years of being a mom I have had organized Decembers and not so organized Decembers and I’m a firm believer that organized Decembers are better!  When I take the time to plan ahead and don’t have as much on my plate in December it’s much easier for me to relax and really enjoy the magic of the holiday season with my family.  So.  I sat down this weekend and starting making a list.  And checking it twice.  :)  Here are 10 things to do now to ensure a less stressful December.

1)  Make a list of family/friends you are buying for and plan your budget. Nothing fancy.  Just grab a notepad and write each person down and how much you are able to spend on them.  Include everybody you might want to get a gift for:  family/friends/neighbors/teachers/kids’ friends/etc.  This is brain dumping at it’s best.

2) Start brainstorming gift ideas.  This is especially helpful if you have little ones and are *helping* Santa.  :)  I like to have a place to jot down gift ideas whenever they pop in my head.  This also helps me come up with ideas for my husband because he is so hard for me to buy for!  I like to come up with something fun and different each year for friend/neighbor/teacher gifts so it’s helpful to have a few different ideas jotted down for them as well.   (*quick tip – I always buy a few extra gifts to have on hand!  Something simple everyone would love like a candle and a few extra gifts for my kids’ friends.  It really helps when someone drops a gift off and you don’t have one for them.. or when your child says “I want to give something to so and so tomorrow” or “what about my teacher’s aid?”)

Wondering what to get loved ones this year?  I’ve been sharing my favorite gift ideas for YEARS.  Years people!  So many fun gift ideas for kids and adults and I’ve rounded up all of my past gift idea’s into one post.  Just click the link below for the mother load of all gift idea posts!  Hope it helps and you’re welcome. ;)



A couple more gift ideas that aren’t included in that post…

Cookies or Candles for friends.
{My applesauce cookies are perfect this time of year!}
Christmas Pretzel Hugs for neighbors.

3)  Start shopping early!  I love to shop but I have to say that I DREAD shopping in December.  The mall is madness.  Way too busy.  Not worth it if it takes 20 minutes just to park your car!  On-line shopping helps a lot with this, but the best solution is to start your shopping early.  Even if it isn’t completely done, having most of it figured out before Thanksgiving makes for a much better December!

4) Set up a Christmas wrap station and organize your wrap supplies.  Now is the time to set up a specific place to wrap your holiday gifts! 

I have a wrapping cupboard in my office craft room (you can see the full post on how I organize everything here) and it comes in so handy this time of year!  If you don’t have a cupboard like this there are so many things that you can do to set up a wrapping station.  Any empty cupboard/drawer/counter can be used.  Just round up your most used supplies and get them all corralled in one spot.  In our previous house I set up a Christmas wrap station in my son’s nursery (it was the only space I had!).  It doesn’t need to be fancy.. just functional.

5)  Wrap as you go.  In past Decembers when we’ve been particularly busy (and because I didn’t plan ahead..) I’ve spent Christmas Eve wrapping everything for my family.  I always underestimate what a time consuming activity it really is to wrap every one of those gifts!  This year I’m using my wrap station and I’m going to wrap as I go.  As soon as I buy a gift I’m coming home to wrap it!  When I’ve done this in the past, I wait to put bows/ribbons on the gifts.  I just write in small print on the back of the gift who it’s to and what it is to remind me and I pile the gifts on top of each other to store.  Then a few days before Christmas I can stick a bow/ribbon/tag on it, put it under the tree and call it done!  This year on Christmas Eve after the kids are in bed instead of being buried in gift wrap, I’ll be curled up on the couch with my husband watching It’s a Wonderful Life.  :)

6)  Start working on your Christmas cards.  If you haven’t had family pictures yet and plan to send out cards this year, schedule them now.  It’s the best feeling ever to have your cards addressed and ready to mail out before December 1st!  It’s also a good idea to update your Christmas address list.  Set aside a time this month to go through and make sure you have recent addresses and add any new friends/co-workers, etc. you want to send a card to.

I absolutely love sending out and receiving Christmas cards!  One of my favorite things this time of year.  Here are a few ways I’ve displayed our Christmas cards over the years..
christmas-card-planked-wall-display christmas-card-wall

{Christmas Card Planked Wall and Decorated Formal Living Room}


{Displayed around my pantry doors and how I what I do with my cards after Christmas}


7)  Start planning for holiday parties if you entertain.  If you are planning to have any type of get together during December now is the time to prepare!  Make your guest list, plan your menu, decide how you want to decorate and what you’ll need to buy for the party.  Lists help with this!  Lots of lists.  :)

8)  Start making any homemade gifts you want to give this season.  Every year I give my husband a calendar for his office full of current pictures of our kids.  And every year I wait until December 20th to start working on it!  Why oh why do I do this!?  This year I am choosing the pictures I plan to use for his calendar this month.  Then I can toss in a December picture in December and get that thing made and wrapped and under the tree early avoiding my annual mad dash to Kinkos praying that they can print my calendar overnight.  :)  If you plan to make any other homemade gifts for loved ones this year, now is the time to start making them!

9)  Plan ahead for Christmas Decorating.  This is my favorite part of early Christmas prep!  Now is a good time to assess what you have and what you might want to add this year to spruce up your house for the holidays.  Shop for decor early before the best things get picked over (I just shared a few recent fun Christmas decor purchases I made here!).  If you’re planning on making something to use in your decor get going on that now too!  Most of the time DIY projects take longer than you think they will.  Getting a jump start now on anything you want to make to decorate with (a wreath, tree ornaments, etc.) will allow plenty of time for any errors in your process that have you running to the craft store at 9:00 pm.  :)

My Christmas card garland displaying our past Christmas cards is my favorite DIY Christmas decor.  The above picture was how I set it up in our previous house.. and this picture below is my Christmas Card Stair Garland in our current house.
Stay tuned for LOTS of Christmas decorating posts to come!  :)


10)  Spend some time thinking about Christmas traditions for your family and ways to make the season special.  I like to plan activities to do with my kids that teach them the true reason for the season.  We try to serve others often throughout the year with our kids, but this time of year it is especially important to find ways to serve and help others.  Recently the kids and I have been brainstorming some fun, simple things we can do this season to serve others.  the-reason-for-the-season
This 4 Gifts of Christmas is a fun activity we did with our kids last year to make sure we were all focusing on the true reason we celebrate Christmas.

I also love setting up simple family traditions to do each year with my kids that make December feel extra special.

Things like watching our favorite Christmas movies together.
Reading our favorite Christmas books next to the tree.
Sipping hot chocolate together (my kids LOVE our hot chocolate station!)
 And waiting in anticipation to see where our elf will pop up each day.
 Like I said, I’m all about savoring and enjoying Fall.  But a little extra planning during the next month will go a long way in helping us all have a much more relaxing December!

And I am definitely all about that as well.

I hope these tips help you do the same!  Happy Holidays everyone!
xoxo, Erin
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43 thoughts on “10 things to do now to ensure a less stressful December

  1. I look forward to this post every year! I have been following you for years! I love all your ideas and have used the traditions in my family too! Thanks for being a rock star Mom and sharing! I love love love your house too by the way! I started following you when you almost died….thru some scrapbooking post. Amy in Wisconsin

    1. Amy! You really have been with me forever! Your kind comment seriously just made my day. I’m so happy you enjoy this post and that some of my ideas and traditions have been helpful! Thank you so much for reading. It truly means so much to me that you have been with me so long. I wish I could give you a big hug right now! xo

    2. This is just what I needed. Life is so busy and I love Christmas but it can be stressful without some forward planning and preparation. I love lists too! Some great ideas – thank you. I am going to start the 4 gifts tradition now my youngest is old enough to understand what they mean….and the hot chocolate station which I know will go down well with everyone😀.

      1. Thank you Caroline! I know.. Christmas is such a fun time of year, but when I don’t get ready for it early it can be SO overwhelming! Enjoy the hot chocolate station! My kids love it! The only downside is that I tend to gain a few pounds from it every year.. :) xo

  2. Awesome post, Erin! So timely and helpful. I appreciate that you took the time to pull it all together. :) Great photos to emphasise your points, too. Love that one for the kiddos looking at the letter from that fun loving elf. :) I’m sure your holiday season will be awesome.

  3. GREAT post, Erin!!! I’ve made my list so far…does that count as planning in advance?!?! Wish I was sipping hot cocoa at your kitchen table planning it all with you! I will definitely call this week. I don’t know what happened to last week!!! We may need a skype session soon, too!! Can’t wait to get ready for the holidays! xo

    1. K having you here with hot chocolate is EXACTLY what I need right now! Missing you so much! Let’s talk this week for sure. I’ll text you! xo

  4. I love that idea of displaying your past Christmas cards. I’ve saved all of ours, but never knew what to do with them. I think I know what I’ll do this year!

  5. I love this post Erin… where did this year go? 😉I definitely need to up my game and begin to get organized. Not sure if we will be in the house by Christmas and that so difficult… Your ideas are great! Just seeing your tree again reminded me how much I loved your tree last year. Definitely one of my favorites on Instagram. ❤️ Have a beautiful Tuesday! xo

    1. Kristy! So much fun hearing from you this morning! It made my day. You will have an off Christmas not being in your new home yet (I totally remember our year like that!) but by next year think of how much fun it will be to deck your new place from head to toe! I can’t wait to see it! I know it’s going to be amazing. Enjoy your day cutie and thanks again for your sweet comment! xo

  6. Wonderful tips for a less stressful holiday season! I’m patiently waiting for some Christmas lists from family members so I can get that shopping done. As much as we stress about gifts, parties, etc., it really is about making special memories with our loved ones. xxoo

    1. I agree Pamela! I love December to be open for special nights with my family so I work hard to get the shopping, party planning, etc. done early. Best time of year! :) xo

  7. I started my Christmas shopping last night, haha! These are great ideas! Budgeting is definitely my #1 priority because the last thing you want to be doing in December (or January) is worrying about how much money you’ve spent

  8. Yes to everything, especially wrap as you go. .. life changing!!… but if you don’t like to do that one my friends always hires one of the young women in her ward to wrap gifts for her. She gets them wrapped and the girl earns some money for christmas… win win!

    1. K that is SUCH a great idea Heidi! Love that! Last year I had El wrap most of my gifts and we both loved it! Girls that age love to wrap. Thinking I’ll get a few of her friends involved and they can earn a little Christmas money. Thanks for sharing such a fun tip! xo

  9. Good morning Erin! I loved all of your tips! My family has several of the same traditions. We always watch holiday movies starting after Thanksgiving, and do the Elf on the Shelf for our daughter. My husband has always read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to our daughter, along with a few others. My daughter has been wanting a live tree, so this year we’re getting one. I had a hard time parting with the artificial tree we had, because my mom gave it to us the year she got sick with cancer. But, half of the lights stopped working and it was a beast of a tree, so my hubby decided it was time. It’s hard for me to believe that this will be our third Christmas in our new house (and without my mom). I look forward to reading more of your posts about the holiday’s. Have a fabulous day! xo

    1. So hard getting rid of something sentimental Shari! But your real tree will be beautiful (and you can’t beat that smell!). I’m sure your mom is watching down on all of you and will love it. How fun we share a lot of the same traditions! Such a special time of year. xo

  10. Hi Erin – The four gifts of Christmas is such an awesome idea!! I will definitely be trying this with my little ones this year. I’m so excited to read through your 100 gift ideas blog!!

    Also, I follow another blog where I learned about another idea for the holidays for your LO, called the Kindness Kids. Have you heard of this one before? I think you would appreciate this concept.

    1. YEA! I hope you get some fun gift ideas! I’m so excited to read about the Kindness Kids when I have a minute tonight! I’ve never heard of it. Thank you for sending the link Vivian! xo

    1. Hi Heidi! The garland on my current stairs was real! I got it from Home Depot. The fake garland on the staircase in my previous home was from a Utah store called Tai Pan. I have new garland for this year and I’ll be sharing pics and sources soon! xo

  11. I look forward to this post every year! Thanks for being a rock star Mom and teaching other Mom’s how to be and get organized! I love all your ideas. They have helped me over the past several years!

  12. That was such a helpful post! I’ve already started my shopping/budgeting but I need to get on my cards and getting some stuff together for our traditions. Always love your posts!

  13. Such great tips, Erin! And I’ve pinned a few of your great ideas…your’e so amazing and always on top of things (which I need to be more like)! Is it too early to say Merry Christmas?? Hugs! Xoxo

    1. Bree you are such a sweetheart! Never too early to say Merry Christmas in my book. :) Enjoy your weekend cutie! I’m still flying high from your sweet IG shoutout. So grateful to have you in my life! xo

  14. The idea of wrapping gifts as you go is truly brilliant. That one simple change could make gift wrapping fun again vs a race to the finish (and forgo a sore neck from hours of wrapping?). Getting organized now makes a busy December more enjoyable! I’ve started shopping and am buying my paper this week! Thanks for the fabulous idea!

    1. I completely agree Aime! Wrapping is fun when you can take your time! Trying to do it all at once.. not so much. I’m so happy this post was helpful! Happy early holiday planning! :) xo

  15. I love this post! I’m a preplanner as well, but trying extra hard this year so that I can enjoy it more with my toddler. I buy gifts year round and have a spreadsheet for gift ideas, budget, what I’ve bought for people, and anything that needs to be made. People think I’m nuts, but it helps so much! To step up my game this year, I’ve already started wrapping what I’ve purchased. I wrap a few gifts every few days. I’m watching Christmas YouTube vlogs while I wrap so that I’m in the Christmas spirit. I store my Christmas wrapping supplies in two under the bed storage bins, but I keep them in our basement. After reading your post a lightbulb went off in my brain and I thought “of course!! Keep them under your bed where you’re wrapping gifts!” Thanks for this! I hope your holiday season is magical!! ❤️💚

    1. Such a great idea Katie! I LOVE that you have a spreadsheet! And you are so smart to start wrapping right now. Makes a HUGE difference to have it done early. So happy you enjoyed this post! Happy pre-holiday prep! :) xo

  16. Ha! I believe I caught a Freudian slip miss Erin…..tip number 1…””play” your budget. You better correct b4 Kenny catches on;)

    1. Kathleen! I’m dying! How did I not notice that!? Ha ha.. Can I hire you to catch my mistakes from here on out? BEFORE my husband sees them? Classic. ;) xo

  17. Erin,
    This post is so great and just what I needed. This is by far my favorite time of year! I am going to use so many of these tips to hopefully make it more enjoyable and less stressful! I love the scrapbook idea for past Christmas cards from friends and family. I’ll be starting that this year for sure!
    Where is your Santa hat from that is on top of your tree? It makes a great tree topper!

    1. YEA! So happy you liked this post Chelsea! Thank you! That Santa Hat was from Pottery Barn a few years ago, but really any Santa hat would work! Best time of the year for sure. :) xo

  18. So when do you start to put your Christmas decor up? I am already wanting to. I bought so much new holiday decor last year after Christmas that I am so excited to put it out and see it all. I ‘m not hosting Thanksgiving so I figure it’s ok if it’s all out before then!

    1. Jess this year I’m starting so soon! This weekend! I have a lot of Christmas house tours for my blog due early Dec. so I need to get hopping. I say do it whenever you’re ready! The season goes by so quickly and it’s nice to have it up to enjoy for a while. Never too soon in my book. :) xo

  19. Love this! Once us kids got old enough to read my mom ditched the name tags and used different paper to tell gifts apart. That way only she would know so my older siblings wouldn’t snoop! Once they caught on she smaller thing got specific like bow color! Lol

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