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Buttoned Up: Some steps to a more organized holiday

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Deep breath. It's December. You know what that means: stress city. Unless, of course, you follow these steps. Do that, and you should get to the end of the month without sprouting any new gray hairs — and, even better, relishing the fact that you actually enjoyed yourself this holiday season!

  • Use free printable worksheets to organize holiday gift-buying. Print out these three free downloadable forms from GetButtonedUp.com and get your gift list organized. When you use your list you'll run around less and save money.
  • Set up a wrapping station. You don't need a craft room in order to take an organized approach to wrapping gifts. Get an over-the-door organizer with baskets and use it to store all of your wrapping gear in one place. Now you won't waste time searching for the tools you need — or money buying things you don't. You can see what I'm referring to on Babble.com.
  • Plan your meals each week. If you don't already do this on a weekly basis, now is the time to start. Why start now? Because the amount of time and money it will save you will pay huge dividends this time of year. In addition, it will keep your waistline in check. If you need some good ideas, there are lots of menu ideas on KevinandAmanda.com and 5DollarDinners.com.
  • Make a minute-by-minute plan for the big day if you're cooking. While things are calm and you have more than two seconds to string together in the evening, take the time to organize your holiday menu and prep plan. Work backward from the time you expect to serve dinner and plan out what needs to be made when. You will thank yourself on the big day when you can simply put your brain on autopilot and follow your plan.
  • Bake some gifts to have on hand. After dinner one night this week, make some simple sugar cookies and add a little dazzle in the form of colored sprinkles. Then put them in small Mason jars. Adorn each Mason jar with a little ribbon and gift tag and put them in a holiday gift closet. Voila! You now have thoughtful hostess gifts and oops-I-forgot-to-get-you-something gifts at the ready.
  • Start a packing list. Going somewhere? Pack like the pros do and use a list. Packing lists are also a great way to delegate the packing without sacrificing order.
  • Get guest quarters ready. Quickly make guest beds with clean sheets and set aside towels as well. Take five minutes today to add one flourish to the room that will make guests feel extra welcome, like an elegant hand soap or small, elegant shampoo.
  • Get ahead of ornament chaos. If you don't already have one, consider making an investment in a quality ornament box. It can be a lifesaver when it comes to quickly and sanely putting up and taking down Christmas-tree ornaments and other seasonal decorations.
  • Get online and buy gifts. Skip the crowded shops and parking lots. Armed with your gift list, head online and shop when it is convenient for you — but well before the last minute. You don't want to pay extra for rush shipping.
  • Declutter before Santa arrives. Go through your closet and donate items you haven't worn in more than a year. If you have children, go through their current toys and set aside current favorites that are likely to get lost in the new-toy shuffle. Put them in a large plastic bag and store in an attic or hidden closet. Once Santa's new toys have been in rotation for a bit, you can swap those old favorites in and it will be like Christmas all over again.
  • Get family members on board with Secret Santa. There is no reason adults should feel compelled to buy every single person a gift. No matter your family size, organize a gift exchange that enables each person to give and receive one special gift — as opposed to having each person give and receive a bunch of less interesting ones.
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