Ok, it's not really a formal system. But when you make a list, and implement the items on the list year after year...then you have basically created a system. Here I will outline all that goes into the holidays in our house, by me, in list form.
Let me start by mentioning that Step One of this year's Holiday Organizing Stress Management System was to get and decorate our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. The day of turkey was so early this year, I was hesitant to do this. I was worried that with so much time yet before Christmas, the tree would be crispy by then. Then it occurred to me that our tree is crumbling and brown every year by the time we drag it to the curb. This is because it's dead, and has been as long as we've known and loved it. After I accepted that, it was a huge relief to have it all done. And, of course, I'm watering it like crazy to prolong the bitter end.
So here's the list, probably not exhaustive, of what I need to take care of this month. I'm sure yours is similar, regardless of what holiday(s) you celebrate. (You're still battling the same crowds and holiday media frenzy.) If you don't have such a list, I suggest making one. It will help you get organized, but it's also pretty amazing to see how much more you accomplish this month! On second thought, maybe you should make this list AFTER the holidays, and take that time to reflect on work well done. Regardless, here's mine:
Decorate house - Complete. Yay.
Make gift lists - Family, friends, co-workers, service providers, coaches, teachers, pets, others I forget until the last minute, like the kids' piano teacher, who is fortunately here as I write, so I'll remember him this year.
Gift purchasing - Ugh. I hate shopping. Driving from place to place, waiting in line, wandering aimlessly or purposefully in ginormous stores. And see below.
Gift wrapping and sending - We have a lot of family far away. This time of year is when our Amazon Prime subscription really pays off. My mother-in-law laughs that I single-handedly drive those distribution center people crazy, because at times I'm placing several orders a day. To the same recipient. I don't think it's just me.
Order and send Christmas cards - Yes, we still send those out. I actually had a picture I wanted to use, so I ordered them weeks ago (I guess that was really my Step One). But they're still sitting in the box, so I'm not really ahead in this department anymore.
Party planning - We host a holiday "open house" most years. Somehow, if I call it an "open house" rather than a "party", I don't feel so much pressure to perform and provide. One of many sneaky stress-management strategies.
Food prep - Always a challenge, but thankfully Costco comes through for many needs. And I'm not afraid to shout, "it's pot luck!"
Travel plans - We like to ski. Or rather, my husband loves to ski, and we happily go along. This year our Christmas plans involve a ski destination that we can drive to, where we will be joined by family members. Bonus: fewer people to send gifts to. Amazon workers, stand down.
Make year-end charitable contributions - I admit, I respond to those last minute pleas. In fact, I depend upon them to ensure I'm donating to worthy causes. Keep that in mind if your kids have any school fundraisers going on.
Other - I know I'm forgetting something. That's the stressful part, isn't it?!
So in summary, to manage stress and stay organized this holiday season, make lists when you can. Rely on family and friends. Go potluck. Shop online. I didn't mention this before, but make sure you don't run out of wine. Forgive yourself. It will all be over soon.