Tuesday 13 November 2012

Getting organised for Christmas

I adore Christmas; a deep and passionate love which has endured all these years.  From the age of about 11 I was pretty much the driving force behind our family Christmases, and would demand money from my mother with which to buy decorations, craft supplies and gifts for the extended family.  My greatest desire was to be able to do the Christmas supermarket shop all on my own.  I would make lists, and hoard back copies of the December Family Circle magazine, and sing hymns with vigour at choir practice, and count the days down with an increasing fervour.  Yeah, I was kind of a loser as a kid.

Not much has changed.

I start getting organised for Christmas on the 27th December.  Yep, I'm one of those awful people who begins next year's shopping during the January sales.  From that point onward, I am constantly on the look-out for little bits and pieces that I think people will love.  For example, both my mum and Andrea, her partner (my step-mum) get stockings* (ostensibly from me and my brother, but in reality I do all the fun stuff like shopping and wrapping, while he just coughs up the cash.  Both of us are very pleased with this division of labour), which I shop for year-round so that I have a good stash of gifts by the time December rolls around.  In theory, shopping throughout the year should save me money, but I think what actually tends to happen is that I get all spending-happy nearer Christmas and so everyone gets more than they would if I just left it all to the last minute!

In September I start to put some thought and discussion into where to spend Christmas (although as a single girl, it's a pretty easy process).  It's also when I start to badger my close family for lists and begin to compile my own, and it's when the spreadsheet makes its debut. 

2010's spreadsheet.  To my great distress, 2011's has gone AWOL. 

What do you mean, you don't keep a Christmas spreadsheet?!  Mine forms the backbone of my Christmas planning, and includes information on gifts already bought (with a running total); gifts to buy (with price and location); Christmas card lists; food lists; craft planning... everything you could want to get organised in the run-up to Christmas.  Most importantly, I keep past spreadsheets so that I can be sure I'm not duplicating presents year-to-year.

November is when it gets serious though. By this time of year I generally have about half of my shopping done, with nieces, nephew, other assorted children of my acquaintance, and most of my friends bought for.  Mum and Andrea's stockings will be almost complete, and I will know exactly what I'm buying everyone else.

I'll also spend November checking my decorations and deciding what to use.  Starting early with this process helps, because I like to make something new each year and in 2011 I left it a little late and spent most of the first week in December hand-sewing gingham hearts.  If craft and making are your thing, check for local courses or workshops (the BBC 'What's On' page for your city or region is useful for this): last year I enjoyed a Christmas decoration session with Leicester artist Ruth Singer and a wreath-making class run by local park rangers.

This year I am already really excited for the festive season, and so my Christmas kit has come out.  Chistmassy magazines - which don't really date, so can be saved and used for inspiration next year - are a good source of inspiration for decorations and crafts.  The December issue of Red is still a must-buy for me, if only because of the annual discount voucher for Paperchase (who are unbeatable for craft supplies and funky charity Christmas cards).  The last item in my kit is the Sufjan Stevens Songs For Christmas boxset, which is the most beautiful collection of carols and original songs.  This year, I'm massively excited for the release of his new Christmas boxset (called Silver & Gold, my copy should be shipping from the USA right about now).

The end of the month is the time for making my Christmas cakes and other edible goodies to put in hampers (I only include things I can make ahead, so they need to keep - or freeze - well.  This year's are likely to include macaroons, gingerbread biscuits and chilli jam), and for writing my Christmas cards, which I know seems early, but a lot of mine have to travel a long way to friends and family overseas.

What all of this planning and organisation means is that, come December, I am relaxed and able to concentrate on the fun stuff: dressing the tree, wreathing the house in ivy, eating mince pies, and drinking spiced cider. 

What do you do to get ready for Christmas?  I am always keen to hear great organisational tips.  Or are you a 'leave it all till the 24th'- type?

* On a related note, when my mum suggested to me at some point in my twenties that maybe,  just maybe, I was getting a little old for stockings, she was not prepared for the reaction she got.  Suffice it to say that, at the age of 34, I still get a stocking.  It's the best bit of Christmas!


  1. I'm not QUITE as organised as you, but I do have a Christmas spreadsheet - an I get super excited around the start of this month. I have done all of my Christmas shopping now, and I'm just doing some crafty bits and pieces. I can't wait for it to get here!!

    1. I'm sort of obsessed with Christmas, it's kind of sad! Will look forward to (hopefully) reading about your crafty stuff on your blog.

  2. Wow, that is organised!

    I don't quite have a Christmas spreadsheet, but I applaud your mad organisation skillz. I do pick up gifts throughout the year, but for birthdays rather than Christmas, which I'm a bit more keen on (something about everyone getting their one special day each year). I now have a small hoard of vintage and retro pieces that I couldn't resist buying but couldn't justify getting for myself. A win-win situation really - I get the vicarious pleasure of finding and buying a second-hand gem, and friends (hopefully!) get a nice unique gift on their birthday.

    By the way, I came to your blog via Laura’s and have really been enjoying reading through your past posts, nice work! You’ve got yourself a new regular :)

    1. Thank you so much :) I love your blog too, discovered it via Laura a while ago.

      I totally do that thing when you buy things for people you secretly want yourself. I've also been known to spend a happy afternoon unpacking my present drawer and admiring all of the lovely things in there!

  3. If I made a big deal out of Christmas, I would have a spreadsheet, too. In fact, when I had a boyfriend with a big Christmas-loving family I did...

    Also, you've just reminded me to USE THAT PAPERCHASE VOUCHER. I folded down the page so I would remember and promptly completely forgot.

    1. Cannot beat 20% off- I stock up for the whole year!