If you'll be hosting one or more holiday dinners, decide on a menu now. That way you know what you need to shop for and make, and you can let other people know what you need them to bring should you be enlisting help. Knowing what you're planning to make ahead of time takes the pressure off once the holidays get closer and leaves you ample time to tweak the menu if necessary.
You won't get every single pre-holiday task crossed off before Dec. 24, but if you have the list in front of you (a hard copy on the fridge, a virtual copy on your phone), you'll be much more likely to get things done faster and more efficiently. Sit down with a cup of tea or a glass of wine, write out everything you'll need to do between now and the thick of the holidays, and then highlight the most important items. It's also helpful to place items under specific headings, such as menu/meals, gifts, travel, etc.
Since you now know what you'll be making in terms of the holiday menu, it's time to start shopping for anything non-perishable. Make room in your cupboards or pantry for the extra items, and stock up on snack foods, canned and frozen goods, any seasonings you'll need, bulk items and other ingredients that won't go bad. The more you buy now, the less you'll need to worry about later.
Add some recipes to your holiday menu that freeze well, and make as many items ahead of time as you can. Then simply pop them in the oven on the big day, even if you'll be taking them to someone else's event. Casseroles, some desserts, soups and stews freeze particularly well, and if you make them now, you'll have more time to relax when guests are around.
There's no sense in trying to organize your whole house days before guests arrive. The few days leading up to any seasonal event are for surface cleaning to ensure everything looks spotless, not for giving your space a major overhaul. So start now, and purge the items you don't need or that simply contribute to clutter. Find or buy storage solutions, and make sure you have space for extra chairs or for house guests to put their belongings.
The sooner you start — and finish — your shopping, the better off you'll be. So make like Santa, and get all of your gift shopping done now, including getting all the wrapping paper, tape, gift tags and cards you know you'll need. It's also a good idea to buy a few extra small items, such as boxes of chocolates or candles, to use as teachers' gifts or hostess gifts so you're not caught without something at the last minute.
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