Well, it seems like we have had thirteen weekends since Christmas Eve. Our grands have one more day before they return to school so we are headed up there in a little while.
Usually I am dragging my feet until like the second week of January to take down trim but this year, I started pulling anything except the nativities and pine/snow themed things off shelves and started the migration to the basement.
I planned to take the tree down Sunday or Monday, but didn’t pull the trigger. It’s the lights for me. I love them glowing in the house, but I brought the ornament storage boxes up this morning so the time has come.
We had a very nice Christmas but I am ready to move on to the new year.
I cleaned out my stash of purses that had accumulated over November and December as we attended various activities and traveled a bit. I like certain size purses for certain things. The result was four purses with a pile of receipts, trash, coins, pens, lipsticks and cough drops that needed cleansing.
Yesterday as we watched a movie, I got the basket that sits by my nightstand and cleaned and organized that as well. Isn’t that the feel of January? After all the excess of the holidays, we crave a good purging of our diets, habits and little piles of papers.
But before we leave the holidays, this year I decided to record some new tricks this old dog learned so I can maybe offer someone else a good idea or at least remember things that worked well for next year!
Here are five simple things I did that made the holidays a bit more streamlined for me.
This year I got the wrapping paper out right after I put the tubs for our decorations back in the storage closet. I set up a station and as I purchased gifts or they arrived on the front step…I wrapped them and stashed in a closet.
I kept a running list of them on my phone by recipients name so I didn’t overbuy for someone. Not having a big stack of presents to wrap as the actual day approached was amazing.
For stockings, I buy small items here and there all fall and stash them in a bag. My typical M.O. has been to pull them out the day before and sort into plastic bags with people’s names on them and then panic as I realize I am short on a stocking or three.
This year, I did that system a week before and had a better idea what was needed to even things up. I purchased the extra items, and then a couple days before Christmas I actually filled everyone’s stockings and set upright in a large laundry basket.
Who am I even?
As I filled them I realized some needed to be lightened (Hello Valentine’s Day! I see you coming around the corner!) and decided on two more items that would help fill a rather lean stocking for someone.
The peace of mind was huge when I would come in the office and see those stockings ready to go!
This is one I have always done, but I keep the receipts in an envelope on my desk. Having access to them is helpful for me as we invariably need to return something and they are all in one place.
I added to this idea by saving a small box and putting any mailing packaging bags in this. I crammed them in and slid it under the bed in my office. This was to help if anything we ordered needed returning as some companies require the original packaging.
I only needed one bag out for a possible return and the rest was ready to dump right in the recycling.
The last thing has to do with the food for our gathering times.
This is something I do when we have people over for dinner or guests who will be here for several meals, but have not applied as diligently to the holidays.
First I brainstormed menus and things to have on hand for meals and snacks by writing down all the days we would be feeding extra people.
Next, I was brutal about giving up on my ideal menus and thinking more practically about what could be fixed with maximum pre-crunch time preparations so that the actual days were not spent making complicated dishes and cleaning up multiple times. One pot meals are best for this.
Soups are golden when it comes to this and can be embellished with either a charcuterie set up or sandwiches. I selected a soup for the pre-Christmas gathering meals and a one dish pot roast recipe for Christmas Day noon.
We enjoyed a variety of leftovers for several days.
For dinner that night, when we had everyone with all their preferences and restrictions, I planned gumbo, chili and then a smorgasbord of snack foods and sandwich fixings. Because the soups could be warmed in the crockpots, I was able to get those made a day ahead.
The vegetables for the post roast could be peeled and prepared in advance as well. I kept salads simple to go along with the dishes. And I even had time to make a Buche de Noel, as I have already shared.
A key to menu planning is to gather some meal ideas that go well together and then prepare an ingredient shopping list that is ready to go ahead of time. The week before an event, I pull out all the recipes I will be using and go through the ingredients to make a grocery list of anything I can buy ahead that I don’t already have.
I also make a list of things that can be done ahead and write them on the calendar. The less I have to do at crunch time, the better, including getting bowls out with serving utensils and having them stacked and ready.
I hope this helps or reinforces things you already do.
We certainly know Jesus loves those Mary moments when we just sit at his feet, but when the guests are gathered around the table, a little Martha doesn’t hurt <3