16 Things People Who Actually Enjoy the Holidays Do to Stay Sane

It's not like you didn't know the holiday season was coming. December always follows November in the calendar, and yet every year, the holidays arrive and you swear you'll enjoy them this time, but then there's that 1,597-item to-do list that keeps getting longer and longer and you instead grab the nearest vat of mulled wine and hide out in the back closet that should be filled with wrapped Christmas presents but is empty save for a box of busted twinkle lights and a four-inch sliver of Santa wrapping paper still taped to the roll.

Not great.

If you are determined to stay sane this go around, we rounded up 16 of the most helpful things every organized person (read: Type A mom) does to make the holidays less frenzied and more festive. Sure, it's already a little too late to reap the benefits of all of these trade secrets, but commit them to memory before next season approaches. It'll be here before you know it.

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1. Follow Department Store Timing When Making Plans

You might roll your eyes when Christmas decorations start taking over shopping malls before Halloween arrives, but jot this down for next year: one of the best-kept secrets of Type A moms is the long-lead deadline. It takes a lot of forward-thinking, but if you can, take care of the non-time-sensitive tasks — gift shopping and holiday card making — as far in advance as you can. That means spending those lazy Summer months crafting Halloween costumes so your September can be devoted to Thanksgiving meal prep and you can hit the ground running with holiday to-dos as early as October.

2. Update Your Address Book All Year Long

If you like to send holiday cards to friends and family, there's no greater stress than having to send out dozens of time-sensitive emails asking for updated addresses or, worse, sifting through emails trying to remember your second-cousin's fiancé's last name. Instead, make it a habit to keep your address list — preferably in a Google Doc spreadsheet so you can reference it anywhere — up to date by making adjustments as they come.

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3. Take Photos of Your Decor

Decking the halls might seem like a mindless task you do while sipping hot toddies and listening to the Pandora Christmas radio station, but as you accumulate more decorations from year to year, remembering how you make them all work in your home can become stressful. Do yourself a favor this season: once you have everything set up the way you like it, take photos of everything — the bookshelf where you unload your Santa collection, the stocking-covered mantle, all the other tables that get Christmas-ified. Then, when it comes time to break out the boxes next year, you can refer to the snapshots to know exactly which garland goes on the dining table vs. the banister.

4. Keep a Running List of Gift Ideas on Your Phone

We don't see any harm in waiting to do most of your holiday shopping post-Thanksgiving — there's lots of great deals, and for those of us with minimal storage, we don't have to be drowning in boxes for months. However, it's downright foolish not to have a list of people you plan to shop for, along with a list of gift ideas for them . . . a list you've ideally been adding to all year long. Keep it handy on the notes app on your phone so that when your mom mentions a perfume she'd never buy herself or you notice your nephew consistently playing with a certain toy at your house, you can jot it down and shop off it later.

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5. Use Activity-Based Advent Calendars as an Excuse to Plan Ahead

As a parent with young kids, you'll want to start all kinds of fun holiday traditions. But also as a parent with young kids, time moves quickly, and December will fly by. To make sure you have all the experiences on your family's wish list, create an activity-based Advent calendar (who needs kids hopped up on chocolate treats every day, anyway?). At some point before Dec. 1, sit down and plan out one activity, big or small, for each day. Sure, some days can (and should, for your sanity) be as simple as "read The Night Before Christmas" or "sing 'Jingle Bells,'" but it's a smart way to schedule — and thus plan for — more substantial excursions or activities. That means setting dates for when you plan to ride your city's holiday train or visit Santa Claus at the library as well as the afternoons you intend to make an ornament craft or bake cupcakes for school. By committing those things to the calendar, they'll more likely happen . . . and won't creep up on you at the eleventh hour.

6. Prepare For Each Week Every Sunday

You did the hard work of arranging 25 days of holiday Advent calendar fun. Now you just need to remember to stick to your plan. Once a week, review the upcoming seven days and make sure, say, your grocery list is updated with the ingredients you'll need for Thursday night's hot cocoa making and tickets are procured for Sunday's excursion to the zoo's light display.

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7. Create Doable Traditions You Actually Enjoy

If you feel like your family is becoming a bit of a holiday jack and jill of all trades, consider scaling back and focusing on just the traditions you all really love. If gingerbread houses are too daunting and inevitably lead to tantrums, skip them in lieu of simpler cookie decorating. And not all traditions have to be messy arts-and-crafts sessions. Instead, consider annual matching PJs or a Rudolph claymation movie marathon.

8. Take a Day Off Work (If You Can)

It's certainly a luxury to be able to take time off work at any point during the year, never mind the holidays. But if you can swing it, you'll be able to squeeze in twice as many errands — gift shopping, sending off packages at the post office, more gift shopping — during a weekday than on a crazed December weekend.

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9. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

A mom's "invisible labor" is real, and a mom's invisible labor around the holidays is a f*cking brain tornado. Do not assume that just because you are "super into" Christmas that no one else has to contribute. Enlist your partner in sharing the load equitably. If you can't help but be the family project manager around holiday prep, then do your best to delegate tasks big and small — and not just the gender-normative hanging of the house lights.

10. Pump Christmas Music Through Every Speaker in Sight

So what if you're sweeping up needles for the 17th day in a row — if Mariah Carey’s "All I Want For Christmas Is You" is playing in the background, your stress levels won't go too far off the rails.

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11. Skip Adult Gift Exchanges

Gift-giving for all the little ones in your life is one thing — there's something magical about watching a toddler rip open a box and jump for literal joy over what's inside. But if your shopping list is becoming too arduous, consider asking adults to opt out or, at the very least, opt in on a Secret Santa-type exchange in which you only need to buy one person something special.

12. Have a Few Extra Gifts in Your Back Closet

There will inevitably come a playdate where your preschooler's friend brings over a gift . . . and you didn't reciprocate. Instead of being wracked with guilt and doing a 10 p.m. Target run (though, let's be honest, we love late-night Target runs), have a few wrapped copies of a beloved children's book at the ready for unsuspecting kiddos — and a few bottles of wine with a bow around the neck for unplanned adult gift-giving.

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13. Use Generic Wrapping Paper

It's hard not to get swept up in all the cute holiday options, but it's far simpler to keep your wrapping paper game universal but no less festive (think: plain red, multicolored stripes, or classic brown butcher block with colored twine). You'll have everything you need to wrap holiday gifts all year long. Plus, it's one less thing taking up storage space 11 months out of the year.

14. Practice Seasonal Self-Care

The holidays can feel like little more than a never-ending pine-scented to-do list, so before you get completely bogged down by it all, remember to schedule at least one thing that's just for you. A massage, an overdue haircut at a salon that serves Prosecco . . . whatever you need to do to unwind, even if it involves your own bathtub, a gabby podcast, and a locked door, do it.

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15. Stock Up the Day After Christmas

Did a string of tree lights burn out this year? Don't wait until next season to replace them — we guarantee you'll be halfway through trimming your Fraser Fir before you realize you need to make an emergency run to get new ones. Most stores have great day-after-Christmas sales, so it's the best time to grab other essentials like holiday wrapping paper and a new stocking if, say, a baby is on the way.

16. Store Smarter

You can organize boxes by room (one for the foyer, one for the living room) or by type of object (all wreaths together), but we wholeheartedly recommend clear bins so that you can easily see what's inside. Also, there's no such thing as having too many labels, especially with your box of ornaments. If you have specific ornaments that need to go in specific containers, write it on there. Trust us, you think you'll remember where they all go, but you won't.