Everyone thinks their family has drama, but I’m pretty sure mine takes the cake. I was raised by a series of relatives, all who refused to speak to each other. Traditions were few and far between. When I turned 18 and went to college, I knew I needed to master time management during the holidays in order to spend quality time with my whole family, despite the chaos.
My family is divided into 4+ “groups” who do not communicate with one another. I’m talking siblings, parents and children… the list goes on. Every holiday for as long as I can remember has been full of whispers.
“What time is he coming? I’ll be sure to leave before then.”
“Where are they? Probably with her family again instead of coming to our Christmas.”
And, the one that scarred me through young adulthood the most…
*Opens Facebook to see Christmas celebrations while sitting in my apartment alone, since no one invited me to anything.*
I’ve been through all of the ups and downs of a non-traditional family holiday season. I’ve become a master of time management during the holidays in order to maximize the season. And, I’ve also had years where I didn’t see anyone, because why put myself out there if no one cares?
The past five years as a married stepmom have added a new layer to the scheduling fiasco. Between navigating the custody schedule and my husband’s family events, there’s a lot to consider.
As two “Type A” people, we have considered all options when it comes to navigating holiday logistics. (Yes, including the “Forget it! Let’s just spend Christmas alone and travel!” option.)
Top 3 Tips for Time Management during the Holidays
I know merging into a blended family is incredibly overwhelming, especially during the holiday season. As the major holidays approach, I want to share my top 3 tips for time management during the holidays. I hope it helps!
Plan the logistics ahead of time.
Seems obvious, right? But it’s definitely not always that simple.
We all know the end of the year brings chaos, financial challenges, and stress… but yet, so many of us repeatedly find ourselves procrastinating.
If we want to see everyone during the holiday season, we have roughly 6 groups we need to plan for. Of course, we want the kids (who we have half of the time) to be with us for as many of those gatherings as possible. That means for Christmas specifically, we have, on average, two weekends in December and a handful of days during their break from school to make it all happen.
First, decide with whom we want to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. To decide this, we consider the following: Will the kids be with us on those days this year? Does my husband work either (or both) of those days? Who did we spend them with last year?
Once we have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day decided on, we work backward from there to fill in the remaining gaps during the month. If we can’t fit everyone, we make cuts. Did we see a group at Thanksgiving that we can skip for Christmas? Anyone we have seen recently we can skip? Anyone we saw last year, and we can skip this year, then be sure to visit next year?
To be honest, I love when we fit all of the celebrations in, because it keeps me in the holiday spirit all month long! Not to mention, the kids love it!
Whip out your planner sooner rather than later to get a jumpstart on your holiday planning.
Getting (and staying) organized are crucial for your time management during the holidays.
Some areas that I start planning way in advance are Christmas cards and gifts!
Mailing Christmas Cards
Who are we mailing cards to and when?
I keep this information on a spreadsheet and update it every year. I typically start updating in early November. Who moved? Who can be removed from the list? Who needs to be added?
Additionally, what is our budget for Christmas cards? This often prompts me to make cuts to the list. Where can I get the best deal?
Pro-tip: I normally find the best deals at Shutterfly. In November, it’s normal for them to run 50% off cards and free shipping promotions. This year, I ordered 30 cards for less than $18!
Who do we need to buy gifts for, and what is our budget?
The older I get, the smaller my Christmas gift list gets. As the kids get older and want more expensive things, it’s more important to us that we can deliver for the kids than it is we get gift cards to the local coffee spot for all 40 of our colleagues.
Writing out a list of who we need to buy gifts for, as well as how much we are able to spend for each person, helps us out a ton as the season approaches. I start looking at Black Friday ads as soon as they come out and spot the best deals.
My favorite stores are the ones you can get the Black Friday deals online for, so I can avoid the crowds! I also keep an eye on Amazon throughout all of November and December to catch their “Deal of the Day” and other seasonal sales. I truly run on coffee and Amazon Prime all year, so this season is no different.
Another important note, don’t go into debt for holiday gift-giving. Give within your means, and nothing more.
Other Organization Hacks
To avoid the dreaded “Let’s sort all of the presents right before each family event” fiasco, I use this wrapping paper hack to stay organized.
When we host people (which we normally do at least once), we plan out the food and budget ahead of time, and keep an eye on the deals. We have the best luck at Aldi, then pick up the remaining items at Kroger or Walmart.
Don’t be afraid to say “No!”
This one’s important, y’all. As I mentioned earlier, there are years where we just can’t make it all happen… and that is okay!
You have to be at peace with the fact that in a large divided family, it is sometimes impossible to see everyone during the holiday season. A major component of time management during the holidays is having the strength to say “No!” (and say it guilt-free!).
If you’re like me and no one in your family is reaching out to you to invite you to the celebrations, then don’t feel guilty about leaving them off of the calendar. You do not have to prioritize people who do not prioritize you.
If you and your spouse are both in high-demand and everyone wants to see you all, be compassionate in explaining to people when you cannot make an event. Heck, blame a custody schedule, a work schedule, or a cold… but be kind, then stand firm in your “No!”
Don’t forget—it doesn’t need to be November or December to see your family. Plan something for January, or even for Easter! Get yourself into a rotation where you celebrate different holidays with different parts of the family. That way, everyone feels included.
Time management during the holidays can be overwhelming and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Plan ahead, get organized, and don’t forget that you have the power to say “No!”
If this is the first you’ve thought about the holiday season this year, whip out a Google Doc and get to planning. You can thank me later!
P.S. Check out this Christmas Organization Binder that I use as a guideline for my planning. It has been a lifesaver for the past two years!