Ever notice how the holidays seem to sneak up on us each year?
The issue might be even more exaggerated in 2019, considering an anomaly in the calendar: Thanksgiving falls late this year, but because the date of Christmas doesn’t move, you actually have six fewer days between the holidays.
The good news? There’s more time to prepare before Thanksgiving so you can devote every second of those “fewer days” to doing stuff you want, rather than chores. Here are nine tasks you can do now so you’re ready to embrace the fun of the season.
1. Shop Strategically.
Why wait until the last minute and get caught in a buying frenzy? Create a spreadsheet or list of gift ideas for everyone you plan to buy for and dig in, suggests Lisa Dooley, organizing coach and author of More Space. More Time. More Joy! Organizing Your Best Life.
“It’s not too early to start picking up gifts or cards for family and friends, and even the dog walker, babysitter and anyone else on the list,” she says.
Shopping early is also a great way to keep your spending in check by making sure you’ve planned for everyone you need to buy for and spreading out the expense so you won’t get hit with a huge chunk in December. In addition, shipping items early allows you to qualify for the cheapest rates. Be sure to record what you bought so you can keep your list updated.
2. Schedule Your Services.
Everyone, from babysitters to hairstylists to caterers, fills up early this time of year, Dooley points out. Whether you need extra housecleaning for guests or babysitting or even a fresh manicure for upcoming holiday parties, the time to get on your service provider’s schedule is now.
3. Schedule Your Fun While You Are At It
An impromptu activity always sounds appealing, but more often than not, they just don’t happen. That’s why Dooley recommends scheduling in fun, just like any other appointment.
“Look at the calendar now and plan some excursions to see the holiday lights, go ice skating on the town common or take part in tree lightings or other community holiday events so you don’t find yourself saying, ‘Next year, I’ll definitely do that…’ because you didn’t plan accordingly.”
4. Order (and Send) Your Cards Now.
Even though most of our friends keep up on our lives on social media, there’s still something exciting about sending and receiving greetings through the actual mail . Rushing to get your holiday cards ready can feel like a burden during the holiday season, so don’t wait to prep them—even if you wait to mail them until the official holiday time.
If you prefer a wintry shot, dress your family up in festive garb and pose against a hearth, pine tree or other wintery backdrop. Or use a montage of favorite pictures from throughout the year to give a photo diary of family highlights.
Doing a few cards at a time allows you to really think about each recipient and write a special message they will appreciate. (And as a special bonus, most sites offer great deals the earlier you order.)
5. Determine Menus For Upcoming Festivities.
Holidays are often all about the meals and treats, points out Leanne Stapf, chief operating officer at The Cleaning Authority. Spend some time early in November gathering recipes you need for holiday get-togethers.
Having your menus planned in advance allows you to try out any tricky dishes that might not be in your repertoire and also gives you time to gather specialty ingredients without making a special trip to the market at its busiest—or stock up on staples that are on sale around the holidays. Stapf also notes that shopping ahead can help avoid a mishap in missing a critical item.
“Many stores will run out of key ingredients the day before Thanksgiving, so don’t wait until the last minute to decide you need a pumpkin pie,” Stapf says.
6. Empty Out Your Fridge, Freezer and Pantry.
Along with all that shopping comes cooking and storing so now is the time to maximize your space, Stapf says.
“Move sodas, wine and beer into coolers in the garage and throw out anything that has been around a while and obviously won’t be eaten,” Stapf says.
Use up items you have left to make room for the upcoming cooking frenzy.
7. Get Your Clean On.
Merry Maids’ home cleaning expert, Melissa Witulski, recommends a deep clean of your home in early November.
“That way you simply have to maintain cleanliness and organization, such as vacuuming and tidying the high traffic areas Thanksgiving week,” Witulski says.
Witulski says to be strategic and only declutter and clean the rooms your guests will see over the holiday season.
“Don’t stress yourself with cleaning rooms no one is going to enter; save those for another time when you don’t have so many things going on at once,” Witulski says.
8. Prepare for Turkey Day Way Before Your Guests Show Up.
Pull out all your tableware to get ready early so you don’t have to scramble on Thanksgiving Day, advises Witulski.
“Set the table as early as you can, even days before, as that task can often take the longest,” Witulski says.
If you’ve been storing extra items in a storage space, get them whenever you have a free moment so you have them handy. Then she suggests washing your holiday napkins, tablecloths, dishware, silverware, serving dishes and platters ahead of time. Then just do a quick pick-up of any clutter areas.
“Organizing your home will make it look clean, even if you haven’t done a deep clean in a few weeks, and all of these tasks allow you to give yourself extra time back in your day on Thanksgiving,” she says.
9. Minimize What You Can.
This tip goes for absolutely everything that has stressed you out in the past about getting ready for the holidays. Don’t make six kinds of cookies if two will do. Only RSVP to functions you’re really looking forward to. Give fewer, but more meaningful gifts, or buy multiples of the same gift.
“Pick up three scarves when they are on sale and wrap one for your niece, one for your babysitter and save one for the office holiday gift swap,” says Dooley. “You don’t need to re-create the wheel with every gift.”
And curate your collection of holiday decorations before you put them all out, she recommends. “If you won’t be home to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, do you really need to put out all the decorations for that season?”