It’s easy to get overwhelmed as the countdown to Christmas season approaches. Year after year, you have events to plan, gifts to buy, food to cook, and family to entertain. The best way to reduce your holiday stress is to know how to efficiently prepare for Christmas the best you can.

When you know what to expect, there are certain steps you can take to guarantee that your Christmas preparations are in order. If everything is in its right place by the time your guests arrive, you will be able to enjoy your Christmas thoroughly.

So with the 12 days of Christmas upon us, here is everything you need to do pronto!

1. Find Out Who’s Coming

Get an estimated number of how many people will be spending Christmas at your house as early as you can. There’s nothing wrong with asking people a year in advance if they plan on spending the holiday season at your house.

Once you get a set number, you will be able to make better decisions for guest room arrangements. A head count will also help you know how much food and drink to buy. Take into account that children eat less than adults, and they are usually just as happy sleeping on a pallet on the floor as they are in a comfy bed.

2. Make Room for the Guests

Start preparing your guest rooms a month before Christmas. Be sure the room, closet, and dressers are free of clutter so your guests can be totally comfortable. Put any storage totes or large items you want to get out of the way into a self storage unit, garage, or other out of the way space. While you are dropping off at your storage unit, pick up any Christmas decorations and left over wrapping paper so multiple trips aren’t needed.

Clear out the living area to create a comfortable place for family to gather. Christmas trees and Christmas gifts can take up quite a bit of room, so set aside a large portion of space for them.

3. Deck The Halls!

Once Thanksgiving is over, its open season to decorate your house for Christmas. Don’t let any grinches shame you into being scared of decorating too early. Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, so it’s okay to create a festive vibe as early as you want.

4. Write Out a Calendar of Events

The holiday season is full of festive get-togethers. If you don’t schedule events far enough ahead, you may stretch yourself too thin trying to make it to all the parties. Contact your closest friends, co-workers, and family members at the beginning of December to make solid plans. Jot the tentative dates down in your calendar so you will know what to expect for the month.

5. Buy and Wrap Gifts Early

Everybody’s been thereChristmas Day is right around the corner and you haven’t completed your gift shopping yet. In order to avoid this nightmarish situation, start buying gifts as early in the year as you can.

Not many people want to fight the frantic crowds of last minute shoppers in the weeks leading to Christmas. Buying your gifts online is a viable option, just make sure it will be arriving with plenty of time to spare. Winter storms can delay estimated delivery times.

Give yourself an ample amount of time to wrap your gifts so you can arrange the presents around your tree. Having these gifts displayed before family members arrive will allow you to rest easy. Putting presents around the tree nice and early will enhance your holiday atmosphere as well.

6. Send Christmas Cards

If you are sending out holiday greeting cards, plan on mailing them out during the first week of December. That will give USPS plenty of time to deliver your cards so they arrive at their destination well before Christmas Day. If you are putting a family portrait on your cards, get the pictures taken at least a month before you plan to mail them out.

7.  Plan Your Menus

Plan out your menu for Christmas Dinner at least three weeks before your guests arrive. This will give you the information you need to be able to grocery shop for the right ingredients. Plan out what will be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day by guests any staying at your house.

Don’t be afraid to ask your relatives to help you out with the food. You can ask your guests to either bring a dish with them or to assist you with cooking in the kitchen. They will most likely be eager to help any way they can.

8. Have a Playlist Ready

Select a solid playlist of holiday music before your guests arrive.  This will ensure that you won’t be preoccupied with making music selections while you are spending precious time with loved ones. You can either spend time curating what you consider the perfect playlist, or you can choose a preselected playlist on Pandora, Spotify, or Youtube. Consider whether secular music, non-secular music, or a mix of both will be best suited for your gathering of family and friends.

9. Clean House

Get the dirty work out of the way a few days before family arrives. A clean home will create a comfortable and calming atmosphere for you and your guests. A spritz of water infused with clove oil in your guest rooms will create a warm, comforting scent for your company.  There are for some fantastic recipes for homemade holiday room sprays.

When cleaning your kitchen, leave open a good deal of of counter space. This will help create an environment that encourages people to feel at ease while grabbing snacks and making drinks during their stay.

10. Plan Fun Events For the Family

Compile a list of go-to activities your family can do together so that no one feels bored. Consider watching your favorite seasonal movies, playing board games, doing jigsaw puzzles, looking at old family photos, or participating in an airing of grievances. It doesn’t really matter what the activity is, as long as you are doing it together. That’s the reason for the season.

11. Prepare Whatever Foods You Can Early

Cook any food you can ahead of time. Cookie doughs can be made and frozen up to a month before you bake them. Candies and fudge can be made a week early if stored in airtight containers. Most desserts can be made a day or two before you plan on having your big dinner.

Certain sides like mac and cheese, cornbread dressing, and green bean casserole will hold fine in the fridge if made ahead of time. Meats should be cooked on the day of your dinner.

12. Embrace the Meaning of Christmas

Now that you’ve taken all the right steps to prepare for Christmas, it’s time to take it all in. Hosting Christmas for friends and family can be lot of work emotionally and physically. Holidays can be especially difficult for families who have recently experienced a loss. Take the time to enjoy yourself and your relatives, even if you don’t see eye to eye on certain topics. Strive to be as much like Santa Claus as you can be—jolly, giving, full of good food, and stress free.

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