Now I have a Spreadsheet

A few years ago, I got sick of Christmas being a train wreck. Not for the family, the family always had an awesome Christmas, but by the end of our big, fancy holiday, I was always a shattered and exhausted shadow of my former self.  I am, like, a lot of women, the keeper of Christmas.  Joe does a lot to help me, but that’s what it is. Help – because I’m the one in charge of the thing. I set the budget, I decide on the presents, I co-ordinate with Santa Claus to fill stockings for the children. I buy ornaments, I do the baking, I make sure there’s enough paper and tape and I keep track of the schedule and make it all lovely – and even if people take on some of those tasks for me, it’s still a ton of work just keeping it all on track. I tried to think of what I could do to change it so that I enjoyed the holiday as much as the people I was trying to make it for did.

I considered a bunch of options. I thought about doing less, or cutting back, having fewer celebrations or making fewer gifts, or giving more of the jobs to other people, but as I went down the list, I realized something important.  I like it. I like all those things, and I love having a big celebration and I like making all the gingerbread and knitting presents and I like having ironed napkins and I wouldn’t like a Christmas that didn’t have those things, and I also wouldn’t like it if I wasn’t the Keeper of Christmas in this house.  I love doing that for everyone, and it wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t do it… I just wanted it to be less exhausting.   I talked about it with my friend Jen, and it suddenly occurred to both of us that if we could efficiently manage big projects for work – Then there was really no way that we couldn’t efficiently manage Christmas.  We just had to think like project managers.  Thus, the current approach was born. Start early, have lots of lists, schedules and spreadsheets. I note where a gift is going to come from, so we can make one shopping trip to that store or area. I plan the cooking so it all gets done early and some of it can be frozen… This weekend I added up all the knitted things that I want to give people, and I went through the box I’ve been tucking things in all year to see what I’ve already accomplished.  I feel like a ninja. A Christmas project managing ninja, and let me tell you this too… I thought that treating Christmas like a job might take some of the fun out of it?

Nope. Not one little bit.  It’s the Christmas prep that I’m treating like work, and that means that I get the part of Christmas that I love back- the part where all that work pays off, and I get to enjoy it without being a sleep deprived lunatic with tape stuck to her hair.  This year, if all goes well, will be like last year – or even better.  Organized, tidy, and complete – but like any good project manager, I’m always looking for ways to make it even better. My plan officially launches in a few days – and I’m excited to make it great.

Are you the keeper of your family’s holidays? What do you do to get it all done?  Got any tips?

205 thoughts on “Now I have a Spreadsheet

  1. There is no process on earth that a spreadsheet hasn’t helped. It’s like the satisfaction of making lists, only in two dimensions!

  2. Wrap all presents the moment they come in the house/get off the blocking board and clearly label them (that last one is very important). Also, with my knitted gifts, I’ve started including small cards inside the package to give the kind of instructions that would ruin the surprise of the gift if it was on the outiside. Things like washing instructions, or explanations as to why I thought a 35 year old man needed socks with skulls and flames (Carol Young’s Toxic socks, love them!) Lastly, I like to wrap with terrible acrylic yarns from the 60’s/70’s that I’ve inherited from various grandmotherly figures in my life. They look awesome in place of ribbon, don’t get squished in mailed packages, and the fact that they don’t breath really isn’t a problem in this application.

  3. Best tip: I get my cards done before Thanksgiving, sometimes even late October or early November. Then I just wait until December 1 to mail them.

  4. I can’t imagine NOT treating Christmas prep like a project manager. I think I would have committed a heinous crime long ago if I hadn’t. It helps that’s the way my brain works. 🙂

  5. I have a spreadsheet for everything. I have a gift idea spreadsheet, with columns for everyone, that I add ideas to all year long. I have another one for gifts I’ve purchased, when I ordered them, and how they are shipping – and at the bottom it keeps a running total of how much I’ve spent (which I try to ignore). Spreadsheets RULE!
    (sometimes I even color-code the fill of each cell to go with each person, but I won’t mention it because it seems kind of crazy-pants)

  6. Spreadsheets are a wonderful thing. I adore them. And if you need any help making that spreadsheet become a force of nature with dropdown list selectors, and automatically updating formulas based on new specific inputs, just let me know.
    Yes, I am *that* sort of knitting geek.

  7. Things were better once I realised that I wasn’t responsible for everyone having the perfect Christmas. Perfection is an impossible dream, now I concentrate on making a good Christmas.

  8. I not only keep a spreadsheet; I keep a running spreadsheet with a section for each year so I don’t duplicate gift books or other gifts and know which baked items were worth the trouble and which were not. I keep track of the budget and which gifts came from stash. Spreadsheets rule. I don’t have much room in my head for unrelated scraps of information, but line it up in an orderly way and I’m there. Another benefit which may not help you this year – I can start the new one up in June so the budgeting, allotment of stash, and selection of random gifts can be tracked early. I put in what I intend to knit and a column for what % of each is done.

  9. Don’t want to burst any bubbles, but that’s task management, not project management. Hope it helps with the workload, though.

  10. I am the one and only keeper of my family’s holiday season. I cook, bake, decorate, knit, make and buy gifts. I start early, think about it a lot, try to make it a perfect Christmas and love it all, except for the wrapping part. I hate wrapping, I’m not as good at it as I’d like to be and I always leave it to the very last minute… But not this year! In order for the holidays to be as enjoyable for me as for everybody else, I vow to start wrapping gifts this week!
    P.S: I’m no good with spreadsheets but I’m great with lists, lots and lots of lists! 🙂

  11. So … beware of being too type-A! This year I got a great head start and started my Christmas cards November 1st. I was going to hold onto them and just send them out after Thanksgiving. THEN my grandfather died and now suddenly, I have just seen these people and they know all my life updates and my card doesn’t mention the fact I just saw them and my grandpa just died …. so I rewrite the cards. Not efficient!

  12. Spreadsheets are the absolute best! It sounds like you’re so ahead this year 🙂 My family
    s holidays are very simple and we haven’t yet hosted a celebration due to lack of space, but I will definitely be looking to you for guidance once that changes!

  13. Yep… I have a spreadsheet too. I don’t even have kids yet and Christmas is already overwhelming and insane. But, I keep track of gifts as I buy them (I tend to shop all year), Christmas cards, both sent and received, and thank you notes. It’s not totally organized, but it helps a lot. 🙂

  14. I’m truly impressed with all that you do. My own approach has been to dial back my family’s expectations as the years go on, so that this year, everyone will contribute something to everyone else’s stockings. We’ll each be drawing up a list of little things we’d like to get on Xmas morning (I MUST receive some jasmine green tea and a paperback mystery or it won’t be Xmas!) and sharing it. I think part of my fear of going all out for the holiday is that there will be some sort of terrible let down when it’s all over.

  15. I hadn’t really thought about a spreadsheet, but it makes oodles of sense. I always had a notebook with sections, so I could categorize tasks but this was before I was computer-literate and I’ve just gone on with it as always. I used to work full time and I had two huge families and assorted single friends who descended on us at Christmas, so I would have, in effect, two Christmases: one on Christmas Day with my husband’s family and friends which amounted to about 24 people including us; and one on Boxing Day for my family and friends which amounted to around 17 to 19 people, depending on who was at a loose end that year. The only thing was that back then I didn’t knit very much in the way of Christmas gifts, but as I worked in an upscale retail store with HUGE discounts for staff, most of the presents were taken care of early in the season and at reasonable prices. Yes, I was and am the Keeper of Christmas and now that I am single, with two sons and a family friend in residence, it looks like I’m going to have to get back into the role with some enthusiasm, unlike the last two years, during which we damn near starved to death – takes away a bit of your drive when you have lived on bread and coffee for two years, kind of hard to get into the spirit.

  16. I started to do this with my Christmas cards a number of years ago. Spreadsheet with who I send cards to, who I received cards from each year. I was helpful last year when I realized a good portion of my list I had emails for and did ecards saving a bundle on postage.
    List of gifts are also made and I have the gift box, I put things into as I finish/buy them during the year.
    Yes, as a sometime meeting event planner at work I realized applying the same principles to Christmas made it run a lot smoother. Now to get DH to agree to doing the New year’s party the same way!

  17. I LOVE this idea!! Enjoy the season? What a novel idea and I’m going to try it!! I do love me some spreadsheet..

  18. We have a spreadsheet for birthdays and Christmas that we update all year round. We put in ideas for each person and try to budget an amount. If there’s any knitting involved (like my Dad’s handknit socks every year) I try to finish them in the first half of the year so it doesn’t suck the joy out of me. It also helps when stores have sales since you have your list to refer back to.
    I know this doesn’t help you now, but maybe next year? 🙂

  19. I keep an Excel spreadsheet with what I have given as Christmas gifts, what I’ve gotten and from whom, gift ideas, etc. I tend to start working on the next Christmas right after the current one, especially since I do make most of my gifts.
    My spreadsheet goes back to Christmas 1996, when I started it. I’ve got a couple years that are mostly blank, thanks to my computer giving me the Blue Screen of Doom and eating all my files and pictures, and I had to revert to an older copy of my file. But it’s there, and I depend upon it heavily. I also keep birthday gift information in there as well.
    I wish you the best of luck with your spreadsheet, and I am sure it will be your Christmas lifeline year after year.

  20. I am fairly good at ‘major dinner’ project management (and execution), but otherwise, lists/spreadsheets are not my strong point. I have the same struggle at work. I would love to see some people’s spreadsheets to give me ideas of how to create something for home…but possibly for work as well.

  21. Women are ALWAYS the keepers of Christmas. As I have gotten older, and have cut back on the amount of extras that our holiday contains, I have noticed that I am just about the only one who seems to miss all the bells and whistles. Lesson learned…

  22. I used to be the keeper of Christmas, but now the kids enjoy sharing some of the tasks and contributing food and baked goods(menu-planning, baking taken care of). Our family get-together is on Christmas Eve. We draw names and buy for only one adult person, and the kids can be spoiled by everyone (a lot of shopping and wrapping taken care of). Two years, when our son-in-law was overseas with the army, our daughter hosted Christmas so she wouldn’t have to make a winter trek with 3 small children. It all works out. I should add that for some years, I took a week off work at the beginning of December to get some of the shopping, cleaning and card-writing done. That was bliss. Now I’m retired, and have no complaints about time (except that it moves increasingly faster each year). I love our scaled-back Christmases

  23. As the keeper of my family’s Christmas I love these ideas so thanks for sharing everyone!
    My one contribution is re: the baking. I love to bake and share Christmas goodies. I recommend scheduling the baking/ preparing that can be frozen for early December and the things that are better “fresh” for closer to Christmas. Pick up glacene bags, candy boxes, mini candy cups, etc., on sale right after Christmas for next year. I try to make 2 things one day of each December weekend (usually the cut-out cookies take one whole day to bake, cool & frost) and then do one simple thing 2 weeknights per week (I work full-time during the day). Luckily my husband and daughter like to help with all this so it’s actually FUN!

  24. Cookie Party- it adds 1 more thing to plan. But it makes the baking 1000 times easier, and the party itself is a blast.

  25. How novel! This is going to be a post I read all the comments on. Thanks for planting a seed.

  26. As we are such a small family (I’m a single mom with 2 daughters 18 and 21, family very far away, and no grandkids on the horizon), the 3 of us decided to forego our “traditional” Christmas and to travel to Mexico for the week of Dec 23rd to 30th. The trip and the time together will be our present by and for ourselves.
    I decorated the house over the past weekend, so everything looks very holiday-ish, but we are not having a tree as we will be away, and I have to say that I feel so less pressured and much more in the Christmas spirit this season.
    Still knitting, of course, but giving the gifts as they come off the needles … at least this year!
    This is all very new, and different, from past years but I am all about opening myself to new experiences these days.

  27. I am the organizer of all family stuff like Christmas. (sure I have done much reflection on why? control freak? good at it? enjoy it? whatever!! I do it.) Over the years I have driven myself crazy and like you get to the day and am an exhausted wreak. The last few years I have built a time line list in my head. Mostly cause I am good (some would say anal) about meeting deadlines. So the time line includes tasks that have to be done with a date attached. So Christmas cards have to be done by November 15th Shopping done by end of November (this year I am already done! How that happened not sure but love it!) Each year I try to involve more family members with the tasks – not to make it easier so much as to instill memories for when I am gone and the torch is passed. (at least I hope it is!)
    Knitting is never finished because I just keep going until the end -whatever isn’t finished becomes the start of next year. Baking starts this weekend and once the shortbread is painted I feel confident that all will be done! That is also the point at which I actually enjoy the christmas music.
    I follow your antics on your blog and see how you knit (incredibly fast and perfectly) and what you do (always in a logical and timely fashion) so there is no doubt that you will meet all your tasks and be less frazzled on the day of Christmas with this new spreadsheet.
    Here’s to the organization of the holiday season. Cheers.
    PS Ironed napkins – a little over the top is all I am saying…..

  28. Much like you, I think I would miss all the preparation if I were to delegate it out to other members of my family. I have a weird combination of paper lists from years past that I’ve scanned, spreadsheets, and (now) checklists in Evernote. It helps a lot that all my documents, regardless of where they were created, are synced to my computer/tablet/phone so I have easy access to them no matter where I am.
    I also started my Christmas knitting in July this year…

  29. Yes, I too am the keeper of all things holiday in our house. I am mad about Christmas and am so thankful that this year Advent doesn’t start until next Sunday. It is like getting a free week to get ready. I change out my dishes, kitchen linens and decorate most of the house. It is little- 1100 sq feet but that being said I have collected enough for two houses over the years. Last year I started scaling back some and boxing things for the boys to have. Not everything has to be out. I have also scaled back on the menu and now delegate others to bring something. It is OK if I don’t make it all. I love the house at Christmas and because we celebrate the liturgical year with advent until Christmas Eve, then midnight mass, then Christmas for the next twelve days. I love spending time with friends and family which is the really important part. We work on the house first. First the advent wreath and then the rest follows. We do the tree sometime the next week and then we have a long time to enjoy it all. I love that you all are so organized. I will think about the spreadsheet thing and see if I can’t incorporate it into my haphazard planning. As retired ED nurse, I seem to thrive on chaos and adrenaline, even though I am getting too old for that. 🙂 Merry Christmas to all.

  30. You should see my Thanksgiving day project plan. Every year, I tweak it for different things that I’m cooking, and I tape it to my fridge on the big day.
    My whole family makes fun of me for it, but I can singlehandedly get a Thanksgiving dinner on the table for 16 people, with +/- 10 minutes window.
    And there are even windows of time where I don’t have to do anything but walk around and have a glass of wine and talk.

  31. Doomed off the bat because I didn’t do my Christmas knitting throughout the year!
    Actually, my husband is more of the Keeper of Christmas at our house. He likes all the decorations and such…so he gets to get them out and strategically display them. My primary task is to do Christmas dinner.
    And our house is the Home for Fallen Poinsettas. My husband usually buys multiples…and somehow we pick up all the tattered ones as Christmas grinds to a close. We then nurture them over the winter and plant them outside in the summer.

  32. I would happily chuck the entire holiday season – from Thanksgiving to New Year’s – in the wastebin. However, I am trying valiantly to not pass this attitude on to my darling children. (I inherited it from my own mother.)
    To manage the activities, I also have a spreadsheet. To manage the attitude, I have rather a lot of wine.

  33. My computer doesn’t have spreadsheet software (though I suppose I could do it at work, but, well, I’d feel weird doing it there), but other than that this is a great idea.
    I have a tendency to use whatever software package I’m learning as a tool for whatever other projects I need to work on. It doesn’t make for faster learning, but it does mean I feel like I’m getting two things done.

  34. My mom & I have started “sharing” the duties of the Christmas keeper. Due to my knitting a gift for each person, I tend to start thinking of Christmas ideas/patterns in April (ish) and then develop the spreadsheet/list. I also get updated measurements from my family during Easter so I can adjust from last year. I keep both the present ideas list and measurements on my iPad so when I pop into a yarn store I have everything at my fingertips.
    I tend to use the “presents” box too – as I knit items throughout the year, they get stacked in there for gifts and checked off on my spreadsheet.
    I have also implemented the wrap as you finish/buy policy too – I have a younger sister who has NOT grown out of snooping in hidden areas for gifts so with wrapping them ASAP it helps with having her go digging.
    In the past, the day after Thanksgiving was always our families “card” party. My mom sends out about 200+ Christmas cards each year. We would clear off the dining room table and set up a system of putting the labels (return & address) plus stamp on the envelope, sign the card, and fold our family letter inside. I can remember doing this back when I was tiny! All the addresses, etc. are on a spreadsheet that can be made into labels using the Avery Wizard (free download on their website).

  35. Be grateful that you are the keeper of Christmas. Last year, my husband left me after 33 years and the family home was sold. My daughter will be the keeper of Christmas henceforth and I will miss every second of the tree decorating, the present wrapping, the ironing of napkins, the filling and hanging of stockings, the joining of family and friends, and the traditions.
    Never take anything or anyone for granted, appreciate your family and be grateful you have family to share holidays with.
    If spreadsheets help, go for it.

  36. I don’t have a spreadsheet on the computer, but I do have a master list on paper, and I keep all those, back to about 1978. This year, my husband insists he’s getting one of those big pre-lit naked branches from a catalogue instead of a live tree. He always gets stuck decorating the tree, and he’s not even Christian – although he does celebrate enthusiastically.

  37. I am embarrassed to admit this, but…I was an event planner for a large retail real estate firm for 18 years. I know spreadsheets. But…Christmas planning and spreadsheets were never used in the same sentence. How sad is that?
    p.s. they are now, though. So, look out Christmas, here I come!

  38. Someday, when I have more than five minutes between work and school, I’d like to needlepoint a sign that will hang somewhere prominent in my home. It will read, “Anything worth doing in life is worth doing with a spreadsheet.”

  39. My best tip – at the end of each task is a column for ‘celebrate’. Each time something is done ahead of time sit down, have a beer or cuppa and say ‘well done’. Enjoy the days leading up to Christmas as much as the day.

  40. one things i’m NOT doing this year, to preserve my sanity and enjoy the season….i’m NOT making cut out cookies. i hate those suckers. i can never get the dough rolled consistently enough, even with special bands on my rolling pins. i spend most of the evening scrubbing frosting and sprinkles and sugar glitter off every inch of my kitchen by the time the kids are done decorating. and no one ever eats them. ever.

  41. I have no need of a spreadsheet for my Christmas. There is no planning. My shop consists of a normal shop, and feeling smug as I watch all the other shoppers panicking and fighting over the last sprout.
    Christmas Day goes like this: get up and feed animals as usual. Go back to bed with mugs of tea and coffee. Have cuddle. Find thermal undies and get dressed. Pack simple picnic, take dogs for all-day walk. Come home in time to light the fire, have a hot bath and play a game of cards or two. Thank whatever deity happens to be passing for the fact that we have no television. Go to bed.
    It’s wonderful – low expense, low stress and low calorie… but still cosy and fun. Christmas looks better from the top of a mountain.

  42. Would anybody be willing to share a Christmas Spreadsheet Prototype? I too put a ton of work into being the Keeper of Christmas and never feel like I actually get to enjoy any of it. Sounds sad right?
    I was actually thinking about you how you designate a word count for your work day and a row count for your knitting deadlines… Would a spreadsheet include such info.?
    I’m getting tired just thinking about it. Sigh.

  43. The spreadsheet is a terrific idea and keeping it from year to year is great! I have dreaded Christmas in the past, but I remember one Christmas blog entry you wrote, maybe 2 years ago, entitled “Enough.” (I made copies of it!) It summed up why I dreaded the holiday because with 4 children and their spouses plus 9 grands, I didn’t know when to say “enough.” A spreadsheet goes a long way in making “enough” be “enough.” And me a happy camper. Thanks for that idea and for the spreadsheet one! Christmas will be much more enjoyable this year!

  44. I’m a professional project manager, and I applaud your approach to Christmas planning. Even when I have stressful or difficult tasks to do outside of work, the process helps to separate the anxiety from the actions. In your case, you will definitely be enriched, as long as you work a little wiggle room into your schedule. All good wishes.

  45. I am all about the Christmas spreadsheet! It’s been keeping Christmas sane for many years here. I have a list of gifts that are to be handmade, and a list of gifts for buying, with some items noted as “if there’s time.” Also, I make a big list of everything I’d like to do, make, and bake, and then I trim it by at least half, keeping only the most important things that make the rest of the family really happy, and making sure my very favourites are on the list too. I trim the list again a few weeks into December when the looming deadline imposes clarity (I make big lists it seems).

  46. A few years back, I tried Fly Lady’s Holiday Control Journal. You reminded me of it, and I’m printing out a copy for this year. Thanks for jogging my rusty memory . . . my family’s Christmas is going to be much better for it . . .

  47. I am the keeper of Christmas, and I don’t love it. I resent it and it makes me grumpy. I feel overworked and like it’s not fair.
    I’ve cut back, I’ve simplified, and we do without. Know what? the family is happier with a happy mom. They really don’t care about a clean house the way I do, and don’t care about the stocking stuffers that I took all that effort to hunt up. Sure it was fun, but they’d look at them for a day and move on.
    I’m looking forward to enjoying their company more and resenting the work not at all.

  48. Keep two gift spreadsheets – one for those you’re giving and one for those you receive. Make it multi-year. This will help you avoid giving the same gift to the same person more than once. It also will help you sort out re-gifting procedures and avoid giving a gift to someone who actually gave you that same present a year or two ago.

  49. Wine! I also bake/cook things in advance, do as much as possible when The Little’s aren’t around/awake. I *only* knit quick projects and those are prioritized by how knit-worthy the recipient is. I budget myself (and don’t look at the credit bill until January). I’m a list maker, also, and those tend to be written multiple times (since I lose them all over the house).
    …whiskey goes well with hot chocolate, too. Just sayin’. 😉

  50. I am the keeper of Christmas.
    I do the baking, the cards, the gifts for teachers.
    I have learned, though, that my dh is pretty good at picking gifts IF you make it clear what the budget is. He is also in charge of outdoor lights, which may be why they just stay up all year and just have to be plugged in on a timer switch next weekend.

  51. Spreadsheet is an excellent idea!
    For now I only use a notebook, which also contains previous years lists and tips, recipes, what we got for which relatives, christmas cards etc. I am keeper of Christmas in this house, but as it is just me and my husband here and we have the big celebrations at family, it is not that much work 😀

  52. Hello, I am soooo happy I am not the only scary christmas planning monster 🙂 i do plan in advance, use spreadsheets and buy the presents all year long (i keep travk of previous years presents to maje sure i do not gift twice the same present to the same person. I only plan the wrapping theme in October / November and actually wrap in December.
    I have one rule: never gift shop in December when the crazy shopping is going on !

  53. I too am the “keeper of Christmas” in our house. I do lots of lists, and I too start knitting/planning right after Christmas so it’s spread out. I tried something new this year too. I got some great christmas sock yarn, but didn’t let myself cast on and start till all Christmas knitting and blocking was done. I got to start on them last week and I’ve SO enjoyed it.

  54. Some one already mentioned it, but I second the suggestion. Fly Lady control sheets/plans. You can do anything for15 minutes at a time!

  55. has seen me through 7 holiday seasons now and it is brilliant for me. Everything is done by the second week in December and I’m all good. Last year we had the baby’s christening the week before Christmas and hooooooooooo did I need to be organised! I find a Christmas journal helps.
    I might be addicted to Christmas. But in a good way, obviously.

  56. Steph – PLEASE don’t write a book about this subject.You’ll just turn into one of those sanctimonious Martha Stewart-type people! AAArrgghh. I admire your determination and resolve in being so organised though! :))

  57. I normally don’t read the comments but wanted to with this post.
    First off — I strongly second the request to make this a book! I’ve looked on Amazon and there isn’t much in the way of Christmas planners. As someone who grew up in a fractured home with few traditions (and one Christmas in foster care), I’m trying to make and learn new traditions — to build the kind of life I want to have. One of my favorite things about reading this blog is it helps me figure out what I’d like my family to be like (not superficially perfect, but happy and highly functional). I would love a book on the holidays! I’d ideally love lists of when to do things as well as funny stories or traditions to incorporate into my own family’s life.
    Second — I wouldn’t naturally take on being the Keeper of Christmas, but someone needs to do it. Many years I joked about my tradition of eating chinese food and watching Kung-Fu movies as a protest to the superficial, high pressure (and highly unhappy) family holidays I grew up with. But, now that I’m older and my boyfriend is a single dad with full custody — it’s hit me that by doing for others I can create happiness for them (and for myself in the process). My boyfriend does a lot, but it’s really hit me how women in our society (for better or worse) are often trained and/or are often more atuned to a ‘higher standard’. Everyone’s standards are different, just I find myself wanting to go the extra mile. It puts things in perspective to remember that this year if I do nothing, other people are really going to be affected by it.
    So yes, please make a book so that us totally clueless people who have no healthy family traditions have a place to grab ideas! I don’t know that I’ll ever get to excel spreadsheet level, but if I had a better mental framework of nice stuff to do, it would help.

  58. Several years ago I read a book titled “Unplug the Christmas Machine”. The message wasn’t about how to fit it all in, but to decide what was truly important and heartfelt and to jettison the rest. Radical? Perhaps, but if your family and friends are enjoying the fruits of your labor and you’re harried and exhausted, you’ve lost the meaning of Christmas somewhere along the way. Just sayin’—-.

  59. When I worked at home and Christmas was my slow time, I loved nothing more than decorating, taking hours to do the whole house. I didn’t love sending cards, but I did it because I felt like I should. I don’t like to bake, so I didn’t bother with that, but I organized and did the shopping because I had the time to do it.
    Then I got a job outside the house, and we adopted a rescue Great Pyrenees who is as much work as a toddler and I had to cut back. Spreadsheet or not, there wasn’t time for me to do it and stay sane. So I have dialed things way back. I don’t like sending cards, so I don’t. We can’t have a big Christmas tree with a giant, overly inquisitive moose dog, so we have two small artificial trees instead.
    I organize the shopping to go out the fewest times possible because I dislike crowds and only have time to go out when the stores are the busiest and order online when I can.
    Honestly, paring back hasn’t made any difference in my happiness. Looking at a spreadsheet, comparing it to my schedule and feeling the rising panic? That makes a difference in my happiness.

  60. Every year I schedule LOTS for myself and every year I think I’ve handled it pretty darned well, then someone in my family will say “you know it’s really Christmas when Mom starts swearing at everyone.” And then, my parents come in the house on Christmas Eve and say, “Is she done yelling?” AND, they all laugh like maniacs, kind of a warped tradition, but it works for us–kind of.

  61. Last year was the first time I did a knitted holiday. Before that, it wasn’t a big deal for me and mine. We spend Christmas with my partner’s family, so we travel to their already decorated, warm, and cozy house and I spend the next two weeks vacuuming and doing the dishes to make up for not being a part of the prep.
    So, last year, I made up a gant chart for my knitting. A bar graph that shows project, percent complete, and deadline. Every day I would look at it, fill in what got completed, adjust the deadline if necessary, and set a goal for myself for that day. It really kepy my knitting priorities in line.
    But, I am a girl of lists and spreadsheets. That’s how I manage my life.

  62. I shop year round and have a place I put all of it (the kids would probably figure it out if they had the remotest interest in their surroundings). I still pretty much make everything at the last minute. But! I use only gift bags. They have cute reusable ones at Target all year long that are cheaper than the paper kind (in the dollar section – I have candy ones and Dr Seuss and Babar and all kinds of other ones). Gift bags saved my life.

  63. I like the ironed napkins idea. I just sewed 20 cloth napkins to be more “green”. Eight were Christmas fabric. I’m with Carol on wine to get through in fact I’ve started my drink hardening program already.

  64. I decided to upgrade from paper lists to a spreadsheet this year. I had lovely organised lists – it was a spreadsheet of great beauty. Then my computer got a virus and I lost the whole lot! My tip to you is back-up the spreadsheet somewhere off your computer so you’re not left with a pile of presents and trying to remember what you bought for whom!

  65. My 9 y.o. is the keeper of Christmas at our house. Actually, he’s the task manager of Christmas. He keeps track of all the decorations and what we still need to get out. If they’re not all out, he thinks it’s a failure. Wish he felt the same way about putting them away! My daughter now likes to do the cookie baking and I’m ceding that to her. It’s good for her to feel useful (and her cookies are really good too!).

  66. I was chugging along slowly on the Christmas gifts–both sides of the family do a round-robin, so I only have to give to one sibling each side.
    And then came the word. My MIL’s in hospice care, and we are coming to stay with my sister-in-law while visiting MomH while we can next week. SIL is a big, big believer in hostess gifts (and it’s not her year but this is hostess, not Christmas, from her point of view. She’s allergic to animal fibers, and she knows I have silk in my stash.)
    And so I need to start fast to get something, anything done for her. She’s been the main caretaker, so it’s really the least I could do. (And if I don’t pull it off she gets the one I made me during the summer. I won’t tell.)

  67. I don’t send Christmas cards. At all. I might send a few letters, but no cards. The “2012 Christmas For” text file was started in September or earlier, and the “gift-able knits” box is filled year-round.
    I think I’m about done with the gifts, just a few trips to Amazon UK, and one mammoth Post Office trip and I’ll be set. Then I can relax!

  68. Yes, I am the keeper of Christmas. I definitely keep a list of things to do as well as the gifts to make. I’m hoping that this year I didn’t decide to knit too many gifts so I’m not up all Christmas Eve. I have to finish earlier because I send off most of the presents now to family across the US. I know what you mean – I wouldn’t change a thing. I love the deadlines and trying to get it all done. That’s part of the holiday season that makes it sooo much fun. Tried to talk hubby into learning how to knit so he could help finish an afghan. He wouldn’t have anything to do with it. Darn – guess I’ll have to do it myself (like everything else)! 🙂

  69. I’m in charge of making sure my father actually gets something for my mother. This generally entails me asking her what he should get her for christmas this year, and then leading him gently by the hand to the appropriate store, taking charge of the little magic rectangle of plastic when his hands start shaking too much from the buying anxiety, reassuring him that she will indeed love it, and then making sure he doesn’t shoot himself in the foot by going and getting her a new vacuum or something like it instead.

  70. With adult children far away or who work Christmas (I am the mother of three chefs) and an elderly Mum, my Christmases have changed – a lot. Every year is different and, frankly, gifts don’t make a big appearance.

  71. I use organized christmas ( or flylady….. I am also the keeper of xmas here…. and it’s fun, esp now that the kids are older and join me in some of the prep.. for example: last night all 5 of the kids (as in my 24 yo stepson, his 23 yo fiancee, my 22 yo stepson and my 14 and 12 yo sons) set up the tree and decorated it… i had put up the lit garland and icicle lights with the help of the 12 and 14 yo’s last weekend (we have a new kitten to teach to leave the “pretties” alone).
    My giftmas knitting is about 1/2 way done…. fingerless mitts for the 14 yo, socks for my MIL using your basic sock recipe (currently 2/3 of the way done, hope to have them done tonight… i do the parts i have to focus on during my alone time during the day and save the “mindless” parts for the travel knitting… both socks are now on the foot of the sock as i did the gusset of the second one last night while waiting for dinner to cook and the kids did the tree)…. next up are a pair of fingerless gloves for my 12 yo and then if i have time, hats for the 12 and 14 yo’s.

  72. I finished knitting my first Christmas present (a sock) last January! I’m actually all done with all my Christmas knitting now for the first time ever!

  73. Yes! I’m the Keeper of Christmas and I LOVE it!! I survive with Checklists; an electronic notebook (oneNote) that can be accessed from any smart phone, iPad, or computer; and a precise calendar of events, due dates and tasks that starts October 1 and ends on January 10. One of my biggest sanity savers is to have three weeks worth of prepped meals in the freezer that any family member can pull out, thaw and cook. Yes, cook. Each meal includes an instruction sheet in the freezer bag. I’m talking about soups, stews, meatballs, chili, enchiladas, etc., and the instructions include things like “Make a salad to go with this,” or “Serve with green beans.” I also no longer bake cookies…that has been designated to the kids, who are more than capable of baking their own cookies. (um, yeah. My oldest is 21, the youngest is 15.)

  74. I normally don’t send any Christmas cards, My work schedule kinda sucks for anything Christmasy,
    Me and my husband both worked the last 3 in a row and have had to rush opening our gifts on Christmas eve because we would get home at 8pm and have to be up for work the next moring at 3am. This year we were scheduled to work Christmas again, with christmas day being our last shift. We both managed to book it off, so now we get home christmas eve and were off till Jan 2nd. It is going to be so nice to sit back and enjoy the week together and enjoy this season.I’ve been knitting my gifts all year and have one mitten left to make and i’m done!!! The only lists i make are gift ones. Everything else if it doesn’t get done i don’t panic lol 🙂

  75. Yes, I’m the Keeper, and like you I love it. But I have an advantage… I’m a professional project manager. I have lists and timelines and assignments… the only bad thing is I can’t fire my husband or the kids for not meeting their goals….

  76. My best sanity-management tip is simply ‘be prepared’.
    I don’t have a spreadsheet for Christmas, but I do make judicious use of the lister application on my mobile phone. Whenever I get a good clue for a gift, in it goes.. I don’t have to worry about forgetting it before I get back to my spreadsheet, plus I always have it with me. That way I can knock things off my gift list any time the opportunity strikes – even if it’s July and I’m in India, I can take care of that bedding my sister wanted. Then mid-November I pull everything out, do a full inventory, and see what’s left to do. Invariably I find I’m further ahead than I thought, which means December is pleasant as it’s mostly baking and wrapping.
    The second-best sanity-management tip? Don’t sweat the small stuff. I’ve become happy with only getting 90% done but being cheerful in the process, vs getting 100% done but gotten dog-tired in the process.

  77. At the rist of sounding Grinch-like, I really think Christmas has gotten too big, too unreal. I’m 53 and when I was younger, the kids made lists and got excited at the hype and the commercialization of it. The adults were pleased to decorate and have family and friends visit. Now, even though everyone seems to be working frantically at their jobs, there is also a frantic rush to do Christmas “right” meaning, it seems, big. I just want to step back and tone it down without everyone labelling me a kill-joy. Why is this holiday so untouchable?

  78. There is a book called “Getting Things Done” that is great for this kind of thing. I recommend it often. Also, look up something called mind mapping, if you are not already familiar with it. It sure helps to get everything in my head out onto paper!

  79. I have been knitting Christmas gifts since April and I will actually be done in time this year. No Christmas in March for anyone!
    One great tip…I buy the Christmas box set from Costco, tissue paper and some ribbon- no more wrapping for me! The boxes are in a bunch of different sizes, colors, styles, etc. Take knitted gift, wrap in tissue, choose a box, plop it in and tie a bow. Viola! Easy as pie and I don’t end up feeling like stabbing people with the scissors after hours of wrapping!

  80. Yes, I’m the Keeper of Christmas in my family too. Now that my family is smaller (I’m a widow with two single, grown children and one sister. Parents, aunts, uncles and godparents all deceased…) it’s a bit easier. Some traditions are Must Keep and others have fallen away. I begin to think about knitted gifts in September and by the end of October they are well underway (earlier if they are large — like sweaters). Baking has started (it gets frozen.) I shop very little — generally online — and cards will be going out soon. And yes, it will all be done on time (though last year was a near-miss with 2 large sweaters on the agenda. This year I’m sticking to socks and fingerless mittens.)

  81. I agree with Kate. Please write the Knitter’s Christmas Spreadsheet Book. Thank you, Obi Wan Kenobi. You’re our only hope.

  82. P.S. Q: “Why is this holiday so untouchable?”
    A: The untouchable part of the holiday at my house is Christmas Eve — at church. After all, Jesus is the Reason for the Season. No ifs, ands or buts. 🙂

  83. My kids are all adults now and a few years ago I gave myself permission to change things up and simplify. I removed those things that stress me out and steal my joy about the holiday, however, I kept the traditions that I truly love doing. Our Christmas is now wonderfully peaceful for all of us!!! For example, I don’t like wrapping gifts, I mean I really really don’t care for it and never have, lol, so a few years ago I sewed up many reusable fabric drawstring gift bags of all sizes and knitted the i-cord drawstrings. All of us now actually love seeing the memorable fabrics every Dec., just like the old ornaments when I pull them out for use every year. They’ve become a tradition and it turns out everyone else didn’t like wrapping either so they happily use them too! If you love holiday traditions, by all means keep doing them, but if you want more peace it’s ok to drop a few things that you won’t miss or change them up a bit so it’s easier on yourself.

  84. As I live alone, save for the four legged roommates, I’m just going to sit back and watch the plan unravel (or “tink” if you prefer). Without a few crisis’s, you will not be able to make your daily word count. Look forward to a tree/stocking/baking mishap – maybe tinsel in the now clean vacumn cleaner.

  85. Thank you for helping me to feel like I’m not totally insane for keeping a spreadsheet of all my Christmas projects and when I need them done.

  86. I start very early with hand made gifts. I start planning in the summer. I am not a fast knitter so this works well for me. I don’t really like shopping, but visiting the stores before Christmas is fun if I only have to get a few things. My husband does the online shopping, but there is not really that much to buy because I make most of the gifts. I don’t do cards anymore, because of the moaning and groaning about the price of stamps. Umph! Scrooges. I plan my baking and do that two weeks early. The baked goods can be frozen and taste great when thawed. Sometimes I have freezer thiefs that steal the goodies that are frozen, but its a small price for getting ahead. I clean through the month of December, but not all at once. How dusty can hard to reach places get in just a few weeks? Surfaces that are easy to reach, get dirty quickly and show dirt are cleaned two days before Christmas Eve. That’s when I have our Christmas at our home. I do cooking on Christmas Eve day. Oh I shop for food and groceries two days before. I play Christmas songs starting on Thanksgiving and that really puts me in a good productive mood. I get the tree (artificial) up by the day after Thanksgiving. The rest of the decorations are put up that weekend. I don’t like Black Friday shopping so that leaves me all day to decorate. Outside decorations go up as soon as I can talk my hubby into it. So plan, do lots of stuff ahead of time, play music, and stick to your plan with some flexibility for the sake of others’ happiness. Happy Christmas.

  87. Julie you are not being a Grinch. Whoville Christmases have always turn me off. I now practice KISS. My children are grown; their turn to do the decoration if they want some. My children are adults; gifts and Santa is for small children, treat yourself, I will be doing the same if so inclined. A nice dinner with a good visit? Love to, give me a call and we will set a date that works for you.

  88. I agree with Emm. As an older empty-nester, I’ve given up much of what I used to do. I still put my favorite decorations around the house, and I string lights on the front porch. No one but me seems to miss the tree and the cookies, and the children aren’t coming home for the holiday this year. Simple is nice too!

  89. This is my first year knitting Christmas presents, and as I’m 12 and ride the bus to school every day, I have high hopes (yes, I understand that that comment just made most of my finished presents implode). I have a ‘present box’ and a checklist for the stuff I have to do. All I have to finish is…
    One shawl, a pair of fingerless gloves, three coffee cup sleeves, a cowl, and a knitting kit for my cousin.
    Lucky me that my mom’s birthday is a few days after Christmas.

  90. Well, the kids’s needs/wants are pretty big this year (which means only one or two gifts instead of many) – so other than waiting for payday to order one more gift, they are done. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have a wicked schedule of knitting, because really, what is Christmas without hand-knits? Even if that means Christmas will extend until New Year’s for some members of the family. Oh, and I still have to figure out what to get the Husbeast…damn. Maybe I need one of your spreadsheet thingies.

  91. Like Amy, I dropped the gift wrapping too. Some how I always ended up, at two o’clock Christmas morning, sobbing on the floor surrounded by paper and sellotape and half-wrapped presents having lost the scissors and hating every moment of it. My daughters made the drawstring bags out of old clothes they’d grown out of, scraps of fabric from my sewing stash and ancient napkins we found in the linen cupboard. The relief was enormous! Gift wrapping only takes a minute now and my girls make the tags every year, decorated by hand which keeps them busy for hours.
    Then we took it one stage further, one year I asked everyone what they would do on Christmas day if they could change absolutely anything about it. Apart from the obvious (eat as much chocolate for breakfast as they like) we had requests for some surprising things. Their father wanted to spend the entire day in his dressing gown. My daughters wanted to stay at home and not go visiting – pointing out that they have to leave all their new toys behind to do so. My son wanted to have something else for Christmas dinner, not the usual roast. So we took a vote. They all wanted lasagna and garlic bread. Followed by pumpkin pie. I wanted someone else to decorate the tree, load the dishwasher and pack up all the decorations before New Year.
    So we tried it. It was bliss. We haven’t had a conventional Christmas since.

  92. Yes, my sister and I are the keeper of Christmas — as well as all holidays. My grown children, ha, that would be interesting.
    Yes, I keep spreadsheets for Christmas too. I have one for each year with several tabs for different tasks. The gift tab has each person’s name in the first column, a column for gift ideas, a column for items made or purchased. I add to it during the year as appropriate. I only knit about 3 gifts this year.
    At the end of the year, I do a Save As for the next year. I just delete the info on the gift page. The cooking and baking page stays the same but with changes here and there. The knitting ideas column changes.
    I use spreadsheets for everything. I could be a spreadsheet whore. I love using them. You should see my books spreadsheet!
    Now that I’m older (!), I have simplified significantly. We sold the tree at a garage sale this fall. I will still put up all the decorations that sit around the house. We are thinning out all the time.

  93. I used to be the keeper of Christmas, but I lost it a few years ago and started ranting about how much I hated Christmas and what a waste of time and money it was. So, now I make a list and shop two weeks before, keeping to a strict budget. We buy a live tree the weekend after or of my daughters birthday (12/9), and decorate inside and out minimally. I plan the menu without going crazy because as much as I think left overs are great, I am constantly throwing the green unidentified item in the plastic container(s) in the back of my frig out. And I attend midnight mass the night before, with or without my family, because it helps me keep the true meaning in my heart.

  94. I am old… **coughsixtycoughsomethingcough**…I have done the “all by myself” aproach, the “list approach” and “everything in between” approach. I have decided, that, no matter how it happens, just as all the other holidays, memory making events, sad and happy moments, they will all fall on me. Yes, husband carved the turkey last week, in his own time, and a friend helped me clean after the big meal, while husband played with some of the kids on the trampoline. I cooked for 2 days, sat down to Thanksgiving nourishment, I could have carved the bird myself. I WANTED him to be a part of the experience…HA!
    A few years ago, I decided to change Christmas. A day where everyone was in the living room, having fun and I was in the kitchen, pretending to have fun. Since I am from Chile, I now cook Chilean food for Christmas. I set the table in the morning, do hashbrowns, eggs and bacon and that’s it. The rest of th day, the fruits of my labor go on the table and is everyone by themselves. They love that. There is no interruption during the day, people eat when and where they want to, and there is a lot of food available. Now I can partake of the morning gift opening like the rest, eat when i want to, and even nap. The best tradition I have ever started.
    As for the gifts, I still do ALL of that, but do it ahead of time. As for the decorations, I still do ALL of that, but I have simplified. Instead of making it winter wonderland, I decide what time frame I have and decorate accordingly. I have to remember that, when time comes to clean up, I will be the one doing most of it… Merry Christmas to is because of YOU that I have come to adore and appreciate the sport of knitting…. <3 You have given more meaning to my life….it had meaning have just enhanced that..:):)

  95. I was, until I moved to Japan. I miss it desperately, and even though I tell myself I’m fine living alone and Christmas is just another day on the calendar, I get a little stir-crazy around the 25th. Need to plan! Need to cook!

  96. As a type A with considerable project management experience, spreadsheets have been a big part of my life, including Christmas. Although I do find that I need the adrenaline rush of leaving some things to the last minute.
    My tip: Although I love wrapping and am good at it, I found it took too much time away from family fun and was expensive to boot.
    One year I purchased yards and yards of co-ordinated Christmas printed fabrics (cottons used for quilted projects) and used my serger to make cute gift bags in assorted sizes and use leftover yarns to tie them. These bags have been in circulation for close to 20 years for family gifts. Now that my sons have families of their own and live in far flung places, at their request I made a ton of bags for their families. I even made special “Santa Bags” that are coded with a red tab.
    My family “loves” these bags. If you don’t sew I suggest you barter with a friend that does to swap knitting for sewing. Although the initial outlay may seem expensive, if you keep the bags recycling back to you, they are very cost effective. And wrapping is so FAST!!

  97. I have kept the Red Christmas/party binder for our entire25 years of marriage. I have the names of everyone we have ever sent or received a card from, what presents we have given and received, and most importantly who was there and all of the menus. That way I know the green tomato pie didn’t go too fast at Thanksgiving. Oh, most importantly the checklist of thank yous sent. During the year if I buy a present for someone it goes in the book and everything is practically done by the time the holidays roll around. I don’ t have time to put all of this on the computer.

  98. Several years back I was too sick to keep Christmas any more. My grown daughters carried forward beautifully, but a lot of “always and ever” activities got dropped. Since then I’ve been adding on the most important to me bits. I don’t recommend being helpless to get there, but I can’t tell you how lovely it is to work out together what we really want, and then make it happen together. This also allowed us to include more friends in the celebrations.

  99. In my house everyone (there are four of us) keeps a different bit of Christmas, which does spread it around nicely. I like to wrap my presents in front of a nice Christmas film, so it doesn’t seem so much like a chore, and I use a different kind of paper for everyone in the house – that way I know who all the presents belong to, even if a label falls off. When I go shopping I make sure I know exacly what I’m buying in advance, so I only need to make one trip to the shops. I knit quite a few things and get some things online too.

  100. I,too, highly recommend the book Unplug the Christmas Machine, mentioned by Lois in an earlier comment.

  101. I don’t “do Christmas”. I celebrate the coming of The Incarnation. With that in mind…I don’t do the commercial stuff. Instead, I head to Church, cook for my family and call or write everyone else and remind them of what it is about Christmas that brings so much happiness and why Christmas is supposed to be a happy time.
    Jesus Christ, Savior is on planet earth in the flesh.
    That puts this entire season into sharp focus for me.

  102. I love me some spreadsheets! I even use the multiple tabs on the bottom and label them!
    Seriously, I couldn’t get through the holidays without a calendar and spreadsheet to track what needs to get done for whom and when, including traveling days (Have family in 2 different locations)
    I said I wasn’t knitting anything this year, I went through the “stay up till 4am Christmas eve and knit on the plane only to frog what I did on the 8 hour flight to re-knit it on the 8 hour flight return” BUT…. I’m currently blocking a shawl I made for my mother-in-law’s best friend and looking at fingerless mitt patterns… ugh!

  103. This approach would be awesome if I was any good at using a spreadsheet. Alas!!
    One way I manage, though, is that we just don’t do cards. Seriously, if anyone wants to know how we’re doing, they can send me an email. If anyone wants to know what the kids looks like these days, they can check my blog. (I don’t do facebook). If they don’t care, they probably aren’t worth sending a card to in the first place.

  104. Our knitting group has a cookie exchange/white elephant party as our holiday party. The white elephant is something from stash or knitting related, and 1 evening of baking gets you a bunch of different cookies! We potluck a crockpot of soup, appetizers and a dessert, and have a great relaxing evening!

  105. Give Evernote a try. It’s free, and you can put it on all your computers and devices and they’ll automatically sync. You can save web pages, pictures, notes, and files and organize them with folders and tags. It’s at I use it for all kinds of stuff.

  106. Yes. I am the keeper of Christmas. I love it. But, no. I can offer no suggestions. I am still the sleep-deprived lunatic with tape in her hair. Will you write the book on how to do it otherwise? Please?

  107. I, too, am the Keeper of Christmas at my house. The past two years have been difficult, though. Two years ago, my hubby had a staff infection that lodged in his sternum. It took about 4 months to get it diagnosed and in the meantime, he spent the time from November through February living in the LaZ Boy in our living room. It made ‘doing Christmas’ terribly difficult.
    Last year, it was my mom. She was ill, not taking her meds correctly, not eating correctly, etc. I was called to the hospital because she had fallen down the stairs at a friends house. She passed in April.
    So, needless to say, I the last two Christmases have been rough. Between that, working full time, going to school and being the perfect ‘wrestling mom’, it was not easy. I found out that no one really worried about it too much.
    This year, though, I plan to step up to the plate and hit the home run again. I have a plan for cleaning/ decorating, a plan for entertainment, and a plan for gifts, although that is dwindling away as well. My kids are all grown and want specific gifts. The only kids are my great-nieces and nephews. It makes life really, really easy as for gift giving. The only exception is for my sisters (we are a family of women – 4 of us!). The deal is to always send a homemade item of some kind. This year, I am (and I can say it here because none of them read your blog, how appalling!) making them each a pillow from a t-shirt of my moms. I have her 5 favorites and they each come from an event one of us enjoyed with her, making it even better.
    Oh, and by the way, I love Christmas. All the decorations, the hubbub, the music, the shopping… I love it all!

  108. It’s good to recognize that this is stuff you want to do. It’s a good thing that you have figured out a way to do it without complaining. Because a person who wants it all doesn’t have the right to go around complaining how exhausted he/she is. I love Christmas, celebrating the birth of the Messiah. Every year I used to ask my children what it would take to make a good Christmas to them. Mostly it was a performance of The Nutcracker and a Christmas tree, and being together. Now we substitute “A Christmas Carol”, 1951 Alistair Sim version, and also the Muppets version for The Nutcracker. Our Christmases are lovely, everyone is happy and I enjoy the whole holiday as much as everyone else.

  109. I’m the “assistant keeper” since I live with my parents at the moment with my four month old son. We ALWAYS go to my grandmother’s house for Christmas (and have since I was born) so most years we don’t have a tree. This year, we’ve put one up and it’s my responsibility to put it up, because I’m not working at the moment. I’ve been decorating during naptime and after my son goes to bed :). Most of our traditions have been the same for the last thirty years, so that’s just a continuation. Christmas is so tradition-oriented and I think those little details make a huge difference.
    As far as the knitting- my husband’s entire family lives in Australia, so I normally do all the Christmas knitting for that side by July. I send it in mid-October so I can be sure that they get it. This year my husband and I are giving pictures of our son in engraved frames to grandparents/great-grandmother/great aunts and uncles. My husband is in charge of getting that done. I can’t get my husband in handknits to save my life, so I made a scrapbook for him of pictures of our son. I got that one done in a week, but it took me two to come up with color schemes and the pictures I wanted to use.
    As for time management, I make a LOT of lists. My parents, mother in law, and godson have birthdays in January, so I hit the after-Christmas sales for them. My husband, brother in law, sister in law, and one of my nieces have birthdays in February, and those presents are normally taken care of by September.

  110. Yup, I am also the Christmas Keeper here. It is mostly by choice, mind you, and I would be loath to let that role go…so any chaos is partly from my own choosing. 🙂
    I have a bag for each person in the family, and for gift receiving friends with their names on it. Everything for that person goes in the bag. I shop all year, when things catch my eye, and so by early November, I am often more than half done. I keep all the wrapping stuff in the bedroom, and try and wrap gradually, a couple things at a time, and to do it with good music or radio on. Helps a ton.I am lucky enough to have a huge window seat in our bedroom that opens up, so the presdents all go in there, preventing cat and dog incursions on them. I bake on one Saturday, sometimes with help, sometimes not, but from 8 until I am done. One long-ass day, mind you, but all the pies, cookies, goodies, and some of the side dishes get done. And then it is put into or frozen, and pulled out as needed. At Thanksgiving (US) the whole family decided who was bringing what to eat for the various meals, and so that is decided, and I have to just let go and assume that they are all grown ups and will bring what they said! We got our tree the day after Thanksgiving , and it is already up and decorated and I can enjoy it.
    And frankly, if there is food and my people in one place, the rest is just gravy.
    Anyhow, it is all by way of saying that we all organize like crazy people, but the fun of it all is getting lots of people we love in the same space and doing whatever it is we all want to do.

  111. I’m down to two presents remaining to be knit. Since (U.S.) Thanksgiving, on one I’ve had to readjust needle size to get gauge, change a well-established pattern to fit my intended recipient, and the puppies have devoured two sets of dpns in use. Fortunately, I found a LYS open today & am back on a roll. In the meantime, I’ve discovered that a friend is expecting a grandbaby. . . So I’m getting out the vitamins.

  112. I just heard an interview with Tara Swiger on CraftLit. She (Tara) has developed a program for crafty folks (with or without businesses) to get through the holidays sanely. It includes all sorts of list making, timing and deciding what really matters. There are also weekly email follow ups. If you’re curious her website is

  113. Years ago my Mother got tired of doing everything, too. So for stockings, each person gets everyone else 5 SMALL items (usually necessities like soap, toothpaste, underwear; occasionally an unusual item like a tool for his/her hobby; and infrequently a luxury item like a piece of jewelry or such.) [We tried doing it that each person filled one other person’s stocking – but my sister ruined that method as she would frequently send her gifts a week or two AFTER Christmas, particularly if she couldn’t make it home.] Everyone loves it now because you frequently find/think of something small for everybody that’s not really a gift but suits them or is funny or otherwise perfect for a stocking stuffer! We open stockings one present and one person at a time – it’s fun to guess what something is – we’ve gotten creative wrapping things so predictable things (like toothpaste) are disguised.
    Mother also would give us a special Christmas ornament each year, so that when we finally had our own places, we had enough ornaments for our own tree and didn’t have that additional expense on a limited budget!

  114. When I first graduated school and took a job 9 states away from home, out of necessity, I had to have all my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving. (We have a tradition that whoever moved last, hosts Thanksgiving. Well, I was transferred about every 18 months, so it was always at my house. And I’d usually fly home at Christmas, and not having room to pack a lot of presents would have to ship all Christmas presents home ahead ($$$) of time OR ask parents to take them home after Thanksgiving, as they always drove.
    When you get everything done by Thanksgiving, you really have time to appreciate the season with holiday parties and socializing! No stress of having to go shopping or getting something made and finished in time!! It’s an incredible feeling!
    So what was once a necessity is now my favorite method of keeping my sanity during the holidays and enjoying them!!

  115. I thought I was alone in my devotion to spreadsheets! Thanks for making me feel a little less like a dork! I have a Christmas baking spreadsheet that helps me keep all my ingredients on hand. So much easier to bake when I don’t have to take a trip to the grocery store for powdered sugar at 1:00 AM in my PJs.

  116. Keep the traditions that actually work for you and ditch the rest! Turns out, Christmas knitting for everyone else made me hate the holiday, as I’d have to be starting it in March. I quit knitting for everyone else and have been much happier ever since. I do knit for a more select few than ever before and I do shop all year long for people. I’d be ahead if I’d corral it all in one place instead of discovering it later like hidden Easter eggs but oh well!

  117. I cut waaaay back on my gift-giving several years ago when I changed the way I “shopped” for friends. Now I knit for charity every year, and my friends (and most of my relatives) get a bag of my famous Christmas cookies along with a nice card with a photo of my knitting (which I donate in their honor) and an explanation of who it benefits. Everybody loves it and looks forward every year to seeing who they have “donated” to. Of course, I still knit for family, close friends, and children. 🙂

  118. Just relax and something will happen. We changed Christmas each year depending on the mood. One year we had pizza, one year we all celebrated it on the 23rd and went out for Indian food on the 25th. It all depended on who was working when. At some point a tree went up and got decorated, along with a variety of altars. It all stretched from the Solstice until the New year.
    Oh yes, some people got swatches with a picture of the pattern to be made, some people got a finished item while sometimes it had only one arm.
    The more you are “keeper of tradition” the less others will do.

  119. So sweet. I converted to Judaism 🙂 and 8 days of Channuka makes me nuts sometimes. Minor holiday. Small gifts. Some charitable. We do good deeds. Spreadsheets are for work. Android is for gift ideas. If I finish knitting it in time it’s an Xmas/ Hanukkah gift. If not it’s for birthday or a random act of kindness. I only knit for a select few 🙂 wine is always Mommy’s Little Helper. Yes I stash gifts but often lose them lol. Super organized at work. Semi organized at home. Don’t sweat the small stuff 😀 ah yes and admire other people who get all crazy hyped up on Christmas (with a dash of incredulity).

  120. My husband is mainly in charge of Christmas because he inherited the vintage decorations from the ’40s and possesses the tree-decorating and package-wrapping skills to raise things up a notch. I chime in with a few newer items of my own, along with the cooking and baking and entertainment planning – such as it is. We tend to keep things pretty low key, as we have a small family. But we sure have fun!

  121. I’m the Thanksgiving Fairy – it sure was a ton more work this time around, due to my previous helpers having to work, a toddler that needed to be watched, and elderly people who can’t help anymore. I made notes for next year because I was wiped out at the end of the day… all that cooking & cleaning by myself, and it was over so quickly! Next year will be more organized.

  122. Love it, Lena – “Just relax and something will happen.” Normally, I’m all for spreadsheets, but in this case, I don’t think they’d add much to my joy. If I’m the ‘keeper of Christmas’ among my circle of family and friends (and that’s debatable) then I’m an awfully laid back one – and I’m just fine with that.
    Holidays seem to be an ever-evolving process at our house. Kids grow older, parents grow older (while I of course, stay just the same age!) and naturally, needs change from year to year. The focus on gifts has, thankfully, diminished, and the emphasis now is on just spending time together. Seeing everyone we love on Christmas eve or day would be virtually impossible, so it happens from Thanksgiving to New Years, as we’re available – no guilt allowed! I’ve always thought that baking and decorating were just for fun, so I do enough to please myself and leave it there. No one seems to be complaining!

  123. I don’t know if you’d call it a spreadsheet, but I make cute little lists for each person I buy for(with pictures of Santa, elves, etc.) detailing what gifts I want to buy, what has been bought, whether or not it has been wrapped, and how much was spent. Also, I try to wrap gifts as they come in. I learned a long time ago, that a little efficiency goes a long way toward lessening my Christmas stress levels!

  124. Well, yes I seem to be the keeper of Christmas. And I remember a year I got so mad about having to do it all, that I protested by taking down all the decorations I’d put up. (Yep, that got action from the husband and kids!) This particular year is the year our family has been thrown more curve balls than a major league baseball team. It has been one piece of crazy pie on top of another. Now we find we’re living in a rental home that is in foreclosure—and this is a really bad time to move or find another rental. We’re packing anyway! Planning for Christmas? I just hope Christmas is a celebration of the end of this insane year! I could use a very long nap, something strong to drink, and some good old fashioned knitting time.

  125. Hi, Steph,
    This is my 9th year of spreadsheeting. I make my lists up in the week after Christmas and do many things throughout the year. On Thanksgiving weekend I do a review, make final adjustments and roll into action. My review showed that all my 61 handmade gifts are knit except 3. Another thing was I interviewed the family and asked them what was their favorite part. I discovered that I was putting effort into things nobody wanted, so those things got eliminated. They want turkey with all the trimmings for Thanksgiving, but prefer a snack food buffet for Christmas. A pot of chili with hot links simmering in it is the number one for Christmas day. Who knew??? Going out for Thai food is the number one for Christmas eve. Works for me. Also I cut my gift list from over 100 to 50, then creep brought it back up to 61. But what’s the point of knitting socks for someone who doesn’t want them? Going to the Hotel Del Coronado to see their amazing tree is a fav, as is touring the city to see lights, then a stop for hot chocolate. I make sure to do the things they really like and omitted the ones noone wanted.
    Julie in San Diego

  126. What’s so funny about ironed napkins?
    I’m pretty sure she’s talking about cloth napkins, not paper. Just in case you were thinking….
    (although picturing Steph gravely ironing paper napkins is kind of a hoot!)

  127. I am big believer in lists (not necessarily spreadsheets), and I have quite a few of them before Christmas 😉
    Being organised certainely helps!

  128. Beware that spreadsheets are a giant time suck. While you’re spending time making one then filling it out etc. You could be doing things on your mental list or just enjoying yourself in other ways.

  129. Delegate! Not everything, of course, but little things like having one of the girls iron the napkins or something like that. Minions help take the pressure off!

  130. Yup. Don’t try making a quadruple quantity of croissants for 12 for Christmas Day breakfast in addition to the Turkey lunch.

  131. I have a small Christmas notebook with all my lists of to do ( each name…shop. order. delivered? pickedup? wrapped? cost? need to keep it all fair!)(baking lists) (making lists) (cooking lists) you get the idea.
    I keep it in my purse from Thanksgiving on. It has a pocket in the front for receipts. I also add a binder clip to the front when the receipts threaten to explode the pocket.

  132. I like that term, “Keeper of Christmas”. I’m totally with you on everything–I LIKE doing those things so they can be enjoyed by everyone. I like knowing that when someone says the day was great, it was because of ME. As a mom, we don’t get credit for the daily stuff, and Christmas is like the daily stuff on steroids.
    After YEARS of listening to my husband complain about how he hates Christmas–the money, the running around (yes, he leaves it till the end), etc…he has suddenly decided to splurge on the kids this year “because they want it” (the one particular gift). I’m feeling almost betrayed…it’s not what I had planned, I won’t be buying it, it’s not “a great deal” or “I just found it w/o planning”, you know? I feel like my role has been dimished and I need to suck it up and put my energies elsewhere….

  133. Hmmm… I’ve been struggling with getting in the spirit this year, which means I will be doomed if I don’t get started. I do have a spreadsheet in the cloud(Google Drive– so it goes with me on phone as well as laptop)..but haven’t gotten very far. I did just have surgery, but there is a difference between cutting myself slack, and not even engaging. I’m going to try, today!

  134. I too, Keep Christmas. I do it because I love Christmas, and love what it means for the family. I spreadsheet as well, colour coding and managing every detail. I start a new tab on spreadsheet around January, so I can start making notes about what was good, and what still needs work. We rotate hosting among 3 households, and this year, we get to host – my favourite year! And, just to raise the bar, I not only iron my napkins, I also make them myself, along with the tablecloths. And I knit for everyone who appreciates it, and sew for them as well.
    Over the top? Probably. Will I change? Nope. I’m organized enough that it don’t have to wear the crazypants, so it works for us.
    ANd like Carol of the comments, wine helps…

  135. My response to this was to give up Christmas LOL I’m only partially joking. I used to go all out to make it the biggest, best Christmas every year. And while I still bake a dozen types of Christmas cookies and do the whole big family shebang (hosted by my aunt on Christmas Eve, my mom on Christmas day, another aunt’s on New Year’s Eve and yet another aunt’s on New Year’s Day), I don’t stress, I don’t decorate, I don’t do anything other than bring a bunch of homemade jams, cookies and other little goodies with me, and enjoy my family.
    The fact that I’m converting to Judaism might have something to do with that, but I just started converting, and I stopped Christmas about five years ago 🙂

  136. Delurking for a moment to offer the following:
    If you don’t have spreadsheet software, use the free spreadsheets on Google documents, all you need is a Google account. Good project managers delegate. If there are tasks you hate doing, delegate to someone else or eliminate them. I’m a novice knitter living a warm climate so there won’t be knitted gifts (but I love the gift/swatch idea). I spread the baking tasks over the holiday season. Any baking not done by Christmas will be done before New Years. To paraphrase from “A League of Their Own” , There’s NO CRYING at Christmas. If you are crying with tape in your hair, you are trying to do too much. There’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a nap, gift bags, gift cards, your favorite drink of choice, a few moments with a purring cat or loving dog, a hug and/or in the case of an awful in-law, a strong sedative (drug or otherwise)

  137. My family does things a bit differently. We’re rather a small family, all things considered, and all adults, so we take turns hosting Christmas Day (or sometimes Christmas Eve, if my sister’s in-laws prefer to have my sister and brother-in-law then). If I’m not hosting, I often don’t even put up a tree- it gives me more time to knit and cook. I work an office job with a long commute, so I just don’t ever get as much time at home as I’d like.
    I try to divide things into an A list and a B list. The A list is stuff I really want to have done. The B list is stuff that would be nice, but I’m not set on. (The B-list tends to expand if I finish things early…I’m trying not to put things on the A-list in December.)
    If I’m shopping I make a list, know where I’m going, and try to go after work on weekdays (the traffic is too nuts on the weekend).
    I park as far away from the store as I can get- I get to the door faster than if I wasted time looking for a close space, I can use the exercise, and it leaves closer spaces for people who need them more than I do. Also I’m closer to the exit when it comes time to leave.
    When I’m knitting I think about the person I’m knitting for, and the pleasure of doing something I think they’ll enjoy. I try *not* to count rows or think about the next thing on the list! (Though there is a thrill to finishing, especially when you have a deadline.)
    I put CDs in the car. (I dislike Christmas pop, and prefer to sing or listen to traditional carols if I want Christmas music.)
    Most of all I try to focus on the parts I like and get over the rest as lightly as possible. I want to enjoy the holiday, and that means not allowing myself to get grumpy about the crowds, traffic, and commercialism. Instead, for me it’s about favorite foods, the chance to spend a day with people I love, an excuse to knit them presents, and tease the cats with curling ribbons. If everything doesn’t get done, it doesn’t get done. (This philosophy was a godsend the year I got stomach flu right before the holiday and was sick the weekend I had intended to bake. My family understood, and it didn’t ruin the holiday because that wasn’t what it was about.)
    I think the important thing is to have fun with it. If there are things that really aren’t fun- try something else.

  138. I use Awesome Note on my phone – I have a file called Christmas and Notes for each year. I’ve also got a Books file where I keep track of which books I’ve given which littles for their birthdays and Christmas. Basically spreadsheet madness, but in a handheld form. The Boy thinks I’m a disorganized mess – but he also seems to think all the Christmas magic just happens, so we can all gauge his credibility in that department. I am definitely the keeper of Christmas!
    You may have inspired me to back up my lists though – yes, disaster would definitely ensue if I lost my phone. Someone knock on wood please.

  139. The cats climb the tree, so that has been given up. The daughters have grown up, so we don’t have to coordinate anything with Santa. And most of the family live in far distant places, so gifts have become something special and planned for (therefore, only stressing if I procrastinate too long). We have traded gifting for travel, so have planned our Christmas this year around going to London. And it’s amazingly freeing. We may have to do this every year! 🙂

  140. My holiday gift-making is haphazard…usually done in the last few days. I sew madly on my sewing machine. It’s the only way. Somehow I have the curse of knitting selfishly for myself and I’m extremely slow…so if I were to knit for anyone, they would be lucky to get a gift completed by the following Fourth of July. Hence the sewn gifts. It’s better for all, really.

  141. RE the the swatch/picture gift comment: One year I gave my grandson a skein of yarh that said, “Dear Mathew, If you give this yarn to Gramma it will magically turn into a pair of warm hunting socks. Love, Santa”

  142. I’m very glad you’re being all efficient and whatnot, but I’m going to miss the crazy posts all December that sound like a woman about ready to go over the edge.

  143. OMG! You just saved my life! I keep making lists, and even list of lists, but having a spreadsheet that can be updated from year to year and that would keep track of what we gave/baked, cooked, etc. from one year to another one…awesome.

  144. Well, I’m in the US, so I get a lot of people harping over here about Christmas stuff starting in November before our Thanksgiving is even over. I used to be one of those people who would say, “I haven’t even survived Thanksgiving yet! What’s with the Christmas stuff?!?!”
    Then, magically, two years ago, I decided to like it. I was tired of feeling like Christmas was the biggest anti-climax of my life. All that work for just one day? I heard myself say, “You know, Jewish people have it right–their holidays last, like, a WEEK.” And this ran around in my head for the longest time, and suddenly, I thought, “Christmas is going to last for at least a month.” So as far as I’m concerned, I’m in Christmas right now. I enjoy the heck out of it. We played Christmas music during Thanksgiving. We do our decorations right after Thanksgiving, play the music, get festive, have fun making presents, etc. In my heart, it’s already Christmas, long before gift exchanges actually happen. It’s no longer about the one day to me, it’s about the entire season, and that has completely transformed my life. ^_^ It’s also so much more satisfying in general, having it not be just about the culmination of the day we get stuff, but really focuses on the process of giving.
    I actually got MORE crazy, too. I make all the decorations for our gifts now, too. We spend time wrapping and putting handmade stuff on each gift. I go all out, all month, doing at least one thing every day to prepare for the big day. I don’t do schedules, but I DO have my big list of gifts and check people off as they’re fulfilled. I categorize people by whether or not their presents are mailed or handed to them. Mailed presents get first priority, too, and are always shipped off at least two weeks before the day. That’s about as organized as I get, but it makes it work.
    I just love it! That’s what I did… I made a conscious decision to like the entire season instead of being stressed about it, and what a difference it has made! Funny how powerful our choices can be! ^_^

  145. Getting things done early–especially sending out cards, baking, or shopping–has been the defining feature for me between “good” and “bad” holidays. Spreadsheets, helpers, not getting sick, and not having too much work help a lot also. Good luck to all of us!

  146. As much as I live by my email and spreadsheets at work, for home projects, I do love hand written lists. I use lined 3 x 5 cards (from Levenger, but I used plain ones before finding those) to track gifts, menus, task lists and delegations. I also keep things as simple as possible which my family has no issue with, thankfully!

  147. I was just thinking of making a spreadsheet this morning – I’m already panicking about getting it all done! With all the spreadsheets I too use at work on a day to day basis I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to think to use it in this Holiday-way!

  148. For all of you who are feeling the crunch and the mild panic to get it all done, I will say “This too shall pass” and that is not always such a happy thing. Enjoy the craziness while you can and if you don’t get it all done, no one will know but you. Kids grow up and move to the in-laws or move away and have to work. Older family members pass away and suddenly I wonder if it is “worth” the effort to decorate to the hilt for the one kid (age 22) left at home or if the outside lights really need to be done just so the neighbors won’t think we are grinches. Oh, I will do a tree and this is the last year I will do stockings as I am passing the job on to the kids and their significant others. I have been making stockings for almost 30 years and it was a good run, but the time for me to be the Christmas Keeper has now passed. I don’t think I will be filling every corner and mantel of the house with fake greenery and lights just so I can take it all down in a few weeks. My time is worth more then that these days! Also, having all sons makes the holidays really hard when the girl’s family always seems to “win” out. I didn’t realize when they said “I do” it meant “See ya later.”

  149. Funny you should mention lists. I have a heap of finished knitted gifts, ends woven in and everything. I know who each item is for but I panicked when I realized I didn’t have a written list to check things off. List making tonight.

  150. What is this spreadsheet magic of which you speak? Seriously, I would pay to watch a Craftsy class on various ways to use spreadsheets to organize a mess like Christmas always is for me. Or paypal my $5 for the pdf, as someone above mentioned. Seriously.

  151. My daughter will be turning two on December 21st, so this will somehow be her third Christmas. I’m working on building tradition now, i always loved the consistency of Christmas growing up but what we did will not work (I grew up a mere 30 minutes from almost everyone on both sides of my family, she will not).
    It’s the tradition that takes the time and planning, and the thinking when you don’t have it yet! I sit there saying “I could do this, but do I want to do it every year? What if we did this instead? Do we do stockings first? Do we open a present on Christmas eve? What are “normal” traditions?” It’s a very interesting process. The last five or six years I did what I felt like doing because it was just my husband and I and as adults we understood that it wasn’t something that “had to” be the same every year. Growing up, the consistency of tradition was cherished and that seems to cause both the best memories and the most stress!!!
    I do keep a gift list from year to year of all the things I need to make or purchase, and prior to having the baby I would always start in July, be finished by mid-December, and have everything wrapped and shipped (or made or bought and shipped directly) off to family in time for the holiday.
    I’m interested to see how having a baby will change the holidays, now that tradition is becoming more important again.
    Xmas eve is catered, and always tamales. Who wants to cook a big dinner twice? I’ve carried that part on forward from my family to my new house. My mom used to do a huge traditional dinner on Xmas eve, and then we turned around and had another one the next night at dad’s mom’s house with the other side of the family. After the divorce, my mom’s sister took over the hosting duties and decided that buying tamales from her local Mexican restaurant was the way to go because having two Christmas dinners in a row is really a little crazy and both sides of my family did it for YEARS(the difference was this new schedule meant she had two in a row in her own house, and prior to that nobody hosted both)! Tamales are a holiday tradition in general where I grew up in California and where I moved to in Texas, so it’s pretty simple to just order them in, they reheat beautifully and all you need to make is fresh guacamole, it’s nice to have your two meals be very different from each other, to only have to cook for one of them, and to not have any cooking to do the night before Christmas that is not for Christmas.

  152. I decide on and start my handmade christmas presents during the summer, and slowly chip away at them all fall. I’m hoping this year that everyone gets finished projects..

  153. I’ve had a gift spreadsheet for years. It includes the people we give gifts to (including teachers, our mailman, and assorted other non-relatives and friends), their budget, and what we’ve spent so far. I leave a spot to write in the gifts for each person, and fill it in as they are completed/bought/whatever. If it’s an idea, I put it in italics. This helps me to see who still needs stuff and helps me to remember stuff I bought on vacation in August.
    I love ironed napkins. I recommend delegating the actual ironing to someone else. (And remember, the napkins can be ironed days ahead of time!)

  154. I scaled back by doing only the things I cared about/wanted to do for all the holidays. So I listen to Christmas music and drink hot cider…but don’t do a whole lot else unless I feel like it. We don’t have kids, there are no little ones in our extended family, and I decorate just as much as I want (I enjoy the heck out of other people’s decorations, though!)

  155. Sorry I couldn’t read all the posts above, but hope to give you extra peace with my method of coping/keeping Christmas. I sang in professional quality choirs for many years and felt that the music and my fulltime job was as much as I could handle. Now, only one choir, and all the rest is optional. Small gifts are just as welcome as big ones. A dessert party is easier than dinner. Think a bit about what is most dear to you, and share the planning and the work. My husband was so horrified when I expressed exhaustion one year he actually stepped up to the plate!!! And he has since then, too, and I found out he did care. A season of peace and love and knitted cuddliness to you. And plenty of lovely sleep.

  156. Besides all the major Christmas events I host or contribute to for family, church, friends, knitting groups, my husband and I did a large (50 people) holiday party at our house after Christmas fo 30 years in a row. It was a buffet dinner with 4 or 5 each appetizers, main dishes, sides, salads and desserts. We cooked everything ourselves (with a little help from Mr.Costco).
    I’ve been a major computer user at work and home for more than 30 years but whenever I plan something I do handwritten lists/spreadsheets/diagrams which I find much easier to set up, access and use and more versatile than a computer generated one. For THE party I kept a spiral bound note book with a hand draw day-by-day spread sheet of to do’s – menu, recipes, serving dishes, shopping lists. The day of the party had its own chronological list of to do’s.
    If you find that a computerized spread sheet works for you -great! But it’s only as good as the info you put into the database. And a database can be anything – the back of an envelope, scratch pad, hand made paper illustrated scrap book, MS Excel, etc.
    And one good thing about my spral bound notebook – when I ran out of pages at 30 years I decided that was a sign it was time to stop!
    But like old photo albums, it’s fun to get it out and turn the pages and reminisce about all the great times we had.

  157. For what it’s worth, I love smooth neatly folded cloth napkins to the point of obsession BUT I do not iron them. I wash them, dry them, then moisten them, stretch them, and spread them out flat on a moisture-proof surface (my kitchen counters) where they dry overnight. Think of it as blocking for napkins. It works and it’s MUCH MUCH faster than ironing.

  158. Funny, I never thought of myself as the keeper of Christmas, but I am and I have been ever since I was a little girl. While my Mom worked alot, I was the one who decorated, baked, knitted, crocheted, wrapped and filled the stockings for my younger brothers. (Stockings that I knitted, of course.) I loved doing it all. I still do. I’m a notebook person, but I would love to see a spread sheet for ideas. Wish I had started making gifts last January. This year, I will…But didn’t I say that last Christmas?

  159. I love Christmas and yes, I coordinate it for my family too. I have already made my master plan to fit in all of my knitting, baking, shopping and decorating. Except for the knitting, it all starts Dec 1st!!!

  160. I’m happy for you that you have realized that you *want* Christmas this way. I think it’s so different to be doing things because you have to, and doing things because they’re part of a goal you have. Even if you don’t like the task itself, knowing you’ve chosen it makes a difference.
    We’re fairly laid back, but I want Christmas to be special nonetheless. Over the past 10 years, the whole family has worked hard to integrate the “People Before Things’ philosophy into Christmas. It’s great – beacuse we focus on the special traditions and make the rest work.
    One year my nuclear family did entirely handmade Christmas. Everything. Every present, every stocking stuffer. I’m the mom, and the chief crafter, so that meant a huge amount of the work inspiring and implementing things fell on me. It was our best Christmas ever. That year, and ever since, the kids have focused more on the joy of seeing someone they love open their package than on what they are getting themselves.
    We still do a fair amount of handmade, even if not everything. It’s work, but it’s the kind of work worth doing.

  161. Quite honestly I dislike Christmas and resent both the time it takes and the money spent. No, I don’t use a spreadsheet; I don’t even know how. With 8 grandchildren I do shop with list and keep up with what has been bought for each child, which is a huge help. I still don’t like it.
    Bah. Humbug.

  162. Ever heard of FlyLady? She is a guru of time & project management. She created a Holiday Management Binder that may give you inspiration.
    My personal strategy Keep it simple and start early.
    We don’t do adult gifts usually. It goes to the 7 yr old niece. This year though, I feel I MUST do adult gifts. So, everything was bought in November online, including the wrapping paper. I started knitting a full sized blanket for niece’s Christmas back in July. Good thing too b/c I miscalculated the yarn needed and I’m just finishing the border. Still will get it done well before Christmas Eve! My goal is to get everything needed by Dec 1st. No last minute stuff.
    Dinner is simple. Prime Rib with steamed veggies and homemade bread. Snacks are candied walnuts. Desserts made all during the week in large batches as time allowed. We aren’t big on making lots of different food.
    I keep a list on Excel (spreadsheet) and check it off as I go. I tackle it early when possible and keep it as simple as possible.

  163. As someone that manages projects that cost hundreds of millions of dollars…I could not have said it better. Viva project management and Merry Christmas!

  164. Shop for baking supplies early.. That said, I went to three
    different stores last week looking for Crisco! To me that is particularly exhausting and disturbing a couple of weeks before Christmas. Even if you make your own cranberry sauce, buy a can or two for the treasury~someone will be looking for a can (yes, it could be you) on Dec 23rd or 24th.
    Take the time to computerize addresses so you can print address labels for your cards~personalize the inside.
    Deck the halls EARLY. It raises the morale should you feel a pinch somewhere. If you do, or if you don’t sit down now and then to take a load off and admire your and others handy work.
    Don’t bake rolls on Christmas morning. Yes, folks I did this. Oh yeah it’s handy to have a few vegetable dishes prepared ahead of time. (Nope I never had any).
    Delegate…others love to help. Take care of yourself. Be FIRST on your list. Because if you are down you can’t help or look after anyone else. And above all, don’t take it all too seriously ’cause
    Tis the Season…Enjoy! ( Simple, yes, but it took me dinny years to learn!

  165. My in-laws have always had the right idea. They have 2 sons (married with kids) and host Christmas Eve every year. They have never made a fuss about not having Christmas Day with everyone. Their decorations have decreased as they have gotten older, but it doesn’t matter to us. We have the same menu every year (chalupas), and we all contribute a part. We have dinner, go to a candlelight service at their church, come back to open gifts, have desserts and play games with the cousins. My kids love it! Every year the grandparents give the same gifts–a treasury bond and a book to each of the kids until their 18th birthday. They knew that our kids had plenty of toys. We bring them their favorite things–jigsaw and crossword puzzles, favorite food treats, and now hand-knitted socks. It is a very predictable, low-key, meaningful, fun time for all. Now that my kids are growing up, I’m thankful for their example in finding balance, being flexible and enjoying family.
    Thank you also for your blog, which I enjoy all year long!

  166. Unitarian Universalist here.
    Chalica. It’s about the deeds, not the gifts. Pretty great new tradition.
    Oh, we put up a Christmas tree, but we give each other consumables, by which I mean cheese and golf balls and liquor. We like it!

  167. Project management is great :-). Have you discovered yet? Much better than a spreasheet, and portable to boot.
    That said, I don’t see why buying ornaments should be on the yearly list :-). If your kids are teenagers, you might consider buying one new ornament every 5 years or so? Old ornaments are better..

  168. Loads of other people have mentioned the things that I do to get prepared (or at least try to get prepared…)
    I keep a ‘present log’ – what I’ve bought for closest family and friends since 2003. It’s made me realise that there are only so many things to buy as presents:
    – books,
    – CDs,
    – DVDs,
    – toiletries, make-up, perfume, etc,
    – edible things,
    – drinkable things,
    – homewares (horrible word, but includes useful gift options like photoframes),
    – gardening things (tools, bulbs, seeds, etc),
    – clothes and accessories, and
    – hobby-/sport-related things.
    There’s toys as well, of course – but I don’t have to buy for any kids yet.
    Having this list really helps to focus my mind and generate ideas. Seeing what I came up with in previous years also really helps. It’s also very useful because I often think something like “I can’t get Mum perfume, because I got her perfume recently”, because I can check, and it turns out that “recently” was five years ago, so it doesn’t matter.
    The present log is also a good place to write down gift ideas when I get them – if I get an idea in September, I won’t remember at Christmas unless I write it down. And it’s good for writing down sizes for clothes (for those folk that I can buy those for).
    One thing I realised a while back is that a lot of what appears in gift guides is (in my humble opinion) utter crap. I don’t like to buy presents that are poor quality or not useful, and so often the ‘pretty box that has a mug and some chocolates and a pair of fluffy socks’ is just pointless – just a get-out for when you really don’t know what to get somebody, but feel you have to get something (men seem to suffer from the gift section most). I just hate the idea of somebody spending money on a gift that the recipient doesn’t want, won’t use, and that’s going to end up in the charity/thrift shop/bin come January. For me, personally, a pointless gift is as bad – in some cases worse – than a gift that’s thoughtless. I’d rather have the money go to charity.
    Anyway, once I realised that most shops’ gift selections could be browsed online, it cut down on the time I had to spend actually shopping, as well as the Scrooge-like ire and urge to shout “But it’s all rubbish!” All hail online shopping…but check how long delivery will take.
    The other with Christmas activities is, if you aren’t enjoying it, then you should stop doing it. I usually make cards – but I’m not sure that I can be bothered this year. So why should I push myself to do something I won’t enjoy? Will the recipient enjoy it enough to make it worthwhile? That willpower should be saved for things that will actually make a difference (like washing the kitchen floor).

  169. I am the spouse of an Episcopal priest. We’ve always focused our Christmas activities around baking lots of cookies to give away and going to church twice so that we’re together. We have Chinese for Christmas Eve dinner and Middle Eastern on Christmas Day. We usually have brunch on Christmas morning. Presents are kept to a minimum.

  170. I think I am going to try the spreadsheet method for gifts this year. It has to beat my current method, which is unwrapping and rewrapping the presents under the tree because even though they’re labeled, I can’t remember what they are. And since we usually get a few silly gifts to go with the main present, I never remember if I’m done. So I have to unwrap and rewrap.

  171. In an effort to scale back the materialism that was creeping into our Christmas, the last few years the gift to my kids has been a largish gift to a charity and they each get the cards explaining the donation and we talk about the unfairness of poverty and disparity. I try to coordinate the charitable donation with something that relates to at least one of the kids. Last year it was a bicycle ambulance in Zambia, because one of my sons is becoming a paramedic/fire fighter. All the kids (5, plus 1 grandchild and 1 daughter-in-law and sometimes a girlfriend or two)get a small (usually knitted) gift – socks, mitts, hat or headband and the baking doesn’t get done unless someone is around to help with it. In order for me to be in the Christmas spirit, someone has to be rolling the scuffles with me! Last year it was my husband as all the kids were away from home. We’ve already talked about who’s rolling scuffles this year and so far there’s 3 of us! Yes!! We try to concentrate on the real reason for CHRISTmas and scale back on the materialism which has no power left by New Year’s anyway! Merry Christmas!

  172. LOL…I thought I was the only one! About a week ago, I created an Excel workbook lovingly entitled “Christmas.xlsx”. There is a tab for each of my close family members (husband and three sons, as well as my mom). In each tab, I have a list of items for that person. When I’ve ordered that item, I add a little “O” next to it and when I have it in my possession, it gets an “X”. I suppose I could add “W” when I’ve wrapped that item, but haven’t gotten that far yet. In the third column, I note the price I paid including shipping. I can add more tabs for more people, as needed. In case you can’t tell, I am actually a project manager by trade… 🙂

  173. Heh. I’m in school getting a master’s in computer science, and this quarter I’m taking a course in Systems Engineering… which is planning on steroids. Men get paid the big bucks to do this! My first thought of a project was Thanksgiving. (First question: how many guests?) Did you know there’s project engineering software for this?
    Who knew that you can get paid a lot of money being the “Mom”, I mean Systems Engineer, for any project and keeping all the details in hand? 😉
    Spreadsheets, paper, software, whatever it takes!

  174. You are so singing my song, sister. I stopped doing Christmas cards. I know people like them. I like getting them. They just don’t fit into my life. I clean the areas of the house that people will actually see when they come over for the holiday. I cook the food that everyone LOVES and skip the stuff that’s meh. I knit for people who appreciate knitting and buy for people who don’t. When the day comes, I try very hard to have as much fun as everyone that the moms like me throw the party for.

  175. My fiance and I live in different households with other friends, and my parents live nearby, so I am not yet the Keeper. However, next year will be our first married Christmas, and I find myself paying closer attention to the holiday prep this year–the better to handle next year! We won’t have a lot of money, so it’ll be small, but I really want it to be special.

  176. A thousand thanks to Karen at the top, mentioning the Christmas cards, because quite frankly, I had sort of forgotten about them. I know I saw them after I unpacked from the move….
    I always get a tree, but my son is out of high school and working, so we’re now doing birthdays instead. Jan, April, June, Aug & Dec – nicely spaced, so we get the good food and family time without the stress.

  177. Yep. That was me, always. Spreadsheet and all. I still have that. But the kids grew up, one married with inlaws, one far away. The husband ran off. The cold and darkness start to oppress, and Christmas lights don’t fix it any more. Instead of Christmas being my very favorite time, and making it happen my favorite activity, I long for December to be over so I can get back on track. Pity party, my daughter says.

  178. I use spreadsheets at work, for work. If Christmas required the use of one, I would simply not participate. Lists, with categories, ok, but no Excel to run it by. But I do have some more things to cast on that probably won’t happen.

  179. I am much newer to being the keeper of Christmas (my daughter is only 1.9), but my latest epiphany is to wrap the gifts as I get them. I note on my phone what I bought, and then I wrap and label it and hide it away (currently in the pram in the basement – don’t tell!). I love the spreadsheet notion, though-I think we’ll be headed that way in a year or two.

  180. I love spreadsheets! For the past three years I’ve made hand-knitted gifts for my closest friends (usually three people to keep it manageable – plus I tend to have tricycle friendships plus one slightly-more-distant friend, that’s just how my social life works) and I’ve been gradually refining how to get things done in time.
    Last year and the year before, I did spreadsheets tracking the amount of rows in each project and used them to calculate how many rows I had to do each day – but this meant I was spending a lot of time knitting projects with long rows and very little knitting small projects. So this year I made a spreadsheet to calculate the number of stitches in each project. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard; it maybe took me half an hour to whip up. I then used it to do calculations for how many stitches I need to do per day to get done (about 1000 or so; not bad!). It’s been incredibly useful, and the only skill you need is knowing how to do basic arithmetic functions in a spreadsheet.

  181. I keep coming back to this post because the photograph of your Samantha is so beautiful. It has this lovely timeless feel of on age gone by. And that colour is just fabulous on her.

  182. oops! i scrolled down too far and commented under the wrong post. please feel free to delete.

  183. There’s an app for that! I’m using My Christmas List on my iPad and iPhone. Trackes gifts and events.

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