Don't look now, but stores are already trotting out their holiday goods, even though it seems like the winter festivities are still months away. Before you stock up on holiday wares--or even start planning for the celebrations ahead--take some time to do a bit of pre-holiday organizing. The three ideas below will get you started.
Look back, look forward
In the thick of the holiday season, it can be challenging to make clear-headed decisions about the activities and rituals you enjoy and those you could happily do without. These next few weeks, before things really get going, are the perfect time to do some thinking about ways of celebrating that are meaningful to you--and those that aren't. Take a few minutes to look back at past years and make a list of what went well during the holidays, what didn't, and what you'd change if you could.
For example, perhaps you love the tradition of having a large Thanksgiving dinner with close friends, would skip any and all work-related holiday celebrations if you could, and generally enjoy your family's Christmas rituals, though you wish they involved less gift giving. Knowing all of these things will help you prioritize when it comes time to plan your celebrations this year, which in turn can help reduce the stress of the season.
Take inventory before you buy
It's often tempting to pick up new holiday tableware, decorations, and gadgets when you see them in stores, especially if they're on sale. But buying new stuff without knowing what you already have--or whether you'd really have a use for that menorah-bedecked tablecloth--can be a recipe for wasted money and frustrating clutter.
This year, make a deal with yourself to take inventory of the holiday supplies you have before buying anything new. This might involve unearthing the boxes of stuff that got socked away in the attic or retrieving the gadgets that made their way to the back of your highest kitchen cabinets at the end of last year. Of course, this is also a perfect time to weed out unused stuff if you're so inclined, but the main idea is to get a sense of what you have and can use before you bring anything else into the house.
Be sure to think creatively, too: for example, why not use the plain orange tablecloth you already own to decorate your Thanksgiving table, rather than having to buy a turkey-themed cloth you'll only use once a year? Making stuff do double (or triple) duty can help you save space, money, and time.
Spread out your organizing tasks
The desire to get your house, your family, and yourself in top organizational shape before the holidays arrive is a common one, and it's true that being organized can help make busy times less stressful. But it's important to take a realistic look at what the months ahead hold for you and to schedule your organizing tasks accordingly.
For example, if you're hosting Thanksgiving this year and will be responsible not only for cooking most of the meal but for entertaining out-of-town guests, it may not be feasible to organize your house from top to bottom before the end of November without running yourself ragged. However, you can definitely aim to get the kitchen under control so it's less cluttered, easier to cook in, and generally more pleasant. Likewise, if you'll be doing a lot of travelling over the coming months, it might make sense to focus on organizing how you process mail and pay bills so that you don't run the risk of late fees or overwhelming piles of mail while you're away; doing a full-scale sort-and-purge in each room of the house can wait until your schedule returns to normal.
Whatever organizing tasks you choose, make sure they ultimately help you focus on what really matters over the course of the holidays, rather than becoming the focus of the next few months.
Use the next few weeks to savor the last bits of fall and to do some simple organizing. That way, when the season really heats up you'll be ready, and can head into it with as little stress and as much enjoyment as possible.