How to Plan a Simple and Organized Christmas

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By Renee Metzler

For Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, I want to both honor Jesus and create meaningful traditions with my family. With all the things to do—decorating, wrapping, and baking—it’s easy to get lost in the list and forget the meaning. So here is a seven-step guide with timeline on how to plan a simple and organized Christmas.

  1. Plan your Christmas Dinner (Now)

Make plans for your Christmas dinner now. If you are a guest, purchase or make a hostess gift such as a jar of jam, bottle of wine, or box of chocolates. Ask your hostess if you can bring a dish and jot this down on your calendar.
If you are planning to host a Christmas dinner, here’s what you should do now:

  1. Write down your guest list.
  2. Prepare and send invitations by Thanksgiving so people can plan ahead.
  3. Write down your menu plan and table favors.
  4. Call guests for RSVP (if they don’t) and write down head count. If guests offer to bring a dish, it is perfectly polite to decline, suggest one of the dishes from your planned menu, or request a small plate of cookies.

Here is a simple Christmas menu:

  • Roasted Rosemary Chicken or Smoked Ham
  • Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, and/or Candied Sweet Potatoes
  • Green Bean Casserole or Roasted Garlic Root Vegetables
  • Coleslaw or Winter Salad
  • Coffee and Homemade Apple Pie
  1. Make or Purchase Simple Gifts (Now – Thanksgiving)

You’ve heard the saying, “It’s the thought that counts.” In our day of materialism, this is so true. A well thought-out gift or homemade gift will be treasured more than an expensive quick buy. Here’s how to plan for simple gifts:

  1. Make a list of people you would like to gift this Christmas such as: spouse, children, extended family, friends, close neighbors, co-workers, and professionals. Don’t overwhelm yourself. If you need to shorten your list, just send a card to show your love.
  2. Set a reasonable budget. Think no credit cards! Homemade gifts or thoughtful, inexpensive gifts are special and remembered.
  3. Write down what you will make or buy for each person.
  4. Start making and buying now through the first week in December.

Here are just a few gift ideas:

  • homemade knitted scarves
  • homemade felt flower pins
  • homemade salted caramels, chocolates, or fudge
  • small fruit basket, candle, or soap
  • homemade card or picture card with small money gift
  1. Decorate for Christmas (Day after Thanksgiving – Week 1 of December)

I determined long ago that the alluring store sales won’t steal a very special family tradition—choosing the Christmas tree on the day after Thanksgiving. Since you already have your gifts selected, you can now decorate for Christmas from the day after Thanksgiving through the first week in December. Remember to turn on the Christmas music and make hot chocolate.
Start by picking out a fresh Christmas tree and setting it up. Cut greens and fill a crock on the porch. Buy or make a fresh green wreath and hang it up on your front door. Don’t forget the red bow. Through the next week, you and your family can hang white Christmas lights on the outdoor trees and pretty white “candles” in each window for a truly traditional Christmas look.
Christmas decorating check list:

  • Front door (wreath and bow)
  • Front windows (white candle lights and bows)
  • Front porch or stoop (crock with greens, white lights, bow)
  • Front yard (white lights in trees or shrubs with taste)
  • Christmas tree
  • Don’t forget greenery on the mantle, stairwell, and dining table.
  1. Send Christmas Cards (Week 2 of December)

Send Christmas cards the second week of December. First, choose the kind of card: homemade, photo, store bought, or the Christmas letter. Next, get busy making or purchasing the cards. Finally, add your love and mail. Also, if you have out-of-town gifts to send, now is the time to ship these as well.

  1. Bake Cookies, Clean, and Wrap (Week 3 of December)

During the third week of December, you can focus on your home. Turn on that Christmas music and get busy baking cookies or other treats. While you’re waiting for the timer to beep, wrap a gift. Finally, after the messy work of baking and wrapping is complete, go through your home and wave clean.

  1. Grocery Shop and Cook Christmas Dinner (Week 4 of December)

What’s left to do during week 4? Grocery shopping and cooking the Christmas Dinner! First, make a grocery list for your Christmas dinner recipes and shop early in the week. Try to shop local and organic. Recipes such as stuffing, candied sweet potatoes, green beans casserole, and coleslaw can be cooked 12 days in advance. Finally, on Christmas Eve, set the dining table, place Christmas gifts under the tree (while nibbling a cookie and sipping milk), and remember to put the meat in the oven at the appointed time. Oh, one last thing before you shuffle up to bed … charge the camera.

  1. Celebrate a Simple and Organized Christmas

Now, most likely, your children will act as your alarm clock this morning. At this point, you probably have your own traditions. This might include hot chocolate, the reading of Luke 1, and the opening of gifts. Also, to celebrate a simple and organized Christmas follow this morning timeline amidst the fun:

  • Christmas morning—put meat in oven, baste, and turn off when cooked
  • 60 minutes before dinner—start boiling the potatoes
  • 55 minutes before dinner—make the gravy
  • 30 minutes before dinner—mash potatoes
  • 25 minutes before dinner—heat up “make ahead” dishes
  • 5 minutes before dinner—set food on buffet, light candles, and turn on music
  • Greet guests and enjoy!

Free Printable Christmas Planner
The Free Printable Christmas Planner by Total Home Makeover can be printed and posted to your fridge to help you plan a simple and organized Christmas at
Renee Metzler is the “crash test” mom of home management, sharing what works and what doesn’t. Visit her blog at

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