Christmas is less than 8 weeks away and now is the perfect time to get a leg up on the holiday madness that is just peaking around the corner. The first Christmas that we had with my first child was memorable for two reasons. We had a beautiful new baby to share this marvelous holiday with and I almost had a nervous breakdown. (Okay not quite a breakdown but pretty close!) I had always been a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type of gal when it came to the holidays. I could go into detail but I am sure you all know what I mean, desperate last minute shopping, haphazard decorating if any and I am positive that most people received their Christmas cards on the same day that they were taking down their trees.
Being an organization freak, this was completely out of character for me but for some reason, I couldn't help it around the holidays. Add a new baby to the equation and the pressure of being responsible for creating Christmas memories for my growing family and I had stressed myself out beyond belief! After that Christmas, I vowed not to have that happen again so, the next year I set myself on a easy to follow timeline that has worked wonderfully for me ever since.
The first step I like to take is to start working on my Christmas card list during the first week of November. I know what you are saying, "we just finished with Halloween" but since we all know how the days fly by during this busy fall season, putting aside a few moments for this activity during this time will ensure you don't miss the boat!
Gather your Addresses
Set aside about an hour this week and seat yourself down with a pad of paper and a pen/pencil or your computer. I usually keep all my addresses on my computer (makes it easier to print out address labels and such) but I also have a back up hard copy of all important address in the household phone book. This may sound redundant but since I have had the pleasure of having a computer crash with all my information going down the drain, I realized how important it is to save a printed hard copy somewhere else as well.
Make a List and Check It Twice
Make a list of all the people that you want to send a holiday card to. This might seem like a very simple task but sometimes we tend to focus on individuals that are dear to us but that we don't have much contact with or live far away. Even if you see family members on a daily/weekly basis or live down the street from your friend and their family, this should not be the time to leave them out of receiving heartfelt holiday wishes from yourself or your family. My mother lives about 5 minutes around the corner from me and visits my children on almost a daily basis but I am not fooling with you when I tell you that as soon as she receives our annual Christmas card, she calls squealing about how happy she was when she opened our envelope.
Also, never underestimate how little it takes to offend or hurt someone's feelings who feels they have been slighted by being left off your list. When you feel like your list is done, give yourself a few minutes away and then double check it again, just to make sure you haven't left anyone out.
When you have made your list of people to send cards to, confirm their addresses with what you have on hand and if you are missing any, use your list again to jot down notes about how you will go about getting the missing addresses. Start with addresses you can get from your parents, a relative or a friend. Don't forget the resources available to you like the your local phone book or an online 411 site. They might not supply all the information you are looking for (like the zip or postal code) but any missing information you can find on your national postal service site (Canada Post or The United States Postal Service).
Choose Your Card
Hopefully you have already made the decision of what kind of card you are going with but if you haven't, now is the time to do so. During the couple of days it might take you to finish rounding up your addresses, take a look in your local shops or cruise the web to find the perfect card. There is a great selection of beautiful cards out there but I just love the personalized family photo cards. There are pros and cons to both. Standard greeting cards can be picked up anywhere, making them readily available but they require you to write some sort of note inside of them (a simple Happy Holidays will work just as well as a more elaborate greeting, the only thing that limits you is your creativity here). If you choose to go with a personalized photo card(with a pre-printed greeting) from a website, you need to consider the extra time it will take to create these cards and have them shipped to you. Also, a personalized photo card will require, you guessed it, a photo so you need to have a picture on hand to submit to the company that will be making your cards.
Finalize and Set Aside
Now that you have decided on your card, filled them out appropriately if needed and collected all your addresses, the only steps left are to address your envelopes, place the appropriate postage in the top right hand corner and they are ready to go.
Even if you complete all the steps by the first week of November which is what we are aiming for here, try not to send your cards out too early. The whole point of this is to have yourself ready to go at the appropriate time, not to have your friends and family get your Christmas card before they celebrate Thanksgiving. I usually choose the last week of November to send out cards to anyone in Canada and the United States and as early as mid-November for any cards going overseas.
Since no plan is fool-proof, keep a few cards in a safe place, just in case. I keep a stash of extra cards in a greeting card organizer that come in handy in the off chance that someone is overlooked but during the last years that I have been following my "holiday schedule", it hasn't happened to me once.
What do you find helps you get a head start on the holidays?
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