What's the Christmas Countdown?
Christmas. The holidays. Chances are, those words send happy images straight to your heart!
Children's faces, breathless with wonder and delight. Shining lights on a beautifully trimmed Christmas tree.
Delicious scents of fresh cookies and hot cider. A bounty of gifts, wrapped and beribboned. The cheerful hubbub of family members gathered from far-flung homes.
Problem: Stress and the Holiday Season
To those happy images of Christmas, many add another: stress! For many people, the holiday season adds a whole new set of challenges and chores to already-busy lives.
Shopping for gifts. Wrapping gifts. Mailing gifts, and having a nice long chat with the other sore-footed folks in line at the Post Office.
Preparing holiday meals that require two extra ovens, three extra hands and every serving dish in the house. Baking enough cookies to provision the entire National Football League.
Bedding down houseguests in their choice of Little Mermaid or G.I. Joe sheets--no matching pillowcases--and setting the firstborn to guard the doors of jam-packed closets from curious visitors.
Do I Have To Think Christmas--All Year? Yuck!
Some propose a solution for Christmas organizing: plan, shop and bake for the holidays the year around! Christmas carols warble in the heat of July as these paragons of holiday planning pull a batch of sugar cookies from an immaculate oven.
Christmas Year-Rounders buy their gift-wrap in January and they remember where they stored it, come December. They craft tree ornaments in February, knit sweaters in July, and have their freezer stocked with goodies by October, at the latest!
Then there are the rest of us, who just can't get with this admirable plan.
We wince when Christmas gift-wrap hits store shelves in July. Each and every January, we promise to spread gift-buying over the year's 12 months, but each November, we open that special "gift drawer" to find a single jar of home-canned peach salsa, a pair of slightly melted handmade candles, and two freebie watches acquired with cereal box tops.
Are you one of us? Don't be ashamed! We love the holiday season, really we do. But for one reason or another, we simply can't find our holiday spirit outside the holiday season. We resist the Christmas Year-Round approach, recognizing that the preparation, as much as the celebration, is a component of a joyous holiday.
We just wish we had a little more time!
Answer: Simplify Your Holidays With A Christmas Plan
Be of good cheer! It is possible to get organized for the holiday season without thinking "Christmas" 365 days a year.
Our Christmas Countdown is based on many years' observation of the actual holiday preparations of thousands of families. By tracking the rhythm of the weeks before the holiday season, the Countdown provides a day-by-day road map to follow for an organized holiday.
In the six weeks between the last full week of October and the first Saturday in December, we will simplify the holidays into small weekly checklists. Week by week, we'll organize, decide, budget, buy, prepare and celebrate in a natural cycle designed to bring us to the height of the season in a calm, unforced way and without making holiday preparation a year-round preoccupation.
If you follow the Countdown, will this be the year you scoop your Christmas Year-Rounder neighbor for the newspaper's holiday decorating award? No, and your home won't be mistaken for Martha Stewart's, either.
Accepting life's limits--and reaching for a simpler, more meaningful celebration--is an essential element of the Christmas Countdown. We won't try to do it all, but to do what is valuable, what is meaningful, and what is central to our hearts, our families and our vision of the holiday.
We'll do less ... and enjoy it more.
How Do I Join The Countdown?
How do you join the Countdown? It's a simple as visiting this web site ... and it's free!
There are three main components to our six-week Christmas organizing plan: a free printable Christmas planner, week-by-week assignments, and daily Countdown messages.
Make a Christmas Planner
The first step is to designate a Christmas planner: a simple 3-ring notebook stocked with Christmas organizing forms, calendars and checklists.
During the first week of the Countdown, you'll print most of the Christmas organizing forms as you go, but many people prefer to get a head start. Visit the Printables page to create your Christmas planner.
Begin with the Countdown calendar. It outlines the themes for each week of the Countdown. Add printable monthly calendars to your notebook. They'll form the backbone of your family's holiday planning.
Follow Weekly Assignments
Next, become familiar with each week's forms and assignments. Learn more about how the Countdown's six weekly themes will help you organize holiday gift-buying, cleaning, cooking, holiday cards and decorating.
While many families prefer to follow the Countdown as designed, the week-by-week format allows for flexibility. Make the plan yours! Using the six-week Countdown framework as a guide, it's easy to stretch, shift or shorten the Countdown to meet the unique needs of your family.
Stay Motivated With Daily Reminder Messages
Each day during the Countdown, we'll post a daily message with assignments, essays, links, recipes, and craft ideas on the Countdown daily message index. You'll read an inspiring message to set the holiday mood, and find links to the day's assignments, printable forms, craft and recipe ideas.
Being reminded each day of assigned Countdown tasks, you'll stay motivated, so make it easy to follow the Countdown day-by-day.
Choose from these options to follow the Christmas Countdown through social networking:
- Bookmark the Countdown daily message index page to make it easy to follow each day's messages.
- Subscribe to the Christmas Countdown RSS feed by email
Six Weekly Themes Organize Christmas Planning
The Christmas Countdown is organized around six weekly themes. Each week, you'll tackle one aspect of holiday preparations, breaking down seasonal chores into small, do-able steps:
There's method to the sequence of the weekly themes. Take a good look at the first two: Get Organized and Reality Check. No sniffling sentimental sappiness here! These are good, upright, honest themes, designed to simplify your holidays, organize your planning, bring you face-to-face with some uncomfortable realities, and lay the calm hand of financial restraint upon your decision-making.
Because these themes fall early in the holiday season, there will be plenty of time for sentiment, provided you've laid the groundwork with some stern hard choices.
The middle themes cover the two largest tasks of the season: Gifts and Giving, and Get Cooking! These are workmanlike themes, designed to get you over the hump with gift selection and holiday cooking. Get Cooking! week is also designed to help you prepare for Thanksgiving Dinner during the following week.
The final themes reflect more abstract Christmas virtues: Decorate and Celebrate. They're intended to flow along with your planning and preparation, and bring you right up to the brink of the season, organized, prepared and ready to celebrate. Decorate! Week falls during the American Thanksgiving holiday, a time when many families begin holiday decorating.
No tasks are assigned under the Countdown after the first Saturday in December. By that time, the holiday season is about to enter full swing.
The Countdown is designed to bring you to this point organized and ready for the celebration.
After the holidays, we'll conclude with a debriefing on the first Monday in January. As we store decorations and ornaments, we'll track what worked, what didn't, and what changes we would like to consider for next year. If we've bought gift wrap or decorations at after-season sales, we'll record it.
The debriefing gives us an opportunity to wrap the season with a big red bow, and begin preparing for the next Christmas season with a clean slate and a good heart.
A Note From The Author
Welcome to the Christmas Countdown! I'm Cynthia Ewer, your author and guide.
As editor of Web site OrganizedHome.Com, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Organized Fast-Track and Cut the Clutter: A Simple Plan for a Clean and Organized Home, I've helped thousands of people find their way to better home and personal organization.
The Christmas Countdown is my special guide to simplify your holidays, cut holiday stress and get organized for the holiday season.
Over the years, I've come to learn the rhythm of the holiday season as lived by thousands of real families, families just like yours.
I know that many of us don't think seriously about holiday prepa\ration until the last full week in October. When we do, it's with a sense of panic. I know that most of us are searching for holiday craft ideas in November, even though the stores sold out of Christmas craft kits back in July. I know the pressure of the first week in December, when everyone, even the most die-hard procrastinator, must get serious about preparing for the holidays.
That's where the Christmas Countdown comes in. Each autumn, I've watched--and written--as our collective online thoughts turned to the holidays. Some of the Countdown essays have been published online in various forums since 1993.
The Countdown isn't a trim and tidy system devised for a picture book family by an "expert" who was born color-coding her spice rack. It's not a plan for Christmas perfection or lavish Christmas excess. You won't astonish your critical sister-in-law, win an award for "Most Decorated House" or appear on "Good Morning America" with clever gift-wrap ideas if you follow this guide.
Instead, the Countdown is designed to ground readers in reality. It aims to bring you, day by day, closer to a calm, rewarding holiday season that celebrates your family beliefs and values.
Join us! You'll be in good company--to get organized for the holiday season!
Christmas Countdown Bible Study
[This bible study was contributed by Organized Christmas community member, Heather. Enjoy!]
Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love all aspects of it; the decorations, gift giving, all the food and just the fact that people seam to be more cheerful and kinder to each other. However, a few years ago I felt so strangled by the hustle and bustle of the season, that I felt like I had totally missed the boat on the true meaning of the seasons. As a young, Christian mother, I didn't want my kids to grow up with a superficial view of the holidays. In my honest opinion, you cannot have Christmas, without Christ.
In my search to better prepare for the holidays, I stumbled across Organized Christmas. I fell in love with all planning and discussion groups. I am not an organized person by nature, though I try to/dream of being one. When time rolled around for me to host our women's bible study at church, I really wanted to share with them what I had been learning about preparing for the holidays. So I decided to incorporate the Christmas Countdown into a bible study.
I started of by taking the Christmas study from the bible. I chose Luke, chapter 2, because I feel it's the most complete story. I have a copy in my notebook. After this, I took CEO's Weekly Themes and rewrote theme with a spiritual twists.
GET ORGANIZED WEEK: Decide and pray about what you want Christmas to be like this year. Start your card and gift giving lists.
REALITY CHECK WEEK: Read the Story of the Birth of Christ in Luke, chapter 2. Fill out your Family Values Worksheet. Decide what really important enough to make this Christmas meaningful.
GIFTS AND GIVING WEEK: Try to think of ways you can give of yourself. Think of the needy and lonely who may just need a friend.
GET COOKING WEEK: Thank God that you have enough food to eat. Pray that God will give you the opportunity to minister to someone who is hungry
DECORATE WEEK: As we began to decorate our homes and take notice of all the pretty decorations the fill the stores and line the streets, take notice of your heart. Is it clean and beautifully decorated in order to celebrate the birth of Christ?
CELEBRATE WEEK: Turn your heart towards God and relax. You're organized and you're in control. Enjoy this wonderful season.