It’s just about now that I start to feel the festive anxiety rise. I’ve never been particularly organised with gift purchasing and sending - I’m always the one in the Post Office queue sending things off to relatives far and wide on the 22nd December. And don’t get me started on the mess in the house after all the toys have been unwrapped! Urgh!So, instead of getting in a flap about it, I asked Sharné from The Productive Lifestyle to give me some help in the form of a joint blog. She’s the queen of this, you see. And I know she’ll give me some really amazing ideas so I can stop the faffing and enjoy being the boss of my own Christmas future!

Hi, My name is Sharné (Shar-nay), a Professional Organiser from The Productive Lifestyle Company. I'm a Sevenoaks based sassy South African #ladyboss, married to my best friend and most favourite travel buddy. Even at an early age, I was naturally organised. Every item in my room had its place. Ask my little sister, who soon found out that she couldn’t borrow anything without me knowing - or even ask my husband today, who says I have blind-proofed our home. I have dabbled in Wedding Planning,  Hospitality, and Systems Analysis, where I was able to use my organising skills. But now I am immersing myself into the world of Professional Decluttering and Organising.At the time of you reading this it is just over two weeks before Christmas, so I have tried to keep some of my tips short, straight to the point and have immediate action. Please take note that these are merely suggestions that you can implement in your home to help you get organised around this festive period. Trust your gut and trust that you know your home and how it functions better than anyone else. You do an amazing job of running your own household.

Don’t wait for the New Year, start decluttering now…

Now I am not saying that you need to declutter your whole house before New Year, but this is the perfect opportunity for you to focus on three areas of your home: Clothes, Toys & Freezer.

Yup, this is an amazing opportunity to dig out the clothes out of all your wardrobes in your home and evaluate what has been worn, what was not worn for the last year, what needs to be discarded, mended, donated, etc…

By implementing the suggestions in the Clothes and Toy sections, you are able to make space and also define what essentials may need to come back into those spaces.

Clothes

This is not an easy aspect to tackle, as clothes usually represent an outer layer of our personality. However, this is usually the one aspect of our home that we lose track of the most. A lot of it centers around sentimentality (This belonged to my mother and I just cannot get rid of it), wishful-thinking (Someday I will fit into those pair of jeans), and not “treating” our clothes correctly (I need to take those trousers to the dry cleaner to get taken up). Now, you don’t have to do all the wardrobes in one day. I would suggest you tackle the wardrobes over a number of days. (So if there are 4 wardrobes/chest of draws in your home, then you choose 4 days to do them). I would recommend you set aside a decent amount of time to complete this task, but if you can't, then section your wardrobe into smaller sections so that you can do these shorter increments.

How to Declutter your wardrobe:

  1. Prep for Decluttering (bin bags, make your bed, laundry basket, damp clothes and hoover).
  2. Start with wardrobes. One wardrobe or section at a time. Use a flat surface or bed to create categories. Either pre-sort or put it all on one pile first and then sort.
  3. Clean the wardrobe. Don't forget to dust the hangers and rail.
  4. Ask yourself: Do you love it, do you wear it, why are you struggling to make up your mind?
  5. Hold each item up. Button it up, straighten it up, put it on the right hanger, take off metal hangers, try it on.
  6. Put back in what you want and try to categorisation to the best of your ability.
  7. What you no longer want: charity, ragging, selling, stuff for other people, mending and dry cleaning, return borrowed items to friends. Bag up and make sure not to overfill.
  8. Get it out to the charity shop the next day or even better, the same day.
  9. Repeat the process in your drawers and other wardrobes.

Toys

You do not need your children for this process. You probably have a very good idea already which toys you shouldn’t get rid of. * See my Top Tip below. 

Have you ever looked at an untidy kitchen and felt completely overwhelmed? Well, large volumes of toys can be overwhelming to a small child and this time of year we tend to give them even more. So now is the time to do a big declutter of the toy box. I would highly recommend donating to a charity first but check your local school if they need educational toys as well.

 Toy Rotation 

Essential rotating toys every 3 or 6 months. Now I know there is a lot of Pro’s & Con’s surrounding this subject but it can be effective in this situation for the parent. Now if you don’t want to get rid of the items for any reason, have a sustainability mindset or have an excessive amount of toys then this process of “out-of-sight-out-of-mind” could work for you if you have sufficient storage to do this and if you have the personality or lifestyle to implement this or otherwise these toys bags are collecting dust in the loft. It does take some discipline to implement this kind of routine in your home.

* Top tip: Declutter the Toys while your kids are at school, a playdate or just out of the house. Believe me when I say that EVERY toy starts becoming their favourite when this process starts.

Freezer

STOP! Take a moment… Check your freezer NOW!!! Then make a list of the items in your freezer.

Don’t know what it is… CHUCK IT!!! There is no point in wasting your time in defrosting that item and figuring out what it is. If you cannot recall what it is then it wasn’t that vital from the beginning and it is most likely been there for a while. This will also remind you to label and date items before they go into the freezer and prevent food wastage.

Now you can plan out meals. Get #MealPrepSorted for the next couple of days running up to Christmas and now you have storage space for all your Christmas Food.

Stock Rotation - when it comes to leftovers or new food items coming into your freezer, remember to date and place the “fresher” items to the back or bottom and have “older” items nearer to the front of the freezer’s lid or door. This way, food wastage doesn’t occur and you have a better grasp on how long items have been on your freezer.

Keep on top of the Mess/Chaos

Just a few points to maybe think about before and after the BIG day…

Be specific when it comes to presents

  1. Ask your children what they want. See if they can be as specific as possible.
  2. Set realistic expectations for your children, partner and family members.
  3. Quality over Quantity.
  4. Rethink stocking fillers - their favourite snack / an experience (tickets to a show, etc…) / their favourite chocolate / see if there is anything small or nicky-nacky from the list that your children provided in point 1.
  5. Set a deadline for Santa Letters - the earlier the better, as Santa has so much work and needs some advance warning and anything requested after that date, gets added to their birthday list.
  6. Plan out your events and place them on a calendar that is visible for the whole family to see

Remember to try to plan out some events between that week of Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve

Craft days? Playdates? Check your local paper, newsletter or Community Facebook Page/Group to see if there are any events close-by. If you are going to do a craft day, get your supplies now.

Gift Wrapping

  1. Check your supplies before running out to buy more.
  2. Look for sustainable options - invest in a material Santa Sack, unwaxed brown paper, twine, reusable ribbon, gift bags and tissue paper. Avoid tags and sticker labels.
  3. Let your children create gift wrapping with unwaxed brown paper or newspaper.

Setting up Christmas Gifts before Christmas Morning or Eve - Just Hear Me Out..

  1. Now evaluate the gifts that you have already purchased and see which ones you think will take the longest to set up once they have been opened. Now, instead of recreating the annual opening up of Christmas present scene, you running around looking for batteries, screwdrivers, gift wrap everywhere, you cursing under your breath, etc… let us create a scene where you can sit back, enjoy a cup of tea and watch your children enjoy this moment of diving straight into the toys that have been set up already.
  2. Do wrap up some presents - this also cuts down of the gift wrapping expense and time.
  3. This also helps with distracting children immediately if you need to duck off into the kitchen to start the prep work.
  4. Make sure you have that tiny screwdriver and a variety of batteries, not just AAA or AA.

Clear out your Medicine cabinet and stock up

  1. Check your prescriptions and reorder them now.

Be strategic in your delivery options

  1. During this period, couriers are overworked and can be slightly off the mark so unless you trust your regular courier mate or have a neighbour you trust then I would recommend click & collect. You can select the date for delivery at your convenience and hopefully do a one-stop collect when you dash into town.

Test your smoke alarm

Keep yourself cool while you cook

Wear something that is going to keep you fresh while you cook and also allows a food splash to happen.

Defrost your Turkey on time, check the cooking time and make sure it fits into the oven

Test your Christmas lights before they go onto the tree

Use Foil Baking Trays

  1. Less to wash up
  2. They are Recyclable once you have emptied them and rinsed them out.
  3. Don’t worry, you will be forgiven for using these trays just once a year. Trust me, your family and friends will not judge you on serving dishes. They are far more focused on the food and how much they can fit on their plate.

Before you pack the Christmas Decor away, make an inventory list.

  1. This will help you for the following year so that you can avoid dashing out and purchasing duplicates, unnecessary decorations, etc… you can also take photos and create an album in your phone gallery so that you have a reference.
  2. Fix items before you pack them away or make a note to purchase them next year or in the Christmas Sales if unfixable.
  3. Keep your lights wrapped around a piece of Cardboard - it prevents tangles.

Food Shopping 

Don’t leave it until the last minute to start thinking about food. Many shops will get low on fresh items really quickly, so try to start thinking about 

Stockpile

  1. Pick up bargains when you see them in the shops and set aside a space in your house to store them e.g. utility room, wardrobe, cupboard under the stairs. But keep a list of what you’ve got so you don’t overbuy later.
  2. Buy and freeze fresh items where possible e.g. smoked salmon, prawns etc.
  3. Make as much ahead as you can and freeze it. Again, keep a list though!

Book a food delivery slot

  1. It’s too late for the last minute slots now, but remember for next year that they release them in October.
  2. Be mindful of the fact that many items may be out of stock, so make sure you have a back up plan or plan b!
  3. Consider your social calendar before booking the slot. One year we have our Christmas food delivery right in the middle of a house party… not fun! 
  4. Often the minimum spend is £90 to initially book the Christmas deliveries, so use three bottles of champagne to reserve the slot at speed. But do remember to take the champagne off later! 
  5. Keep a Christmas list saved in your online shopping account - it will make subsequent years sooooo much easier!

Share out the jobs

  1. Make sure you ask for help or offer help. There’s no need to be a martyr to Christmas food when there are loads of hands on deck! 
  2. Make a list of bits people can contribute and include a recipe so that they know exactly how you want it to turn out.

Lists! 

  1. Get busy making lists. This year I am using spreadsheets and the Notes app on my smartphone. It’s fairly easy to make them collaborative so I’m sharing various lists with people involved. It may make me unpopular, but them’s the breaks! 
  2. Start with a list of general meals that need to be thought about and start bulking out the details from there. 
  3. The big Christmas meal will probably need to have its own list. Turkey, gravy, spuds, sprouts, red cabbage, parsnips, pigs in blankets, stuffing, bread sauce, cranberry sauce and Christmas pudding - that’s a lot in one meal! 

Food Prep

This is really simple. I’ve been talking to lots of food bloggers this year for my top tips and there’s one common theme - do the food prep ahead of time!

Make ahead for the big meal

  1. Stock for the gravy
  2. Cranberry sauce
  3. Bread sauce
  4. Stuffing
  5. Red cabbage

The Peel team

  1. Ask everyone to bring their peelers and get peeling on the morning.
  2. Make it really fun by creating a competition between teams.
  3. Play some fun music.

Defrost 

  1. Don’t forget to defrost premade  items in time. The safest way to defrost is in the bottom of the fridge for 24 hours.
  2. Set reminders on your phone.

Laying the Table

A beautiful table is very memorable and really helps to elevate the event to the next level, but as a busy parent, there are lots of other aspects to prioritise! Here are some ways to make it more manageable:

Delegate

  1. Designate someone you trust to plan the table or
  2. Order all the bits and instruct someone to lay the table

Ideas

  1. Napkins
  2. Candles
  3. Crackers or a sustainable alternative - we may try making fortune cookies this year
  4. Festive table runner

Avoid overcrowding

  1. Place all the serving platters on the sides on the kitchen or on a side table so that the dining table is clearer
  2. Serve the children in a separate sitting. I normally shout a lot about everyone eating together, but if there simply isn’t enough space, serve their meal separately and embrace it by giving them more child oriented decorations or crackers and making it an incredible occasion for them to remember.

Serving platters and bowls

  1. Have a think about where all your favourite platters and bowls are, get them out and give them a wash before the big day.
  2. Beg, borrow, steal or replace if needs be. My local charity shop is brimming with serving bowls of all shapes and sizes!

Here's my blog about why laying the table makes a big difference.

Happy Vibes

A big old Christmas dinner has very high stakes. Family tensions can mount. Unsettled or fussy children can create stress between the adults. This is all a recipe for an uptight host. Or a very drunk one? So fight the anxiety with brilliantly happy vibes. Fake it until you make it. Here’s how:

Fresh air

  1. Walk the dog, get down the beach, go on a treasure hunt, make sandcastles on the beach. Fresh air and exercise will always generate better moods.

Music

  1. Make a few playlists - if you have a Spotify account there are so many on there
  2. Ask musical friends or family to bring instruments.
  3. We have a family tradition of singing the Twelve Days of Christmas as a singalong. People are allocated one of the days to stand up and sing in turn and everyone sings ‘Five Gold Rings’ and ‘A Partridge in a Pear Tree’. It makes for a lot of silly singing!

Games

  1. Play games in between meals and always get competitive people to help the kids!
  2. We have a family tradition of doing a Christmas pass the parcel with forfeits inside - always spectacularly funny.

Entertainment bag

  1. If you’re eating out, take a bag of colouring books and pencils, top trumps and sticker books with you.

Movie

  1. Depending on the age of your children, you may want to implement a tactical Christmas movie in the afternoon to help them chill out a bit.

Fussy Eating

Don’t let fussy eating spoil your Christmas!

Let it go

  1. Provide a wide variety of meals and include safe foods within.
  2. Don’t bribe or pester - this will make fussy eating worse in the long run and will spoil the happy vibes.
  3. Relax about the sweets and chocolate so long as you know you’re offering plenty of fruit and veg too.

Trust

  1. Trust your child’s appetite cues. If they say they’re full, trust that they are telling you how they feel.

Healthy snacks

  1. When snacks are needed, don’t resort to sweets and treats, that will only make the mood worse half an hour later. Try to offer healthy, savoury bits.

Separate sittings

  1. I would never ever normally suggest this, but as mentioned above you may struggle to fit everybody around the table, so serve the children a separate meal that’s super special and a real winner so they fill up their tummies and keep the mood up. I’m suggesting cheesy pasta for lunch and the Christmas Dinner for tea.

Keep calm for the Grandparents

  1. There may be tensions with the grandparents or other adults about how your children behave around the table. Prepare yourself and if you have a partner there, try to discuss your strategy beforehand so you don’t get blindsided.

Here are all my blogs about fussy eating if you want to find out more.

Leftovers & Buffets

Tupperware Tetrus in the fridge really does feel like a festive activity! And it’s so easy to forget what you’ve got in the fridge when you’re busy churning out meal after meal. Here’s how to be smarter about it!

Spread

  1. I don’t know if you have a name for it, but a ‘spread’ is a table full of lunchy bits e.g. breads, cheese, pickles, meats, pate, salads that people can help themselves buffet-style.
  2. Plan a spread several times during the Christmas period so you can finish up all the ingredients - they likely will do three meals or so.
  3. Use leftovers from Christmas dinner in a spread the following day.
  4. I use the ‘empty the fridge’ strategy. I simply open the fridge and start unloading everything until I’ve got it all. Then I’ll decide which things can go straight onto the table and which things need some cooking, decanting or general jazzing up.

Incidental batch cooking

  1. Always make double batches when you’re cooking. And if you don’t have a pan big enough - put it on your Christmas list right now!
  2. Even if you don’t eat the leftovers now, these are meals you can eat in January when you’re tired and skint!

Washing Up

We have an unspoken rule that the cook should never be doing the washing up!

Be prepared

  1. Get a new bottle of washing up liquid, sponges and scrubbing brushes.
  2. Stock up on rubber gloves for any delicate hands.
  3. Get all your clean tea towels at the ready.

Tidy as you go

  1. You’ll be able to see the work surfaces better if you tidy as you go.
  2. Wash up intermittently whilst cooking a big feast like a roast.
  3. Don’t dump things into the sink unless you intend to wash them up immediately - it makes the sink unusable.
  4. Stack dirty pans up near the sink to make more space.
  5. Soak on the side, not in the sink.
  6. Dry up and put things away intermittently to make washing up easier.

Reset 

  1. Make sure the dishwasher is empty before hosting a big meal.
  2. Take the bins out when they’re 75% full instead of waiting until they’re overflowing!
  3. Reset the kitchen before embarking on the next big meal.

MAKE IT FUN!

  1. Play some energetic music - my brother and I love to wash up to Jet by Wings
  2. Silly hats or gloves - comedy is the antidote to grumpy
  3. Team effort - encourage everyone to get involved.

Go forth and festify!

Wowzers! Now that's a lot of organisation for one year, thank you very much. Go forth with mirth in your heart and lists in your back pocket, for this Christmas is bound be the best yet! Don't forget to sign up for the Feed the Brood newsletter if you haven't already - it's the pink box here on this page.

Sharné created a checklist for the above mentioned which you can download if you sign up to her monthly newsletter, The Organised Edit which she'll be giving you a sneak peek into her world of organised chaos, her journey to becoming a Professional Declutterer & Organising Consultant, behind the scenes of her business and share tips & tricks that might tickle your fancy. You can also follow her on Instagram @theproductivelifestyle.co