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For a Stress-Free Holiday the Calendar is Your Best Friend

holiday home décor on a Christmas Tree

We are definitely in the midst of the holiday season. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year are all on our radar. If you want to have a stress-free holiday, now is the time to start planning.

Thanksgiving is marketed before Halloween. Christmas ads are already in full swing. New Year’s Eve champagne party ads collide with Christmas carols. And Kwanza and Hanukkah wedge ads in between, over, and under the big 3 – Turkey Day, Santa Clause, and the dropping of the crystal ball on New Year. The overlapping of holiday marketing can be very stressful. We want it all.

List All Activities and Events

Now is the time to decide what you really want your holiday season to look like and how you want to feel during this time. Know what is important to you and what is important to anyone else living in your home. Make a list of all activities and events that support your collective vison.

Most people are pretty good about putting events on their calendar, but most do not schedule time for tasks that make the holiday special to them.

My Thanksgiving this year is all over the place. One of my husband’s sons is visiting the week before Thanksgiving. We will be gone for the actual day with his other son, and I will host my son by making his favorite Thanksgiving meal on December 4 – when he can also help me put up my Christmas tree.

Backwards Planning

To make it a stress-free holiday and fun for me instead of frantic I do backward planning. I list all projects that I want to accomplish this season that align with my vision of the perfect stress-free holiday. Then I go back and list all the tasks that need to be done for my vision to come true. Then I break down the tasks into small parts and put them on my calendar.  I work the tasks around what is already on my calendar and non-negotiable. This year I am not giving a party, so the calendar is not as full as previous years. But I love to get holiday cards so that means sending out cards. I like to cook but rarely bake. But, during the holiday season I enjoy fixing everyone’s favorite cookies and pies. It is one way that I show my love. I don’t decorate much for other holidays but for Christmas, well that is a different story.

I am sharing my calendar so you can get an idea of what I mean.



Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday











































Locate Holiday cards and print out addresses





Work on cards

(address/ notes)







Buy special stamps

Mail Hanukkah cards





Leave for trip to family for


















Thanksgiving Dinner









Return from trip









Pull down Christmas decorations

Buy turkey and other fixings for at home Thanksgiving



Work on cards

Put out Advent wreath

Find cookie recipes, list ingredients


Find holiday CDs

Work on cards
















Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday







Mail cards










Buy tree and other greenery

Shop for cookie & pie ingredients





Bake pumpkin pie


Put up door decorations


Mail gifts


Prepare Thanksgiving


Put up tree and lights on outside tree




Bake cookies

Put up other greenery


 Decorate tree





Decorate by rooms during this week





















Make food package gifts- shop last minute gifts


Bake cookies























Shop stocking stuffers


Bake cookies




















Make pies- take one to friend





Make fudge and food for Christmas eve




Christmas Eve Program Prep food for tomorrow


Cook meal

Family Christmas here





























New Year’s Soup dinner at home



These calendars show when I intend to do the tasks so that I can get it all done in small bites and still have time to relax and enjoy my decorations. In actuality these tasks will be entered on my main calendar where all my day-to-day obligations are located. I realize that life happens and that some of these tasks will need to be rescheduled, delegated, or even dropped.

Now it is your turn. Make a list of what events and traditions really make the holidays special for you and then plug into your calendar when you can do the tasks to make that vision come true for you.

Happy Holidays!

If planning for the holidays seems overwhelming or you find yourself stuck and unable to move forward on any other organizing project, join Diane Quintana and me in our Clear Space for You virtual support group.

Jonda S. Beattie, Professional Organizer owner of Time Space Organization, and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize. She is based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, author of four books as well as a retired special education teacher she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients.




  • Seana+Turner says:

    All of these tips are great, and I agree that scheduling holiday tasks into your calendar is critical. In a way, the holidays are sort of a part-time job, right? One thing I learned right away from this post is that I’ve gotta get some purple candles for my advent wreath!!

  • Backwards planning — I call it reverse engineering, but same thing. When is the event or due date? What all needs to happen prior to that, and when? I really don’t know how anyone gets anything done on time without a calendar!

  • The holidays are supposed to be joyous but can often be stressful and overwhelming. I love how you discovered a way that works well for you- planning and working backward. Last year was so strange because everything was different because of the pandemic. This year it will be different again, yet with more in-person gatherings than the previous year. The first holiday I’m looking forward to is Thanksgiving. We love to host, so we’ll be doing that this year, but with fewer people. Half of the family is staying closer to home (in Maryland.) But the other half (or at least some of the other half) will be joining us. I can’t wait to cook and bake, have the kids home for a bit, and have time with my siblings, nieces, and nephew.

    For the rest of the holiday season, it’s going to be fairly quiet. We don’t have any big plans, and that’s OK with me. I enjoy the feeling of the holiday season, even if we aren’t making a huge deal about it.

  • Great tips! Planning is so important before the holiday activities. This past weekend, I even decided on Thanksgiving and informed the invitees’ suggestions on what they could bring. I created a Holiday binder that includes a tab for all the family activities in it. I had a pocket folder to hold all the recipes for different events and other essential checklists. It works pretty well. And, I can see what I did last year as a reminder. =)

  • Julie+Bestry says:

    Wow, I’m exhausted just reading that. Of COURSE it would be impossible to tackle all of the things you want to do without getting it all down on the calendar. I’m a singleton and Jewish, from a small family where I’m the youngest. That means I don’t decorate, I only have a couple of presents to buy (and my sister and I often skip the presents and just get one another bigger birthday gifts a few months later), and the whole season is sometimes over by the end of Thanksgiving weekend! While mail, parties, decorations, cooking, and entertaining are all fabulous for those who enjoy (and who celebrate/observe all of these holidays), I love that all I have to do (at least in a non-pandemic year) is set the table for Thanksgiving and help wash the dishes, and spend about 10 minutes on Amazon. The rest of my time is spent watching sappy holidays on Lifetime TV, and there’s already a calendar for that. 😉

    Happy holidays, and those cookies and that fudge sound pretty yummy to me!

  • Julie Stobbe says:

    I am glad you shared your calendar to show how to plan backwards. It is a great skill to learn. I wrote on scheduling this week too. It is really important to be flexible. You might schedule a time to get the decorations up and you need to have to flexibility to do it the best you can at the time and then be done and enjoy it. You might get some cards sent and emails to other people. Adjusting and adapting during the holiday season helps to make it less stressful and more enjoyable.

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