How to Stress Less this Holiday Season

by Susanne Thiebe – professional Organiser

Susanne Thiebe has been operating her professional organising business LessMess since 2006, offering expert advise in decluttering and organising your home as well as running sustainable living workshops. Susanne is also a founding member of The Institute of Professional Organisers (IOPO)  everyone in our team follows their organising code of conduct. Follow this article by Susanne to find out the best tips for a stress free Christmas!

For more information about LessMess go to or if you are looking for an Organising Professional in your area go to

Organised = Less Stress

Do you have the feeling that Christmas comes earlier every year? And I mean not before the 25th, but earlier in the shops? I think so too, but take it as a sign to get started on an organised, stress free Christmas this year.

The trick is in the planning part – but pretty much everybody knows that. My background is German, and we celebrate Christmas Eve rather than Christmas day. So we have to be ready 12 hours earlier. Why not aim for that so you can have a relaxing night on the 24th and a good night’s sleep.

I love it because we are done and dusted when the neighbours are still busy putting the roast in the oven.

Some Top Tips

1. Don’t aim too high with presents. Take a good look at what you think are your Christmas obligations. Approach people about it. They might be happy to arrange a less expensive way to show your appreciation towards each other. Most people have enough stuff and are happy with small gestures.

2. Don’t have a set amount to spend on each person. Yes, have a budget and a maximum amount, but a lot of people, especially when it comes to kids try to spend a certain amount. Kids don’t mind- little kids don’t even realise. One of the most loved Christmas presents I bought for my little one was a plastic toy wheelbarrow. It was reduced to $8, he loved it, played with it for years and that was his present from his parents for Christmas.

Christmas Gifts

3. Another one is – useful things. Especially when it comes to filling stockings and just make it look good under the Christmas tree. My kids get schoolbags, new lunchboxes, socks, pyjamas, boogie boards… the only thing they didn’t like was school hats.

And because I am Professional Organiser – lists are the way we work. So here it is……...

The LessMess Christmas Countdown Checklist


    Gift giving

    • Draw up a gift list of people for whom you need to buy presents
    • Start writing down present ideas
    • Start buying presents
    • Post overseas presents and cards

    Entertainment and food

    • Bake biscuits and puddings that need to rest

    Gift giving

    • Do your online shopping


    • Make plans for overnight guests


    • Take stock of your decorations
    • Start decorating – with children, do small bits every day

    Entertainment and food

    • Decide on activities and events. Theme it by colour even if you don’t make that official. It makes decision making and shopping much easier
    • Invite guests to Christmas activities & events
    • Order food (ham, pork, turkey)
    • Make Christmas cake, pudding biscuits
    • Eat through your freezer
    • Continue buying presents
    • Check supply of wrapping paper, cards, ribbons
    • Consider the idea of a ‘release note’
    • Check your gift drawer/cupboard for generic ‘just in case ‘gifts. Take this an opportunity to wrap up everything you didn’t gift over the year.


    • Take last year’s received Christmas cards to produce your list for this year – then throw last year’s out
    • Purchase Christmas Cards (unless you have enough to last you a lifetime)
    • Purchase Christmas stamps
    • Check Christmas decoration & lights – buy new ones if necessary

    Entertainment and food

    • Clean your freezer
    • Clean your fridge and oven
    • Plan Christmas food menu. Plan something you can prepare as far ahead as possible or at least parts of it  – even better something that freezes well
    • Decide who brings what (entree, dessert,alcohol and soft drinks) ask for help!!!
    • Write up additional items list (bon bons, serviettes, glasses, chairs, table deco…)
    • Buy non perishable food and drinks
    • Prepare  whatever possible: chop onions, cheese, herbs,… and freeze

    Gift giving

    • Continue purchasing presents
    • Make notes of what you bought for whom and where you hid it
      (my mum always forgot at least one present – I actually loved it; getting just one more the next day!!)
    • Wrap presents
    • Check list for outstanding presents
    • Check whether any toys require batteries & if necessary buy them now


    • Post Christmas cards
    • Put up Christmas tree.

    Entertainment and food

    • Draw up timetable for Christmas lunch. From when to start defrosting the turkey to serving coffee & mints.
    • Remind friends and family about their contributions


    • Check camera/video for batteries and recharge if necessary
  • 2 DAYS TO GO

    Entertainment and food

    • Buy perishable food
    • Prepare what’s possible

    Gift giving

    • Wrap remaining presents


    • Create a “yes you can help bowl”: write all the leftover tasks on little cards, place in a bowl and when people ask:”can I help” make them take one and action the task!

    Enjoy Christmas 

Christmas decorations

Howards would like to thanks Susanne for sharing her tips to create a stress free Christmas.

Have a great holiday and a stress free Christmas from all of us here at Howards!

Article published November 2017. Updated February 2021.