Planning Christmas

An Organisers Guide by Marika Vrieling

Planning for a relaxing festive season

Christmas can be an overwhelming time of year, what with the pressures of more social events, more spending and more indulging generally. Thinking about what type of Christmas you want to have now, and planning to make that happen, is a good start to dealing with the overwhelm of Christmas planning.

Set a budget that doesn’t make you cringe

Christmas planning and spending can cause a lot of stress if you haven’t decided on a budget that you can stick to that still allows you to do everything you want. If Christmas is a family affair for you, work out if you’re splitting up the catering and how you plan to buy presents. Will it be gifts for everyone, a Secret Santa approach or just for the kids? Being clear about this beforehand may stop arguments down the track!

Christmas List


If you’re not the kind of person who has bought all their Christmas presents by October (I’m not!), there is still plenty of time to get your gift shopping done without stressing out. I reckon that Christmas should be about giving, not giving up, so start with a plan.

Christmas Gifts
  • Firstly, who do you need to buy for? Having a list allows you to get all those random thoughts out of your head and onto paper and gives you the satisfaction of ticking them off once you have bought their gift.

  • Add the amount you have decided to spend next to each person’s name. You may find that you spend a little more for some people and a little less for others, and that’s okay, your goal is to avoid the shock when the post-Christmas credit card statement arrives.

  • Suss out what’s on everyone’s Christmas list. If you can pair the joy of giving with what your friends and family need and want, you’re onto a winner. Gift cards are a totally acceptable present and can also allow people to save up towards a bigger item they have their eye on. I have a friend who gets money paid off his HECS debt each Christmas as he says it makes him happier than any other gift right now. Write your thoughts against each person’s name so you know where to start.

  • Don’t forget to add wrapping supplies to your list unless you have leftovers from last year.

  • Put a star against the ones you need give before Christmas Day – these could be gifts for teachers or colleagues, or friends you are catching up with throughout December. Don’t forget anyone whose gift need to be sent via the post. These are the gifts to focus on first.

  • Do some research online. It’s a great place to start if you’re stuck for ideas and you can do all your shopping online if you have left enough time for items to be delivered. You can also take advantage of Click and Collect options with lots of shops which can cut down on delivery delays. Look out for gift wrapping options as well.

  • Plan your shopping days. Decide if you want to do it all at once or split your trips to the shops into several visits. Add the shops you need to visit against the gifts on your list, so you can save time while you’re there. Do a double check against your list before you leave – it’s frustrating when you get home to realise you forgot to buy sticky tape.

  • Get wrapping. I prefer to do all my wrapping in one sitting, but you may prefer to do it as you buy each gift. Either way, make the process easier by getting all the bits and pieces together before you start – paper, scissors, ribbon, tape, name tags.

Food shopping

  • Like gifts, preparing for food shopping starts with a list. Once you have decided what you will be serving, organise your shopping list into items that need to be ordered early, items that can be purchased ahead of time and fresh items to be purchased the day before.

  • Order your ham, turkey, seafood or other items early. I had a friend who got stuck with an 8kg turkey for a family of five because he forgot to order ahead. It did make for some interesting leftovers, however.

  • If you can, add non-perishable items to your regular grocery shopping trips leading up to Christmas. This will spread any extra spending across several weeks and make sure you don’t miss out on specific items. It can be hard to get hold of some specialty items if you leave it until the last minute.

  • Purchase just your fresh fruit and vegetables the day before. Having a small list of items to pick up means you can get in and out of the shops on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Or skip the shops all together and get your groceries delivered!

After Christmas

There are a few things you can do after Christmas to set yourself up for next year.

  • Pack your Christmas decorations away properly. It can be tempting to throw everything in a box in the post-Christmas slump, but you will regret it next year when it takes three hours to untangle the Christmas tree lights.

  • Pick up bargain wrapping, cards and other items in the sales if you have space to store them.

  • Set up a separate bank account and put aside a little each month to go towards Christmas.

Making and sticking to a plan for Christmas, can help us remember that the purpose of the festive season is to enjoy being with the special people in our lives.

Marika Vrieling is the Founder and Chief Organiser at Space To Be, a Canberra based decluttering and organising service. Marika is passionate about helping people reclaim space in their homes so they have room for new adventures and experiences. She also works with local charity partners to find new homes for her clients’ pre-loved homewares and furniture.

Marika is also a member of  Institute of Professional Organisers (IOPO)