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Blog: Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles
Are You Feeling Listless About the Holidays?

As I fought my better angels over whether those Post-Halloween Sale Reese's Peanut Butter Cups® would be better off living with me, I noticed that the Huge & Ubiquitous store (oh, you know which one it is!) was piping in Johnny Mathis singing Silver Bells.  I have nothing against Johnny Mathis. (Indeed, I've been known to warble Chances Are, to the dismay of neighborhood puppies.)  I have nothing against Silver Bells.  But it was only the day after Halloween! 

Sadly, there's little chance we can stem the tide of having ChristmaHannuKwanzaka* take over one-sixth of the year.  Perhaps we should be spend Thanksgiving thankful for Halloween, or else the festivities might start right after Labor Day, or goodness knows, Independence Day! 

Unless we're employed at Santa's workshop or live on the Island of Misfit Toys , as much we might love a great deal about the winter holidays, whether we observe one or many, it can be a period of great overwhelm. 

One might think that an earlier onset of commercialized holiday fever would prompt everyone to get their acts together sooner, but it's just not the case.  People become aware of this festive equivalent of a term paper earlier every year, but most people still aren't getting to the library until mid-terms (Thanksgiving) or even the week before exams (mid-December).  The holidays include a distinct kind of paralysis.  Indeed, after hearing reports of this malady from many of my professional organizing clients, I was prompted to write my ebook, Simplify the Season & Save Your Sanity, to help people conquer their troubles.

This early onset holidayophobia is often characterized by anxiety, distress and listlessness.  Well, Paper Doll can help you with that last one.  Yes, kids, it's time for lists!  The following categories should help you get started on brainstorming to get a jump start on the season.

The key to being organized in all areas of life is creating homes for everything so you know what you have. Then, you don't waste time searching for things you don't own or waste money purchasing what you already have (under all those piles).  Make sub-lists like these below to help you inventory what you have, so you can figure out what you need to buy.

  • Gifts lists of what you've already purchased during the year -- If you haven't already done so, gather them in a gift closet, drawer or opaque storage tub.  If you already know who the gift is for, wrap it now and stick a Post-It® or holiday label on it so you know to whom it will go.  As you shop, keep adding to this inventory list, and note any generic gifts you've purchased for when you're surprised by a gift-giver and need to reciprocate.
  • Card and gift recipient lists -- Start with last year's lists, if you have them, to help guide your plans this season.  If you keep shopping lists from year to year, you'll be less likely to duplicate purchases given to the same people, and you'll have a better handle on style and size preferences.
  • Wrapping essentials list:  paper, bows, gift bags -- Would you like to have a Green Christmas?  Recycle and reuse, or skip holiday wrapping altogether and opt for using the funny papers.  As you inventory, organize your resources in a tidy container.
  • Shipping list -- Make sure you have enough cardboard boxes for shipping care packages and gifts to loved ones afar or abroad.  Once you've finished your shipping list, keep one or two extra boxes, but then set the rest free.
  • Batteries list--Know what you have on hand so you only buy what you need.  AA and AAA are the most-commonly needed batteries, but stockpiling them for years on end does nobody any good.  And you can always consider rechargeables.
  • Spending Plan Seriously, this is something you have to have, whether you devise a standard budget or just list your expenses, it's the key to keeping January from making you feel like you downed some really bad eggnog.  Identify your regular expenses first, then anticipate holiday costs based on prior years, and brainstorm what activities or purchases can be limited or replaced.


Shopping lists should be divided by category, as they'll help you determine which stores or departments you need to visit.
  • Menus--No, you don't need to buy menus, but of you're hosting the Thanksgiving meal and other holiday festivities, planning your menu first will let you figure out what pantry ingredients and special items you'll need to buy.  It also helps you figure out how to delegate a menu option if someone asks "What can I bring?"
  • Groceries--Your regular shopping list items of a loaf of bread, a container of milk and a stick of butter may need to be expanded if you're having company during the holidays, even if you won't be hosting holiday meals.  Do find out if guests have strong preferences or dietary requirements
Parents of college-age kids:  make sure they haven't gone vegetarian or vegan since summer vacation. 

Children of senior citizens:  check with grandma and grandpa to make sure they aren't on doctor-prescribed diets.
  • Presents--In this economic climate, it's easy to feel like anything less than a fully-commercial holiday season will be Dolly Parton's Hard-Candy Christmas.  We'll talk about holiday gift-giving in a future post, but bear in mind that children remember that long-desired gift (e.g., Ralphie's Red Ryder BB gun, the dreamed-about dollhouse) much more than all the little extras.  Think quality, not quantity.  For everyone else on your list, if you don't know what to give them but feel you must give a gift rather than donate to charity, ask or get The Giftionary: An A To Z Reference Guide For Solving Your Gift-Giving Dilemmas - The Giftionarysome advice.  Not everyone wants a seventeenth vanilla-scented candle or yet another tie.  Fit the gift to the person; don't buy a gift in hopes you'll think of someone who might like it.  If you don't know someone well enough to know what they like, are you sure you want to buy them a gift in the first place?
  • Cards--Paper Doll urges you to skip a year of sending holiday cards to see how freeing it can be.  But if this is a holiday tradition you really love, consider shopping in holiday discount stores for unusual designs and better prices.  What about sending holiday postcards to save on postage? 
  • Stamps--Buy them early before the designs you prefer are sold out.
  • Wrapping Paper--As noted above, check your supplies before going forward.
  • Clothing/accessories for special events and specific weather conditions (for traveling to different climates or replacing worn or outgrown items).

  • Prepare the guest room for company (e.g., strip and launder bedding, remove clutter, make space in closets or drawers)
  • Make travel arrangements -- Shop sooner rather than later for flights, hotels, rental cars, travel packages, etc.  Keep notes (or digital bookmarks) on all the information you find.
  • Schedule flu shots (and, if you're in the right age category, pneumonia shots)
  • Arrange for auto maintenance before you go over the river and through the woods
  • Packing lists for travel (which may include sub-lists for special-event clothing shopping, dry cleaning, transferring big liquids to TSA-approved Lilliputian carry-on-acceptable containers)

Please feel free to write to Paper Doll and comment about your own favorite holiday lists.

One last note: Frequent Paper Doll readers know how I feel about loose papers, or floozies.  Get yourself a legal pad, clipboard or 3-ring binder to keep track of these lists.  With legal pads or loose leaf sheets on clipboards, use tape flags to separate your different categories of lists.  For a three ring binder, take advantage of index dividers so you can archive your holiday notebooks in January.

Don't be listless.  Once begun, a job's half done, and getting a head start on your holiday lists will give you a superb sense of control.

*Please note, Paper Doll does not use this as a term of derision for any faith observances.  It's merely a pop cultural reference that implies more merriment and irony than using the generic "The Holidays" to cover all major observances.  Please take it in the holidayesque spirit in which it was offered and don't make a fuss.  You wouldn't want me to tattle to the man in the red suit, now, would you? 

posted on: 11/11/2008 10:30:00 AM by Julie Bestry
category: Paper

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Paper Doll, Tackling The Stacks And Piles

by Julie Bestry

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Julie Bestry, President of Best Results Organizing in Chattanooga, TN, is a Certified Professional Organizer®, speaker and author. Julie helps overwhelmed individuals and businesses save time and money, reduce stress and increase productivity through new organizational skills and systems.

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