26 Tips for Holiday Efficiency

How to have a happy, relaxing Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

Only in America would we make two holy holidays into the most exhausting events of the year. We try to keep up all of our normal activities and academic studies and then add another twenty hours per week to our schedules for the extras. There was never a season that more cried out for efficiency than an American November-December.

Here are some tips that will ease your workload during this “Bus-bus-busiest time of year.”


  1. Use your computer for Christmas greetings this year—email newsletters to friends and family.
  2. If you prefer to mail cards, print address labels with your computer. Teach your children to place stamps and return address labels on the envelopes.


  1. Decide with your husband what your gift-giving budget will be and then stick to it.
  2. To save money and draw the children into gift-giving, make homemade mixes, jams, or breads for gifts. Do these as far in advance as possible.
  3. Give a coupon committing to pray daily for the recipient for the next year.
  4. Give an experience gift: a show, a park, or a picnic.
  5. Pay attention to your friends’ favorites and use these as gifts. My friend Irene loves butter brickle ice cream with caramel and chocolate sauce; an invitation to an ice cream social for two would be the perfect gift for her.
  6. Wrap gifts as soon as possible after you purchase them. Use them as decorations, placing them in small groups throughout the house—they give the whole house a festive air and you won’t have to store them after Christmas.


  1. Instead of hosting meals through the holidays, offer an appetizer or dessert buffet when you want to get together with several friends or families at once. Better yet, let each guest bring along a plate to share.
  2. Plan what table decorations and place settings you want to use for each holiday event. Polish the silver, wash the glassware, clean the candlesticks—whatever needs to be done so you can avoid the last minute rush when you’re busy with food preparation.
  3. If you plan to use cloth tablecloths and napkins, iron them well in advance and hang them over a padded hangar in your closet. To make a padded tablecloth hanger, roll a hand towel over the straight part of the hangar, securing it with safety pins..
  4. If you will have houseguests, do any deep cleaning in November. You can do the bathrooms and vacuuming the day before they arrive.
  5. Plan meals for houseguests.1 Spread your shopping over a few weeks to ease the budget.
  6. Purchase extra bathroom tissue, paper towels, and facial tissues. You will go through these paper products quickly.
  7. Consider buying a large container of liquid hand soap; fill your hand soap dispensers before guests arrive.
  8. Plan when the perishables such as produce, bread, and milk will be purchased and by whom.


  1. If you decorate several rooms for Christmas, place items you’re removing together in a bin. Replacing everything after Christmas will be a snap.
  2. After Christmas, pack up the decorations in bins according to which room they will be used in. Next year you can just pull out one room’s décor at a time to avoid the stress and mess of doing it all at once.


  1. Decide early in November what goodies to prepare this year.  Go for a nice balance of sweet and salty, rich and light.
  2. Research ways to make your favorite recipes healthier. Try a new recipe or two.
  3. Make a shopping list for ingredients you don’t keep on hand; buy a few items each week or as they go on sale. Don’t forget specialty items like mini-cupcake holders for candies.
  4. If you do lots of baking at one time, buy yourself extra baking sheets, mixing cups, and beaters for your mixer. You will use them for the rest of your life.
  5. Plan your baking day carefully, especially if you plan to bake several batches in a row. Decide which recipes work well together from a preparation point of view. Perhaps they all have several ingredients in common. Or maybe they can all be baked at the same oven temperature.  Assemble ingredients and utensils for each recipe
  6. Bake the bar cookies first since they go together fast. While they’re baking, mix up the next batch.
  7. Mix dough for round cookies and chill; roll them into balls for baking while you’re quizzing the kids’ spelling words or math facts or watching a Christmas movie, or let your children help.2


  1. Set aside time every day to remember why we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas. Make sure that, whatever activities you choose during this season, you direct your thoughts toward the God who became Man—Immanuel, God with us.

1 See Homemade Convenience Foods at www.marciawashburn.com for easy, tasty recipes that are on the table in 15 minutes or less.
2 Write to Marcia at marcia@marciawashburn.com for a free copy of her favorite cookie recipes.

© 2013, 2018 by Marcia K. Washburn. Marcia and her husband homeschooled their five sons for nineteen years. Visit www.marciawashburn.com to sign up for her monthly newsletter and to check out Managing the Holidays. See her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MarciaKWashburn.

Marcia Washburn

Marcia K. Washburn homeschooled five sons for nineteen years and lived to tell about it. Request your free copy of her Mommy Tips: Strategies for Survival from marcia@marciawashburn.com. Visit her website at MarciaWashburn.com.

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