It is always easier to organize as you go rather than to try to find time to reflect and rely on your memory later. The holidays are a perfect example. If you don’t have them already, create some checklists and make notes so that future holidays are less stressful.
If you do holiday baking, make a list (it could be in the Notes app on your phone or on the computer so that you can easily print it out) of what worked and also note what didn’t. If you made English Toffee, which is notoriously difficult, take careful notes about the process and how it turned out. If a cookie recipe was too salty or your peppermint bark was too thick, make notes of what to watch for and adapt next year.
Keep a checklist of when to buy cards, write cards and mail them, and update your list of recipients. Cards are so much more pleasurable to write and send if you don’t have to wrestle with your address list every time. Having cards returned due to old or incomplete addresses is a big bummer, so update your addresses immediately when cards do come back and call, e-mail or text anyone you need updates from right away so that it doesn’t happen again next year.
Checklists for decorating are handy too. Why not let your memory off the hook and let a list tell you that it’s time to buy the tree, get out lights, hire a tree lighter, etc. If you bought your tree too early and it was brown by Christmas, make a note of it. If you found that your Hanukkah candles were broken or melted together when you got out the menorah, make a note to buy new candles by a certain date for next year’s checklist.
Gifts definitely deserve lists. I so regret it if I don’t make a list of what I’ve given each person on my list because it makes me unsure of whether or not I should buy my sisters yet another candle or Jo Malone body lotion. It’s one thing if you have a tradition of giving a lotion every year; it’s another if it just seems like a thoughtless gift.
A list of what you receive is handy too. Such a list is essential for ‘thank you’ notes, of course, but also can offer ideas for the next year, for example, if someone gave you an unexpected gift and you’d like to reciprocate next season, or if Aunt Marjorie gave you something unique that was such a fun idea that you’d like to purchase and gift to others but that you need to remember not to gift to Aunt Marjorie.
The Gifts Received List is also important in case you decide to re-gift anything so that the gifter doesn’t get wind of it.
You may want lists for parties you host, for getting the guest room ready, for local activities that happen annually, and for gift-wrapping supplies and other holiday related categories. It never hurts to have a list; be sure to date them and give dates to additions and changes. A list will snap the season into focus; you won’t feel like you are starting from zero but instead have the valuable experience of past years to guide you.