82 Days to Christmas! Declutter Before You Decorate

Thinking about seasonal decor? Get ready!

The decoration tide sweeps in with October's falling leaves, breaks against Halloween's goblins, and is streaming full-force by Thanksgiving's turkeys and pilgrims. Come Christmas, the average home is drowning in tinsel.

Do your visual field a favor: declutter tables, counters, mantels, shelves and the entire surface of your refrigerator before you decorate your home for Autumn holidays.

Using a sturdy box, corral all knick-knacks, photos, decorative items and mismatched socks, and stow the box in a dark closet. Don't even bother to sort your stuff--you'll do that when you return the items after the New Year.

Clear surfaces make a house look clean--and your decorations will shine in solitary splendor when they don't have to compete with ashtrays in the shape of armadillos!

83 Days to Christmas! Get Ready for Catalog and Online Shopping

They're heerrree ... online bargains and holiday catalogs!

Planning for Christmas, shopping from home has many advantages over the holiday mall scene. No long lines. No sore feet. No staggering to the car, weighed down by parcels and shopping bags. Shopping becomes a pleasure, conducted from a favorite chair. Phone in your selections, sit back, and wait for the UPS man. Ahhhhh!

Still, it's possible to have too much of a good thing! The catalog tide sweeps in at the end of August, engulfing mailboxes and tabletops with untidy stacks and piles--and disorganized catalog shopping exacts a high price for convenience.

How to shop smart and save? Try these three tips to organize catalog shopping:

Three Tips for Smart Catalog Shopping

To track catalog and Internet purchases, add an order tracker page to your Christmas planner:

Catalog/Internet Order Tracker

84 Days to Christmas! Start a Seasonal Shopping List

Warning: holiday inventories ahead! Do you know where your shopping list is?

A seasonal shopping list is the closest thing to a personal shopper, so start a seasonal shopping list today. Use it to corral all the little "gotta-buy" items that will cross your path in the weeks ahead.

You’ll subdivide the list according to your own needs, including everything from a running grocery shopping list to reminders for gift wrap, seasonal or crafts supplies. Color-coding entries can make it easier to focus on crafts or food or clothing sections; do what works for you!

Tucked into the Christmas planner, the shopping list is a faithful friend. Use it to capture fleeting “must-buy” moments and spare your brain.

Did you find a UFO crafts project that needs only a bit of ribbon to complete? Write “ribbon – green plaid” on the list. Will the children’s school hold a holiday food drive? Note “extra cranberry sauce” under the grocery section.

Second step: check the list before you leave the house—or take it with you. It’ll jog your memory and help you make good use of small bits of time. Waiting for a child to finish a tutorial session? Make a quick turn into the crafts store down the street for that self-same ribbon, and cross the project off the UFO list.

Get organized for the holiday season ... with a seasonal shopping list!

Print a Seasonal Shopping List

85 Days to Christmas! Begin Halloween Planning

The calendar turns: October's here and it's time! Begin planning Halloween costumes and seasonal celebrations now.

Plan Halloween Costumes

If family members (young or young-at-heart) will dress in costume for Halloween, harvest festivals or book character parties, it's time to put on the thinking caps.

Decide on Halloween costumes early to be sure you can complete sewing jobs or find just the right accessories in good time for the celebration.

Prepare for Seasonal Celebrations

Grab the family calendar, and note any upcoming events or celebrations.

Whether it's preparing treats for classroom parties, volunteering for a neighborhood festival, or organizing family fun like "BOO-ing" the neighbors, note commitments now. Add needed materials to a shopping list, and get organized ... for October fun!

Start the Halloween BOO in Your Neighborhood

86 Days to Christmas! Smart Scheduling Tips

Thinking about the holidays from a few weeks away, there’s a luxurious feeling of “plenty of time”, but as December draws near, the season’s pace quickens exponentially. Where did the time go?

Take major action against the seasonal time crunch with a pre-season scheduling session. The goal: to arrange for all those little appointments that slip the mind so easily.

Will you need to schedule carpet cleaning, dog grooming, furnace maintenance? Review the coming months and call now to arrange needed services.

Note the appointments on the family calendar, sit back and relax!

Calendar Power: Smart Scheduling for Stress-Free Holidays

87 Days to Christmas! Get Ready for Houseguests

Will your family host houseguests during the holidays this year?

Overnight visitors can be a lot of fun--but hosting houseguests can also be stressful. Will you have sheets, blankets, towels or bedspace to welcome visitors?

Check with family, friends and calendars now to prepare for holiday overnighters. With plenty of time to prepare, your family will be warm and gracious hosts.

Assemble A Pamper Basket

To get a reputation as the "hostess with the mostest", assemble a pamper basket for houseguests--a courtesy doubly appreciated in this day of air travel restrictions.

Throughout the year, collect sample sizes of toiletries and personal care supplies. Clearance sales and dollar stores are a great source for bath puffs and loofahs, scented soaps and bath oil, toothbrushes and travel kits. Returning from a trip? Unopened travel bottles of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel find a good home in the pamper basket.

Stored in a basket, box or drawer in the guest room, the "pamper basket" supplies houseguests with any personal care item they may have forgotten or been forced to relinquish at security checkpoints.

An organized-home bonus: check the pamper basket whenever the household suddenly runs out of toothpaste or hand lotion. The travel-sized version will tide you over until shopping day!

88 Days to Christmas! Plan Holiday Travel

First step to getting organized for Christmas with a holiday calendar? Decide where your family will spend the holiday season.

Will you visit family for Thanksgiving or take a Christmas holiday? Make travel plans now!

Booking airplane flights, hotels and rental cars early helps keep costs down, while advance planning ensures that you'll have your choice of seat assignments, routes and carriers.

Plan early for the smoothest trip--and try these tips to keep the “happy” in holiday travel:

Tips For Holiday Season Travel