Ann's Amazing Holiday Planner

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Total Time weekend projects Ages all-ages

How to get organized for the busiest season? My friend Ann gave me the answer--a customized Holiday Planner, neatly divided by topic, with pockets for stashing various memorabilia. It organizes the entire season into one three-ring binder. It provides a place to write down all your lists in one place. It gives lots of slots, right next to those lists, to tuck in recipes torn from magazines, gift ideas from catalogs, and so on. It also acts as a record keeper from year to year (so you know who you sent cards to last year, and who you didn't). And finally, it gives you a place to archive your family's holiday memories. In fact, each fall when I pull out the binder, I leaf through all the old entries first, a trip through Christmases past that fills me with holiday spirit.

Let me show you how Ann made my planner. One stop at an office supply store with $20 in hand, and you can have one too.

What you'll need

  • Three-ring binder (Ann chose festive green)
  • Divider tabs, marked with the name of each section
  • 8 1/2- by 11-inch paper, filled out, as shown on the following pages, for each section, then photocopied (for years to come) and punched with three holes
  • Plastic pockets, zippered or sealed for closing (to hold recipes, cards, and so on)
  • Pens and stamps for decorating

How to make it

  1. December Countdown


    I find the month of December as complex as a military operation. This calendar lets me plot out exactly how I am going to get all the prep completed in 24 days. To make one template that works every year, lay out an unnumbered calendar with 35 boxes. Then you can write in 1 to 31 on a photocopy. Or just use our printable blank calendar. Note: This is a .PDF file. You will need Acrobat Reader (free download) to view and print the document.

  2. Holiday Gift List


    This is my most worked-over section, as I sweat out what to give everyone. Tuck a colored poly binder pocket labeled "Gift Ideas and Lists" at the end of the section--that's where you can stuff all your family Christmas lists, pages from catalogs, and instructions for homemade gifts. After Christmas, a "Gifts We Received" section will remind you to send thank-you notes. Need a printable version of the gift list? Note: This is a .PDF file. You will need Acrobat Reader (free download) to view and print the document.

  3. Holiday Card List


    Used to be, my least favorite part of the holiday was always searching for last year's Christmas card list. No more! With this new format, I just cross out or add names each year. I never have to rewrite the whole darn list--I just count how many people we need cards for. Add a zippered plastic pouch and label it "Cards We've Sent." Need a printable version of a blank card list? Note: This is a .PDF file. You will need Acrobat Reader (free download) to view and print the document.

  4. Holiday Memories


    The most valuable section, hands-down. Try to create categories that make sense for your family. Some that work for us are Christmas Eve: What We Did/What We Ate/Who Came to Visit; Christmas Day: What We Did/Who Came to Visit/Where We Went; Our Favorite Memory; The Funniest Thing That Happened; Our Favorite Traditions This Year; and New Traditions We Tried. Add another plastic pouch labeled "Holiday Keepsakes" for any memorabilia you want to hold on to. Use our blank Holiday Memories page for your planner. Note: This is a .PDF file. You will need Acrobat Reader (free download) to view and print the document

  5. Step 5 - Ann's Amazing Holiday Planner

    Crafts & Decorations


    My kids churn out holiday art projects as if they're getting paid by the pound. This section keeps directions organized and is a nice reminder of efforts past. Be sure to include a pouch for ideas, clippings, instructions, and so on. Use our blank Crafts & Decorations page for your planner. Note: This is a .PDF file. You will need Acrobat Reader (free download) to view and print the document.

  6. Holiday Recipes, Menus, & Party Plans


    I was fascinated as a kid by a diary my mother kept that recorded her dinner-party and holiday guests and menus. This is now my version, albeit a less elegant one. Use our blank Holiday Recipes, Menus & Party Plans page for your planner. Note: This is a .PDF file. You will need Acrobat Reader (free download) to view and print the document.

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