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Start preparing for the holidays

The whirlwind holiday season is approaching, and the pressure to get started with preparations begins earlier each year. Here are some things you can do now to lessen the inevitable stress.

Address lists. Because we don’t send as much mail as we once did, many of us scramble to find an address when we need it. Take time to assemble your addresses in one document. Make sure they are current and think about whom to add or remove from the list. This will give you a reliable count of how many cards and stamps you’ll need. It will also make printing labels or addressing envelopes a breeze.

Photographs. If you plan to use a family photo for your holiday cards, schedule a day for a family member or friend to take a few pictures. If you’re considering using a professional photographer, contact him or her now to set up a sitting. When you have a date for the family photo, take some time to make sure everyone has something presentable to wear. In addition to using your family picture for cards, framed photos make a great gift.

Out with the old. If you have children, now is the time to determine which toys they’ve outgrown. Clear out those items to make space for incoming gifts. Likewise, if you expect to upgrade any electronic gadgets, now is a good time to start thinking about where you can donate or recycle the old ones.

Know what you’ve got. Before you rush out and make a bunch of impulse purchases, take an accounting of what you have. Get out your decorations and make sure your lights work. Find the holiday wrapping paper and determine whether you need four more rolls or 10. Start to think about serving pieces. What were you in need of last year that you didn’t have? Did you buy two dozen candles that you never used?

Host/hostess gifts. Invitations to holiday parties will start arriving in the next few weeks. As you’re stocking up on basics, consider buying a few gifts for party hosts. Having a few small gifts on hand, like wine or gift cards, will also mean you’re ready for the impromptu party at the neighbor’s house.

Save time to volunteer. As your calendar begins to fill up, be sure to set aside time to do something for others. The holidays come and go quickly, and oftentimes we wish we had done more to help someone in need. Setting a firm date for volunteering will enforce the true meaning of the holidays for you and your family and bring some important perspective amid the chaos.

Take time for yourself. Be sure to schedule time for yourself. Get enough sleep and eat well. Taking care of yourself will give you the energy to entertain and enjoy your family and friends. Make time to see a friend for coffee, get a haircut or just read a book. If you don’t make this a priority, no one will.

There are countless tasks that need attention to create a fun, happy and memorable holiday season. Spending a few hours planning now will not only allow you to weather the holidays, it will also mean that you can enjoy the whirlwind.

– Nicole Anzia, Washington Post