How to get ready for Christmas: 20 things to do for an organized holiday season

Get ready for Christmas now – and enjoy a stress-free festive season later

Prepare for Christmas by wrapping presents in pretty boxes
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

In years past, we tended to get ready for Christmas from mid-December (yes, we know for some that makes us a bit last minute). In the past, we've tended to feel the Christmas dread – all that prepping and planning, all that hosting and shopping, all that eating

Want a stress-free Christmas? The time to prepare for Christmas is well ahead of time in November. Of course, some may choose to adopt a relaxed approach to Christmas preparations and simply decorate the tree on Christmas Eve and put the turkey in the oven on Christmas Day. But if you have a large family coming over, it's worth putting a bit more planning into it to avoid a stressful time come Christmas. 

So, no more panic-buying and overpaying for Christmas gifts or eco-friendly gifts, and no more wondering how you defrost a turkey at 5 am in time for Christmas Day dinner. Instead, allow yourself an easy and peaceful holiday by preparing for Christmas early.

Where to start with getting ready for Christmas

Getting ready for Christmas is all about getting your home organized. Home Organization Expert and co-founder of NorthStar Moving Company Laura McHolm recommends rethinking your home completely in order to 'conquer the holidays': 'Get it moving, bending and slimming down. Envision your home as a place where you are proud to invite guests. It’s all about bringing your home back to pre-COVID shape, but with new and improved features.'

(Image credit: Getty)

1. Declutter

One word: decluttering. This essential first step on your Christmas preparation list will easily make the most difference because it will make all the other steps simpler. And, with less clutter, your Christmas decorations shine far brighter.

McHolm advises assessing each room in your home in the first instance as you prepare for Christmas, so that you can 'determine how they will be used for holiday entertaining. Each room should provide a distinct function for you and your holiday guests. Perhaps the home office will be the wrapping station or coat room? Move your work to a quiet corner in your bedroom?'

It's also worth thinking through 'all the activities you and your guests will do each day of the holidays. How will each space perform at its best? Give yourself ample time to re-configure each room. Set aside one weekend per room to transform it into its new holiday identity.'

When you've created this mental plan of your festive home, get decluttering. Investing in good storage will make this process much more efficient, and the result will be well worth it. As Laura says, 'a clean and balanced home is the ideal stage for holiday decor, serving festive meals and simply having more bodies in your home. It will also alleviate, just a bit, the holiday stress.'

red wrapping paper for christmas by john lewis

Red wrapping paper by John Lewis

(Image credit: John Lewis)

2. Start shopping for gifts now

Black Friday shopping bags

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

November is not at all early to start shopping for Christmas gifts. Black Friday and the November sales around it present a great opportunity to get your shopping done a) at a discount and b) early. So, start popping buys into your basket, ready to press 'pay now' today or over the weekend. Like to buy local? Lots of local stores are finding inventive ways to have their own sales now, so help them out if you can.

3. Get your diary organized

Because otherwise there inevitably will be a mix-up – who arrives when and what time dinner is, and who is getting there later, and so on. And, if you’ve got children – especially children with birthdays in the run-up to Christmas – now’s the time to double-check their school’s website for all the crazy virtual or IRL Christmas events that may or may not be happening.

4. Revisit your Christmas budget

If you're halfway through your Christmas gift or even food shopping list, take another look at what you have left to get and how much of your budget is still there. Make any changes you need to ensure Christmas doesn't burn a hole in your pocket.

5. Consider air quality and general hygiene 

With Covid still very much with us, you'll want to make sure your home is as clean and hygienic as possible. A thorough clean of your whole home is a must, but there may be a bit more to do in your particular case.  

LA-based interior designer and Trane Residential partner Breegan Jane recommends focusing on air quality in particular. This may mean reassessing ventilation in your home – checking that all windows open, 'adding fans in bathrooms', and even 'configuring your home's ductwork' – 'all can aid in improving airflow to each individual room.'

Breegan also advises checking humidity levels in your home – too low or too high creates a breeding ground for viruses and germs, so you may need to consider investing in a whole-house humidifier or dehumidifier

Lastly, Breegan recommends investing in the best air purifier – 'by prioritizing your home's indoor air quality through increased filtration (especially during cold and flu season), you can feel confident that airborne particles like bacteria, viruses, dust and dander are constantly being removed.' Your guests will also appreciate your concern for everyone's health and are likely to feel more relaxed. 

6. Reassess your kitchen tools

Christmas is a time when our kitchens are on heavy duty, and you need to be prepared. Jessica Litman, an organizing expert and CEO of The Organized Mama, recommends wapping out 'your grilling tools for baking items before the holiday season starts. This way you aren’t scrambling to find a baking dish before you need to bring a dish to a holiday event.'

7. Check the pantry

Jessica recommends doing 'a quick inventory of all the items in your pantry to make sure you have food on hand.' You really don't want to leave this until a few days before Christmas – 'with grocery store hours changing, you want to be sure you have food before the holiday season starts. Also, make sure you have baking items on hand so you aren’t running to the store for ingredients.'

8. Finalize your grocery list 

Include everything from (more) alcohol to party nibbles, the main meal and post-Christmas snacks. Don’t forget to stock up on bin bags, batteries, indigestion and headache tablets too for the inevitable hangovers.

9. Book your grocery delivery slot

It’s around the festive period that Christmas delivery slots for supermarkets can be booked. You may not know what you want on your Christmas grocery list just yet, but you can book a slot, put a few basics in your baskets, checkout and revisit nearer the time.

10. Clear and clean the fridge

Clear it out and then clean the fridge properly. Especially if your grocery order is set to arrive any day now, so make sure you have all the space you need and that it's all clean and hygienic for the giant Christmas order you’ve put in. Jessica told us: 'with so much food during the holiday season, you want to make sure your fridge and freezer can hold the food so nothing goes to waste.' Her technique for clearing out the fridge is to 'clear out a shelf at a time. Remove everything from that shelf. Wipe down the shelf. Then place items back that you want to keep on hand.'

11. Order your Christmas tree 

It's no secret that we are all putting our Christmas trees up earlier than ever before. And, if you're late to the party, that's okay. Treat yourself to the best real Christmas tree or find a showstopper artificial Christmas tree – they are lovely this year and loads are now on sale because we all started shopping so early!

Christmas baubles by Maisons du Monde

Christmas baubles by Maisons du Monde

(Image credit: Maisons du Monde)

12. Refresh your Christmas decorations

And with every tree, comes decorations. Was the tree on its last legs last Christmas? Did your Christmas lights create more of an ‘awww’ than an ‘oooh’? Did you have a major bauble breakage when dismantling the tree last year? Whatever the case may be, now’s the time to find the best Christmas tree decorating ideas for your home and to put them into practice.

Pick up new Christmas fairy lights, to finally create that cool Scandi Christmas theme you've always wanted, or go for a traditional Christmas look, it's your choice!

Painted Glass Fox Bauble, £4.50 by Gisela Graham

Painted Glass Fox Bauble by Gisela Graham

(Image credit: Gisela Graham)

13. Get guest beds and bedding sorted now

Bedroom by Oak Furnitureland

(Image credit: Oak Furnitureland)

If you're hosting this year, you've just about got time to order that sofa bed you've been toying with the idea of buying for ages (there are tons of sofa bed sales on now and great deals to be had). 

Now is the time to shop around for crisp new sheets in the best bedding sales, and wash all the sheets you already have. As Jessica puts it, 'There’s nothing worse than not having clean sheets for company who plan to stay overnight.

Wrapuccino furoshiki

(Image credit: Wrapuccino)

14. Wrap, wrap, wrap

If you wrap as you get your gifts in, you’ll save yourself those prolonged evenings of wrapping the week before Christmas (when you’d rather be lying down in a dark room). Plus, it’ll stop the kids spotting what you’ve bought them. Hide the wrapped gifts away from little ones unless you want long conversations about how early Father Christmas is this year. And make sure you’ve written down what you’ve already bought for whom so you don’t double up – you know it happens. Haven't got a clue how to wrap nicely? Our gift wrapping ideas piece can help.

Eco-friendly crackers

(Image credit: Etsy)

15. Make sure the TV works

People watching TV at Christmas

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Yeah, we know, seems obvious, but if yours is on its last legs, it's time to replace it. Or rather, Black Friday is the time to replace it. You don't want to be trying to do it on Christmas Eve. If your TV is on its least legs, it may be time to take a look at TV sales  to find a new one. 

16. Make your home smarter

Wiser by Drayton smart thermostat unit

(Image credit: Drayton by Schneider Electric)

Everyone needs a little help around the home, Christmas or not, and what better help than someone who won’t talk back to you, and will do exactly what you ask? Smart home gadgets are taking over household to household in the UK; whether it’s a smart speaker to help with your to-do lists, a video doorbell so you don’t miss important Christmas present deliveries or a smart thermostat to ensure you never enter a freezing cold home again. 

17. Get the boiler serviced now

It's not all glamour, you know! However, you do know that your boiler will, undoubtedly, choose Christmas Eve to break down. So, getting it serviced in advance is a really, really wise move. It's worth getting clued up on plumbing problems (and solutions) too to pre-empt any unwanted issues around the holidays.

18. Decide on your Christmas table decor

Christmas baubles in a bowl

(Image credit: The White Company)

Going all out on your Christmas table setting looks will bring much more excitement to your home. Whether you keep your regular tableware, cutlery, glassware and all the rest, adding in a centerpiece full of Christmas color or, if you replace it all for a super festive vibe, it will make a huge difference.

19. Clean and refresh the house

From cleaning carpets to changing the beds, vacuuming everywhere and more, it's a little less festive than we'd all like sure but, it's a must to feel calm over the holidays and to welcome guests confidently into your home.

Plus, the holiday season and spills go hand in hand so you may as well spruce up your floors and upholstery beforehand so that it's easier to restore everything after.

20. Clean out your entryway closet

This is easily forgotten yet essential. Jessica reminds us that you need to make sure 'you have room for guests' jackets. If you don’t want people wearing shoes in your house, get slippers and leave them in a basket near your front door. No one will have chilly feet when they have slippers on!' Give your entryway a spruce and as the first place visitors see, you won't regret it.

Lucy Searle

Lucy is Global Editor-in-Chief of Homes & Gardens having worked on numerous interiors and property titles. She was founding Editor of Channel 4’s 4Homes magazine, was Associate Editor at Ideal Home, before becoming Editor-in-Chief of in 2018 then moving to Homes & Gardens in 2021. She has also written for Huffington Post, AOL, UKTV, MSN, House Beautiful, Good Homes, and many women’s titles. Find her writing about everything from buying and selling property, self build, DIY, design and consumer issues to gardening.