holiday binder

Despite my chips-stealing incident (posted on Momfilter last week), I feel like I’ve gained a little more mastery of my holiday season due to one simple tool:  my Holiday Binder.  My Binder Full of Christmas, if you will.

It’s a 3-ring binder full of folders and page protectors into which I stuff my son’s Christmas list, my completed gift list (to avoid repeats next year—it’s amazing how often I give my mom the same book twice), a copy of our annual holiday card, scribbled notes about our holiday menu, and tearsheets I accumulate throughout the year for gift ideas, decorating tips, recipes, kids activities and crafts that I’ll probably never do but WANT to do.

But the foundation, and the most important part, of the Holiday Binder  is The Post Holiday Analysis. After the chaos subsides, take some time to scratch some notes about this holiday season. How did it go? What worked? What didn’t? What caused you stress? What was your favorite part? Could you have done anything differently to bring more joy, get the dinner to the table more efficiently, avoid the mall, etc. Take a good hard look at these things and think about which ones ADD to your holiday. Which ones are a burden?

More often than not, we allow Christmas to happen to us.  We get thrashed around by the shoulds, the ought to’s, the have to’s, the people-pleasing, the demands, the rituals – some meaningful but most not, the events – some worthwhile but most not, and a calendar that shrinks by the day. In your perfect world, what would your holiday really look like? Next year, pull the Holiday Binder out on the day after Thanksgiving and review your notes so you can learn from your mistakes – and your successes.

Here’s a peek into my 2012 analysis:

1. After reviewing the notes from previous years, I learned that my husband’s back went out at crunch time 2010. The next year he got a cold. This year, gastrointestinal problems took him down. From now on, I will put an as-yet-unnamed malady on the calendar; I will ask my husband to complete his tasks in November.

2. I also learned that my favorite event of last season was the simplest: A Christmas Story at the local revival theater followed by pizza with friends. I need very little else. Everything else – the Holidazzle Parade, Macy’s 8th floor display, a picture with Santa, the Nutcracker, etc., etc., etc.—are much more fun when you don’t do them every single year. If my son goes to the Holidazzle parade 3 times in his entire childhood, he will still remember it fondly as a holiday tradition.

3. I thought back on the things that made me feel overtired and overheated and hurried. About 99% of those things were mall or post office related. I finally figured out that the UPS store has no line and I will institute a mall-ban for 2013.

4. My 2013 mall-ban will be replaced by the small neighborhood stores that presented fewer parking hassles, more exciting selection, a sense of goodwill, and FREE GIFT WRAPPING!  Note to self:  make a list of stores that provide free gift wrapping!

5. This year, I conquered the decorations!  Decorations are fun but they can also be a huge pain to unpack, install, maintain, uninstall and re-pack. This may not be a good use of your precious time and energy at this time of year. And no one likes “undecorating day” – so I make a plan with this in mind. Indoors, I limited my decorations to my mantle and my front door. These are the areas that are most visible to both me and my visitors. Even if you do it crazy over-the-top, standing in one place putting things in a box is much easier than traipsing through every room with a rubbermaid tote on your hip. Outdoors, my requirements were simple:  no help and no ladder. In other words, if it requires me to nag my husband or climb a ladder, I don’t do it.

6. My holiday card tree rocked! Each year, I look for a better way to enjoy the holiday cards that come in the mail (I love the holiday card!  Don’t give up on this, people!). This year, the blank wall in my front hall seemed to be the perfect display space. I cut a star out of tin foil and taped it to the wall…… cards arrived, I taped them to the wall under the star, eventually filling the space in the shape of a tree! Totally patting myself on the back for this one.

7. I admitted in writing that church is a pain in the ass. There……I said it. I don’t like church on Christmas. It really gets in the way of……Christmas. Do we eat before? No, that’s too early.  That would be like Christmas lunch. After? Omigod, we’ll be starving!  And then where do presents fit in? Either way, my kid is going to bed at 11pm and Santa’s sitting  on the roof tapping his foot. Note to self:  Call Jesus and see if you can work out a deal.

8. I also admitted that I love Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You. Mock me, I don’t care. I love that song. Admitting it to yourself is the first step. The next step is downloading it.

If you want your holiday to be meaningful, it has to be mindful. Taking some notes right now will bring your most hectic holiday into sharp relief…… you can leave it behind.

And next year you’ll enjoy more snowy walks, more independent shops with free gift wrapping, more pizza with friends.

And more Mariah Carey.


You Might Also Like

Fact Imitates Photo
Figuring It Out
Figuring it Out: Drawing

Comments (8)


  1. Seriously funny, as per usual. Love the Christmas card tree. I’m totally doing that next year.

  2. Posted by: mk

    Thank you for admitting that Church gets in the way of Christmas, we go on Christmas Eve, but with two little kids it’s hard. When you phone Jesus, tell him you have some followers too.

  3. Posted by: Slim Paley

    Well said. I agree on all fronts…except for Mariah Carey!

  4. Posted by: Lena

    this is lovely.

  5. Posted by: Katie

    Love this idea! And your review. This year church for us was a 3 pm Christmas Eve mass. Perfect!

  6. Posted by: Jenn

    Excellent advice to ruminate the highs and lows of the holiday season. I just wrote mine down. Now I just hope I remember and find my writings next year :) Happy new year!

  7. Posted by: Stephanie

    This is a great idea! Ours is a relatively young family so we are just starting our journey on this front : )

    Just wondering — if Christmas has nothing to do with Christ for you, what does it consist of? Why not just celebrate on, say, December 11th or June 17th for kicks instead? I don’t mean to be snarky but I think keeping in mind the origin of these holidays is a good antidote to the commercialization of… everything!

  8. Posted by: Sarah

    Christmas the way you suggest celebrating it does not require reverence so I do understand why you would not inconvenience yourselves by making the effort to take your children to church on Christmas.

Leave a Reply

Yor email address will not be published.
Required fields are marked *

Sign Up

Email Sign Up
We promise not to bug you -
it'll only be good stuff, pinky swear.