10 Tasks for an Easier Holiday Season

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Laura Gaskill, Houzz Contributor

During the winter holiday season, there's just so much to enjoy and do that keeping up with the gifting, baking and general revelry can get overwhelming. Before you know it, it's December 24, and you're staring at a pile of presents to wrap and no tape. Take a deep breath. It's going to be OK -- take care of these 10 things now and enjoy a smoother, less-stressed season.

1. Stock up on gift-wrapping supplies. Gift wrap, ribbon or twine, tape, tags and a stack of plain gift boxes are the essentials. Get more tape than you think you'll need -- it always seems to run out first! Once you have your supplies, take a moment to set up a simple wrapping station. This doesn't have to be fancy; just plunk your rolls of gift wrap in a bucket, and stash ribbon, tape and tags in a drawer within reach of a flat surface.

2. Make a gift list with budget. Grab a pen and paper (or your phone) and list everyone you plan to buy gifts for this year. If you have kids, don't forget to put the stockings on the list too. Set an overall budget for holiday gifts and don't beat yourself up if it's less than you'd like to spend -- a bit of creativity and thoughtfulness can go a long way, and they're far more important than a price tag. Use your master list to record ideas and note how much you actually spent when you make a purchase.

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3. Pick up a few gender-neutral go-to gifts. I like to keep one main gift and a stack of smaller gifts in reserve during the holiday season -- it helps avoid last-minute stress when you realize you've forgotten someone on your list. Anything edible, practical or cool (like an instant camera) are good contenders. Wrap them right away and post a sticky note on top as a reminder of what's inside.

4. Make a simple meal plan. The holidays are busy enough, so be realistic about what sort of meals you'll have time to cook. But don't skip the planning process: Taking the time to think of several weeks' worth of meals now can save a lot of time and hassle later. Aim for quick and easy but also healthy -- to counteract those holiday parties.

5. Purchase travel tickets. Airfare will only go up as we approach the holidays, so it pays to book as soon as you know the details of your trip. If you have pets, or need someone to bring in mail and water plants, set this up now too.

6. Buy party-worthy snacks. Stock your pantry, fridge and freezer with a handful of go-to snack items like nuts, hard cheeses, frozen cookie dough and wine. You'll be ready for any drop-in guests and last-minute cookie swaps that come your way.

7. Keep an eye on your calendar. The weekends around the holidays fill up fast -- always check your calendar before responding to an invite to avoid overstuffing your schedule. And don't be afraid to say no to events that feel like too much. There's no need to make up an elaborate excuse; a simple "Thank you so much for the invitation, but I can't make it" will do.

8. Check your entertaining supplies. If you're planning a holiday shindig, figure out what items you need, take stock of what you have and pick up what's missing. Don't forget the candles and twinkle lights for ambience.

9. Clean your house. A deep cleaning now will set your home up to shine all month long. The rest of the holiday season, focus on maintaining through simple daily habits, like wiping the bathroom mirror and sink, staying on top of laundry, and sweeping the floor after every meal.

10. Get to sleep on time. Getting enough sleep can boost your immune system, stave off stress and give you more energy -- three reasons to put enough shut-eye at the top of your priority list going into the holiday season this year. If you're having trouble falling asleep, try turning off screens an hour before bed, sip some herbal tea, take a hot bath and then read a good but slightly boring book (really!) before shutting off the lights. And make the time you go to sleep as consistent as possible from night to night; doing so will get your body used to the rhythm, making it easier to fall asleep fast.