Controlling Christmas Chaos

by Culaina Tranter November 17, 2017

Controlling Christmas Chaos

A guide to stress-free festive planning

As the shops start stacking decorations and selection boxes, and our heads become flooded with gift ideas and festive menus options, it got us all wondering - when is the best time to start planning for Christmas?  To help answer this question, we welcome our first guest blogger; PR professional Culaina Tranter.  Culaina tells us why now is the best time to start planning in order to avoid Christmas becoming the ‘festival of chaos’ and how she uses her journal to keep things running as smoothly as possible.


Take it away Culaina…

Lesson learnt

Growing up in a fairly regimented house, my first Christmas living away from home was  quite the opposite of organised! In fact, it was a festival of chaos! Having only moved into our first home a few months before, my partner and I seriously underestimated the preparation and organisation that goes into the grand event. To start with, we didn’t have a single decoration nor mastered the seasonal culinary skills required. Never the less, we thought it would be a great idea to host our first Christmas Day in our home, for the whole family! I think the excitement got the better of us!

After a wonderful (and suitably celebratory!) Christmas Eve at our local pub, it is safe to say I was a man down come Christmas Day - my partner spending most of the time hiding with a sore head until an hour before everyone arrived. And when I say everyone, I’m talking about the 14 family members we thought we could squeeze into the narrow living room in our new flat!

Many of you may not like to think ahead more than a month, let alone start planning Christmas before December starts! But the truth is, planning early can save you a lot of stress and make space for some much needed relaxation time. You can save yourself money, too!


Have a Master List

These days, when I’m planning for the Christmas period (even if I’m not hosting), I like to start with what I call my “master list”, essentially a brain-dump of everything that needs to be done. From here, I can then start to organise this into smaller, more specific lists according to topic and add this to my journal. Typically these include;

  • Gifts to buy
  • Things to do before Christmas
  • Christmas day food shopping
  • Personal ‘wish list’ for gifts from family

…and everything else in-between.


Gift buying and budgeting

With a large family to buy for, I think gift buying has to be my most challenging task every year. I want each gift to really mean something to that individual, so getting this right takes preparation. To give me a head start I write a list of everyone who we need to buy for, a gift idea and a budget. I’m a sucker for overspending and I would buy every gift I saw if I could, so setting this and sticking to it saves us a lot of money and stress (and helps filter out the less ‘sensible’ ideas). Writing an idea down also helps take away the pain of the many shopping trips you need to make; you can look at what to buy online and where you need to go shopping for the rest.

I find it much easier this way rather than hitting the shops and having no clue what to get anyone. And Christmas is all about the suspense of unwrapping a gift to see what’s inside, so gift vouchers just don’t cut it for me! The key to saving here, really is to stick to your budget and not to spend those savings you made on even more presents.


Don’t forget yourself!

It’s also a great idea to create your own list of things you need or want. Every year family members will ask you what you want, and the answer is often: “I don’t know”. By having a couple of small wish lists you can pass on to different groups of the family will help give them  some inspiration and hopefully, you some gifts you actually need!


Time is always tight

The planning section of my journal will also contain a super organised time schedule for the festive period. Santa doesn’t just wing it every year, so we don’t either. From Christmas Eve to New Years, it’s important to plan our time to ensure we visit all of our family, spend time with friends as well as relax and enjoy some great food.


Finally, here are my top five tips to help you own Christmas this year…

  1. Don’t wing it, but go with it. Christmas should be a time of fun, enjoyment and relaxation so don’t stress. After all, it won’t be long until your back at work wishing you were still wrapped in fairy lights and tinsel.
  2. You may disagree, but I always go for a real tree. Yes they are slightly messier, but don’t they just smell divine? And once you are done it can recycled and forgotten about, rather than collecting dust and taking up valuable storage space. I mean, think how much beautiful stationery could replace that space?
  3. It may seem obvious but when planning your food preparations, give any untried recipes a trial before the day you plan to cook them. It will speed up the process and allow you to make any tweaks (and mistakes!) beforehand.
  4. Don’t buy glitter cards or wrapping paper - it gets everywhere! There are plenty of festive alternatives available if you’re looking for a unique gesture with that extra special touch - especially the Say Nice Things’ Christmas wrap and postcard collections. The envelopes have a beautiful metallic effect to them and they offer something a little different to your traditional Christmas card.
  5. My final top tip is to have fun! No matter how many years of planning behind you, it can often turn out differently to how you expected. But as long as you are with friends and family and having a great time, that’s all that matters. 


Happy festive planning!


Culaina Tranter
Culaina Tranter


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