5 Ways to Streamline Your Holiday Shopping

While there are plenty of holiday traditions, don’t let stress be one of them.

‘Tis the season of gift-giving, party planning and dealing with in-laws. And with all that needs to get done, “the most wonderful time of the year” can quickly become the most chaotic. One key to making certain your days – and nights – are merry and bright is to stay organized.

Whether you’re throwing a party or prepping the guest room, make a list. The act of doing so helps put structure to scattered thoughts, and the list itself is an invaluable tool for helping ensure that everything gets done. And since it is the holidays, it’s often useful to make a list of all the traditions you want to be sure to find time for. Making this list can be a fun activity in and of itself: Gather the family, and make sure every member’s favorite tradition is included on the agenda.

With all of the bills, greeting cards, party invitations and receipts flying through the house during the holidays, professional organizer Laura Gramann of Pieces Into Place suggests setting up a paper filing system.

“I usually recommend a mail-sorting station as the first line of defense for incoming papers,” Gramann says. “Having a home for every piece of paper that comes through your door, even if that home is the recycling bin or shredding machine, is key. If you can stay on top of the papers, they won’t build up and cause you anxiety every time you see the pile. Plus, you’ll keep all of your surface spaces clear and tidy so you don’t stress out when company comes over.”

Decorating can be a frustrating experience, especially when you open up the boxes of ornaments to find everything in a jumble. If that’s the case, take a deep breath and vow to do it better this year. Gramann recommends storing similar holiday decorations together in clear, sturdy bins with lids. “I always stress the importance of using a label maker or some labeling system,” Gramann explains. “Even though it’s clear and you like to think you know exactly what’s in there, once you put up all the decorations you find yourself saying, ‘Okay, what was in this bin?'”

Still, all the planning in the world doesn’t guarantee a stressless journey. Keeping that in mind, set aside a few minutes each day to decompress, whether that’s reading in bed or relaxing with a cup of tea. While the holidays may be the season of giving, don’t forget to take care of yourself.

5 Ways to Streamline Your Holiday Shopping

Take the tedium out of gift-gathering with these tips.

1) Start With a Plan

Figure out who you are getting gifts for, then group the recipients by the categories of items you might choose for them (i.e., housewares, men’s clothing, etc.) This way, when you’re in a particular store, you can see who you’re shopping for at a glance.

2) Shop Local

Patronizing owner-operated boutiques and stores helps keep your dollars in the community. Plus, you’re likely to find more unique items. Also consider events such as Christmas in the Ward (in the Third Ward) or Festive Friday Eves in Cedarburg.

3) Work in Reverse

Instead of racking your brain trying to figure out what to buy your sister, try this: Flip through magazines and browse the web to compile a list of cool gift ideas. Cross-reference these items with the list of recipients to see if there are any matches.

4) Take Advantage of Apps

Smartphone apps like RetailMeNot, Santa’s Bag and Spendee allow you to access the best deals, manage your shopping list and maximize your holiday budget.

5) Avoid the Crowd

Shop on weekday afternoons whenever possible. Also, pay for your purchases at the least-crowded areas of the store. This especially applies to department stores, which offer a multitude of checkout kiosks. You’ll save time and avoid last-second impulse buys while waiting in line. ◆

‘Keep Calm and December On!’ appears in the December 2017 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning November 27, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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Elisabeth Wallock is a contributing digital editor at Milwaukee Magazine. She graduated from Colorado State University and has interned at Marie Claire in New York and Urban Outfitters in London.