Handy Last-Minute Christmas Hacks for Busy Moms

stuffed reindeer doll

I can’t take a good selfie to save my life, but for some reason I love this photo I snapped of our stuffed moose/reindeer/enigmatical creature and Woody hanging out together on the couch.

If you’re still frantically working on Christmas preparations, I may have jumped into this space just in time. However, if you are like my friend who is READY, with the freezer stuffed with meals, cookies all baked, tree up and beautifully decorated and alll the multitudinous gifts wrapped, catalogued properly and tucked under the tree in a very pleasant manner . . . well . . . please, have mercy on me, a sinner and purely rotten at organization, and teach me your ways. Pleeeeze.

So, now that I’ve admitted that–though it’s less than a week until Christmas, I’m in over my head, trying to decide whether to keep on treading water in all the Christmas prep, or just to give in and let my tired, winter-white and flabby body just . . . drift . . . slowly . . . down . . .

. . . hello fishies . . .

I’ve been doing Christmas for my kiddos for decades (several of them, kids and decades) and I’ve learned a thing or two. Or sixteen. So without additional preamble, I give you my best hacks for how to get through the next few days without too much stress and with as much sanity as possible. In your current state, that is to say, and with as much joy as humanly possible. As humans.

Here we go:

  1. Every time I’m out shopping–I mean every time–I pick up Something Nice That Has Universal Appeal*: gourmet tinned specialty foods, special Christmas jams, lovely goat milk soap that I’d like to have myself, fancy lotions, dark chocolate caramels with sea salt, scented candles . . . I tuck all these things away and they are my emergency stash. So if I’m off somehow on the gift count and forget to buy Aunt Edna or cousin Jerry something and then they show up with something for me . . . all I have to do is pull up the SNTHUA* item that is most appropriate. These items are also small enough to be tucked into stockings, in case somebody’s stocking ends up being painfully empty.
  2. It’s not a public area in the house (that is to say, it’s not a priority in the cleaning order) but clean your bedroom anyway. That way, your face won’t turn thirty shades of pink and you won’t break out in a cold sweat when your newest daughter-in-law slips into your bedroom to nurse the baby. Ask me how I know this.
  3. Discipline yourself to stay on some sort of cleaning schedule–even if it’s only 20 minutes a day. Do it long enough that by Christmas, you’re on autopilot. If you don’t have a schedule, you could adopt mine. (I do as little cleaning as possible, to achieve the results that will allow me a modicum of peace, so you could do worse.) Mondays: Clean the bathroom(s). Tuesdays: Dust everything. Wednesday: Vacuum and sweep all the floors (public areas). Thursdays: Dust, sweep, vacuum the basement. Fridays: Haul out all trashes, spot clean areas that need it (vacuum up dog hair). Saturdays: Wash sheets and do bedroom floors, and catch up anything you missed.
  4. Grab the kids, the hubs, to help. Ignore the screams of despair. It won’t kill them. (No fatalities here yet, in any case.) Offer ice cream sundaes when you’re finished.
  5. When you have enough gifts to wrap to last an hour and a half, approximately, hole yourself up in your (clean) bedroom or office, pick out a movie that you’d like to watch but nobody else would, and let it play while you wrap. A glass of wine or cup of coffee (depends on what time of day, natch’) makes this an even nicer private event. 🙂 (You’ll thank me for this one.)
  6. Also buy tape every time you’re shopping, in multiple packs. Tape is the one thing you do not want to run out of. (There’s no substitute! As me how I know this.)
  7. If you’re a quasi-food-hoarder, take time the week before Christmas to clean out the ‘fridge(s). I know it’s a pain in the backside if this isn’t in your cleaning rotation, but you’re gonna thank me every time you open the ‘fridge and gasp in pleasure instead of embarrassment. (Not to mention when your newest daughter-in-law opens the ‘fridge door, looking for a place to stash her bowl of creamy guacamole dip.)
  8. Keep a running list of (sincere, Mack) wants and desires of those you are buying/making gifts for, and also what you’ve purchased/made and how much you’ve spent. In our home, it’s a delicate balancing act between number of gifts + how much spent. And with younger kids, the number of gifts is probably much more important than the quantity of money spent. (I keep a tiny notebook in my purse for this, though others I know keep this info on a list on their cell phones.)
  9. Thrift stores and garage sales are totally legitimate places to buy like-new stocking stuffers for littles. But you have to start early. It takes a bit of looking, but you can save a lot of cash going this route. Invest the money you save and you’ll feel mighty clever someday.
  10. Buy all the staples in multiples (toilet paper, dishwashing crystals, toothpaste, dog food) for the last few weeks before Christmas. You don’t want to have to run to the store for cat food on Christmas eve. #beentheredonethat The same goes for livestock feed and supplies.
  11. Catch up the laundry, down to the last sock, sorted, folded and put away, by Christmas eve. Revel in the doneness. I get a few days off, while it accumulates again, but empty laundry baskets?Merry Christmas to me.
  12. Also pay all the bills that might be due before the first of January, so the electric man doesn’t come down the driveway in the middle of January, asking you if you’d like to pay your bill or have the privilege of living without power for awhile. Ask me how I know this.
  13. Buy a few frozen pizzas, and other favorite frozen foods, for the week after Christmas. Frozen hamburger patties. Egg rolls. Bagged salad. Frozen broccoli! Whatever makes things super-easy to pull together your quickest comfort meals, while you’re playing games and taking naps. Seriously. And–no guilt for not filling that freezer with frozen meals weeks ago. Let’s not go there. God made bags of frozen broccoli and egg rolls for a reason.
  14. Remember to add ingredients for cocktails/mocktails/special hot drinks onto your grocery list! You’re gonna love treating your company with special drinks. They are going to think you’re the most thoughtful, organized hostess in the world. (And no worries, I’ll not tell.)

If any of these tips were helpful to you even in the slightest, could I ask you a favor and pass this post along to your friends? You can even tweet it here:

That’s all I’ve got. That’s the best I can do for you, dear gentle reader. I hope it helps.

Say, here’s an idea: add your own last-minute tips to the comments below, and we’ll all revel in our last-minute cleverness. I’ll add the best ones to next year’s blog post on the same topic!

Take care. Love on each other. Don’t give in to fear. We’re all gonna be okay.

I love you.


selfie of mom and son shopping

Me and Mack, doing last-minute shopping and trying yet again to take a decent selfie.

See? Some of us are still shopping. 🙂

9 thoughts on “Handy Last-Minute Christmas Hacks for Busy Moms

  1. Kay

    After venturing out yesterday, the last Saturday before Christmas, to the dreaded Walmart in the big city, no less; I stand with fist raised, (Scarlet O’Hara pose) that I will NOT do this again! I WILL buy stocking stuffers in October, no later, next year. And I will only let a certain farmer come along to buy the food stuffer items. He is NO help. (“Let’s wait and think about it” over and over. NO Dear! We do NOT have time to “think about it.” We have to get them bought NOW!) This is also why I buy gifts mostly online and early.
    I like your idea of squirreling away the special things found during the year. **Mental Note!**
    Merry Christmas Dear Friend. Enjoy the family.

  2. Lisa

    This year the stockings I fill are going to have less than usual. More food items from the grocery, fewer unusual items just picked up as I see them. Because, I haven’t been anywhere to see them! I miss thrift store shopping. They are great places to find things for adults that collect things. Certain marks of pottery, or vintage toys.
    I know about needing cat food on Christmas! A lot of stores are open part of the day, but it didn’t use to be that way.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Lisa, our grown-up kids actually like specialty food gifts in their stockings. But it’s always fun to get a variety of gifts. I agree that thrift stores are the best!

  3. Kristine

    I do as much Christmas meal prep ahead of time as possible. It makes the 2-3 days beforehand busy, but it allows me to relax when everyone arrives and the fun commences. I also set the table the night before—one less thing to “Martha” over when the grandloves have arrived!

  4. andrea

    Loved your Christmas life hacks–and how generously you share them. I think your faces are beautiful, but worry because it looks like a public place you are in w/o your masks on. Stay safe!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Andrew, thank you for your sweet comments. Don’t worry about us and our unmasked faces. We’re both healthy as horses, and were staying a good distance away from others, so I’m sure we were fine. I prefer to go without a mask for many reasons, including health reasons.

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