Christmas Countdown Checklist

Pack productivity into the first half of December and the rest of the month is open for joy, cheer—and putting out fires. Aim to check off one a day.

  1. Check Perform a search-and-rescue mission.

    for presents bought spontaneously throughout the year and stashed heaven knows where.

  2. Check Order pretty stamps.
  3. Check Make your gift list.

    If there’s research involved (“Is Alex still into Ninja Turtles, or has he moved on to Pokémon?”), send out e-mail inquiries. Don’t forget to jot down hostess gifts that you’ll need.

  4. Check Drop off holiday outfits.

    at the dry cleaner, and replace what the kids have outgrown.

  5. Check Shop for nonperishable groceries and booze.

    before the stores get crazy, and place orders for any in-demand specialty foods that will be in short supply later. (Harry & David ham, check!)

  6. Check Send holiday cards.

    Even if you write them over Thanksgiving (good for you!), it’s more fun to receive cards in December, the heart of the season.

  7. Check Get your tree.
  8. Check Wrap five presents.

    They make the tree look better, get you in the spirit, and save precious minutes later in the month.

  9. Check Mail gifts to out-of-towners.

    Send heavy items via flatrate U.S. Postal Service boxes ($6 for a small box, $17 for large; to anywhere in the country). If you’re extra challenged in this area, go the straight-from-Amazon route.

  10. Check Hand out tips.

    Sure, you could wait. But wouldn’t you rather see that smile on the newspaper delivery guy’s face than avoid his gaze for two more weeks? Don’t forget the less obvious folks, like the car mechanic who saved your vacation the Friday before Independence Day.

  11. Check Deep-clean critical spots.

    —living room, bathrooms, guest room—so the dirtiest deeds won’t loom when you have the least time.