Dear Juli,

Buying and keeping track of gifts is a big problem for me. I forget what I have gotten already and what I planned for my nieces and nephews, and then don’t I get the things I have bought for people to them in time. I find I have this same issue with birthday gifts during the rest of the year too. How can I fix this? – Perplexed Gift Giver

Dear Gift Giver,

It’s true that well-intended gift giving can be a stressor and a big expense, especially if you cannot keep track of what you’ve purchased or made, and for whom. I have had clients tell me that they get very overwhelmed with buying gifts for friends and family and then either don’t get them sent on time or end up not sending them at all. With all the effort and time (not to mention money) it takes to get someone a gift, it is disappointing to have the gift never reach the intended recipient.

Juli Shulem

Shopping for gifts for some can be a mad rush from one store to the next with little regard to planning and being on top of it in advance.

First, make a list and check it twice to see if you overlooked anyone. Categorize the list by friends, family members, service vendors, and work-related individuals. If you are computer-savvy, prepare a gift list on a spreadsheet. Otherwise create a table in a word document with columns for “name,” “gift item,” and “send/give date,” in order to keep good track of who you have acquired gifts for and who is still on your list.

Designate an area or keep a “gift cabinet” where you can regularly store gifts for holidays and also birthdays. In order not to forget what you got for whom, place a sticky note on the items for specific individuals and log it onto a list. (I keep these lists for years so I don’t accidentally give a similar item to the same person twice.) You can also keep a list on the inside of the cabinet door so you have a quick reference list. Many times there are great items you can get several of and give them to different people over the course of the year. If you do this, it is essential to note to whom you gave one already.

If you have been shopping over the course of the past few months, you are spared the mad dash to the stores when it is the busiest. Alternatively, many have people have gotten used to doing their shopping online and skipping the mall experience altogether. (I am in that category!)

Here’s an easy planning-ahead tactic: When you are out and about or traveling and see the perfect item for someone, get it right then and put it away for them for a birthday or for holiday time. This saves so much time and stress at the end of the year when there are so many other things to do.

One thing I don’t recommend is gift-wrapping too far in advance. This can backfire if you forget what you had wrapped or if you decide to give it for a birthday and you have holiday wrap on it. Best to do that a little closer to the intended giving time.

About wrapping and all that goes with it: Stock up on bows and wrapping materials right after the holidays when it goes on sale. Store it in an appropriate container so it stays neat and clean until you need it. There are under-the-bed containers that are long and flat, some with roller wheels on them even, that you can easily lay rolls of wrapping paper into. I have two of these — one for holidays and one for general use the rest of the year. Bows and ribbons are stored in the same fashion. Tidy up your collection of wrapping materials when you take them out, taking stock of what you have and what you should toss out. Some bits and pieces might be worn-looking, and you won’t use them anyway. Afterward, put it all away neatly, and note what you are running low on for restocking in January.

Since it is such a project to get out the the paper, ribbons, tape, etc. and then clean up the mess afterward, set aside a single block of time for wrapping. This will also prevent the clutter from spreading itself all over the house. Have all your gifts labeled and ready to go, then wrap, tag, and be done with it.

Hopefully these tips will help with gift-giving this year. See next week for more holiday organizing tips. Happy holidays!

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