Last-minute Christmas planning tips to save your sanity

With Christmas fast approaching, we’re here to guide you through those last minute preparations to help keep stress at bay

Feel like everyone is ahead of the game and you’re rapidly running out of time to get ready for Christmas? Take a step back and calm down; there is still plenty of time to do all the little things that add up to a magical celebration and we’ve got lots of handy tips and tricks to keep you on track.

With everything from last minute gift ideas to how to prep your home for guests, we’ve compiled the ultimate guide to keeping a cool head during the busy festive season. Start by writing up a list of everything you need to do before Christmas Day and order by length of time each task will take to complete. This will help you stay on top of the preparations.

Want more Christmas ideas? READ: Christmas activities to do with the kids while they wait for Santa

Learn to delegate to family and friends to help reduce the pressure on yourself. Delegate as early as possible to make sure everyone knows their roles and what’s needed when. Make sure you have applications like Skype downloaded, ready for video chatting over the festive period. This is great for catching up with family and friends overseas.

1. Download movies for the kids, or sign up to a service such as There will be plenty the adults need to do to get everything ready, so keep the little ones entertained to prevent present-opening impatience setting in!

2. Buy enough batteries for gadgets and gizmos over Christmas and keep together in a designated drawer to make them easy to find. Check which batteries certain gifts require so you’re prepared

3. Find out the scheduled dates for your local recycling and rubbish collections, as these can often change over the festive period with Bank Holidays.

father christmas letter delivery

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Winter)

4. Pay attention to the last Christmas posting dates. For posting within the UK they are 20 December for First Class, 18 December for Second class, and between 3-13December for International postage depending on the country.

5. Missed the last post? Don’t panic. Send an E-card online using a free service such as, where you can even add your own photos for a personal touch.

6. Learn how to fold a napkin into a pretty shape to instantly give your tabletop a decorative finish. Find an easy-to-follow guide on line, or fold into a concertina fan shape, holding with a ribbon. Do your napkins ahead of the big day (Christmas Eve is ideal).

7. Sew a festive table runner from some fabric you have in your stash (or use plain red or gold). Measure out the size you want and hem each straight edge using a sewing machine, or using iron-on hemming tape.

8. When out and about, keep your eyes peeled for pretty forest finds. Create a quick and stylish rustic table display using pinecones, holly sprigs (keep the berries if you can) and pine branches.

9. Throw together some handmade potpourri with things you can find in the garden and the kitchen cupboards. Add pinecones, cinnamon, sprigs of rosemary, and dried orange slices to a bowl then sprinkle over a couple of drops of vanilla extract to add to the scent.

10. Create a magical entrance for visitors by wrapping fairy lights around the banisters. This can be done in next to no time and will look lovely interwoven with a foliage garland.

display on sideboards or even staircases to continue the christmas charm

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jan Baldwin/Homes & Gardens)

11. Give your cushions a quick and festive makeover by wrapping seasonal fabric around existing cushions like a ribbon around a gift, and finish with a bow. Stitch on pompoms or bells for an extra flourish.

12. If you’re running low on decorations or are looking for an inexpensive alternative, simply wrap boxes in pretty paper as presents and dot around the house. Display on sideboards or even staircases to continue the Christmas charm.

13. Gather fallen branches and twigs and display in a large vase on a sideboard for a simple decorating idea. Decorate with bows and decorations, or spray with glitter paint for a pretty touch.

14. Make last minute Christmas stockings from old sweaters. Just turn the jumper inside out and use the machine to sew the shape of a stocking, with the bottom hem of the jumper as the top opening of the stocking.

15. Use decorative Washi tape to liven up plainer decorations such as baubles or crackers. Have a go at creating simple linear designs such as snowflakes or Christmas trees.

16. Never underestimate the magic of fairy lights! Haven’t had time to decorate the front of your house? Simply drape outdoor fairy lights around a large plant or small tree for instant wow-factor.

17. Display nuts, chocolates and other small nibbles in pretty containers such as vintage ice cream bowls; an instant way to look like an effortless host.

18. Plan ahead when it comes to your cooking and try to prepare food which can be frozen in advance. A one pot dish for Christmas Eve can be put into the freezer and heated up when needed to save time.

19. Choose and purchase your real Christmas tree, or set-up your artificial tree, so you can enjoy it in the run up to Christmas and have plenty of time for decorating.

outdoor christmas tree jobs december

(Image credit: TBC)

20. If you have guests coming to stay and are in need of extra bed space, now is the time to pick up a stylish sofa bed. It might be too late to order one, but Ikea is open into the evenings so you can pop by after work.

21. If you have more guests than usual, or don’t have a spare room, a good quality airbed is a fantastic option to put up in the living room or study at night time.

22. Check the TV guide or planner so you don’t miss your favourite programmes during the festive period. Set your television to record the Queen’s speech in case you miss it on the day.

23. Wrap all presents in time for Christmas day; gather together papers, tapes, ribbons and tags and put on a classic Christmas movie to make a night of it.

christmas washi tape presents

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Scarboro)

24. Book your fresh food delivery now, for 2 or 3 days before Christmas.

25. Be sure to fill the car up with petrol in plenty of time before Christmas. Make sure you have enough to be able to make any last minute dashes to the shops.

26. Send flowers as a last-minute but welcomed gift.

27. Don’t forget it’s all in the presentation. Even supermarket flowers can be made to look like they are from an upmarket florist by re-wrapping in plain brown paper and tying with a grosgrain ribbon.

28. Give the gift that keeps on giving with a magazine subscription.

29. Pillar candles make great last minute gifts for Christmas visitors and hosts. Buy up a few at the supermarket and personalised each with a ribbon and hand written note.

30. Prepare a box with ready-to-go gifts such as bottles of wine or biscuits for when you’re dashing out the door to a party and realise you haven’t bought anything to take.

31. Know an animal lover? Adopt an animal online for them and support a worthy cause. They will be notified by email on a day of your choice.

adopt an animal online for them and support a worthy cause.

(Image credit: Future PLC/James Gardiner)

32. Finish up your present shopping online. Buying books and posting them yourself can be cumbersome and expensive.

33. Surprise a loved on with tickets to a gig or play. These can be booked online, and most email through tickets straight away for you to print at home.

34. Use leftover ingredients to whip up some baked goods for a great last minute gift idea or stocking filler. Present in a festive cake tin or small paper bags.

baked goods home

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

35. Supermarkets and petrol stations sell gift vouchers for lots of stores such as clothes retailers, cinemas and even restaurants. These can be bought in store and are perfect for family members who are tricky to buy for.

36. For a thoughtful present, pick up a photo frame and insert a snap of you and your loved one. Either buy the frame brand new, or upcycle one from a charity shop for a vintage style.

37. Have your chimney swept and cleaned if you’re going to have a fire going during the holidays. Book your appointment nice and early to make sure it’s done before guests arrive.

before winter fireplace chimney sweep

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jon Day)

38. Clean mirrors with newspaper. This is the best way to get rid of smears. Details like fingerprint free mirrors make all the difference.

39. Dust TV screens with an old (but clean!) sock. Slide it over your hand and carefully dust surfaces. Wipe down remote controls and phone buttons too.

40. Keep on top of clutter. Rather than wait until guests leave to tidy the house, spend 20 minutes a day picking up and tidying things so it’s not such a big job afterwards.

41. Be thankful later and change the vacuum bag now. You don’t want to be doing this unglamorous job when you are in your special outfit and someone has made a mess.

42. Declutter kitchen cupboards and throw out any old food, which is wasting space. Make a list of things that need replacing and reorganise so you can find ingredients quickly.

43. Get on top of things before your guests arrive to stay by drawing up lists of what preparation needs doing in each room. This should be everything from vacuuming the floors to changing the bed linen.

44. Organise coats and shoes in the hallway in preparation for guests and visitors. Make sure there are a few hooks spare for wet coats, and pack away shoes you are not likely to need in the garage, or under the stairs.

45. Write down Wi-Fi codes on a small card, and put with spare keys, which you have threaded onto a pretty ribbon. Leave these on the bedside table of the guest room.

46. Don’t neglect the guest bathroom and cloakroom. Make sure there is enough paper and that fresh towels are presented in a basket so guests know which to use. Provide extra toothbrushes (in packets) and toothpaste.

toiletries for guests welcome pack

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Bevan)

47. Clear wardrobe space so that guests staying more than a night can hang up their party clothes. Think about using vacuum bags to compress towels and bulky clothing taking up space in cupboards.

48. Some houses are colder than others. If you have overnight guests, be sure to provide extra blankets in case they are too embarrassed to say they are cold. They also look lovely when folded and draped across the foot of the bed.

49. Pop a hot water bottle or two into each guest bedroom to help keep your visitors toasty during their stay. Ask if they would like it filled up before they go to bed each night.

50. Buy some new slippers to leave in your guest’s bedroom to make them feel at home. Pick up a pair in one of the large supermarkets for an inexpensive option.

51. Clear out a drawer or two for guests to use for their toiletries in the bathroom so they don’t feel they’re rummaging through your things.

52. Keep hold of miniature toiletries from hotel stays for your guests to use, to avoid them feeling cheeky about using your products. Leave somewhere easy to find such as a basket labelled with a ‘help yourself’ tag.

53. If you’ve got the family coming and the kids are moving bedrooms, pack up a little box of ‘essentials’ from the room to avoid having to keep going in and out when guests are there.

54. Do a quick Ikea trip and make sure you’ve got enough seating for the whole family. Folding chairs can be easily tucked away until you need them and can be stored for the rest of the year.

55. Pop a new doormat by your front door to stop your guests bringing in unwanted mud and snow on their boots. Give the porch a good sweep regularly to keep it looking smart.

56. If you have young children coming to stay, make sure to child-proof your house as best as possible. Move all dangerous utensils and cleaning products into high shelves before they arrive.

57. Do a stock take of the drinks cupboard. Check sell-by dates (especially for cream based liqueurs), and throw out anything that has gone bad. Research ingredients for Christmas cocktails, and add any items needed to your shopping list.

58. Stock up your cupboards with snacks and nibbles to make sure you’re not worrying about running low. Supermarkets often have bulk buys deals at this time of year so make the most of these.

stock up your cupboards

(Image credit: TBC)

59. Get organised and prep vegetables in advance. You can blanch carrots, peel and boil potatoes, make stuffing, wrap sausages in bacon and so on, to help save time and last minute stress.

60. Clean out the fridge, sprinkling baking soda to absorb odours. Then separate non-Christmas food, making plenty of space for the Turkey and trimmings. Don’t forget to also create space for drinks.

61. Get out all your roasting trays, and serving dishes in advance, and work out what will be used for which foods on the day. Then use easily removable self-adhesive labels to write on the dishes. This will help the cooking and serving run like clockwork.

62. Don’t be overambitious when it comes to what amount of food is needed. It’s easy to get carried away and overcook in quantity, but remember that guests can fill up on other treats too.

63. When you are making your Christmas pudding, it is not much effort to make one extra. This makes a lovely handmade gift when presented with a sprig of holly on top!

64. Pick up some extra cutlery and glasses if you’re having lots of people over. These will get used frequently and you don’t want to be constantly washing up. Consider plastic cups and plates too.

65. Buy in plenty of mulled wine and mulled wine spice sachets to have on hand during the festivities. Heat up with fresh oranges for a lovely tang.

66. Remember that you don’t have to use endless rolls of wrapping paper. A bow and tag can be enough on attractive gifts like plants, bottles, and candles, so make sure to top up your stash to avoid last minute panic.

67. If you run out of wrapping paper, use newspaper or scraps of wallpaper as an alternative. Add some ribbon or a bow to pretty up the look.

christmas washi tape presents

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Scarboro)

68. If it’s a gift from a child, why not go for plain wrap and let them decorate it themselves? The recipient will be sure to love the personal touch and it will save on having to buy expensive paper.

69. Make your own bottle tags by cutting a long rectangle of card, folding over one third, and cutting a hole in this section to slide over the bottleneck. There are many free printable versions available online too.

70. Run out of gift tags? Use an alphabet stamp set to stamp your message directly onto the gift wrap for a lovely homemade look.

71. Hang glass icicle decorations or sparkly baubles from plain chandelier style pendant lights to add a subtle Christmas touch to your existing décor.

72. Make sure to stock up on bin liners so you’re ready for when it comes to clearing away piles of wrapping paper after opening the presents.

73. Use scented candles and reed diffusers with festive fragrances to create a welcoming atmosphere in your home. These can be picked up in supermarkets for a reasonable price.

use scented candles and reed diffusers with festive fragrances

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Wreford)

74. Think ahead about games to play during gatherings with friends and family. Make sure you have some classic board games and look up the rules for other games such as Christmas Carol Charades or Liar Liar.

75. Don’t forget to compile your Christmas playlist ready for the festivities. Delegate the job of DJ to another member of your family on the day if possible.

Read more: 83 creative hacks to try if you LOVE Christmas

4 top tips for Christmas Eve

1. Put wine and champagne in the fridge. If you have forgotten to do this the day before, don’t worry, you can chill a bottle in 15 minutes by putting in a bucket with ice, water, and a handful of salt.

2. Lay the table for Christmas dinner to save time on the day. Stack crockery so it’s ready for serving and make sure you have enough serving utensils out for all the trimmings.

christmas table ideas traditional

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Brittain)

3. Plan your outfit for Christmas day and lay it out ready the night before. The last thing you want is a Christmas morning panic over what to wear!

4. Charge cameras, iPads and other electronic devices to make sure they have full power for when the festivities begin. You don’t want to be caught out whilst capturing a perfect family snap!

Deputy Editor

Jennifer is the Deputy Editor (Digital) for Homes & Gardens online. Prior to her current position, she completed various short courses a KLC Design School, and wrote across sister brands Ideal Home, LivingEtc, 25 Beautiful Homes, Country Homes & Interiors, and Style at Home.