By Carla Olivo, USMC Spouse

By the middle of July, we are more than halfway to Christmas! In fact, by July 20, we have exactly 158 days left until the big day. I know, I know! Why rush it? But that is not what I am doing.

It dawned on me four or five moves ago, that in the years we PCSed, I was actually MORE prepared for Christmas than the years we weren’t movers. Crazy, right?

Christmas in July

I’m not exactly sure why, other than during the years involving a PCS I am probably more organized and focused. Also, being new to the area I’m not as tied up with volunteering, hosting or even attending spouse club events.

I go from PCS mode to unpack mode to getting a head start on our family holiday mode. I’m not talking about dragging out your ornaments while you are sitting around the pool! Here are some easy steps to start your holiday planning.

#1 List-Making Mode

In the months leading up to a PCS, I’m making list after list: purge list, donate list, important-documents- to-gather list. I download a PCS checklist. Coming down off the adrenalin rush of a PCS, I’m in full list-making mode, so naturally, I start my “Holiday To Do” list. Will we be staying at our new location or will we be traveling “home”? Are we pulling out the expensive artificial tree that looks real (in certain lighting) or are we going for a more back-to-nature holiday and cutting down our own live tree?

#2 Early Shopping

I do tend to start my shopping earlier when we move. What else is there to do when the kids go back to school, and I don’t quite yet have a posse of mil-spouse peeps to hang with? Searching for sales and spacing the shopping out over September, October and November makes things so much more manageable. Yea, I know, you are thinking, “But what about the holiday sales?” Truth be told, you can find great sales any time of year, and the stores are not as crowded in early fall.

#3 Time for the Fun Stuff

Having the bulk of the Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving allows me to concentrate on other areas of our holiday that most years are left to the last minute. Instead of pulling an all-nighter for the neighborhood cookie exchange, I actually have time to plan what I want to bake and take my time doing it!

#4 Holiday Decorating is a Breeze

Even decorating is easier following a PCS. Knowing we are moving, I judiciously pack all the precious ornaments myself the January before. This means that for once, everything is organized by room and by tree (yes, we have multiple trees). So, pulling it all out right after Thanksgiving goes pretty fast.

#5 Early to Mail

Another thing that I seem to be on top of following a PCS move is mailing cards and packages to family. I make it a point to have everything ready before Thanksgiving. So when the media starts shouting, “Mail your packages by Friday, or they won’t get there by Christmas.” I’m already figuring out which ugly sweater I want to wear to my kids’ school party.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There will still be moments of stress during the holiday. The cat will pull down at least one of my trees. And no matter how much lead time I have, I am a horrible baker. So while the cookies may not be burned, I can’t guarantee how tasty they will be!

How do you start prepping for your major family holidays following a move?

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olivoPCSgrades Author: Carla Olivo, PCSgrades Strategic Communications Director, previously served as the Director of Communications for Operation Hug-A-Hero. She has garnered numerous TV industry awards including the Associated Press award for Spot News Reporting, News Writing, and Documentary Reporting. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a retired USMC Lt. Colonel and their two children.