Look, the holidays are tough. I know I’m supposed to say they’re a joyful snow-filled romp, but we all know the truth—they’re stressful. Every year, before we get into all the madness, I like to do a bit of a reset to get myself ready. I tidy the house, clean out some old junk, and—because we host both Thanksgiving and Christmas—I spend some time going through my kitchen cabinets and making sure I have all the staples and tools I know I’ll need. In fact, I do that in every room in the house. Do we have a full, unexpired bottle of Ibuprofen? Enough dog food on hand that I won’t be making an emergency trip to Costco two days before Christmas (shudder)? How about a big bag of baking soda and a stain remover stick to handle any red wine shenanigans? Speaking of red wine, do we have a couple of spare wine keys? Actually, let’s make sure we have plenty of wine, period.
As I started doing this mental checklist, I realized I was going through pretty much the same process I go through with our emergency kit and smoke detector batteries every spring, and that, in fact, what I was actually doing was creating a holiday survival kit. Perhaps not as vital as my earthquake one, but I do use it a lot more. I asked a bunch of my friends if they had any essentials that they make sure they have on hand before the holidays kick into high gear, and lo, it turns out they do! I live in Northern California, so the first item on everyone’s list was micro-dose cannabis edibles, so if you live in a cannabis state, these are highly recommended. Otherwise, though, here are some items we think might help you get through the most challenging time of the year, from the “duh, of course, I need that” to the unexpected but utterly essential.
On the Go Holiday Survival Tools
You’re wearing cute new shoes to the office holiday party! And they’re not broken in yet. It’s a tale as old as time, and also preventable with a box of Band-Aids in your bag.
This fits in your wallet like a credit card, includes a cord, and will save you from a late night out without a phone to get yourself home. Win win win.
For your lips, your hands, and anywhere else you need a little salve. Available tinted or not.
Keep all your purse essentials from drifting to the bottom of the bag with this adorable pouch set.
Traveling with kids is always a project, and it can be handy to have some kid’s games in your back pocket for long drives, flights, or just an evening at grandma’s house when they really need something to catch their attention.
Around the House Holiday Survival Tools
I know, tape is boring. But I also literally never have enough of it around the holidays. So stock up now! You’ll be glad you did.
My big takeaway from Bridget Jones’s Diary is that the wrong string can ruin your dinner party. Just me? Probably, but regardless, I find that I always need more cotton twine, whether it’s for trussing a turkey, hanging up holiday cards, last-minute ornament repairs, gift wrapping, or just trying to hold my life together: I always need a little bit of string.
This is also boring and obvious but you Never. Ever. Have. Enough. Scissors. So buy a six-pack now so you won’t have to worry about it later.
Maybe it’s a holdover from working in restaurants, but Sharpies make me deeply happy, and having one in my pocket gives me that calm, in-control-of-the-situation vibe I need to get through everything the season throws my way. Can boldly labeling everything in sight actually make my mother-in-law’s cranberry relish taste good? No, but it feels like it helps.
If you celebrate Hanukkah in your house, you know that there are never enough candles. Eight nights, fresh candles every night, plus a few extras, and it just turns out that you never have as many as you need, when you need them. So stock up now, there’s nothing wrong with some extras.
There’s also never enough gelt in your house if you celebrate Hanukkah, and now is a great time to make sure you have plenty for when you need it.
Do you have a tree? There are a few certainties in this world, and one of them is that you’ll run out of ornament hooks right when you need them most. Make sure you have them on the way before you get the tree and avoid tree-trimming meltdowns.
Party-Ready Holiday Survival Tools
I keep a small set of makeup on hand so I can head from work to an impromptu party any day of the week. These lipsticks are super cute, and there are enough colors to match any occasion.
I always have a few bottles of fairly reasonably-priced sparkling wine in my fridge during the holidays. It’s always welcome at a party, it starts a night off on the right foot, and it makes a great gift in a pinch.
As my super-smart friend Annie says, if you have nice ribbon, anything can be a gift! So keep some nice gold satin ribbon around, for last-minute gifting, including that bottle of wine you snagged at the corner store.
Same as the ribbon! Keep a pack of these around, and you can make any gift look chic and festive.
You probably don’t usually serve dinner on a nice platter—I mean, maybe you do, and dinners at your house are gorgeous every night but…if you’re anything like me, you serve out of the pot you cooked in most of the time, and then frantically dig through your serving dishes the day before people come over, trying to figure out if you have anything that can hold a whole turkey. Don’t do this! Get a platter now, and then maybe it will become part of your regular dinner routine.
We’ve all been there: you’re running around, trying to get dinner on the table, and you can’t find a trivet or a spare pot holder anywhere. This three-pack of handy trivets also does double duty as a set of coasters, so you can snag a few and keep all your tables free of damage from whatever the holiday season throws at them.
Holiday Survival Tools for Decompression
One thing I heard from everyone I spoke to about their holiday survival strategy was taking time out for themselves. Whether it’s exercise, meditation, or a warm bath, one of the key ways to keep yourself healthy and happy this time of year has nothing to do with buying stuff and everything to do with making time and space for you. A nice candle can’t do all that, but I do find that when I take a moment at the end of the day and light this one in my room, the smell reminds me that my day is over and now I’m home, unplugging, and doing what I need for myself.
A sheet mask can’t buy you serenity, but it can remind you to take a minute to calm down, decompress, and make room for yourself during a busy time of year. And hey, it’s supposed to be soothing! I keep mine in the fridge, as I find the coolness calms flushed or tired skin.
I know it seems weird to use an app on your phone to help get more centered, but it really can help—and look, we always have our phones with us anyway, why not try to use them to help us quiet our minds a little, too?
Do you have any essentials for surviving the holidays? Any tools or tricks to make the season just a little more manageable? Share the knowledge!