Stress-free Christmas countdown

Brooke Evans-Butler

There are only three weeks to Christmas so avoid the stress and follow our week-by-week guide to help you get ready for the big day.

GET ORGANISED

*(December 5-11)*

MAKE A PLAN

Sara Hall, owner of Finer Details Personal Concierge Services, recommended having one reference place to store all your information.

"This week is all about planning, making lists and collating information into one location - an easy-to-use Christmas organiser," she said.

GET A TREE

John Anderson, owner of Valley Christmas Tree Farm, said real Christmas trees were always popular, with the "magnificent" smell a big selling point.

While they were likely to be sold out before Christmas, Mr Anderson said that for those who could get one, a living Christmas tree could stay green for up to nine weeks with care.

"We advise to do a fresh cut when they get home and put it in a bucket of water," he said.

STOCK UP ON DECORATIONS

Interior designers Marie Moscarda and Jean Hattingh, of styling company Designer Christmas, said fashion colours for 2010 included ice blue and aqua, as well as silver and traditional reds and golds. Birds and sequins, elements from nature, bold flowers and ribbons were in; tinsel was out.

TREE-DECORATING TIPS:

• Lights go on to the tree first but turn them on beforehand so you can see the effect as you go along

• People tend to hang ornaments on the end of the branches - be sure to hang them halfway into the tree as well.

PRE-ORDER

Lisa Balbi, owner of gourmet food and homewares store Fancy Pantry in Attadale, suggested talking to your local butcher to get your meats organised early.

START CLEANING

Katrina Drewer, from home cleaning service Dial-an-Angel, said to pick a few rooms to clean each week or, if you employ a cleaning service, perhaps even book in a special pre-Christmas session.

SMART PREPARATION

*(December 12-18)*

PREPARE FOR FOOD SHOPPING

Write up the shopping list and decide what can be cooked in advance, Ms Drewer advised. "Check the recipes you'll be making to ensure you have all the ingredients and correct equipment."

DE-CLUTTER

Pack away excess homewares and ornaments to make room for festive ones. "These can go in the boxes the Christmas decorations come out of, so that it is easy to swap after Christmas," Ms Hall said.

PREPARE FOR GUESTS

For many people, this means sprucing up the spare room. "Don't forget to make room for their belongings in the wardrobe, dresser and side tables," Ms Hall said.

TABLE TALK

Ms Moscarda and Ms Hattingh said to start thinking about your table theme, start polishing any silverware and checking your table linen and dinnerware.

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

*(December 19-25)*

BUY FRESH PRODUCE

Ms Balbi said to work with what was in season for better quality and price. She advised storing fruit and vegetables unwashed, in sealed containers in the lower part of your fridge.

WRAP GIFTS

Set up a dedicated area to wrap your gifts and follow these tips from Ms Hall:

• If you or your children are creative, buy large sheets of plain or butcher paper and decorate festively.

• For larger gifts, buy a festive disposable tablecloth to use as wrapping paper.

• To make odd-shaped gifts easier to wrap, find a box to place them in first.

FINAL CLEAN

Ms Drewer said now was the time to give the house a final clean, prepare any outdoor areas for entertaining and clean out the refrigerator to leave plenty of space come the big day.

LITTLE DETAILS
"Don't forget the music," Ms Drewer said.