Reader Holiday Tip: Over-the-Door Shoe Organizer Turned into Advent Calendar

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Holiday Tip (sent in by reader, Maria)…

Once our two daughters reached their teen years, we found that their Christmas wish lists became shorter, while the items on the list became more sophisticated (read as “electronic”) a/k/a more expensive. The good old days of small and sometimes inexpensive gifts were a thing of the past.

Last year, I decided to make countdown calendars (a/k/a Advent calendars) for my girls so that I could give them small items everyday for 24 days, and then one or two larger items from their wish lists on Christmas morning. The “calendar” wasn’t really a calendar at all. It was separately wrapped items numbered 1-24 and set out all around the living room where we place our Christmas tree. This year, I am planning to decorate an over-the-door shoe organizer; most of them have 24 pockets already and the pockets will accommodate many different sized items.

The possibilities for countdown calendars are pretty much endless, and can be super elaborate to super simple. Pretty much anything can be used to create this fun-to-make and fun-to-receive item. To fill the “calendar,” I have already purchased the Pez dispenser Target gift cards that Collin featured, as well as The Body Shop Groupon Offers. I have also been saving samples received in the mail throughout the year. Small makeup, lip glosses, little lotions, little nail polishes, perfume samples and the like are absolutely perfect for my girls’ countdown calendars. Some of the pockets will include play money that my girls can cash in when their study abroad trips come up next year.

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Comments 58

  1. cait

    LOVE this idea!

    • Stacy

      Collin, has the exact same organizer that you linked us to on amazon, for the same price, 11.96. I don’t have prime, for free shipping, so with Walmart I can pick up in store.

  2. deb

    Thanks for sharing this, love it

  3. Tracey

    WOW! I am going to start this tradition for my kiddos!! FANTASTIC idea! Thanks for passing on this tip!

  4. Jenna

    Great idea Maria! Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. Ashlie

    If you want to purchase something cheap for younger kids, go to Walmart online and type in Vermont Christmas Company Advent Calendar. They have them for around $4 and free shipping. AND, you can select one that has a piece of chocolate behind each flap πŸ™‚ A small treat each day to make the countdown more exciting.

    • Sara

      Thanks for sharing, Ashlie! My kids love the calendars with the chocolates, and with 4 kids this is an inexpensive way to count down!

    • Brittany

      They have them for $2, I think at Trader Joe’s (with chocolate).

      • Jennifer

        I was thinking this about trader joe’s as well, they are really cheap, maybe even $1- however the chocolate isn’t the best according to my kids.

    • Beth

      thanks for info!

  6. Glo

    This is such a wonderful idea! I was thinking of making an advent calendar this year and didnt want to spend too much time or money to make it. Thanks Collin and Maria.

  7. charlotte

    I love this idea!!! Thank you

  8. H

    Love this idea! I’m obsessed with holidays and this is another great idea to bring holiday joy to the kids!

  9. Shawna

    Great idea! We will doing this at our house!

  10. Tina

    I love this idea too. Can anyone give me suggestions on what little items to give to a 6 year old boy? I can think of little cars, small packages of Lego, army men and candy, but I am at a loss on some other ideas.

    • Heather

      Hit up the dollar tree and dollar spot at different stores! Tons of small inexpensive items you can fill this with. 6 is the perfect age for finding gifts πŸ™‚

    • Heather C

      Anything Minecraft (if he plays video games) a bubble wand, sword or gun, holiday chocolate, Rice Krispie treat, etc…. Check the $1 section @ Target and/or your local $1 stores! GπŸ‘€d luck!!

    • Karen

      If he has a piggy bank you could give him some quarters and other change. I’m a grown woman and still pick up pennies in parking lots haha


      Plastic dinosaurs or other little animals


      Crazy straws



      Superhero mask

      • Heather C

        Ooh, YES! Get ahold of the Scholastic flyer for Dec from his teacher (if he/she participates)…. They have wonderful high quality $1 choices. I’ve been known to ask the teacher in advance to hold these aside for me as a secret for gift giving. It’s also fun to go through them together in advance. He’ll likely forget about it, and you’ll already know what he wants!

    • Becky

      Crayons, small note books, flash cards with bugs or reptiles, card games, play-doh, small balls, fake money to learn counting, an inexpensive watch, handheld video games, small puzzles, rocks… These are all things my boys wanted. Plus all can be very inexpensive depending on how you shop. Hope this helps.

    • Erin

      There are books in the Dollar Spot at Target.

    • Sonya

      Temporary tattoos!

    • MommySpendsLess

      Two years ago (based on a Hip2Save tip I think) I started a book countdown calendar for my daughter (she was 3.5 the first year, 4.5 last year). After the holidays she talked more about the “Christmas Countdown” than she did about the all the mountains of regular presents she gathered (only child, only grandchild on one side, youngest grandchild on the other) and seems more excited about starting the Countdown this year than she does Christmas morning itself.

      I bought twenty-four 8″x10″ muslin bags and printed out numbers on cardstock (hole-punched them and put them on the drawstrings). The first year I tied them to strings, like garland, the second year I just put them in a basket, which seemed to work better. To fill them, I gathered up Christmas/winter books that I’d saved from my childhood and any that we had gotten when she was a baby/toddler. I added small toys and treats that corresponded to the book, some were kid-safe holiday decorations for her room that we already had (like plastic snow globes), holiday jewelry, a Santa hat, cocoa, holiday candies (a Reece’s tree when we read a “The Biggest Most Beautiful Christmas Tree”, a Rudolph-nose sucker when we read “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” etc.) I saved “The Night Before Christmas” for Christmas Eve (shocking, huh πŸ™‚ )

      Since the first year I’ve gathered clearance holiday jewelry, toys and novelties and like-new holiday books from thrift stores to add/change the collection and swap out books as her interests/age changes. Last year I gave her her Christmas pajamas in the first bag so she could get some extra use out of them and it worked so well I’m hoping to do it again this year.

      Since the books, the bags and a lot of the holiday-specific items (decorations, jewelry) can be put away and re-used the following year, I think it’s going to be a fairly in-expensive tradition to maintain. Plus I like that the emphasis is on snuggling up and reading a book with me or her dad rather than getting more stuff.

    • RB

      Besides stickers, kids always love the wash-off tattoos.

    • Sarah

      My 3 boys loved getting foamy soap (Walmart near bubble bath) comes out like shaving cream. Also any bath tub fun toys, even small squirt guns, look in party isle at Walmart or target. Be warned they thought the bath fizzy tablets were candy! (Still chuckle over that!) Bouncy balls or really any small balls. Also they were fine with Chapstick. The best thing they liked which we’ve replaced many times were holiday themed hot cocoa mugs. Michaels had them, so many places do and they each had one that depicted their likes. Maybe a train, or snowman, nutcracker. Etc.

      • Tina

        Thanks everyone! Great ideas!

  11. Heather

    I am totally doing this this year! Thank you for sharing the idea πŸ™‚ I collect so many misc items throughout the year in clearance deals – now I know what to use them for!

    Also, I’m going to put $10 on 2 Target gift cards and give them to both of my children on the first day of the calendar countdown and instruct them to enjoy the pez themselves, but to spend the actual gift card purchasing something for each other bc they need to remember and start out the season being giving to others.

  12. Heather C

    Amazing- I just purchased one of these for shoes for my daughter’s small room, but I set it aside and I can’t find it. I’m sure it’ll show up after Christmas! 😁. Maybe if I find it before the end of the month, it can be an advent calendar with an incentive to clean & organize for each day of the month!

    • Heather

      Ohhhh good idea! Maybe full each pocket but have kids do a random act of kindness each day before they get what’s inside.

  13. rama

    Such a wonderful idea; and your daughters are blessed to have a loving/thougtful/giving mom!

  14. Angela

    I found a version of this on Pinterest that comes with a frozen story. Doing it for my 5 year old!

  15. Becky

    Can the shoe holders be found at the dollar store?

    • Jen B.

      I haven’t seen those at the dollar store (I tried Dollar Tree and 99 cents store). I got mine from Ikea (if you have one near you) for 99 cents on a special, but they normally retail for like $4 which still isn’t a bad price. The pockets are not clear though- they are solid white.

  16. Sarah

    When I was little ( 33 now), my Grandmother did this for me and my 2 sisters. She did not live nearby and she prewrapped all 72 gifts and my mom would give them to us every day. I will never forget it. We also make an advent change of red and green strips of construction paper. Every day we would clip another link in the chain to countdown to christmas!

    • Karen

      Those construction paper chains got crazy in our house. We had the regular countdown chain with 24 rings…..and then we’d have chains that were hundreds of links long swathed **everywhere**!

    • Tisha

      I remember doing this as a child also–will incorporate this into my Christmas activites also—thanks for the great ideas guys!

  17. N

    Love this idea. I am doing something similar but not with tangible gifts. Since my kids are both under 6, mine is more experiences and things to do to celebrate the season. For example, send a card to the troops, snow ball game night, make paper snowflakes, give a neighbor a sweet treat, donate to a bell ringer, etc..

    • MosleyMom

      This is perfect! I’m gonna combine this with the book countdown another poster mentioned!

  18. Kathryn K

    instead of a gift every day, you could stick in cards or letters with special things to do like a Christmas story to read, a holiday game to play, outing (see Santa), etc. Stick a few gifts in or pieces of candy on other days.

  19. Erin

    This is a great idea for older kids! My son is only eight but he’s already outgrowing the toy stage. He likes things like telescopes and microscopes but the toy versions are junk so we end up spending more on “real” ones so we end up buying less overall. This is such a nice way to include fun smaller items.

  20. harlow

    How nice Maria!! Ur daughters are so lucky to have
    such a generous, thoughtful mom <3 Have a Merry Christmas!!!

  21. April

    I love this idea…the possibilities are endless. My Grandmother lives in assisted living and I am thinking I could ask different relatives to contribute something to the individual days.

    • Tracy

      Great idea to remember your grandmother. It also gives her daily caregivers something to talk about with her. Very fun.

  22. Dawn

    lol! I LOVE THIS!!! I have 6 kids (5 under 12) and so it’s not totally feasible for me to buy and wrap that many presents (i.e.: I have $2 to my name till payday at the end of the month)…….any ideas of what to do for my family? Something for all to “share”? (ha-ha) or something for everyone? BTW I HATE spending money of cheap crap from Dollar Tree—it has to be a GOOD item that is worth at least it’s $1! πŸ˜‰

    • Dawn

      sorry, I meant: I hate spending good money ‘on’ cheap crap from Dollar Tree, that is either not decent quality or doesn’t work well for the $1!

    • MommySpendsLess

      What about books or movies? To do it really cheaply, maybe you could put in slips of paper or some other placeholder then borrow the materials from your local library when you get close to that date? Or gather them from used book stores, thrift stores, borrow/trade with family and friends, Netflix, RedBox, etc.? You and the older ones could take turn reading to the littles. Occasionally you could add a little inexpensive treat for everyone to enjoy during story/move time (cocoa packages, candy canes, small chocolates, popcorn).

  23. Yolie

    I like this idea! I have to remember it for next year! I had decided to do a mason jar with red and green popsicle sticks with things to do for my four kiddos this year. Bake cookies for neighbors, xmas movie night, read a xmas book, leave the reindeer food for day 24, etc. Thanks for sharing!

  24. Dawn

    I read somewhere about wrapping 24 Christmas books up and numbering them for the days (I’ve collected over twice that many over the years!) and every night kiddos unwrap one (or two if you do 48) and you read it together. I liked it because it ensures that I WILL get to read ALL the books by Christmas with my kids! The only ‘down’ side is they can’t read them themselves until they’re unwrapped, but I still think it’s an awesome idea in addition to this one posted! πŸ™‚

    • Dawn

      The number 24 is always the “night before Chrismtas” story, and then day 25 is the Bible story…….(or we often do both the night before to keep the true spirit of Christmas)

  25. Tisha

    Awesome idea–I want to try it for my daughter–can you please give step by steps instructions on how you made it (background & letters-coloring) Thanks

  26. Karen

    I do this something like this too. I have a gingerbread house that has 24 doors on it, each numbered. I put little slips of paper in them. Some say where to find a treat and others are coupons for things like “one week off from folding laundry (unloading dishwasher, taking out trash etc)” or “good for one snacksize (have to specify or they will want the biggest one!) McFlurry. I usually get them one or two toys, a giftcard, and a “coupon” to somewhere fun (Chuckee Cheese) that is good for sometime in the month of January, lol.

    • Queenjen87

      Mine is still young enough she asks to do those chores. She always begs me to clean the kitty boxes. I swear she is trying to steal my kitten lol.

  27. Michelle

    last year I talked to my girls (7 & 9 at the time) about our advent calendar. Together we decided that rather than focus on getting stuff we would focus on doing good deeds. We painted a big tree on a big piece of cardboard and then we used construction paper to make 24 flat ornaments and a star. We put the ornaments in basket at the base of our tree that sat at the bottom of our stairs where it was nice and visible. At the end of each day we chose an ornament and wrote a good deed that we performed that day on it. Then we stuck it on our tree. It was great to see the tree decorated with love and pride. Every morning when my girls came downstairs they would see the tree and be eager to find some way to help someone that day. I was one very proud mommy seeing their drive to do good.

    • rama

      Awesome!!! So uplifting to read such things!

    • Nancy

      I like the good deed tree Michelle!

  28. Gwen

    Very Neat idea! I might be stealing this one, even though my kids are older…I think they will still love it! Thanks for sharing!

  29. Tracy

    Great idea! Thanks for sharing.

  30. Maria B

    I’m so glad to see so many Hip2Savers liked my idea! I have benefited from Collin and her readers for years, and it’s nice to give back in my own little way. Someone asked for details on how I made my countdown calendars. I had some beautiful gift tags that I bought at Costco last year. I saw similar ones at Sam’s Club. They remind me of the elaborate work scrapbookers create. I decided to attach the gift tags to the outside of each clear pocket with velcro dots. This way I could easily remove the tags for storage and not have them get bent and destroyed. I could also use the organizer for other uses throughout the year if needed. I put the soft velcro dot on the pockets and the rougher mate on the gift tag. By the way, the tags I used do not have a “to and from” on them, so they really look like something I could have made. I then used a metallic marker to number the tags. I am in the process of filling the pockets — the funnest part. I’m using colorful tissue paper to easily wrap the gifts which doubles to give the calendar color without additional decorating and expense. I saw a few comments about chocolate advent calendars. For many years, I too got those for my girls. This year, I’m going to get my chocolate on sale after Thanksgiving and add a fine chocolate or two to each pocket. My girls are old enough to not care that the chocolates may be Thanksgiving or Fall themed. I hope these details are helpful. Thank you to everyone for the very nice Christmas wishes. I wish the same to all of you!

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