I like to get a good head start on Christmas presents. The collecting and buying begins somewhere around August, when I create Tiffany's Master Christmas list. All of my ideas are kept in one place for constant reference and updating.

Oh yes folks, I have this down to an art. The purchasing part, at least.

The problem is, once I get the gifts, I do not have a central locale for hiding them. It looks too suspicious to put them all in the master bedroom.

I have a husband who confessed to years of peeking in his parents' closet at all the gifts. One year he actually unwrapped all the presents because he couldn't bear the wait. It's fitting that this insatiable urge to uncover secrets led him to be a journalist.

So with those kind of genes running in the family, I have to be more discreet in my gift stowing. One of these days I will go out and purchase a spacious, locked vault, but until that time, I will continue to harness my stashing powers. I slide presents under beds, into dressers, on top of shelves, and in random boxes and bags hanging in the coat closet.

It's at this point in the season when things begin to spiral out of control. I can't remember what I've bought, and, more worrisome, I have no idea where I hid all these gifts.

I believe I'm on top of my holiday shopping. It's just a matter of hunting down the 40 stocking stuffers I purchased three months ago. Somewhere in the house I have a pair of brown socks for my husband, cotton-candy-scented pencils, bags of Hershey Kisses and an old-fashioned typewriter.

I have an authentic German Nutcracker (Shh, don't tell!) and a box set of The Chronicles of Narnia somewhere in the sub-zero confines of the garage. I have puzzles and second-hand tinker toys and an easel hidden so well even I can't find them.

I'm like a pirate who lost the treasure map to his own gold.

I know how it will play out on Christmas Eve. I will be tearing apart the house to uncover the buried treasures. I'm not confident I'll be successful. I'm afraid some gifts might get lost in the shuffle, as they always did in our house growing up.

The post-Christmas presents were always the most exciting because they came so unexpected. Around New Year's my mom always came to me with: a jar of shaving lotion! A new watch! An ornament with my name on it! It was like that delightful moment when, weeks after Easter, you discovered jelly beans hidden in the piano bench.

While doing some closet digging last night, I came across a wrapped Christmas present. The worn wrapping told me it was planned for, oh, Christmas of 2005. Five years that Christmas present has been languishing, hidden in the dark, waiting to be discovered. It's traveled with us through two house moves and thousands of miles. The age appropriateness has bypassed the two oldest children, but it will be perfect for my 5-year-old. Phew, that's one less thing I have to purchase.

Which means I'm done with Christmas shopping.

Now let the hunt begin.