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Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year. A season of joy and celebration. But for some, this time of year brings more stress than joy.
It’s understandable considering how much there is to do during the holiday season. The decorating, the shopping, the entertaining, the meal planning, the cooking, the baking, the organizing (if you have the time), gift wrapping, getting the Christmas cards in the mail on time and oh, the cleaning too (lots of it!).
I’ve seen some of the Christmas checklists for moms out there that look more like a checklist fit for the royal family.
Does Christmas have to be so elaborate? I don’t think so and if you agree keep reading for some tips on how to simplify Christmas.
1. Know What Matters to You and Your Family
Before you get into the spirit, know what matters most to you and your family.
Forgetting what’s most important during the holidays can pull you off balance. It can lead you to chase an unrealistic vision of Christmas.
Before venturing into the holiday frenzy, you should ask yourself this important question. What do you need to make your Christmas comfortable and enjoyable?
It can be a challenge to focus on the essentials when the holidays are a time to splurge. It’s easy to splurge when you get into the Christmas spirit.
A wreath on the front door turns into a smorgasbord giant animated Christmas characters on your front lawn.
A charming tree becomes the tallest designer Christmas tree. And it’s filled with a hundred hand blown glass ornaments and satin ribbons.
A hearty holiday dinner becomes a 12-course meal with more than enough trimmings.
You get the idea.
Your heart is in the right place, but it can cause a great deal of pressure and stress. Ensure your holiday is authentic to you and your family. It will make your Christmas an enjoyable and memorable one.
2. Preparation: The Earlier, the Better
Preparation can go a long way especially for special occasions. Most families have a few holiday events to attend or host so a little advance planning will help everything run more smoothly.
The list of things to do during the holiday season can be long and it can get complicated.
If you try to wing it, you might end up overwhelmed. Overwhelm can lead to procrastination making it more difficult to get quality time with friends and family. Instead of relaxing, your time is spent scrambling to get stuff done.
Ask your friends and family for help in holiday prep. Doing holiday tasks on your own is never a good idea. Christmas is a family event, so it makes sense for your family to pitch in.
3. Use a Planner & Schedule Everything
What is a good companion to preparation? A planner. Every mom needs a good planner because moms are not just busy at Christmas, they’re busy 365 days a year.
If you’re not using a planner, I recommend that you start using one. Look for a planner that is a decent size. It should be able to fit in your purse or handbag. It should also have categories, plenty of sheets for notes and a pocket folder to hold receipts, cards, stamps, etc.
Keep in mind my first tip about focusing on what matters. It’s not about inundating yourself with a bunch of tasks, it’s about having a clear focus on what you need so you can get it done.
Think essential, cross it off in your planner and sit back and enjoy the festivities.
4. Acknowledge What You Don’t Want to Do
What stresses you the most this time of year? Everyone has at least one thing they despise during the holidays. For me, it’s going to the mall to shop. The crowds, the noise, the chaos – it sucks the life out of me.
Maybe that was a little dramatic but simply put, I hate going to the mall during holiday season. I prefer to shop online, and I recommend that you do to if the mall is not your jam either.
For you, it might be the hassle of sending out a hundred Christmas cards and worrying about forgetting someone. It could be that holiday baking makes you cringe. Or it could be the thought of spending time with the in-laws that stresses you out.
It’s okay to not enjoy everything about Christmas. It’s better to accept that you have limits than to go beyond them and suffer through it.
5. Embrace minimalism (at least for the holidays)
It can be challenging to do less or have less during the holidays because it’s a special occasion. You want it to be special, you want it to be memorable and you want it to bring joy to the family.
Would you believe me if I told you that you can still have all those things even when you minimize?
It can be more special, more memorable and more joyful when you simplify. How do you do it? It goes back to my point about what’s most important to you.
There is no right or wrong way to minimalism. The goal is focus on what matters and to be aware of the small things that can add up to big stresses.
You can embrace minimalism however you see fit. Some ideas…Try going paperless. I’ll be sending out ecards this year and my favorite is Greenvelope.
Greenvelope is a digital greetings and invitations service. It has a variety of beautiful pre-designed and customizable cards. No more searching for the right cards, getting stamps or going to the post office again. Greenvelope has got you covered.
If you haven’t sent out your Christmas cards yet, I recommend you check them out.
This year, I decided to take it easy with décor. I love decorating for Christmas, but it can take a lot of time and money to make it happen. The Scandinavians nailed it with their Hygge. It’s cozy, festive and inviting without being overwhelming.
How to do it like the Scandinavians? Hygge is all about being warm and cozy. Some greenery, warm blankets and some candles can go a long way in giving your home a comfortable holiday feel without the excess. As a mom who wants to keep the clutter and chaos to a minimum, I appreciate this.
How you approach minimalism is up to you but if you do, you’re already ahead of the game. Your personal and mental space will be free of stress and mess!
6. Have a Gift Giving Rule
You’ve probably heard of the 4 gift Rule. If not, it’s an easy gifting rule based on four categories – Want, Need, Wear, and Read. It’s also a great rule because it makes it super easy to shop.
Using a gift rule like this one helps keep gift giving thoughtful and intentional. It also helps your family understand that Christmas is not just a time for loads of gifts.
Creating your own 4 gift rule shopping list is easy. On a sheet of paper, create four categories: Want, Need, Wear and Read. On the left-hand margin of the page write down the names of your family members.
That’s all there is to it but if you don’t want to handle the shopping yourself. Give another helpful friend or family member a person to shop for.
You can can add the The One-In, One-Out rule to the mix. This along with a minimalist approach is like peanut butter is to jelly. They are meant to be together. Gift giving is a big part of Christmas, but it means there will be more stuff in your home too. You can do this all year long and I recommend you do as it keeps the clutter under control. Less clutter, less stress. Get your family together and go through your collection of books, clothing, toys, etc. If you don’t use it, let go of it. Donate it or sell it.
Overall, the 4-Gift rule is a smart solution to simplifying gift giving. It reduces clutter, saves time and money too.
7. Avoid Malls Like the Plague
Just kidding (not kidding). Anyone who’s ever shopped at the mall during peak season knows how painful it is. It’s chaos. People are in a frenzy and will go to any lengths to get that limited edition toy their kids have been begging for.
I would rather shop from the comfort of my own home in my PJs with a hot beverage in hand. But if going out to shop among the crowd is something you enjoy, try local holiday markets. Holiday markets are usually more laid back and family friendly too.
8. Swap or Borrow
Do you have things you only use during Christmas? Like candy cane themed mugs, maybe a set of elf cheese spreaders, or maybe a collection of tacky Christmas ties?
Because it’s such a special occasion, it can be an excuse to buy stuff that we can only use once a year. When the trend is over, another one is taking its place. That’s more stuff.
If you need something specific for the holidays, ask friends and family if they have what you need. So, instead of buying it and possibly not using again, borrow it. You can even do a swap at work.
I’m a sucker for unique ornaments so I understand that it can be hard to resist the beautiful new Christmas décor in the shops. But before you buy, try to borrow or do a swap. You can refresh your holiday décor without having to take the time shopping around or spending more money.
9. Outsource & Delegate Wherever You Can
If you can’t bring yourself to simplifying because “going all out” fills you with joy, at least lighten some of the load by outsourcing or delegating. You can still have your dream Christmas and have some energy left over to spend with family.
Ask friends and family to help with holiday tasks like shopping, gift wrapping, meal planning, organizing, or decorating. There’s no shame in hiring help either. Outsource a few or all holiday tasks to make it even more stress free.
10. Communicate with Family
Communicating with family is necessary for a smooth holiday gathering. There will always be a family member that is less than considerate or tend to create drama. No one needs or wants drama especially during holidays. Do you agree?
You can keep Christmas civil by communicating in advance what your expectations are. Be open in how you will be celebrating the holidays.
You might want to try something different this year by having a quiet and less eventful Christmas. Discussing your plans with family give you the opportunity to lay out expectations and will help you be better prepared.
11. Start New Traditions
Most families follow the same or similar traditions, so you are probably doing the same things every year. Matching Christmas pajamas again this year?
There’s nothing wrong with following the same traditions every year. It’s worth knowing that your holiday can still be festive without some of those traditions.
If you’re burnt out from last year’s holiday baking marathon try something a little different. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic change, but you can modify it. If your tradition is baking dozens of cookies in twenty different varieties, try choosing only two of your signature Christmas cookies instead.
I love fruit cake (come on, you don’t like fruit cake?) and enjoy making it, but I will be buying it this year instead. No biggie because I can always plan to make it next year.
Try resisting the pressure to offer a pâtisserie shop worth of baked goods. Make enough for everyone to enjoy one or two cookies and that’s it. If you must have extras, you can buy from a local bake shop. Your freeing up your time and energy as well as supporting your local business.
The most important thing is to create traditions that keep family happy and connected.
It’s possible to come out of the holidays feeling refreshed and not burnt out. Christmas is a time to spend connecting with family not spending it stressed and exhausted. Give yourself permission to simplify your holiday.
I hope that these tips help make it more enjoyable. Wishing you and your family an unforgettable and stress-free Christmas.