We’re reaching a time of year where our schedules get filled, to-do lists grow long, and stress begins to rise.
But it’s just the holidays, right? It’s what we do…
Maybe…or maybe not.
I’m a firm believer that we humans are pretty good at overcomplicating our lives at times. We seem to feel this need to check all the boxes, do every fun activity, and “make the most” out of everything.
Some of this comes from how we were raised (“It’s what we always did.”), how we weren’t raised (“I want to do this for my kids because I never got to.”), or in this age of social media what we see others doing (“What a neat idea! We should do that too!”).
Don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying that any of these are bad! There are all great reasons to do something. But at some point, as we try to do #allthethings we get back to that stressed-out person with a huge to-do list and no downtime for most of November & December.
This year I want to challenge you to break out of the stress mold of the holidays and find a way to enjoy more and do less.
My suggestions for simplifying the holidays
1. Simplify gift giving.
Make a list of all of the gifts you give or exchange. Everything from close to extended family, white elephant party exchanges, name swaps, coworker gifts, friend gifts, teacher gifts, etc. Seeing this written out might surprise you and make you realize why your Dec is so busy! Buying gifts can be time consuming.
You will obviously have your top priorities like immediate family, but what about exchanges between friends? Or other random name swaps? Is there a way to do something different here?
Instead of an exchange with a good friend, could you find a date to go holiday shopping together and have lunch? Or plan a lunch date for after New Years has passed to re-live holiday events to each other.
Instead of a name swap with extended family could you instead do a fun activity together or volunteer together?
One final way to simplify gift giving is to give less. Trust me, your kids (or anyone!) do not need a huge pile of presents. Set a dollar amount and stick to it and remind yourself that less is more.
2. Simplify decor.
For the past 3 years, my goal has been to get rid of more Christmas decor and simplify how we decorate. There were many things we never put out, yet we drug those extra bins down from the attic (and back up again in Jan). Every year we’ve gotten rid of at least one bin. I’m excited to do the same this year.
Start by putting out the things you truly love and can’t do without. Then take a step back and see how that feels. If you want, you can wait to put out more for a few days to see how you like it. I know that the more I’ve minimized from my home in general, the less I like tons of holiday decor. It feels too much to me and I love the openness of less where I can really see those special items I love.
3. Simplify food.
Even if you are the hostess with the mostess, it can be SO nice to have others help with holiday food for get-togethers. Reach out to others coming and ask if they would be willing to bring a dessert, snack/appetizer, or side dish to contribute. Additionally, remember that you don’t have to have 10 different sides at Thanksgiving. Everyone will be just fine with a few. You don’t need 6 different pies either. Keep the menu simple!
And while we’re on this note, you don’t have to make platters full of handmade cookies for everyone in your life. And if you REALLY insist that you do, try scaling back to small plates of cookies and only making 2-3 kinds instead of 8 varieties.
4. Lessen your commitments.
There are a LOT of things we get invited to over this season of time. Family get togethers, work parties, friend gatherings, neighborhood parties, school events, volunteer opportunities, and activities like seeing Christmas lights, parades, special shows, etc. *whew* That’s a lot of stuff! But it’s probably a pretty accurate list.
And again, while these are all great things, it gets to a point where too much is too much!
It’s time to look at your commitments and decide which are top priorities and which are ones that you dread doing. Some things that you do “for the kids” you may find that the kids really don’t care about. You can even take one year off from doing something. And if you really missed it, do it again next year.
One addition to this list are the extra things we do to “make things fun”. I’m talking about things like decorating cookies, elf on a shelf, over the top gift wrapping, cards, gingerbread houses, etc. These can all go if you need them to.
Yeah, you heard me, you don’t have to send Christmas cards! I skip every year or two and somehow I still have all of my friends and family and the world hasn’t ended. But I did save a lot of time and about $70.
Enjoy More, Stress Less
If there’s anything I want you to take away from this is that the holiday season is meant to bring us joy. It is a time meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus, create fun memories, and be with loved ones. It is not supposed to be a time of stress, yet we have basically said that we accept that fate.
I say no more!
Find time as this season starts to look at these areas and find places you can let go, even if it’s just for this year. Talk with your family and come to an agreement about what you will make a priority and what you’re going to let go of for now.
They may be hesitant at first, but explain your hopes, dreams, and goals for this season. You may win them over to this concept as well!