Every year, when December rolls around, thousands of families go into crazy-overwhelmed mode as the holiday season begins. Actually, let’s be honest, thanks to the retail industry… the crazy overwhelm now starts somewhere between Halloween and Thanksgiving.
The pressure of “getting everything done” suddenly gets multiplied by 10 as there are gifts to buy, trees to put up, houses to decorate, food to prepare, cookies to bake, parties to plan and events to attend.
As if your regular everyday life wasn’t busy enough, the holiday season suddenly doubles the workload, making you wish someone would finally make it possible for you to clone yourself.
But, what if that’s not how it has to be?
What if your Christmas season could actually be… slower, easier, more enjoyable? What if it was really about spending time with family and friends and celebrating the most magical time of the year?
What if things could be… simpler?
Well, good news my friend, they can be. By making just a few simple changes to your holiday routine, you can enjoy an easier, more relaxed Christmas with your friends and family - the way it was meant to be.
Choose which holiday events and traditions are most important to you and then forget the rest.
Yep, I said it. You don’t have to do ALL the events. Just because every Tom, Joe and Larry in the city are having a holiday celebration, doesn’t mean that you have to celebrate with every Tom, Joe and Larry. There are entirely too many events going on at Christmastime for you to be able to attend all of them. So, this year, sit down early and decide which ones you and your family enjoy the most (preferably, no more than 5 at most since the point is to simplify) and schedule them on your calendar. If you’ve always enjoyed going to the drive-thru lights show, then do that. But, if you could take or leave the neighborhood craft show, then leave it. I promise, you won’t get kicked out of the neighborhood.
Do the same thing with your holiday traditions. If watching Elf together as a family is one of your clan’s favorite holiday activities, then put it on the calendar and make it happen! But, if the kids are getting a little old to enjoy Buddy the Elf, then maybe this is the year Buddy retires. Remember, keep it simple.
2. Give yourself permission to stop doing things that
don’t bring you joy.
Although this is similar to what we just talked about, here I mean something a little different. Let’s say, every year you spend an entire day in the kitchen baking pies. Except… you don’t actually enjoy baking pies. In fact, it stresses you out and you dread the day for months before it arrives. Then, stop doing it! Go to the store and buy pies this year. Or order some from that bakery in town that you’ve always wanted to try! This is not a Superwoman contest. This is your life. Give yourself permission to stop doing the things that you’re doing not out of joy, but out of obligation - be it baking, sending personalized Christmas cards or participating in the 20th Secret Santa email that’s landed in your inbox. Gasp! It’s okay. You’re okay. The holidays will all be okay.
3. Set a gift limit.
Now, I know this goes against everything our American culture seems to stand for these days (after all… more is “better”, right??), but you can limit the number of gifts at Christmas and still have an awesome holiday. Imagine that. In fact, the earlier you can start teaching your kids that the holidays aren’t just about how much stuff you get, the better. Setting a limit will also help you, as an adult, to retain some self-control and not go on a neverending shopping spree. You can set the limit per person by dollar amount spent or by number of gifts - whichever you prefer. Or, if you have a big family, why not start a new tradition where family members draw names and only buy a gift for the person they draw instead of every single person.
4. Give gifts that won’t cause more clutter.
As a minimalist, of course, this is one of my favorite tips for a simplified holiday. First of all, not only does it make your shopping easier, but it also prevents you from having a massive mountain of gifts in your living room. There are plenty of thoughtful, enjoyable gifts you can give that don’t cause clutter like gift cards for stores and restaurants, certificates for Groupons and Living Social experiences, tickets to sports events and concerts, gift certificates for lessons or classes, even gifts of food, candy, teas or coffees. All of these gifts will be used and won’t end up just sitting around gathering dust. Plus, you may end up helping your loved ones mark some things off their bucket lists!
5. Don’t try to make all the foods for Christmas
As the holidays draw closer and closer, your Instagram and Pinterest feeds will probably start to fill up with all sorts of culinary masterpieces. Not to mention, all the images of picture-perfect holiday meals that you’ll see on TV and on magazine covers in the check-out line. But again, just because all of those wondrous dishes exist, doesn’t mean that YOU have to make them all. Keep your holiday simple by sticking with the foods that you know your family enjoys. Of course, you can try out a new recipe if you think you’re loved ones will really like it. Just don’t make something because you want it to look good on Instagram. Your followers don’t have to cook it and eat it, you do. You can also simplify your Christmas dinner by buying some of the side dishes pre-made and just making the main dish and the family “specialties” from scratch.
6. Make your normal priorities - a priority.
Just because it’s the Christmas season, doesn’t mean you should just throw your whole normal routine out the window. Make a list of all the things that you want to keep doing throughout the holiday to maintain your health and well-being like getting to bed by 10 p.m., going to the gym, working on your favorite hobby or having quiet time every day. And then make sure you stick to doing them! Add them to your calendar, set reminders on your phone… whatever you need to do to remember that your life doesn’t stop just because it’s the holiday season!
7. Simplify your decorating.
It’s SO easy for Christmas (and other holiday) decorations to become clutter, that I actually wrote an entire blog post about it last year. But, the basic rule here again is - keep it simple. Start by getting rid of all the decorations that are old, broken, worn out, faded or otherwise out-of-shape. You can also get rid of things that you have duplicates (or 3, 4 or 5 of) and just pick your favorite one of each group to keep. For example, if you have 5 different decorations for your front door, but you’ll only have one door to decorate… you do the math.
Don’t stop there though. If you can muster up the courage, go ahead and get rid of things that you just plain don’t need or like anymore, even if they’re in good condition. Maybe you went all out for the holidays when your children were younger and decorated every single room, window and door on the house. But now that they’re getting older (and you are too), all that isn’t necessary anymore. Stick to your favorite pieces - the ones that really bring your family joy and hold special memories - and don’t be afraid to trim off the excess.
Your holidays can still be magical and enjoyable when they’re simplified. In fact, I venture to guess that you’ll find them to be even more so. Because you’ll have more time, more energy and probably even more money to truly be present and enjoy the time you have with your friends and family.
Which, after all, is the greatest gift you could ever receive anyway.
Until next time… keep your worries tiny and your dreams BIG!