Well I don’t know about you, but amazingly it appears that despite my popular belief (and recurring nightmares!), I am going to survive yet another holiday season. But the reality is that while I will “survive” the holiday, I have once again taken a couple more steps away from my days of true Christmas insanity!
I’m not really sure if my desire to truly “simplify” Christmas is related to my age, maturity, life experiences or a combination of the above, but each year it seems I am more determined to reduce the “Christmas Clutter” and truly appreciate the “Reason for the Season!”
If you find yourself overwhelmed and stressed out from your holiday preparations, you may be ready to take the same journey as me and remove the Christmas Clutter and Stress from Your Holiday! While the transitions may be gradual, this is the perfect time to make some personal commitments to change!
Tips for this year
- Pare it down. I don’t know about you, but my family loves traditions! And while I appreciate all of the fond memories they create, traditions also cause stress. Instead of automatically doing everything you always do, talk with your family and ask each person to pick one thing about the holiday they wouldn’t miss. It could be Aunt Martha’s potato casserole, the family baking extravaganza, the annual Christmas letter or perhaps even the family tree trimming event. Regardless, you might just be surprised what you learn!
- Shop less. While it won’t be popular with retailers, buying less can definitely reduce your stress levels. Think of it like this: Each gift represents stress. First we stress about WHAT to buy. Then we stress about WHERE to buy it. Next we stress about WHEN to wrap it and then we stress about HOW to pay for it! Instead, hold a family meeting and commit to buying less this year. You set the stage. It could be one less gift or ten. But ultimately, Christmas will come and go and chances are good that no one will really notice the difference. And really haven’t we gotten pretty far away from the original intent of the holiday?
- Quit Topping. I often wonder what it is that makes us feel like a failure if we don’t make this “the best holiday EVER!” If we remove the emotion, it’s completely illogical to think that we can always improve the memories, or gifts, or food from one year to the next…yet many of us do just that. Stop putting pressure on yourself to top the ever increasing bar and you may just find that the holidays become truly enjoyable again!
- Wrap it up! If the tension of finding the “perfect” gift isn’t enough, then there’s the added tension of the gift wrapping. Instead of waiting to wrap all of your gifts in a couple of marathon events, do your wrapping in conjunction with your shopping. Finding the time to wrap one or two gifts is much less overwhelming that wrapping 10-20. Or better yet, consider making a donation to a local club/charity in exchange for gift wrapping services!
- Just Say YES! For those of you that are faced with hosting responsibilities for the holidays, take a deep breath and just say yes. I don’t have to look far (like in the mirror!) to find someone who still stubbornly insists on completing meal prep without help. I have recently decided this is truly the definition of insanity! If your guests offer to bring a portion of the meal, let them. And if they don’t offer, ask them to bring something. The reality is that people enjoy contributing to the festivities and each item brought is one less thing for you to handle!
- Serve the soup. While the thought of skipping the traditional feast at home may be alarming, perhaps it’s time to switch things up a bit. The holidays are a wonderful time to appreciate all of our blessings in life and what better way to appreciate them than to spend some time with others who are less fortunate. Volunteering to serve at a local soup kitchen is a double win! You skip the stress of holiday food prep at home and also get the “feel good” of helping others who are less fortunate. Or if you aren’t quite ready to take the plunge on volunteerism, then perhaps you make it a point to invite some folks into the house who don’t have the luxury of either having family local or the financial resources to afford the big, traditional meal. For more ideas on volunteering, check out "10 Reasons to Volunteer!"
Tips for next year
While it’s tough to imagine it in the throes of our holiday planning, we will be doing this all again in just 30-40 short weeks! Implement these ideas starting now to make your 2016 holiday season better.
- Start Early. I’ve found the best gift ideas don’t usually just magically come to me once Santa hits the mall. Instead I make notes throughout the year. And find that I’m often able to surprise someone by giving them a gift that they may have mentioned at a July 4th cookout but then completely forgot about. I simply create a gift list idea for each friend or family member in the “Notes” section on my phone and then it’s simply a matter of what gift I’m in the mood to give!
- Be Fake. As a kid growing up, I was always jealous of friends with “real” Christmas trees. Consequently, it quickly became a tradition for my husband, daughter and I to search for the “perfect” live Christmas tree. While we all have many fond memories (almost 30) of this event, a few years ago we transitioned to an artificial tree. Initially I didn’t intend to give up my real tree every year, but admittedly it is simply one less stress during a busy time of year. No longer do I worry about “finding” or “watering” the tree. I also love the flexibility it gives me to put the tree up whenever I want…because of course everyone knows that the best trees are gone early but you can’t buy too early because they’ll be dead by Christmas! The after Christmas sales are a great time to snag a beautiful artificial tree on sales. And worst case, if you try it one year and don’t like it, you can always donate it to a needy family or charity the following year.
- Deck less halls. A confession here from someone that decks too many halls. While certainly the house looks beautiful all decorated in the Christmas glory, it’s also a cause of stress. During an already busy time of year, finding the time to decorate (and un-decorate) can be just one more thing to do. As you de-deck the halls in January, consider which decorations truly enhance the holidays for you and your family and commit to only using those next year. And to make yourself stick to the plan, donate all your extra items to those that are less fortunate than you. After all, do you really need multiple Christmas trees and lights to celebrate the real reason for Christmas? Call me crazy, but I think he was a pretty simple guy and would be embarrassed at the “event” this has become.
10. Save early. It’s a well-known fact that money is one of the biggest causes of stress. One of the easiest ways to reduce your holiday stress is to save throughout the year for holiday spending. And if you haven’t ever opened a Christmas club account, it’s something to consider. Most banks offer this as a free service. While coming up with $800 (the average household holiday spending) can seem a bit daunting, saving just $65 per month can feel much less overwhelming.
11. Cap the Spending. If you are like most people, you probably already realize that you’ve over spent this year. And while it may be too late for this holiday, it’s the perfect time to make a commitment (and a plan) to cap your spending for next year. Christmas is but one day of the year and it simply makes little sense to set yourself up for financial turmoil. So while the pain is fresh, set a budget for next year and then start saving now so that you can use “paper” instead of “plastic” next year! If this idea intrigues, you may also be interested in my recent post, “7 Great Reasons to Pay with Cash this Holiday Season!”
I’d love to hear from you….what Christmas Clutter is interfering with your ability to enjoy this Christmas with family and friends?