The most wonderful time of the year is right around the corner. Most of us look forward to the special feeling we get knowing we’ll have time to celebrate the holidays with family and friends. But along with all that goodwill and holiday cheer comes a lot of stress, especially for moms. There’s a lot that needs to be done in December to prepare and sometimes if we have too much on our plates, we end up feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Let’s take a look at a few things we can do to simplify, minimize, and put more happy in our holidays.
The tips below mainly revolve around Christmas but can apply to other holidays as well.
Related post: 5 Ways to Simplify Mom Life
1. Start Planning Early
The best way to make sure you’ll have a simpler holiday is to plan for one. If you set your intention early on, things are more likely to happen the way you envision them. Not only should you plan for things you want to do but decide on what you don’t want to do as well so guilt and perfectionism don’t get in the way.
Planning ahead is a lifesaver when you’re thinking about your gift list, holiday menus, and holiday cards. It can apply to other things as well but these are the ones most people tend to stress over.
Decide who you will be buying gifts for a few months or weeks before things get crazy. Make a list so you have time to brainstorm gift ideas and buy those gifts without being rushed and in a panic.
Also, if you’re hosting, choose the meals you’d like to prepare a few weeks early and go shopping for items that can sit in your pantry for a while. That way you’ll only have to buy the fresh items you need right before the big day. Here’s a bonus tip: Selecting dishes that can be made in advance and sit in the fridge for a few days will also help cut down on the amount of cooking that needs to happen the day before and the day of.
Every year these just creep up on me. If at all possible, get them started in November. Yeah, I know you have Thanksgiving stuff going on then but maybe you can just have the photos taken (if you’re doing photo cards) or select the actual card itself so you’re not scrambling to find something nice at the last minute.
2. Send Fewer Cards
OK, I know this may sound controversial but I always fall into this trap so I’ll be practicing what I preach this year. I buy my holiday cards at Costco. If you’ve ever used their holiday photo cards you know that you get 50 cards with your order. That’s a whole lotta cards! I always feel bad if I don’t send out as many cards as possible because it seems wasteful to have a bunch of unused holiday cards sitting around. I end up sending cards to former coworkers I haven’t seen in ten years or acquaintances I never speak to.
I’m over it. I’ve decided I will only be sending cards to people I actually speak to at least once a year. Since I’m an introvert this is going to cut way back on the cards I’ll need to mail out.
3. Don’t Hang Stockings
Maybe it’s because I was raised by Latin American parents or because we didn’t have a lot of money when I was a kid, but somehow we missed the memo about hanging stockings. Never once during my childhood did we hang stockings. As I got older, I learned about this tradition but I never really understood it so I was happy to ignore it. Then I had kids of my own. I figured since I wasn’t traumatized by not getting gifts in a stocking (in addition to the gifts under the tree) my kids would be alright too.
I get that the tradition of putting gifts in stockings has been around for a while. But if what you want is to simplify, it makes sense to cut out the small gifts that are usually put into stockings. The presents under the tree are more than enough to make your loved ones happy on Christmas morning.
4. Cut Back on Gifts
Gifts for Kids
This point relates back to nixing the stockings. Sometimes my kids would come home from school after the holiday break and tell me how classmates bragged about getting a mountain of presents for Christmas. I’m not sure if the kids were being truthful but I do know that some families can pile on the Christmas gifts especially for their kids.
Again, I was lucky to get two or three gifts on Christmas morning from my parents. I thought three gifts was a lot! I guess it’s a matter of perspective. I use the three-gift limit for my kids as well and they seem fine with it. It was easier when they were smaller because the gifts were usually toys and came in big boxes. As they grew and gifts got smaller, I’ve been tempted to give them more than three gifts to make things look more impressive under the tree. But since these much smaller gifts come with bigger price tags, I’ve resisted the urge. And let’s not forget that your kids will probably get gifts from relatives. You don’t want them to get so many gifts that they don’t appreciate what they’re getting.
Gifts for Adults
The adults in my family gave up on exchanging gifts with each other a while ago. We decided that only the kids would get gifts because it seemed like the most reasonable thing to do. It made sense not to go into debt by spending money on gifts nobody really wanted or needed. Instead, we have fun with a White Elephant gift exchange. You can also try doing a Secret Santa gift exchange. I know this may be a hard sell for some families but it’s worth trying. It will cut down on time, money and is overall better for the planet.
5. Simplify Holiday Decor
Christmas decor is hard to resist. It seems like retailers start putting out the Christmas decorations earlier every year. But if you have to haul out dozens of boxes from the attic or basement to decorate for the holidays, it might be a good idea to reconsider.
When it comes to Christmas decor, a little really can go a long way. I’m not suggesting you ditch the tree but for the rest of the decor you could simplify by focusing on those bright Christmas colors. Maybe just add a red Christmas-themed tablecloth and a potted evergreen or Poinsettias to create the look of the holidays without all the stuff.
When it’s time to decorate the Christmas tree, get your family together to organize your tree decorations. Having each person go through and pick out their favorites will make you feel less guilty about purging the excess.
And if you don’t have lots of decorations already, consider decorating with natural items like pine cones, cinnamon sticks, and dried fruit. I’ve seen photos of this on Pinterest and it looks amazing!
6. Simplify Your Holiday Menu
I’m probably the last person who should be giving advice about planning meals. I REALLY don’t like to cook and I’m also not good at it…seriously. I will always jump on a chance to simplify food preparation. Simple meals are a staple in our home, especially when it comes to the holidays. Make life a little easier by choosing recipes with fewer ingredients that can be made quickly. And while you’re at it, ask relatives if they wouldn’t mind bringing a holiday dish of their own. In my case, I am thinking about my guests when I do this. If they bring something, there will be at least one thing they want to eat at the table.
7. Try to Minimize Holiday Commitments
One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is to go to cookie exchanges. They’re a lot of fun! But the holidays are busy so I have to pick and choose what outings we’ll be going to or it can get overwhelming. Please don’t try to do all the things. Parties and holiday get-togethers are fun but if you overcommit you may end up feeling burned out by the end of the year.
And if you have little ones, be careful to keep track of all the school and extracurricular parties you’re volunteering to help with. There are only so many hours in the day and it’s worse to commit and then back out than to just say no. And while we’re at it, do the kids really need to have their picture taken with Santa every year? Be selective about what you do during the holidays so that you have more down time to actually enjoy the season.
Create YOUR Perfect Holiday
Maybe thinking of cutting out these things makes you feel a little guilty. You want to create the perfect holiday for your family and it might seem impossible to do if you cut back. The reality is that for most people the thing they remember about the holidays is time spent with the people they love. That’s it! All the other details tend to fall away.
I know it’s hard to feel you’re doing enough when you see photos of other people’s Christmas preparations on social media, but sticking to your own simple family traditions will help to create memories for your family that are unique and special. Your holiday plans don’t have to be perfect for everyone, they just need to be perfect for you and your family.
If you have any suggestions for other things you can cut out of your holiday planning in order to simplify, please share them in the comments below.
Until next time, happy holiday planning!
We do the Secret Santa with the adults. It’s still fun and we still get to give presents- we just don’t go broke doing it anymore. Now each year, we have 4 less gifts to buy which saves us quite a bit of money and stress. We also set a max spending limit on the adult gifts – for us it’s $50. So that also helps.
We usually do White Elephant because it’s fun stealing the gifts from each other. It’s more about the game than the gifts. The $10 limit for gifts is also good. 🙂