Looking to simplify the holidays? You’re in the right place!
Every year it happens earlier and earlier. Christmas music is in the stores one day after Halloween.
Christmas ads are on the TV in November reminding us that we need to buy! buy! buy! consume! consume! consume! Heck, even Black Friday is turning into a week-long event.
December hits and we start feeling the pressure. “There are only 3 Saturdays left before Christmas! We’ve gotta hurry and get our Christmas shopping done!”
I never seem to finish my to-do list until last minute — anyone else?
Checkout clerks offer seasons greetings, but what they are really thinking is I can’t wait until January, and who can blame them. We are all so burnt out from all the extra that we have to do in December that none of us are very cheerful.
All of this so we can create a mountain of presents we can’t afford, decorate and wrap with time we don’t have and saute, bake and braise all day on Christmas just to have an hour to spend with our families at dinner.
Years ago I decided to stop participating in this crazy, over the top, over consumptive Christmas and begin to simplify the holidays.
Yes, there is a part of me (a large part actually) that likes beautiful things. Brilliantly wrapped gifts, neatly displayed appetizers, stunning decorations.
But there is another part of me that realizes that all of those things are just icing on the cake, and not the cake itself.
Don’t get me wrong, if you like to do it, if it gives you joy, then do it.
But what I’m saying is if you don’t like to do it, if it doesn’t give you joy, then don’t do it.
It should be that simple but it’s often not.
We start to confuse expectations with needs.
We’re expected to buy a certain amount of presents, so we do. We are expected to cook a certain dish so we do.
We are expected to put lights on our house, and so we do.
And we never feel like we could just step back and not do these things.
But a few years ago I started doing only what I felt like doing, and boy was it a relief!!
That means I may end up with fewer gifts to give out or fewer choices for Christmas morning beverages. And that’s ok!
What I’ve realized is no one is going to care. I have an amazing family and I‘m pretty sure they aren’t coming for the lavish gifts or the seven-course meal. You probably do too.
I have to remember that spending time with family is my top priority. I will do what gives me joy and forget the rest.
Ways to Simplify the Holidays
If you’re like I was a few years ago, and finally ready to simplify the holidays, here are some tips:
Make a Budget
I always start by creating a budget. Most people end up surprised by how expensive the holiday season is each year. But with a budget planned out in advance, you’re a lot less likely to overspend.
I also break down my budget by category (gifts, activities, meals) so I can adjust if needed.
We decorate minimally. We don’t have a lot of holiday decorations or space (or desire!) to store them the rest of the year.
My favorite decorations are things I found outside. They bring some nature into the house and can go right back out again when we’re done.
Make a Gift List
I don’t go shopping (mostly). I decide what I am going to buy for each child and extended family. Then I buy it online or go to a store specifically for that item. I never go out browsing for gifts.
I don’t have specific rules for how many gifts I get for the kids but they usually end up with three or four gifts from me and then a whole bunch more from family member!
When I have hosted Christmas in the past I opted for Christmas brunch. Brunch is much easier to prepare and can be prepared ahead of time.
I’ve also realized I don’t like hosting very much, so I leave it to those who do enjoy it. That’s truly following my desires and simplifying!
Schedule Holiday Activities
One of the things that tend to get put on the back burner during the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season is actual holiday activities!
So I make an effort to schedule in community events, parties, and at-home activities so we don’t miss them.
The kids really like going to see lights since it gets dark so early.
I think more about what the holiday means to me and use it as a chance to refocus on my principles (which definitely don’t include overconsumption and causing undue stress).
Gratitude is so important all the time, but especially during the time fo the year when all we see is “buy more!” I also try to teach my kids that the holidays are about togetherness and celebrating the season, not just gifts.
How are you working to simplify the holidays?