The holiday season is upon us. The season of giving, the season of joy. The season of slowing down and enjoying special times with family and friends. Ha! Yeah right…
If you’re a mom, the holidays can easily turn into the season of overwhelm, the season of financial strain, the season of never-ending obligations: like holiday decorating, sending Christmas cards, buying gifts for every person you have ever met, then wrapping said gifts, going to your kids’ holiday programs, baking cookies, hosting gatherings, and making the season “magical” for your kids in every way imaginable.
And while this time of year really is very special, it can be easy for the demands of the holidays to get out of control, making it one of the most stressful and draining times of the year. But it doesn’t have to be!
Read on for several ways that you can take some of the stress out of the holiday season!
Step #1 to minimize holiday stress is to plan ahead. Let me just say, I am definitely NOT a planner. Planning ahead has never been, and probably will never be, a strength of mine. Procrastination? Waiting until the last minute and then running around like a crazy person trying to get everything done? That’s more my jam.
Take it from me, this makes life so much more difficult than it has to be. Especially during the holiday season, when planning ahead is going to be the only way that you make it through with your sanity still intact. So, before the holidays begin, sit down and make a list of all the things that need to be done for Christmas (i.e. sending Christmas cards, buying gifts, wrapping gifts, seeing Santa, baking cookies, etc).
Make sure you break them down into small, easy action items. For instance, instead of just having “send Christmas cards” on your list, break it down into all the steps it takes to get those bad boys mailed out: decide on (or take) a photo for the card, order card, buy stamps, address the cards, drop off at post office, you get the idea. These smaller action items are less overwhelming, easier to complete in one sitting, and provide instant gratification when you can check them off your list one by one.
Check out my Hot Mess Mom’s Ultimate Holiday Planner to help you write out all your Holiday to-do’s. The Holiday Planner also includes a printable holiday bucket list and budget sheet.
When you intentionally create a plan, you can be confident that you are getting everything done that needs to be done. And this will lead to a calm mind and a happier holiday season!
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!
It can be really easy to feel like you have to pull out all the stops in order to feel like you are creating a “magical” Christmas for your kids. You see all the over-the-top decorations, gifts, baked goods, etc. that are posted all over the internet (thank you Pinterest!! 😉 ) and feel like you have to measure up to that picture of perfection. Somehow you feel like you have to apologize for your store-bought cookies, your simple decorations, or your budget-friendly gifts. I’m here to tell you, we all need to let go of that!
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m just as guilty as the next person when it comes to wanting to create that enchanting vision of Christmas. But the further I get into this whole motherhood thing, the more I realize that the image of perfection that I have floating around in my head is robbing me of some of the joy that I could be experiencing during the holidays.
With each passing year, I seem to find myself saying more and more, “I remember when Christmas used to be fun!” How sad is that? Pretty soon, my kids are going be grown, and my opportunity to enjoy this special time of year with them is going to be gone. It’s time to simplify!!
Simplify: Gift Giving
For many people, gift giving is one of the biggest sources of stress during the holidays. Both buying them AND receiving them. Buying gifts can be stressful; trying to figure out something for everyone on your list that they will actually like is not an easy task. Not to mention it can become so dang expensive!
And then there’s receiving gifts. Anyone else feel like they are already overwhelmed with “stuff” in their home? Then you receive all these Christmas gifts that you feel obligated to keep, which only adds to that clutter (not that you aren’t appreciative of the sweet people who gave you those gifts!).
To minimize some of the stress, there are plenty of ways that you can simplify gift giving. Here are a few suggestions:
- Talk to family and friends and see if they want to forgo exchanging gifts. Maybe you could get together for dinner or plan an activity instead. My family decided to sponsor a few children in need this year in lieu of getting gifts for one another. It was fun to shop together to get the gifts and of course felt good to make the holiday a little extra special for a child in need.
- Instead of buying for everyone in your family (or group of friends), try drawing names and doing a secret Santa exchange instead.
- Commit to buying fewer gifts for your kids. Buying fewer gifts will allow you to spend a little more on each gift and make it something that they really want or need.
- Have a list of clutter-free gift ideas ready for you and your kids for anyone who asks. Experience and consumable gifts are great clutter-free gift ideas!
- Shop online to avoid the holiday crowds. Nothing adds stress quite like navigating the chaos of stores around Christmas time!
I’ll admit, I love having a nice festive house full of decorations for Christmas. The problem is, holiday decorations can take a lot of time to set up. Of course, then you have to find the time to take them down as well. (January usually remains a pretty festive atmosphere around my house! 😉 )
Simplifying your holiday decorating is a great way to alleviate some stress during the holidays. For starters, you can decide if getting a live tree is something that is worth the hassle to you. On the flip side, maybe storing an artificial tree is not something you have room for, so a real tree might be a better option for you. The important thing is to decide what works best for YOUR family. You are allowed to play by your own rules, not anyone else’s!
If all of your holiday decorations are causing more stress than the enjoyment you are actually getting from them, then you might want to reconsider what your priorities are. For example, if you don’t enjoy putting up and taking down outside lights on your house, don’t do it! If you are afraid of disappointing your kids, at least simplify by putting up fewer lights or just a few light-up figurines in the front yard.
When it comes to indoor decorations, just remember that oftentimes, less is more. There is no need to overwhelm your space with elaborate decorations. In fact, over decorating can actually just make your home feel cluttered. Figure out what holiday decorations you truly love and which ones are the most meaningful or sentimental to you. Keep those and let go of some of the others.
Simplify your Traditions
Christmas is a time that is very rich in tradition. And while holiday traditions can be fun and sentimental, the important thing is to only continue the traditions that you and your family actually enjoy doing. If there are activities that add a lot of stress to the holidays, or just become another chore that you are obligated to finish on your to-do list, it might be time to let them go.
For example, if you dread taking your kids to the busy mall to see Santa, then don’t do it (have them send a letter to him instead!). If you don’t want to have an Elf on the Shelf, don’t have one! If you don’t actually enjoy sending holiday cards, and the process only makes you feel overwhelmed and stressed, don’t send cards this year. There is no holiday rule book that says you have to!
A great way to prioritize your holiday traditions is to sit down with your family before the holidays even begin and ask each member of the family to share what their favorite holiday traditions are. Then, focus on and make time for those traditions. If there are traditions that are not mentioned, maybe it’s time for you to let those go.
Download the Hot Mess Mom’s Ultimate Holiday Planner that includes a Holiday Bucket List to give you some inspiration for traditions you can start (or continue) with your family!
Simplify your cooking and baking
Simplifying holiday meals and baking is another way to simplify the holidays. Keep meals simple, or better yet, host a potluck meal rather than preparing all of the food yourself. This can help take some of the pressure out of hosting a holiday gathering.
The same goes for baking. Nowhere does it say that you HAVE to bake cookies for Christmas. Of course, if you are someone who loves baking, go nuts! But if baking cookies feels more like a burden to you than an enjoyable activity, skip it. That’s what bakeries are for.
Stick to a holiday budget
In an ideal situation, you will have started saving for the holidays long before December rolls around. In fact, it is best to set aside a small chunk of money each month throughout the whole year to help cover the extra expenses that the holiday season brings with it (gifts, travel, hosting, etc).
But how much should you be spending? That’s a tough one to answer, because it depends on your circumstances: your personal financial situation, the number of people you “have” to buy for, whether you will traveling, etc. But set a budget of what you realistically think you will be able to afford. Do you think you can save $50 a month? If so, after 12 months you will have $600 to spend for the holidays. And while that seems like quite a bit, I think we all know how fast all the expenses can add up.
If you need help setting a holiday budget, be sure to download my Hot Mess Mom’s Ultimate Holiday Planner. It has a holiday budget planner that will help you set and stick to a budget this holiday season!
Also be sure to watch for my next post where I will share lots of clever ideas to save money this holiday season!
Declutter before and after the holidays
Another great way to help alleviate some holiday stress is to declutter your home before and/or after the holidays.
If your home is anything like mine, it is already bursting at the seams with your kids’ crap most beloved possessions. You probably don’t know how one more Lego set or Barbie is going to fit in their already overflowing toy bins.
So, a couple weeks before Christmas, do a round of decluttering. This can include decluttering anything and everything you want to, but ESPECIALLY toys. I like to get my kids in on the action and explain to them that any toys we get rid of will be going to kids who are not as lucky them and don’t have very many toys. I find that guilt is a very powerful motivator. 😉 (In all seriousness, though, I do want my kids to be aware that not all kids are as fortunate as they are. Not so they can feel guilty, but so they can be grateful for the things that they have.)
Then, a couple of weeks after Christmas, it is a good idea to do another round of decluttering. By this time, you can get rid of any old toys (or other stuff) that is no longer being used. Stuff that maybe your kids had a hard time parting with before they got their NEWER and COOLER stuff at Christmas.
You also have the “ok” to get rid of any gifts that you or your kids received for Christmas that are not being used or needed. I read somewhere once that said that gifts are given to show love. Of course, you accept the gift and express your appreciation for it and the love that was behind it. But once the gift is in your home, you are free to do whatever you want with it. You don’t have to feel obligated to hang on to something, solely because it was a gift.
Wrap Gifts Early
I thought about just including this tip with the section about simplifying gift giving, but I really do think it is important enough to talk about all on its own.
Holiday wrapping. Some people love it, some people hate it. And I honestly would probably like it a lot more if I wasn’t staying up until the wee hours of the morning on Christmas Eve scrambling to get it done before the kids wake up. Somehow, I always have myself convinced that I have plenty of time to get it done, so I put it off, and I put it off. Well, before you know it, Christmas is 2 days away and I haven’t even started. But it’s fine, I only have like 50 gifts to wrap. It shouldn’t take that long….Oh, the lies I tell myself….
If you have your holiday shopping done already (or at least started), start your wrapping NOW. Go…grab the paper, grab the tape. You don’t have any time to waste. And trust me, you won’t regret it. Imagine how blissful it will feel going into Christmas Eve, knowing you already have all the gifts wrapped and ready to go. Heck, you might even enjoy Christmas this year!
Adjust your expectations
This last tip is without a doubt, the most important. Adjusting your expectations about what the holidays “should be” like and instead, focusing on what truly matters most to you, will allow you to experience the joy in the season.
The irony of it is, if you are working yourself into exhaustion trying to create some picture-perfect vision of the holidays that you have in your mind, you are going to end up a cranky, burnt out, hot mess by the time Christmas rolls around. And you won’t be able to enjoy those moments of magic that you are trying so hard to create.
I can guarantee that the stuff your kids will cherish most about Christmas won’t be the expensive gifts they received (and if that is all they care about, you may need to help them refocus 😊). Your family and friends won’t care about all the elaborate decorations you put up, or the meal you made entirely from scratch. What they will remember, are the moments of laughing, talking and enjoying each other’s company. It’s these little moments of joy (and excuse me while I get all sentimental about it) that are not only the best part of the holiday season, they are the best part of living. And I think we could all do ourselves a favor by focusing on THAT this holiday season!