It often feels like there’s a lot of pressure to make the holidays fun, magical, and memorable. And while this might sound great, the reality is that we often feel stressed and overwhelmed during this crazy time. This is why it’s essential to figure out how to simplify the holidays if we hope to not just survive but thrive!
‘Tis the season for holiday fun!
Feelings of coziness and nostalgia.
Fall leaves, pumpkin pie, and Thanksgiving dinner transitioning into winter wreaths, Christmas trees, and holiday cookies.
But then again…
It’s also common to experience stress and feelings of overwhelm.
LOTS of stress and overwhelm.
Which, of course, leaves us scratching our heads, wondering how to simplify the holidays.
Where do we even start!?
Too many holiday parties, gift-giving-induced financial stress, and seasonal travel plans result in illness, resentment, and exhaustion.
And I’m guessing this doesn’t sound too appealing to you.
Am I right?
Are you desperate for help figuring out how to simplify the holidays?
Is it inevitable that we surrender to the craziness? Must we accept that we’ll spend the season in a state of mild panic?
I honestly don’t think so.
But how in the world do we simplify the holidays in order to create space for joy and peace?
Well, let me tell you, I’ve tried really hard the past few years to cut out as many holiday obligations as possible, in order to actually enjoy the season.
I’ve got some simple tips to help us figure out how to simplify the holidays.
Isn’t this great news!?!
What’s important to Suzie down the street might not matter to you at all.
The traditions that are essential to your mother-in-law might not be realistic or even that enjoyable for your family.
Again, totally OK.
Now, before we proceed, I feel that it is only fair to warn you that I am pretty ruthless in my elimination process.
I have friends and family members who are horrified at what I leave out during the holiday season. Some might even say it borders on blasphemous.
So why don’t you keep reading and I’ll let you decide!
How to simplify the holidays:
1. Start by asking yourself, how do you want the holiday season to FEEL?
Notice I’m not suggesting how you want to DO things or how you want things to LOOK. But how do you want them to FEEL? What words spring to mind?
2. Schedule “Free Days”
Get out your calendar.
Look through the months of November, December, and January. Note any upcoming parties/events/obligations that you absolutely must go to.
As soon as you have these all listed, select “free days” where you schedule absolutely nothing. Mark these off on your calendar the same way that you’ve marked off all of the obligations.
Now commit to protecting these “free days” just as you prioritize other commitments.
3. Go artificial
I realize that I am about to enter sacred territory here.
But you know what?
I care about your sanity and so I’m going to give you one of the best tips I know to simplify the holidays.
What? I couldn’t possibly!
Alright, now calm down. If driving into the woods to chop down your Christmas tree is a meaningful holiday tradition for you, have at it!
But let me tell you, we have had our fake Christmas tree since my daughter was a baby and for over a decade our tree has served us well. It stays in the garage all year until the day after Thanksgiving when it magically appears, (thank you to my long-suffering husband for digging it out each year). We turn on the Christmas music, make hot cocoa, light some candles, and decorate our lil’ hearts out.
And another bonus: All of the money we’ve saved over the years!
We’ve figured out that after two years, we’d spent less on our initial investment than if we’d bought real trees for two years. Hooray for saving money!
4. Do all of your shopping from home
There is absolutely no reason for you to leave your house to shop for holiday gifts.
Do yourself a favor. Wake up and pour yourself a cup of coffee. Then stay in your jammies, hop on the internet, and get that shopping done.
Sidenote: December 25th ALWAYS arrives more quickly than we think it will. So don’t delay. Get your shopping done early so you can sit back and relax!
In need of gift ideas? Check out these gift guides where you can find everything on Amazon!
- Gift Guide for Book Lovers
- Gift Guide for Budget Travelers
- Gift Guide for Tween Girls
- Gift Guide for Tween Boys
- Gift Guide for the Homeschooling Mom
5. Skip the Christmas cards
What? Now Sarah, this is getting out of hand!
Look, if you haven’t yet slammed your laptop shut or thrown your phone across the floor in frustration, you must still be reading this. And that means you must be at least a little curious about this idea.
Let me be clear.
I love Christmas cards. LOVE them. I love receiving them. Ooohing and Ahhhing over the latest family photos and updates. And hanging them up around the house.
But if you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that you will not be receiving a Christmas card from me.
Because they stress me out.
Choosing which design, selecting the right family photo, tracking down addresses, buying cute holiday stamps, and then making sure to mail them out before Christmas…
Nope. Not doing it.
It saves me time and money, not to mention cluster headaches which are totally the worst.
6. Go informal
Hosting Thanksgiving or Christmas at your house?
Don’t think you have to do everything!
Make it a potluck. Have everyone bring a dish. Use paper plates and napkins. Have board games and cards and puzzles available. Turn the music on.
And for goodness sake, when people ask if they can help, say “Yes, in fact, you can!” and let them do their thing.
7. Focus on Seasonal Traditions, Not Date-Specific times
Are your tried and true traditions ones that can be done at any point in the season?
The more you’re able to answer yes to this, the more likely you will get to them.
Because here’s the thing. When traditions are date specific, all it takes to knock the tradition down, is an illness, getting stuck in traffic, or an unexpected cancellation and there goes the plan.
Things like decorating the tree, having friends over for games and hot cocoa, watching holiday movies, and driving around to see all of the beautiful lights…these are all seasonal traditions that can be done at any time during the season.
8. Reading! Music! Baking! Candles! Hot cocoa!
These are all excellent free or inexpensive ways to celebrate the season at any point in time during the holiday months.
Self-care is usually the first thing to go during the holidays.
Can I get an AMEN!?!
And yet we KNOW how important it is to take care of ourselves during this especially busy time of year.
How much sleep do you need, (like REALLY need!) in order to function well?
How can you get some daily activity in?
Look, nobody’s saying this is the time to train for a half marathon, but walking the dog around the neighborhood, stretching, and doing ten minutes of yoga all count as activity.
Squeeze in what you can, when you can.
And eating well at this time of year?
I’m not going to suggest you cut out all sugar and alcohol but I am going to remind you to consume those foods that you know make you feel better. At the very least, try to drink plenty of water.
Slow it down.
Slow down whenever you possibly can.
10. Consider Taking the Month of December Off
As a homeschooling family, one of my absolute favorite things is the flexibility.
Have you considered taking the entire month of December off to truly enjoy the season?
I was reluctant to do this for the first several years of homeschooling. It made me anxious, thinking we’d fall behind.
But then it hit me.
Fall behind what exactly?
We homeschool. This means we have the freedom to pick and choose when we take breaks. So I decided we’d give it a try.
And guess what?
We loved it! We savored the season and enjoyed the moments that later became memories.
Try it. It’s magic!
So, let’s review our strategy.
How to simplify the holidays:
- How do you want the holiday season to FEEL?
- Schedule “Free Days”
- Go artificial
- Do all of your shopping from home
- Skip the Christmas cards
- Go informal
- Focus on seasonal traditions (not date specific)
- Reading! Music! Baking! Candles! Hot Cocoa! Fires in the Fireplace!
- Consider taking the month of December off
Are you still with me? What are your thoughts? Any tips on how to simplify the holidays that have worked well for you? I’d love to know what they are!