Friday, November 19, 2010

Simplifying the Holidays

I'm already gearing up for the holidays. Several years ago, I decided to keep my holidays as stress-free and as schedule-free as possible. I don't like to have a million things we "have" to do so that I don't feel like we've spent any time at home together just enjoying the season. I also don't like to spend all of my time and energy buying, wraping, decorating, etc. so that the joy is sapped out of the holidays for me.

Here are some of the tactics I employ to make sure that the Christmas season is fun, meaningful, and actually relaxing:

1. I pretty much keep my Christmas decorations down to the tree, staircase, mantel, porch and a few miscellaneous items. Much more than that, or anything that would take me more than a day or two to complete is too much in this season of my life. As for outdoor lights...I love to have them up, but I make sure they're simple and quick. No roof line or tree top lights for our house.

2. I keep my baking to a minimum. This one is a little hard for me for a couple of reasons: 1) I love trying out new recipes and 2) I really love eating the products of my baking. But, when I just make a few of my favorite things, or just one or two new recipes, it keeps me from spending too much time in the kitchen and from gaining 10 pounds.

3. I don't use ribbons or bows on my gifts. This one is also a little hard for me because I love to make packages pretty. I love packaging in general. But, I have found that just wrapping and putting on a gift tag is enough. Most people don't miss the bells and bows and I save both time and money.

4. Speaking of gifts...I (we) only give gifts to a small circle of close friends and family. Even if someone gives me a gift, I try really hard not to feel obligated to do the same. Everyone has different budgets and time to shop for gifts. Right now, I am tight on both and that is okay with me. I would rather funnel my time and money toward the gifts that I feel are the most important.

5. And yet another one about gifts...I unapologetically start shopping and planning for gifts fairly early. Like late September and early October. I have a spreadsheet with slots for ideas and budget. Starting early really alleviates the pressure of getting it done as the holidays approach, and I'd rather spend my time doing things other than shopping. I also buy most of my gifts online. With two little boys, I am more than willing to just pay a little in shipping costs (although many retailers have free shipping around this time) and shop from the comfort of my office chair.

***I realize I could really simplify and forego gifts altogether...maybe we will do that someday, but right now we still really enjoy giving gifts when they are kept under control.***

6. I am choosy about the parties and events that I/we attend. There are so many dinner parties, ornament swaps, etc. that can quickly make my schedule go from fun to uncomfortably full. It's not that I don't participate in any of these...just not every single one.


Here are some of the things I plan to do this year because they are meaningful to me. If at any point they feel more like a task on my "to do" list than a fun activity, then they're cut!

1. Play with our Little People Nativity set and talk about/read the story of Jesus' birth with my first born.

2. Take time to put on a fire and enjoy it.

3. Make cookies and/or a gingerbread house with my big boy and watch him decorate them/it.

4. Watch Christmas movies.

5. Visit the miniature trains at Northpark. I personally have a history with this yearly exhibit so it will be special to take Ethan (and Logan, though Ethan will enjoy it more!). My mom and I used to volunteer at the exhibit (a long time ago!) when it was at the Galleria. The proceeds from this go to the Ronald McDonald house...a worthy cause.

6. Drinking hot chocolate with a big fat marshmallow on top. And some cinnamon stirred in.


Mary said...

I agree with so much of this, although I am not NEAR as organized with gift giving! But decorations, parties, and number of gifts...we are definitely on the same page. I hate the feeling after Christmas that I missed the whole thing!

Christina said...

I like your system. The part about the bows is true yet reminds me of something funny. My parents recycle their bows year after year. So we don't actually buy any bows when in Dallas. I think lots of those bows are from the late 1980s, and they're in decent shape!