Tuesday, November 15, 2011

10 Tips for a Stress-Free Christmas

In an effort to celebrate one holiday at a time, we refuse to put our Christmas tree up until after Thanksgiving Day.  However, you can bet that the day of Thanksgiving, I'll be begging my husband to drag out the tree so we can all decorate.  It's one of my favorite times of year, but it can also be one of the most stressful.  There are some things I've learned through the years, though, that have helped me reduce the stress and feeling of being overwhelmed during the holiday season.  Here are some of the things we do to prepare for, and enjoy, the Christmas season:

1.  Declutter - Before you can break out the decorations or even think about bringing in all those new toys and gifts that your family is sure to get this year, go through your home and make some room for your new treasures.  Consider gathering up unused toys, clothes, and books and donating them to a local shelter or other charity that could use them.  You'll be able to enjoy your decorations more if they're not competing with the clutter of daily life and those piles of gifts from the grandparents won't seem nearly as overwhelming!  (As a side note, we often put away a bunch of the unopened Christmas presents from extended family and bring them out throughout the year when the boys could use a "new" toy to grab their attention.)

2.  Budget - Before you start buying gifts or making menu plans, you need to know how much you can spend.  That way you know what you'll need for travel, gifts, food, decorations, charitable contributions, or anything else that is important for your family.  It doesn't matter what your budget is, just that you KNOW what it is and vow to stick to it.  There's nothing more overwhelming than getting through the holidays to realize that you'll still be paying for the holidays for several months!

3.  Get a Calendar - If you don't have a planner where you keep track of all your appointments, I strongly recommend getting one.  I guess I'm "old-school" because I really like actually writing things down on paper.  Make sure that you write in all of your holiday gatherings, including school performances, church activities, club/sports team gatherings, neighborhood parties, etc.  If they're all in one place, it will be easier to stay organized and plan accordingly.  And, if you find that there are more days filled than you're comfortable with, don't be afraid to say "no thank you", or make plans to see that group of friends after the holidays when things settle down.

4.  Plan for Food - Food is such a big part of the holidays.  Once you have all of your parties and gatherings down on the calendar, start planning for what you plan to bring to all of them.  I have a spiral notebook that I use to keep me organized for the holidays.  One section is devoted to food and what I plan to bring to each party.  I list out all of the gathering and then write down what I want to bring.  If there's a recipe that goes with it, I'll paperclip it to the page and jot down any ingredients that I need on my grocery list.  Then, when the time comes I have everything I need all in one place.

5.  Gift Lists - Another potential stress during the holidays is gift-giving.  We worry about what to get for our loved ones, how much to spend, getting it wrapped, and keeping it all organized.  Another section of my spiral notebook is devoted completely to this.  (If you've never kept track of all of these things, I highly recommend that you check out the Fly Lady's Holiday Control Journal for step-by-step instructions).  In my notebook, I list out everyone we need to buy for.  I have a column for the person, what we are purchasing (or what they've said they want/need), and how much we spent.  I check off the item once it is purchased and I put a check in the final column once it is wrapped.  This way, I can purchase gifts throughout the year without forgetting about them.

6.  Wrapping Station - This does not have to be a specific space in your house.  In fact, my "wrapping station" is simply a large bag that holds everything I need to wrap presents.  I include wrapping paper, tissue paper, gift boxes, gift tags, scissors, tape, ribbon, and bows.  That way, whenever I have a few minutes to wrap, I just need to grab the bag and I don't waste time searching for things that I need.

7.  Decorating - If the idea of decorating your whole house at once seems overwhelming, try doing it 15 minutes at a time.  Grab one box of decorations and put them out or focus on one room at a time.  If there's something you know you need (lights, towels, ornaments), go ahead and put them on your shopping list so you don't need to make a special trip for them.  It's also good to have a list of your "dream" decorations so you can stock up when you find a really good deal; especially after the holidays are over.
8.  Let Go of Perfection - Christmas with children is not perfect.  You will not have the perfect tree, the perfect decorations, or the perfect treats.  I've tried!  My little darlings love to re-decorate the tree (several times a day) and I learned a few years ago that it's much easier and much more fun for them if you just let them do it.  Also, their favorite cookies are not the ones I spend hours beautifully decorating, but the ones that they get to make themselves (piles of sprinkles and all).  When I let go of my perfection, I get to enjoy their joy even more.
9.  Remember the Real Reason for the Season - Don't let the Christmas season pass you by without acknowledging the birth of Christ and the real gift that His life was.  Make time to celebrate at church and spend time with your children, making sure that they understand that there is more to Christmas than trees and Santa and presents.

10.  Take Time to Enjoy You Hard Work - I find that when I'm organized and have things prepared ahead of time, it gives me more time to say "yes" to making that impromptu batch of cookies with the kids and running out in the snow to build a snowman.  Make sure that you're not so busy "doing" the holidays that you forget to sit back with a cup of cocoa and a few cookies and just enjoy the beauty of the season.

Thanks for stopping by!  I'd love to hear from you in the comments and have you join us back again! Want more ideas for spending time with your kids?  Be sure to follow us on our NEW Facebook or Pinterest pages and sign up for emails to keep up with all the latest crafts, activities, and kid-friendly recipes!

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  1. Love your post! I am looking for bloggers to participate in 25 Day's of Christmas Blogshare...check out the post and leave a comment if you are interested in participating!

  2. Great tips, Tina! I'll be navigating my first holiday season with a newborn this year. I'm dreading it a little bit but I think it may be a little less stressful if I take your advice!

    Thanks for stopping by and following my blog Making Mama Happy. I'm now following you on GFC, Twitter, and Facebook :)


  3. Hi! I am visiting from Tuesday Blog Trail and a new GFC Follower. Thank you for sharing your tips! Even though I've been doing my own traditions for the past 10 years, it can still get stressful at times! If you get a chance, please come by and say hi www.theresasmixednuts.blogspot.com

    Have a great Tuesday!

  4. All great ideas! I noticed that you were previously a teacher, me too. So great to be home with my kids! I'm visiting from Flock Together Tuesdays!

  5. I love #8 esp -- we want things to be perfect but sometimes life is much easier and better lived when we let go of that perfection. Tis the time the best memories are formed! :)

  6. These are all such great tips!!!

  7. They are great tips! In fact, today I am going to "try" to go through the kids' toys. We will see how that goes. Sometimes I am a bit too sentimental when holding onto things!

  8. Great post!. Thanks for the reminders :)
    I'm spending Christmas on a Yacht - with my in laws!. :S

  9. Hi, my name is Heather! Please email me when you can, I have a question about your blog!