Tuesday, December 4, 2018

12 Days of Christmas - 11 Ways to Simplify the Holidays

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You didn't think I'd have 12 days of Christmas without at least one post on how to simplify the holidays, did you?  My personal mission in life (at the moment) is to simplify everything.  My holidays are no exception.

1. Create a Priority List
There are so many things that happen in December, even for me.  We're going to TBOX (a bar crawl) on Saturday, John and I both have work Christmas parties, his parents love going to a local pizza place that's decorated to the 9's every year, we like going to Zoo Lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo, plus there's things like decorating and shopping and watching Christmas movies.  You can easily find every single day packed with activities.  Sit back and make a list of what are the most important things to you.  If stuff that's lower on the priority list doesn't happen, it's no big deal.  At least you know you're not filling your time with anything that doesn't matter and thereby not leaving time for the important events and traditions.  And if you get last minute invites to things that didn't even make the list?  Well, you know how to RSVP to that.

2. Make a Master Calendar
Once you have that priority list, start putting it into a master family calendar.  You'll know what's happening at all times, and other family members will know not to add anything else.  You'll also be able to factor in travel time and prep time (like if you need to make cookies for your kid's school), so there's no stress of forgetting things and running around last minute.  Make sure you schedule down time too, it's important.

3. Simplify Traditions
Don't keep doing things just because it's the way you've always done them.  If it's not that important to your family or causes more stress than enjoyment (looking at you, yearly matching red sweater Christmas photo drama), drop it.  Make room for new and better things to do each year that will become favorite family traditions.

4. Simplify Decorations
Not every room in the house needs to be decorated, unless that's your thing (like it's mine, but for Halloween.)  Paring down the decor can make you appreciate what you choose to display even more.  Don't just fill the house with dollar store trinkets because you think you have to.  Only display what you love.  It will take you less time to put up and take down when the season is over.

5. Buy Less Gifts
This was a savings tip yesterday too, but it also applies to simplifying.  The less you buy means the less there is to keep track of and wrap and store, etc., etc.  You can either buy for less people or you can just buy one bigger gift and stop bothering with 'filler gifts' - you know, those little add ons here and there that only cost a couple of dollars but break or get tossed aside just a few days after Christmas.  They aren't necessary.

6. Declutter Before and After
Nothing adds stress like not being able to find the tights or shoes 15 minutes before Christmas Eve mass or having overflowing toy bins on December 26.  Declutter.  Don't even set up any decor until you weed out what you don't want (and then go donate it.)  Go through closets and toy bins before Santa brings anything, so you know what you need and what you don't, and also so you make plenty of room to be able to store the new stuff.  Do the same after the holiday, removing any items that were replaced by a Christmas gift, and never pack away any decor that's broken or no longer useful.  You're just giving yourself more work next year.

7. Simplify Cooking and Baking
I love holiday baking, but it's not a necessity.  You could cut it out.  If you still want to make things though, make it easier on yourself by baking less types of cookies (have a cookie exchange with friends if you need variety), making things that have similar ingredients so you don't need to buy everything dang thing in the baking aisle, or making items that are festive on their own like wreaths or peppermint cookies, so you don't need to be using cookie cutters or spend extra time with lots of icing and sprinkles.

8. Delegate
If you're overwhelmed because you have a lot of family you're doing things for, delegate.  Split the shopping list with your husband, ask your sister to bring an extra side dish to dinner, ask your mom to take her grand kids to see some lights while you wrap presents one evening.  You don't have to be the one doing it all.  Even the kids can easily decorate the tree.  Which brings me to:

9. Adjust Expectations
There's no need for Instagram perfectionism when it comes to all things Christmas.  Let people help you and adjust your expectations accordingly.  It doesn't matter if the ornaments aren't perfect, as long as your kids had fun and you have one less thing on your to do list.

10. Shop Once
Ask for wish lists and get the shopping done one single time.  Stores are so stressful this time of year, don't torture yourself by going every weekend.  Set a gift budget and check everyone's wish lists. Decide what to get and then stick with the plan.  Don't keep returning to stores or even browsing online.  Just shop once and be done, even if that means you won't get all the best deals.  Your time and sanity is worth something too.

11. Prepare For Next Year
The key to simplifying, particularly with holidays, lies in planning ahead.  And it's easiest to prepare for next year right after you're done with this one, while everything is fresh in your mind.  Take note of what worked and what didn't, what you need for next year, how much everything cost, and don't forget to pack things away properly.  Future you will thank you when there's no lights that need untangling or broken ornaments to throw away!

Do you get overwhelmed at this time of year?  What are you doing to simplify the season?

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