Carrie has four daughters and runs Write On! Workshops--a summer writing camp for children.

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Ways to Simplify the Holidays

I always want to be that mom who starts Christmas in August and is ready to cruise through December stress free. But unfortunately,  I am not that mom. If I am not careful, the demands of the season run me over like a semi-truck.  I am slowly learning that creating a magical holiday depends more on keeping things simple than it does about awesome neighbor gifts or having every room in my house decked out. Here are a few ways to simplify the holidays and create the magic without all of the stress.

  • Concentrate your decorating.  Every room does not need to be undone and remade for Christmas. (There have been years when I have put poinsettias in the bathroom.) Try concentrating your decorating to the tree,  the mantel and your dinner table. Make those areas really special and then only pull out the rest of your decor if you truly have nothing else to do.
  • At this point, give up on homemade gifts. One year I decided mid-December to make each daughter a scrapbook on Shutterfly. Yes, they loved them Christmas morning, but I was the walking dead. If your homemade gift isn’t done by now, give an “I Owe You” special coupon or  save the surprise for Valentines and get some sleep.
  • Don’t give a gift to everyone you know. Sometimes I get into a gift frenzy and think I have to give a gift to all the girls’ dance teachers, music teachers, church teachers, and a gift to my hair dresser and the mail man and everyone on the block.  While the gift might be appreciated, it creates extra stress on both sides. Maybe those people on my block weren’t planning to gift my family a gift and now they feel obligated. I have started adding special teachers and friends to our Christmas card list to simplify the gift giving. Or even a hug and a “Merry Christmas” can work too. 
  • Wrap as you go. I save myself lots of stress when I wrap gifts as I go. I set up a “wrapping station” and wrap a two or three gifts before bed. The pay off for this discipline is lots more sleep on Christmas Eve.
  • Make the same dish for every party. As much as possible, volunteer to bring the same dish to each party. On Sunday, I brought a green salad with pomegranate seeds and mozzarella cheese to our Christmas family party. I am making the same salad for the neighborhood party and our church party too.
  • Prepare “go to” holiday outfits. We have lots of casual and dressy events we need to attend this month. I have one casual Christmas outfit and one dressy Christmas outfit planned for each family member. For girls, this includes the tights, the shrugs and the hair bands. If we keep them laundered and organized, we can be ready for holiday events in a flash.
  • Do a daily “mind sweep.” Especially this time of year, there are so many task lists floating around in my head sometimes it is hard to breathe. David Allen in Getting Things Done advocates doing a regular “mind sweep” where you consistently capture all of those tasks on a piece of paper or any task list. The key to this is being consistent enough that you can trust your list.  Once everything is written down, your mind is free to think about other things like how much you love the look on your child’s face when she sits on Santa’s lap or which Christmas movie you haven’t watched yet this month. I love the GTD, or Getting Things Done, method. April Perry from Power of Mom’s has a great adaptation of this program for mom’s.  I wouldn’t recommend diving in to this right now, but maybe check it out and put it on your Christmas list. This program has all kinds ways to simplify every month of the year.
When we focus on ways to simplify our holiday, we can still create magic. But a better magic. The kind of magic that lets us enjoy the moment too.
More Christmas on Today’s Mama

 

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