I love the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas are my two favorite holidays of the year. Food, friends, family, and celebrating Jesus just warm my heart.
I love the holiday movies and decorations and fires in the fireplace. The cozy sweaters and hot chocolate and apple cider. But like anything in life, stress, comparison, and overwhelm can creep into the holidays if you let them.
Not that you need permission to give yourself a break, but if you do – I’ll give it to you. Give yourself a break from things you don’t have to do over the holidays. Cough cough, that little elf may have to retire from the shelf. It WILL be OKAY.
Try to simplify where you can. Enjoy the season with your family!
Say ‘No” to parties you don’t want to go to or just feel obligated to go to.
Limit how many gifts ahead of time you’ll get for your kids.
Don’t make 5 desserts for Thanksgiving- just make one!
I’m no expert on minimalism or decluttering (goodness knows I need all the help I can get in this department). And I’m definitely not a trained psychologist or mental health professional so keep that in mind as I share what has worked for us and our family to simplify and destress the holiday season.
This Was Stressing Me Out
I want to talk about one area to simplify and destress: GIFTS!
This used to be a huge area of stress for me around the holidays.
Not only was it a financial burden on us as a young married couple with very little extra income, but it was also a mental burden on me. I love to give gifts that mean something and fit each person’s likes and interests.
So I would think about and search for gifts for what seemed like weeks. Scouring the internet and local boutiques for just the right gifts.
I wanted to be involved in all the holiday fun and activities so I often said yes or went along with plans to go to parties where you bring gifts. FOMO can straight up take the money from your bank account just like it can take your peace.
We were buying for too many people and spending too much of our budget on gifts each year.
My Aha! Moment
Then I read what a local blogger I knew posted about how she and her husband do gifts for Christmas. It was a lightbulb moment for me!
So, we changed ONE thing about how we give gifts. And that one thing changed everything for us- even now. It decreased my overall stress and increased the money in our pockets every Christmas season.
It wasn’t something new I came up with. And there’s no pitch for my “proven system” at the end of this post.
It was this: Want, Need, Wear, Read.
You may be thinking what?! What does that mean?
Or maybe you have heard of it and already do it with your family. That’s great!
For my husband and myself (and now for our daughter) we only buy four gifts each. Four total gifts for each person:
- Something that the other person Wants.
- Something they Need.
- Something they can Wear.
- And something they can Read.
Of course, some things may fit multiple categories, but part of the fun is finding gifts that fit in each category.
My husband mentioned he wanted some new cufflinks or that he really wanted to try this new restaurant in town. So I would get him some cufflinks or a gift card to the restaurant.
OR I take it one step further and make reservations at the restaurant and schedule childcare for a date night to the eat at the restaurant.
Typically something practical and not too expensive. One year my husband got me several pairs of Bombas socks because he noticed that most of my socks had holes in the toes. Yep, I’m THAT person. Guess what? I wear those Bombas ALL THE TIME!
This is pretty obvious. Something that the other person can wear. Try to think beyond clothes. This can include jewelry, watches, makeup, shoes, bags, hats, lotions, fragrances, or other accessories.
This is also pretty obvious, but maybe not as easy depending on the person. If you don’t have any titles or authors in mind, go to the Amazon bestsellers list for a category you know the other person enjoys to find a book.
Ask a friend of theirs if they have any suggestions if you’re unsure. Reads can also include things like planners or organizers.
NOTE: If they read on kindles or other electronic devices, by all means, get that version for them instead of a paperback book.
Also, we allow Grandparents to get whatever gifts they want for our daughter even though we only get her 4 items. We give the disclaimer not to “go wild” of course. And anything that makes noise stays at Mimi and Papa’s house;)
Getting to the Root of the Stress
There were a couple of things I realized I needed to mentally process and get to the root of around gift-giving in order to bring more joy and less stress to buying and giving gifts over the holiday season.
- Release that belief that you have to get everyone gifts.
That is not true. At all. And if someone decides to no longer be your friend because you didn’t give them a Christmas gift, you really need to evaluate the foundation of your friendship with them.
- Have a conversation ahead of time with your friends and family who you’ve been exchanging gifts with. Suggest getting together for a potluck or meeting at a restaurant instead of giving gifts.
I’m sure more people than you realize would appreciate not having to buy gifts.
- If you would enjoy it, use your talents to make something for those people who you really want to show that you appreciate them instead of buying them something. If you bake, make your specialty cookies or cake or delicious bread. This is definitely NOT me, but I will gladly accept any gifts of cookies or bread!!
- More is NOT better.
With the time and money I save by not shopping for additional gifts for each person, I can spend time doing something I enjoy.
I mean, that money you save could pay off bills, go towards a nice family vacation, donate to a family in need, or some other fun thing that everyone gets to enjoy.
Yes, Amazon is amazing and you can get pretty much anything you need shipped directly to your door which saves you time wandering the mall or perusing through local boutiques.
But, it still costs money.
To ‘Dirty Santa’ or Not
When you get invited to holiday parties and it says that there will be a white elephant gift or dirty Santa gift, you don’t have to go. If you want to attend, you don’t have to participate in the gift-giving.
The other option here is to have a small box in your house where you keep a few (I said few) items that you have received at these parties before and regift it the next year. So you aren’t spending any money on these items. Psst! – no one will know or care that you regifted the Chewbacca legwarmers from last year!
An even better option, in my opinion, is that you can suggest ahead of time just doing a game night with your friends and NOT doing another dirty Santa gift exchange.
It’s Not Just About the Gifts
I understand there are people out there that gifts are their love language. By all means, if it doesn’t stress you or your wallet to give all the gifts to them, go for it.
It’s more about being mindful of how you’re feeling in the season. How you want to feel.
Do the holidays make you feel excited and joyful and peaceful and loving?
Or do they make you feel stressed and anxious, and on edge?
Maybe it’s not the gift-buying and giving that causes these feelings for you. Maybe it’s something else. It could be the food and cooking, the parties, the decorating, or the family dynamics and conflicts.
Set Your Holiday Intentions
So take a moment right now. Humor me here. And write down on a piece of paper:
“This year my holidays are __________.”
And fill in the blank with how you want your holidays to be. Maybe you want them to be peaceful, joyful, simple, reverent, welcoming, etc. Fill that word in the blank.
“This year, I feel _________ during the holiday season”.
Next, fill in the blank in this statement: “This year, I feel _________ during the holiday season”. Do you want to feel calm, compassionate, connected, understanding, patient, excited, loving, or joyful? Fill that word in the blank.
Now put those completed statements where you can see them and speak them to yourself every day. Read them as though it was present tense. For example: “This year, I feel relaxed during the holiday season.” Speak that over yourself. As many times as you need to.
Filter Your Activities
Use your completed statements to filter what activities you do.
What is really important to you about the holidays?
For example, if my word is connected I would ask myself – Will hosting this party make me feel more connected?
If ‘Yes’, then do it and remind yourself when you get frazzled that it will help you feel more connected.
If the answer is ‘No, not really’ or ‘I’m not sure’, then don’t host the party! Release the belief that you should or you need to.
You will run into situations or days when you don’t feel these feelings or act this way. That’s alright. Take a minute. Re-set yourself in whatever way is best for you. And keep going.
The point is to have the overall feeling of your house and your life to be those words. And you have the power to make it that way.
So enjoy your beautiful holiday season!