5 Ways I’m Simplifying Christmas This Year To Actually Enjoy The Season
By Katharine Reid
PHOTO © crystalmariesing/Twenty20
Dec 3, 2018
You know how I don’t want to spend the Christmas season? In crowded mall lineups, down on the floor scrubbing my baseboards (because I inexplicably believe that guests might notice or care that they’re dirty) and yelling at my kids because I’m stressed about my insane to-do list.
For parents, the mental load and emotional labour of Christmas can be overwhelming. But this year, I've decided to let some of that go. Here are the ways I’m taking the pressure off for Christmas this year.
Get Organized Early (And Embrace Google Docs)
My husband and I organize our lives through Google Docs. Seriously, everything is done in shared spreadsheets (we’re romantics that way). This year, that includes Christmas — we started the document in September! We have a budget, a list of people to get gifts for (from our own kids, to cousins and neighbours), a list of what we’re getting them and a tally of what it’s all costing. This keeps us from losing track of what we’re buying and spending, and ensures we don’t forget anyone on our list. It also means there is (hopefully) no last-minute scrambling, especially because I wrap everything in November.
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Does the excess of Christmas sometimes exhaust you? My idea of hell is crowded malls, excessive stuff and mountains of debt — I just feel like it all leads to stress, frustration and a lack of appreciation for simple things. As someone who tries to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, I often spend the lead-up to Christmas worrying that my kids are getting the message that consumerism = everything.
Note to self: I don’t have to send a family Christmas card or make sure my kids all wear matching pajamas for a photo op.
This year, we’re re-shifting the focus when we give gifts to experiences and homemade consumables. It feels so much more special and meaningful that way. For our kids, we’re keeping to our usual want/need/wear/read rule for gifts. I find they appreciate what they get a lot more when they aren’t overwhelmed by excess. I’m also adding an “experience” gift for them this year (I plan to take my eldest son rock climbing, and my youngest for a hot chocolate date).
Keep Decorations Simple And Declutter Toys In Advance
I don’t know about you, but a cluttered, messy home just adds to my stress. I have just a few special Christmas decorations, like festive homemade bunting and the stockings I lovingly made for each family member (even if they are a little homely). We put these up along with our fresh-cut tree, and they mean a lot to me because of where they came from and the work I put into them. We also spend some time helping the kids choose which toys they no longer use or love, so they can donate them to other kids who might enjoy them.
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Focus On Fun In December
I spend November getting organized, so I can spend December doing all the things that make the Christmas season special for me: baking, wintery forest walks with my family, going to the tree farm to choose our special tree, hot chocolate dates, cozy Christmas movie nights, skating and reading Christmas stories together. I don’t want to miss out on all those memories because I’m stuck at a mall, or too overwhelmed by my excessive to-do list.
Let Go Of Expectations
How much does it really matter if my floor is covered in crumbs? Or if I don’t have an elaborate Christmas light display? Will it ruin Christmas if I bring a store-bought pie to a Christmas party? Or if I skip a tradition that’s making me feel stressed? Note to self: I don’t have to send a family Christmas card or make sure my kids all wear matching pajamas for a photo op. Unless I want to, of course. We can choose what makes our season special, we don’t have to live up to other people’s (or even our own) expectations.
And as for those dirty baseboards, I find a few well-placed twinkle lights and a tray of cookies tend to keep people focused on more interesting things than my dirt-to-baseboard ratio.
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