Plan Now for a Simpler Holiday

Plan Now for a Simpler Holiday

You cannot decide to have a relaxing holiday season when you’re already in the midst of it. You have to plan now for a simpler holiday. Here’s how:

Make Two Holiday Lists

As you prepare for Thanksgiving next week, I want you to make two lists:

1) Make a list of things you want to get out of the holiday season:

This could be spending time with family, creating magic for your children, having friends over, connecting with old friends, serving others etc. This is not a list of what needs to be done. This is a list of what you look forward to each holiday season.

2) Make a list of what needs to be done

I overheard someone at FinCon say something that blew my mind. He was talking about how overwhelming blogging was and how many things he had to do each week. He said he decided to make a list of everything that needed to be done in a week for his blog and it ended up being really not that much. The same is true for the holidays. We make way more work for ourselves because we think it might help when it actually doesn’t. This is part of what makes our holidays crazy.

List every single thing that needs to be done to make all of your plans on the first list happen. This list will include:

  • Gift lists – who do you REALLY need to include? Is there a way to streamline? Can you create one gift for several people (ie: homemade candies for neighbors, teachers, etc.)? Start brainstorming what you will get each person if you haven’t already. Maybe consider something like my family’s old holiday tradition. Also remember that Santa should be a cheapskate.
  • Meals – How many events do you plan to host? Do you already have the menus figured out for each one? Mr. T is a big holiday chef. He loves creating a feast at the holidays. (I am a big holiday eater. I love eating the feast Mr. T creates. I also enjoy talking to the people we invite while he would prefer to stay in the kitchen most the evening.) He makes the same general menu each year with a few additions and variations based on what we’re feeling like. This menu with recipes for each is on our shared Google Drive. We have a grocery list ready.
  • Christmas cards – How many do you really need to send? Do you need to send them? I enjoy this tradition, so we do make an annual card. Figure out how to create it (I recommend either a postcard version a la Frugalwoods or the Costco Christmas cards like we do each year). Do you have the pictures you need? Do you have everyone’s address ready to go?
  • Helping Others – Part of the holidays involves a desire to help others. I find this is harder to do in the midst of the holiday season unless we’ve planned ahead. Brainstorm ways you can help and plan them into your schedule.

A lot of the holiday rush can be avoided if your gifts are ready and mailed the first week of December and you can avoid shopping for your immediate family after Thanksgiving. Get as much done early as possible.

When new events arise, ask yourself if they align with the first list you created. Will this help the magic of the holiday season or will it just add more chaos?

How do you prepare for a simpler holiday?


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  1. We’re planning now!

    I’ve already bought gifts for the children, I just have to find them in this unholy mess that is our home. I’m updating our address book and Christmas card address list now, and our card list has been reduced to 43 from 75! Woo!

    I’ll be setting up our travel / visiting dates for December this week and then I will feel a heck of a lot better going into the busy December.

  2. Thank you for the reminder… and the push… I do need to get organized for my holidays… I will make lists tonight. Making lists is one of my favourite things to do! 🙂

  3. What an excellent suggestion to take a moment and reflect on what WE’d like out of the holiday season. So often, I get caught up in the planning of everything else that I forget to carve out time and plan for the simplest things that will be most memorable to me … notably, “planned” lazy evenings in with Christmas music playing on the radio, hot cooca in hand and all the twinkling lights outside.

  4. It’s amazing how writing things out on a to-do list makes everything seem suddenly more manageable.
    I always feel a bit overwhelmed when Christmas is approaching but once I sit down and go through the random gifts I’ve picked up during the year and ideas that are already floating around my head I can usually get all the gift buying done in a few days.

    • MaggieBanks

      Gifting is my favorite part of the holiday and I work on it all year, so it’s more of a fun, thoughtful thing rather than a buying frenzy that stresses me out.

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