Christmas is coming…and if you’re like me, your calendar is already filling up with programs and parties and all things holiday. Perhaps it’s loaded with required school events, or maybe you just have a wish-list of things you really want to do with your kiddos. Either way, this can be a crazy busy time of year, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Don’t worry! I’ve compiled a list of simple shortcuts for handling the busy holidays that will leave you a little margin (read: permission) to truly enjoy yourself and your family.
Bump it, Mama. You’ve got an elf to move, presents to wrap, shopping to finish, hot chocolate to stir, advent calendars to check off, letters to write, pictures to take, memories to make…the last thing you need to be worrying about is dishes. Go buy some festive paper plates, napkins, and cutlery, and use your precious time to make memories with your kids or curl up by the tree with your spouse.
2. Two Words: Meal-Plan (or Instant-Pot!)
It is worth your time to sit down right now and make a plan for the entire month of December. Factor in the nights you’ll be out with the family or at an event. Consider the holiday parties (and the potential leftovers) and get your meals planned out. Pre-pack lunches. Make-ahead breakfasts. Do whatever it takes to make food one less thing to worry about during these busy holidays. This will free you up to do a little more relaxing and can also help to keep your family eating a little healthier (and on-budget) during this month of delights! BONUS: If you have an Instant Pot or a Slow Cooker (ironic, right?) wear that sucker out this month! A 5-Minute Pasta is a beautiful thing.
3. Pick Your Favorite Dish
I’m noticing that all of my tips so far are about food…December is indeed a month of eating! When it comes to your holiday parties and events, pick one favorite dish and offer to bring it to every one. This will eliminate the need to buy different ingredients or to stress about what to bring to which event. Streamline the dish and the process (even better if you can make it ahead and freeze it!) so that when it’s party time, you can whip it up and be on your way — no last minute running to the store or doubting your cooking ability. BONUS: Don’t be afraid to bring store-bought items! It’s OK to buy a pie or a tub of potato salad. You have my permission.
4. Make a List. Check it Twice. Set a Deadline.
If you’re one who loves to shop for every single person on your list, it can get crazy overwhelming (especially if you’ve got kids tagging along). You would do well to sit down and make a list of every person you need to buy for PLUS a budget PLUS 1 or 2 ideas for things you think they’d like. Then make a plan for getting it all done. When you find it, buy it…don’t spend weeks second-guessing yourself or bouncing back and forth from store to store. This is a huge waste of time, money, and energy! Finally, set a deadline to have it all finished and stick with it. Be sure to give yourself a few extra days before Christmas to sit back and enjoy those beautiful wrapped presents under the tree! REMINDER: Every gift does not have to be perfect. Your generosity is appreciated whether it’s a tin of homemade cookies or a $200 Coach purse.
5. The Art of Saying “No”
We’ve heard this one a thousand times, but it bears saying once more. Learn to say “no.” If you’ve already got three events scheduled that weekend, say “no” to one more. If it’s going to max out your budget (or your credit card), it’s ok to say “no.” If you know your kids will be too tired to attend an event, don’t feel bad about saying “no.” And dare I say, if your kid is so little that they won’t remember it, then you’re really doing it for you — not for them. Ask yourself if the stress involved is worth it just for a picture they won’t remember, and then choose wisely. That being said…
6. Wait ’til Next Year.
Our city has a crazy number of fun, memory-making opportunities for the whole family, but that doesn’t mean that you have to attend every single one every single year. In fact, depending on the age of your kids, some events will be more meaningful in a year or two. If yearly traditions are important to you, start with a few main, simple traditions, then add on by following your kids’ lead. If they remember something really amazing from last year, then it’s probably worth doing again. There will ALWAYS be opportunities to make memories during the holidays, but we don’t have to be completely overwhelmed to make them happen.