‘Tis the season once again: a time of goodwill, reflection, family, and for us, a household-wide preparation for the influx of stuff.
I’m not just talking gift giving, though that is a post in and of itself. I’m talking about the all season long preparation and tools that we (I) consider necessary in order to simply celebrate the season. There’s extra food, extra storage space (’cause you gotta hide all those extra toys and extra surprises somewhere too), extra trips out to extra events, extra time at home for the littles (hello school breaks), extra decorations to bring out from storage and furthermore defend from tiny excited fingers, and extra demands on each person in the household.
So. Much. Extra.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m no Scrooge. I love Christmas in every way a person can. I love the Christmas story and what it represents, I love the feelings and the drive to all be together, I love the excitement we get to share with thoughtful gift-giving and the seemingly never-ending seasonal activities and surprises. But it’s so very, very easy to lose the plot…at least in our home. It happens every year; a few weeks into the season I can feel that stress begin to bubble and those tiny cracks begin to form. Those Christmas cookies lose their luster, the over spill of decorations on every static surface are making cleaning the house twice as long, and the kids have watched every version of ‘Snow Buddies’ on God’s green earth…and I’m out of ideas.
You see, we are a family that starts things early.
By mid-September Halloween is engulfing our home, by November 1st we’re fervently givings thanks and drowning in end-of-season pumpkins, and by Thanksgiving evening we’re pulling that tree from the garage despite aching bellies and tired feet. We just can’t seem to help ourselves, the excitement is so intense. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing (after all, it’s all about the joy and a wholehearted celebration of the season at the end of the day), I can’t help but think that by dragging out each celebration for months at a time (yeah, I said it), we might be actually diminishing the special exclusivity that we look forward to for the rest of the year.
So here we go; I’m sharing our family’s top tips — ones we will be implementing this year — to reduce holiday burnout:
1. Start as you mean to go on.
There’s a tendency in our home to start the holidays intentionally, until the inevitable snowball of flash sales, last-minute online bargains, new to us local events, and extra trips out begin to cascade upon us. Before we know it, the budget and our energy are stretched to the max.
2. Make a list, check it twice, then STOP adding to it.
Right in line with the snowball effect mentioned above, we tend to get caught in the cycle of last minute ‘must have’ gifts or outing ideas from both the kids and ourselves. This year we’ll be making our lists around the start of November, we’ll have a couple of weeks/trips to Target to investigate what we might like, and then we’ll send those lists off to the Big Guy. Then we’re going to make it clear to all that that is that. Frankly, my soul can’t take another Christmas Eve dash or desperate last minute search for an ‘it’ toy, for which I’d pretty much have to sell my firstborn. This year, I refuse to let that matter or detract from our joy.
3. Just say no.
We all know that it’s okay to say no to driving around to see 23 light shows, walking through 12 suspiciously repetitive tree displays, or trading in an evening of simply relaxing with your loved ones in order to bake four dozen cookies that likely won’t all get eaten. So this year, we’ll pick one or two things that really get us excited and say a big holiday heck no to the rest.
4. Pre-made is not a “mom-fail.”
Sure, I could spend the months leading up to the big event pre-baking all kinds of holiday staples and treats, and filling my freezer to the brim. Frankly though, I plan on buying the frozen vegetables, the pre-packaged gravy, and the take and bake sugar cookies this year. No one really knows the difference anyway…except perhaps my sanity.
5. Stop and look around.
When we’re busting at the seams with to-do lists and organizational whats-its, it’s so very, very easy to forget to just take it all in. The kids will never be this age again, and the magic will change each year with them and with you.