The Holidays are supposed to be about coming together as family and celebrating the spirit of the season. Why is it then that the vast majority of Americans are more stressed, lonely and worn out than at any other time of year? Could it be because we focus too much on pleasing everyone and keeping up with the Jones (sorry Jones family!) and in some cases out doing them? Are you one of these over stressed unhappy people during the holidays? Perhaps it’s time for a change. Maybe it’s not about the stuff. Maybe it’s about simplifying the holidays.
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Many years ago the holidays weren’t about buying the kids the latest games. Or making sure you have the most expensive prime rib Christmas dinner. Instead the holidays were about family, celebrating the season and/or religious beliefs. The latest and greatest toy was a handmade doll, created with scraps of specialty fabric. A fancy Christmas dinner consisted of simple food preserved earlier in the year. Does this mean that we should all live like it’s 1818? No. But maybe it shows us that over complicating the holidays doesn’t necessarily make for a wonderful holiday season. Maybe, by simplifying the holidays we and our families can enjoy them just a little bit more.
I’ve come up with a list of 5 things that we either do or strive to do each year to more fully enjoy the season, save a little bit of money and avoid unnecessary holiday stress.
5 Tips for Simplifying the Holidays
Less Really Is More
Scale back the gifts. We live in a really small house – like 750 square feet of small! We don’t have space for lots and lots of stuff, especially when we have too much stuff already. That’s why when we are looking at gifts for Little Miss, we try to gets gifts that she’ll actually use. I really like arts and crafts supplies, simple toys that make her use her imagination and non-electronic learning toys (books, blocks, kinetic sand etc.). In fact sometimes the simpler the better! The other night a cardboard box was transformed into a car that was taking her and her (imaginary) princess friends to the ball, and her ball gown was a jacket tied carefully around her. Call me weird, but I firmly believe that children do not need computers, cell phones and electronic games to be happy. If you’re already drowning in toys, Lacey over at Simple Quiet Mama has a fantastic article about toy minimalization and how to go about it. I always like to remember that it’s not the quantity of gifts that people truly appreciate, it’s the quality. Someone always appreciates a gift truly tailored to them over 25 generic dollar store gifts.
Don’t Go Into Debt
According to a recent Gallup Poll survey, the average American will be spending an average of $794 on gifts in 2018. That figure doesn’t take into account planning for family coming in to town, holiday meals and so forth. Unless you’ve planned and set aside at least $1000 during the year, that’s a huge hit on your pocket-book and one you may end up going in to debt over. To save some money this holiday, try simplifying your holiday meals. For our Christmas eve meal we never go traditional, one year we made a huge batch of breakfast burritos, another year we made calzones, and we’ve also made biscuits and gravy. If you plan on having lots of family over you could also have a potluck. And if you’re worried about what everyone else will say (more on this later) you can always explain that this year you are scaling back a bit to avoid going into debt over Christmas. For gifts I really like the Buy 4 thinking. Buy Something They Want, Something They Need, Something to Wear and Something to Read.
Ditch the Box Stores
You know the big box stores are going to be crazy this year, so why don’t you save yourself the hassle and either buy local or make some of your gifts. I absolutely love handmade gifts! I can’t tell you what I’ve made this year, but in years past I’ve made scarves, wood burned tic-tac-toe games, jewelry, bookmarks, coasters and so much more. Dan always creates some really cool gifts as well. Handmade gifts can be as simple as homemade bath salts or as elaborate as a hand carved wooden chess set. It really depends on the time you have and your skills. If you grow a huge garden each year set aside some herbs for dried herb mixes. (Lisa at Feathers in the Woods has a fantastic guide for preserving herbs) You can also wrap a jar of tomato sauce with a few wooden spoons and a new kitchen cloth for a quick hostess gift.
Simplify Your Traditions
Do you put a lot of time and effort into making a fruitcake every year that no one eats? Every year do you spend lots of money making sure the whole family has matching pajamas on Christmas eve (and now you have years and years of Christmas pj’s that you’ve only worn once)? Do you make 20 different types of holiday cookies because nobody in your family likes the same cookie? Do you insist on making a certain Christmas breakfast because that’s what you grew up with? Maybe it’s time to take a look at all the traditions you have in place. Are there some that are a huge pain and take away from your holiday enjoyment? It’s okay to skim down on the traditions and only do those that make you and your family truly happy. But wait you say, you have distant family members that won’t like you making changes! You can’t risk making them upset! Yes. . . you really can, because. . .
You Can’t Please Everyone!
I know, it’s completely selfish of me to say this, especially around the holidays. But it’s true. Odds are if you ditch the traditional prime rib that you’ve been buying for years you’re going to make someone upset. If you scale back on gifts, you may make someone upset. If you scale back on your holiday traditions you may make someone upset. BUT, if they care for you they will understand why you are simplifying the holidays. Especially if you explain that you are doing this not to be mean and not to be the bad guy, but to save your sanity and bring back your own holiday joy.
After reading this, you may be thinking that I’m suggesting ya’ll say bah-humbug this holiday season and just stay home doing nothing. Not true my dear friends, not true! This list is only meant to suggest alternatives and different approaches to the way you already do things. If your holiday must do is buying gifts for your friends, family neighbors and coworkers, by all means go for it! If you absolutely love baking 100 dozen cookies and candies, then knock yourself out! And if volunteering at the shelter sounds like the perfect thing to do, that’s wonderful! My point is, this holiday season, do the things that make you and yours happy while keeping your stress levels to a minimum.
How are you simplifying the holidays this year?