Summer has come and gone, and fall is in full swing. One trip through any store hints at what is to come; the holidays. The holiday season is fast approaching, bringing with it a crazy mix of joy, generosity and all too often, stress. Some people hate this season and many people love it. But most will agree that emotions run high and it can easily become a season where the stresses encroach on the joy. In an effort to make the most of the season and truly enjoy this precious, fleeting time of year, here are 5 tips to help you avoid the holiday overwhelm.
5 Tips to Avoid Holiday Overwhelm
1. Plan ahead financially.
The holidays can be a stressful time in terms of finances with gift giving, holiday travel, parties, and other expenses. Start setting aside money ahead of time to make Christmas shopping less stressful and less of a budget-killer.
2. Plan ahead for travel.
This is especially important for people who split the holidays between different cities (or states). My husband Matt and I are lucky to have both of our families living in the same city as us. Spending Christmas Eve/Day with each of them is as easy as driving 10 minutes in the car.
Many people are not blessed with both sides of the family in the same city, so holidays often require more substantial travel. Decisions have to be made in terms of where will you spend the holiday.
Are you going to travel for the holidays?
How will you travel; drive or fly?
When will you see the other side of the family?
To avoid unnecessary stress, try to make these plans as far ahead of time as possible. Get any discussions or decision-making out of the way before the holiday season begins.
3. Choose a few key activities for the season.
It’s easy to want to do ALL THE THINGS each year during the holiday season.
See Santa, go ice skating, look at Christmas lights, go on a sleigh ride, bake Christmas cookies, do an Advent calendar, make a gingerbread house, go to a nativity play, read the Christmas story, ring the Salvation Army bell, buy Giving Tree presents…
All of these things are fun and make awesome traditions.
But on top of work, school, shopping, travel, and daily life in general, trying to fit ALL of these things into the short holiday season is a surefire way to make you start acting like the grinch and longing for December 26th.
Instead, try choosing a few key activities that you want to do this year. Involve your family in the decision, and decide what things would be the most fun and memorable for you. Choose three that make you the most excited, and make a plan to do them. Put them on the calendar. Schedule them into your life so you make them happen.
If you accomplish them all and there’s still time left in the holiday season (and in your schedule) for more, you can add in something else.
4. Be intentional; mindful of clutter and excess.
This builds on the last point about limiting the number of activities you try to fit into the holiday season. By intentionally choosing a few important activities to do during the busy season, you are setting yourself up to enjoy each one more fully.
This same intentionality applies to material things too. Most of us will agree that we have too much stuff. The quest for minimalism is rampant everywhere these days, and my life and home is no exception. I’m always trying to simplify and get rid of excess clutter. Dropping boxes of donations off at the thrift store is one of my favorite activities.
It’s important to keep the threat of excess in your mind as you approach gift giving this season. Sometimes, less is more.
There are many different ways to approach Christmas gifts. It’s often a personal decision and largely influenced by factors like family budget.
One of the fun gift giving ideas I’ve heard is the Four Gifts idea. Each Christmas, parents buy their kids four things: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read. Usually, it translates to something fun, something necessary, an item of clothing and a book. This is a great way to get kids things they’ll love, but also to keep the cost and quantity (clutter) under control.
Some families set a dollar limit as a way to control gifts and clutter. Younger kids might have cheaper items on their Christmas list, while older kids may want things that are more expensive. This can sometimes create the opportunity for fights: “He got 10 presents and I only got 5!” But setting a dollar limit can also be a good way of staying within a set budget, especially if clutter is not as much of a concern for you.
The important thing is to find a method that works for your family, and allows you to stay within the financial limits that your family has set, while also controlling the amount of stuff you bring into your house.
A bonus tip: many people try to do another clutter purge after the holidays, in an effort to get rid of excess toys and clothes so they can make room for the new gifts. Some people even go as far as giving away one item for every new gift they’re bringing into their home. This is a surefire way to keep the clutter under control!
5. Enjoy it!
This time of year is fleeting, whether you like it or not.
Pretty soon, the holidays will be a memory. The decorations will be packed away and stored for another year. The Christmas music will stop and stores will display Valentine’s Day and Easter decor.
If this time of year is not your favorite, take heart. Time is passing and it will be over soon. And if you’re one of the people (like me) who LOVES this time of year, know this - time is passing and it will be over soon.
So let’s all do our very best to enjoy this beautiful, crazy time of year for all it’s worth.
The holidays are a season of joy, generosity, commercialism and hilarious craziness that can drive us mad if we aren’t careful. These five tips can help you avoid holiday overwhelm and eliminate Christmas burnout, making sure you arrive to New Years in one piece!
Laura Radniecki is one of two Minnesota moms who make up UpNorthParent.com - a mom-owned parenting website with an Up North focus. The Up North Parent moms believe in thriving families and strong communities, and are fueled by caffeine, sisterhood and lengthy text threads. Laura is married to her high school sweetheart, a mama to her wild son and feisty toy poodle, and obsessed with crafts and donuts with sprinkles. She writes at LauraRadniecki.com.