Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Two P’s of Keeping It Simple During the Holidays

Have I told you that the time from Thanksgiving to Christmas is my FAVORITE time of year?  There is something so magical about the traditions, extra focus on family, and all the sparkle.  But there’s a dark side to the holidays for me: fitting it all in and making everyone happy.  Oh, and don’t forget not eating too many of the amazing treats, finding the perfect gifts while not breaking the bank, and displaying the patience and generosity of a saint while being stretched in a million different directions.  As magical as the season is, it can be downright maddening.  It has been out of necessity to simplify that I’ve developed my “P” strategy.  It’s not rocket science and it’s certainly not original, but it works for me.

The first “P”: Planning
I have a blended family.  With that comes shared holidays.  I only get to spend every other Christmas with all of our children.  On years we don’t have them, they visited their other parent (out-of state) as soon as school let out for the break.  This meant that I had to fit in all of our Christmas activities in a very condensed time frame.  Thus, the family Holiday Calendar was developed.  It worked so well, I even used it for years we had all the children through Christmas.  I sit down mid-November and develop a calendar that plans every holiday activity and family tradition from baking cookies or watching a Christmas movie to Christmas parties and driving to see all the lights.  Then, I don’t have to worry about whether or not I am going to be able to fit everything in. 

Putting it all down on paper gives me the peace of mind that everything we want to do has a date and time set aside for it, so nothing is inadvertently left out and nothing over-taxes our time and sanity.  What works out in your head may not work out on paper.  It also gave me something to look at when any un-expected plans or invitations came about so I could easily judge whether or not I could fit it in.  I post the calendar on our refrigerator/family command center so the entire family knows what the plan is for any given day.  My Handsome Hubby always says, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  I have to agree when it comes to fitting in all of your holiday activities.  Having a plan makes it easy to keep your schedule and commitments as simple or as complicated as you want them to be.

I found some great, free printables at A Typical English Home (Part 1) and (Part 2) to get you started if you aren't comfortable setting up your own calendar.  I typically just use Word or PowerPoint, but this year, I just may use these great printables. 

The second “P”: Prioritization
This goes hand-in-hand with the first “P” because you have to prioritize what is actually going to make it onto your Holiday Calendar/Plan.  There are a million activities you can do as a family to celebrate the holidays.  Unfortunately, time is very limited and you will have to decide what activities will have to drop off the list… and come to peace with that.   
One priority is to keep my home as peaceful as possible.  I want it to be a haven to me and my family; rushing around to fit in some holiday festival or rushing to bake and decorate a couple dozen Christmas cookies before bedtime doesn’t promote my peace priority.  So, on weeknights, our calendar usually is something simple like: Drink Hot Cocoa and watch Mickey’s Christmas Carol.  You can ask any of my kids, it’s these nights they love the most, more than any of the bigger events we might attend.  I save activities that take more than an hour for the weekends.  I also try to schedule only one activity in a day, unless both activities can be accomplished easily and with little stress.  Don’t forget to ask your family about their priorities.  Not-So-Little-Man could care less about driving to see the Christmas lights that Ash loves to see, but he will be thoroughly disappointed if we don’t make castles out of sugar cubes and frosting.  Handsome Hubby HAS to watch “A Christmas Story” while Court likes to sing Christmas Carols. 

With prioritization, you really have to give yourself permission to keep things simple even when something else might be expected.  I’m known for my holiday baking, so when I get invited to a party and am asked to bring a dessert, it’s expected by everyone that I’m going to bring a fabulous, homemade dessert.  As much as I’d like to do that every time, there are times when I have to pick up some cookies or pastries at the bakery instead or throw a quick fruit salad together.  In those instances, my stress level and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” with my family is a higher priority than spending 2 hours in the kitchen.  And I’m totally OK with that. 

Instead of fighting the crowds and spending hours shopping around town, I’ll pay an extra $20 in shipping and do most (if not all) of my gift shopping online (and in my pajamas after the kids go to sleep).  I'll take the time to spend with my family instead.  Black Friday?  Forget. It.  No amount of savings is worth that chaos in my book.  Those are my priorities, yours may be completely different.  I’m not saying we all have to have the same priorities, I’m saying that you just have to know yours and put them to practice; not giving into the pressures that compromise them.
It’s really easy to give in to the pressure to accept every holiday invitation and “make it work somehow” or to spend hours in the kitchen so your neighbors can enjoy your famous rum cake.  It takes deliberate action to resist those pressures and spend your energy on the things and people that mean the most to you.  It feels like a battle, so why not treat it as such and arm yourself with a good plan and a solid set of priorities?  You my be surprised at how much more you can accomplish and how much simpler the holidays become.       

Shared At: Seven AliveCreative ThursdayHomemaker By ChoiceMiss Information , Friday FavoritesKitchen Fun with My 3 SonsPetals to PicotsFriday Flair , Hodgepodge FridayWeekend WhateverCreative Corner HopMake It Pretty MondayCreative MondaysMarvelous MondaysMix It Up MondayThe Bulletin BoardI Gotta Try ThatSewing BarefootAnti-Procrastination TuesdaysFrugal Tuesday TipDomestically Divine TuesdayTeach me TuesdayTip JunkieShow Me What Ya GotTrick or Treat TuesdaysTiny Tip TuesdayWorks for Me WednesdayEarning My CapeThrifty HomeDeep Roots at HomeRaising HomemakersFrugal Days Sustainable WaysTuesdays Table    


  1. What great tips! Thanks so much for sharing. We do get caught up in the season and we really need to slow down and enjoy it! Thanks!

    1. yep, i've spent WAY too many holidays so stressed that the joy and peace is gone. :)

  2. I try to have all my shopping done -- online and in stores -- before Thanksgiving. That leaves the rest of my holidays free to do whatever comes along. Once you alleviate the stress of shopping, they rest of the holiday is so much more enjoyable.

    1. That's awesome! I hope to be so organized someday. having all my shopping done would definitely reduce some stress :)

  3. After too many years of running to and from far too many Christmas activities, we've sworn to keep it more simple for the past few years. There are already so many things that we love to do each holiday season. Adding more to that list is just crazy-making.

    As for shopping in advance, I'm no longer that girl. One year, I had everything done by the first week of the November and it was just completely anti-climatic. While I will never do a Black Friday sale again, I do love Christmas shopping.

    I do a whole lot of it online, but there is just something fun about wandering the decorated shops on a night when Christmas music is playing and I'm looking for just the right gift. If I can add in a coffee date with a friend, that just makes it a perfect evening.

    1. That's a good point about having all the shopping done too soon, I experienced the same thing one year. It was less stressful, but also less fun. :) I agree that there is something magical about all the stores glittering and playing Christmas music. I love downtown Glendale this time of year, the shops (especially in Kaitlin Court) are super-quaint and the whole area is decorated to the hilt!

  4. You've got all your priorities in order!! I totally agree....spending time is worth so much more than running around like a maniac over the holidays... thanks for sharing. Hope you inspire others to do this too!

  5. I agree, these are some fantastic tips Athena! Thanks for sharing on "I Gotta Try That" Have a great day!


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