The holiday season is a magical time of year, filled with twinkling lights, festive decorations, and the scent of freshly baked cookies wafting through the air. However, amidst the joy, there can also be a sense of overwhelm and stress as we rush to meet expectations and create the “perfect” Christmas for our kids. This year, let’s take a deep breath, step back, and embrace the true spirit of a simpler Christmas.
Related: Declutter Before Christmas!
How to Plan a Simpler Christmas
I’m going to share with you the technique that I use in literally every area of my life.
A long time ago, someone very dear to me told me (after a long complaint fest on my part) that I need to start claiming what I wanted in my life.
She told me to make a list of the things I wanted, what I wanted my life to look like, and start doing what it took to make my life look like that.
That’s what I want you to do today.
What do you want your holiday season to look like?
What festivals do you want to go to, what traditions do you want to start?
Maybe include what the holidays usually look like that you want less of.
Make a list for the season as a whole, maybe for what you want your house to look like, and what you want Christmas day to look like specifically.
For me, it looks like this:
Christmas Season Goal List:
- make homemade ornaments with the kids
- get Christmas pictures taken (or dress up and work hard to take our own)
- have a cookie baking day
- make homemade cards for local nursing home residents
- go see Christmas lights with the kids (we go to James Island park in Charleston, SC each year)
- take a picture of the kids in front of the Christmas tree
- Go to see Santa
- Write letters to Santa
- build gingerbread houses
Christmas Day Goal List:
- make a simple breakfast ahead of time so I don’t have to spend time away from our family
- keep a trash bag under the couch to easily clean up wrapping paper
- Keep batteries and screwdrivers under there too
- spend less time in the kitchen – make as many dishes ahead of time as possible
So to accomplish this, I keep this list somewhere I can see it and start checking those things off.
Last year, we had just had our 5th baby on December 1st.
We still managed to check off every single thing on our list with the exception of our annual Charleston trip.
When we were first dating, we decided that if we ever had kids, we would spend our holidays together as a family.
We wouldn’t pull the kids away from their Christmas gifts to go to our family’s houses.
Instead, we could celebrate with them on different days or they could come to us.
Our oldest is 8 and we have always stuck to this.
That one decision alone has simplified our Christmases 100 fold compared to our friends that bounce between family’s houses on Christmas day.
I make two breakfast casseroles for Christmas morning breakfast every year.
We take a family vacation to Charleston, SC and try to knock out a few other items on our list while we’re there to see the Christmas lights.
We walk around the Christmas festival there eating candy canes and drinking hot chocolate.
It’s usually late November or early December when we take the trip because it’s much more relaxed than in the days right before Christmas.
Little things like this are a great way to stay focused on what really matters.
I’m getting off track here, but I really wanted to drive home the point that you have so much control over how your holidays go.
Plan what you want them to look like and start taking steps to make it happen.
Simple Christmas Tree Decorations
The heart of your home during the holiday season is undoubtedly the Christmas tree.
If you are usually stressed about the amount of holiday decorating you take on, make this the year you put a stop to it.
As a kid, we often put up the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve or on the 23rd.
The tree was the only Christmas decoration in the house.
I promised myself that when I had kids, I would go all out decorating for every holiday and try to get my kids excited.
This is exactly what we do.
We already have a Christmas tree or two up by Thanksgiving and we do plenty of simple crafts through each season.
The one way I’m not at all minimalist is with our holiday decorations.
I have four totes of Christmas decorations and love every single one.
We quickly declutter them and only save our very favorites, but it makes me feel like I’m “claiming” one very big thing off of my parenting list.
If you want the opposite, then go for it!
Don’t even put up a tree if you don’t want to.
Family Traditions for Christmas Eve:
Christmas Eve is probably my favorite day of the year.
We put a fireplace ambiance video on TV and drink hot chocolate, make cookies, and make reindeer food.
We watch the Norad Santa tracker on TV and look at our wall map to see where Santa is.
Everyone giggles and is anxious and swears they won’t sleep.
My two oldest, both boys, plot how they’ll try to catch Santa or his reindeer.
There is zero rushing around, no festivals, no family visits.
Just an entire day spent together, playing games, and spending the entire day anxious about the next morning.
My husband and I put our kids to bed and then slip out to the living room to put out the Christmas gifts we bought for the kids while all of us wait for Santa to come.
What do you want your Christmas Eve to look like?
Thoughtful and Clutter-Free Gift Ideas:
This holiday season, consider a different approach to gift-giving.
Our kids used to get each other Christmas gifts.
We now have 5 kids, that’s a TON of gifts.
We recently started doing a secret Santa with our kids where each of them buys just one sibling a Christmas present.
I created an entire list of clutter-free Christmas tips here and a list of minimalist gifts for kids here.
Minimalist Christmas Cards:
Christmas cards used to stress me out every year.
It’s a huge expense and so stressful to get the pictures taken, cards printed, and mailed out in time.
I have given myself permission to not send Christmas cards while our kids are so little.
Maybe we’ll never send them again.
Instead, I post a quick picture of us on Facebook (I almost NEVER post on social media), a quick blurb about everyone’s ages and interests, and we’re done.
Christmas cards done for free.
Simplify the Christmas Dinner:
Christmas dinner doesn’t need to be a grand feast with an overwhelming array of dishes.
We hardly ever have family over on Christmas now that my Pappap has passed.
It’s mostly a quiet day with just us, but I still make way too much food.
I’ve started making everything that I can in crockpots (these 3 dish slow cookers are AMAZING for this) and make everything ahead that I can.
If you do normally have extended family come over for Christmas dinner, don’t turn down anyone’s offer to bring a dish.
Asking the whole family to bring a side or even to-go containers isn’t asking too much.
Stress-Free Shopping and Gift-Giving:
To keep the holiday season stress-free, plan ahead and set a budget for your shopping.
I’m very much team second-hand gifts and normalize giving handmade gifts.
Let’s face it, nowadays things are just too expensive to buy a gift for everyone.
We make tons of desserts around the holidays, so we give cookies as gifts, often multiple times throughout the season.
For those that you do need to shop for, start shopping early.
Even before black Friday.
Then, cut yourself off and don’t let yourself overspend.
It isn’t money spent that proves your love to a person.
It truly is the thought that counts.
Create New Christmas Traditions:
This year, consider introducing new traditions that revolve around meaningful moments.
Make family game nights a part of your holiday season.
Cook together as a family.
Bake if you have a sweet tooth as big as I do.
Keep an eye on Facebook for local Christmas light displays and festivals.
Go to the free ones that sound interesting and that you have time for.
Don’t overload your schedule during the holidays.
Take a step back, drink more hot chocolate on the couch with your loved ones while watching Christmas movies.
We read the Little Blue Truck’s Christmas.
Traditions are what childhood memories are made of.
You are literally crafting the only childhood your kids get.
By keeping it simple, you make those experiences less stressful and far more enjoyable.
Trying to do it all does exactly the opposite.
You choose what kind of Christmas your family gets to experience.
Simple traditions are the best way to have a great time together as a family and don’t have to cost a lot of money.
Cherish the Small Moments:
The heart of a simple Christmas lies in cherishing the small moments.
Life truly is too short.
Our kids are growing up so incredibly fast and I don’t want to miss any of it.
Our lives became so much simpler when I decided to reclaim our time and to lay the guilt down.
We don’t owe anyone our time or our energy to the point that we stop enjoying the things that matter most.
Don’t let Christmas be a time that you dread.
Make it the new norm to celebrate Christmas with your in-laws the day after Christmas or to pick a different day all together.
A simpler Christmas is a more meaningful Christmas, where we focus on the beauty of the holiday season and the people we share it with. Embrace a different approach this year, and you’ll find that the added benefit of a more minimalist Christmas is a holiday filled with love, joy, and beautiful memories that will last a lifetime. Here’s to a Merry Christmas and a more meaningful, clutter-free holiday season!