For many of us, the holiday season holds a special place in our hearts. It’s a time to focus on faith, gratitude, celebration, and cherishing moments with family.
But too often, the beauty of this season gets overshadowed by rush and busyness. Not to mention the stress of over-commitment, excessive spending, and unrealistic expectations.
As the holiday season officially begins, let’s remember that simplifying our holiday season can actually magnify our joy and allow us to focus on what truly matters.
Simplicity isn’t about cutting back on joy. Simplicity is about promoting the values and actions that bring real joy by removing the distractions that keep us from it.
To that end, here are ten practical, family-friendly ways to simplify your holiday season.
Some may be more exciting and applicable to you than others, but that’s fine. My only hope is to spark a new idea that you can embrace to make the most of this special season of the year.
1. Limit Gift-Giving
Reducing the number of gifts you buy isn’t about being stingy; it’s about refocusing on what’s important. Consider setting a limit on the number of gifts for each person or doing a gift exchange. This doesn’t mean you need to spend less, but shopping for more and more for the sole reason of making the tree look piled away with boxes is unnecessary.
This shift can reduce stress, and will also probably result in less clutter in the long-term.
2. Learn to Say No
You don’t have to attend every holiday event or gathering. Prioritize the ones that are most meaningful to you and your family. Politely declining invitations can free up time to enjoy the season at a more relaxed pace.
Holiday parties can be a wonderful opportunity to connect with friends and family and co-workers. But if the calendar is resulting in stress just by looking at it, learn to say no politely.
3. Avoid Holiday Debt
Steering clear of debt during the holidays is a gift to both your present and future self. If you think overspending is going to relieve your stress because everyone will be so happy with all the things you purchased, you are overestimating how much joy purchased items can bring… and underestimating how much joy an undistracted and focused you truly is to your family and friends.
Create a reasonable budget and stick to it. Remember, the best memories often come from shared experiences, not expensive gifts.
4. Simplify Decorations
Decorating for the holidays can be delightful, but it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Choose a few meaningful decorations that bring you joy and create a cozy, festive atmosphere without the clutter.
In our home, we have one box of holiday decorations that are meaningful to us and help elevate the meaning of the season in our family. In fact, we’ve found that eliminating the unnecessary allows the most necessary to speak louder in our home.
5. Define Your Season’s Purpose
“Keep your main thing the main thing,” as the old saying goes.
But here’s the problem: We can’t keep the main thing the main thing until we know what the main thing even is! If the goal of your holiday season is to be with family, give gifts, hang out with co-workers, rest, watch holiday movies, look at lights, reconnect with your loved ones, celebrate your faith, go to lots of parties, drink and be merry, bake lots of cookies, take time off of work, play video games, buy things for yourself at discount, and go sledding with your buddies… you’re going to get stressed.
Before the huge rush of holiday activities and opportunities get into full swing, take a moment to define what the holiday season most means to you and your family. Whether it’s about faith, gratitude, family, or celebration, let this purpose guide your decisions and help you stay focused on what truly matters.
6. Manage Children’s Expectations
The holiday season can create a frenzy of expectations in children. And too often, we are the ones at fault. We talk about “Santa Claus” and “gifts” and “stockings” and “wait until Christmas morning” like the entire Amazon catalog is going to be under the tree.
Be smart in how you talk about the holiday season with your children—especially the younger ones. Yes, most likely, people who love them will express their love through gifts. But your kids won’t get everything they want, and even those trying their best might not always choose the right gifts.
But if you’ve defined your family’s purpose and have taken the time to remind your kids what is most important, expectations can be better managed—and so can your stress level in trying to meet them.
7. Delegate and Trust Others
Embracing the spirit of trust and delegation can significantly ease holiday stress. If your spouse is managing the holiday meal, let them take the lead. If a family member is organizing a Christmas Eve gathering, trust their judgment and skills. Just like a good manager delegates tasks to focus on the bigger picture, apply the same principle during the holidays.
Offer help and stay involved, but resist the urge to micromanage every detail. This approach not only lightens your load but also empowers others, often leading to wonderfully unexpected outcomes. Remember, the holiday season is about togetherness and shared experiences, not perfection in every plan and event.
8. Focus on Your Health and Well-being
Maintain your regular healthy habits during the holiday season. Eating well and staying active are not just good for the body. They’re crucial for mental health, especially during busy times.
9. Seek Reconciliation
The holidays can be an opportune time for healing and reconciliation. Reach out, make amends, or simply extend a gesture of goodwill. The closer you used to be with someone who is currently estranged, the harder you should work for peace.
But won’t this bring more stress into your holiday season? I don’t think so.
An attitude of bitterness, anger, or unforgiveness toward someone else brings more stress into our lives than we think. And even if we genuinely offer our hand and heart in reconciliation and it is rejected, we can sleep confidently and peacefully knowing that we have handled our side of the equation in a manner that brings us peace—even if the other half chose not to.
10. Identify What Brings You Joy
Take note of which holiday activities bring you genuine happiness. Maybe it’s baking cookies, caroling, or just spending quiet evenings with loved ones. Prioritize these activities and let go of the ones that don’t bring you the same joy.
Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t agree to do some things simply because they bring joy to those we love. But deep down, don’t you find a little joy in selflessness anyway?
As we embrace the holiday season, let’s remember that simplifying isn’t about diminishing the joy or significance of our celebrations. It’s about creating space for more meaningful experiences and connections.
A simplified holiday season can be richer, warmer, and more fulfilling. It’s within this simplicity that we often find the deepest joy and the most lasting memories. Let’s choose a holiday season that reflects the true desires of our hearts—and let’s begin today.