When I was thinking about how to title this post I came up with a few different titles that all went something like this…
…How to NOT decorate this year and still enjoy the holidays or How to make the next two months of your life feel magical and Stress-Free.
Every year my holiday prep list is slightly different. One year I may be hosting Thanksgiving dinner and have to shop and prepare for that, but not Christmas dinner. I may have the neighbors over for an Open House, or I may be attending a charity event. The events may change, but no matter what, over the holiday season there will always be music all through my house. The Christmas tree will be twinkling in the living room, candles all over, cookies baking in the oven and something crafty in progress to decorate the house.
My path to finding holiday bliss instead of holiday stress began with yards and yards of fresh cedar garland for my foyer staircase banister 7 years ago. I was preparing for a holiday photo shoot for BHG magazine and decked my foyer staircase with fresh cedar garland. It looked amazing.
After about a week, the garland started to dry out and crumble. The heat of the house was just too much for it. It was truly a mess to look at and a nightmare to clean up. It was such a waste in what it cost and the effort involved to get it up and arranged in a pretty way. I vowed that year to never ever again bring fresh garlands into the house in such a big way. They need to be outside in the cool air to last the season.
The fiasco with the garland was my Christmas decorating turning point.
I love the holiday season and all it brings, except of course the stress we bring on ourselves. That we feel we have to do it all…. and on top of this mindset… we think we need to also do it perfectly.
I realized to create holiday joy I didn’t need what others thought was needed to say holiday. I now intentionally avoid expensive decorations or anything which is too time consuming to create. I vowed after that year to only do what was important for me and my family when it came time for the holidays.
Over the last few years I have
pared down, more like “refined” what I have done in the way of decorating the house for the holidays, both inside and out. I still like fresh cedar in the house, but add it in small ways. In doing so, everything for the holidays from the planning to the actual decorating, shopping, baking and entertaining is much more enjoyable.
Over the weekend, while visiting a friend, she told me she didn’t want to decorate this year only because she doesn’t like how long it takes her to take it all down, box it up and store it come January. She said she was feeling guilty that she was letting her family down if she didn’t do it all in grand style, but the thought of doing any of it, exhausted her.
My reply to her was, If doing it all in grand style falls only on you to do and you don’t want to do it, then it is “time to edit”.
Edit to only do what is important so you can enjoy the holidays while at the same time making sure no one feels you have become the Christmas Grinch.
I explained to her that I have been editing over the last few years to build upon my “More Joy” Christmas philosophy.
What’s my “More Joy” philosophy?
- It is choosing to do only what makes the holidays feel special to my family and I and not worry about the rest.
How to Have a Merrier Holiday Season This Year
1. Decide What Really Makes The Holidays Feel Special
After the cedar garland mess, I asked Ed what were the most important things for him that made the holidays feel special? His answers along with mine for the same question are how I began to refine the holidays. Note, I didn’t say simplify.
What I choose to do may not be simple, but it takes away what is not needed and that gives us more time to enjoy what we really love about the holiday season. We can forget about the rest and not feel one ounce of guilt about it.
To enjoy “More Joy” over the holidays, I made a list of what made the holidays special for us. Then I broke it down even more specifically answering:
- What was it about each thing on the list that was the most important part?
Here is my “More Joy” must list:
- Christmas without a tree is just not Christmas, but what is it about the tree? It’s the white twinkling lights on it that we love.
- Christmas music playing through the house and my car all day long.
- Candles lit in the late afternoon and early evening while I prepare dinner.
- Having time to do nothing except watch Christmas movies, bake cookies to eat and fill up festive metal tins to wrap and give to others.
- A day of Christmas shopping in a bustling city and coming home exhausted to the twinkling tree and a house filled with Christmas music and lit by candles is pure Christmas joy.
- Attending a Christmas concert. It can be choral music to Holiday Pops. This year we are going to see Mannheim Steamroller.
This year I am refining my list even more. I am giving myself permission to do something I have been wanting to do for the last few years. Last year I wasn’t quite ready, but this year I am going for it.
There is something so pretty and magical about a Christmas tree dressed in nothing but twinkling white lights. It brings back nostalgic warm and wonderful memories of laying under the lit tree at night and watching the shadows of the branches dance on the ceiling of the room when I was a child.
I like the new open and airy style of artificial Christmas trees that have been becoming more popular over the last few years. I decided this year was going to be the year I went for one. The last few years we haven’t even been home for Christmas and a real tree was hard to take care of when you are not home to keep it watered.
So, my Christmas tree is up (blogging requires me to get ready early) wearing nothing but white twinkling lights and a colorful piece ofplaid fabric wrapped around the base. And not only one tree, but two trees to add even more twinkle.
2. Make a List and Check it Twice
Try this, it truly will help you to focus on what is important. Make a list of items that make Christmas feel special for you. It doesn’t have to look like my list at all as you and your family have your own holiday traditions that are important to you.
Making a list is the first way to remove from your holidays what no longer feels special to you or is needed to enjoy the season. If you have kids, ask them to make a list and add what is on their list to yours. You may have thought they liked a certain thing you always did, but then realize they really don’t care. Ask to find out for sure.
Next go down each item on the list and figure out a way to make each happen. Make a new edited list and then plan and schedule these things on a calendar.
3. Pass on Holiday Traditions That No Longer Hold Meaning
Stop and think, do I really need this item or need to attend an event to make it feel like Christmas? If the answer is no, then there is no need to use the item or schedule it on your calendar this year.
For instance, do you mindlessly bring down a storage bin filled with Christmas décor and place it all the same way as last year? Ask yourself – why? If it is tradition and Christmas would not be the same without seeing a time-honored decoration on the mantel, then this is a must for you to do. It brings joy to the season for you.
But what about other decorations? Do you still like a snowman that has seen better days? Would he look better on a thrift store shelf? If the snowman is worn because you or your children have played with him every Christmas that he has become worn with love, then he is a keeper no matter what. It can be hard making decisions like this, but you want to only add things that bring joy, not just because you have them and feel you should use them.
My sister stopped sending Christmas cards a few years ago. Since she sees, emails, texts, and chats on Facebook with everyone she knows through the year, she sends her greetings online. This saves not only time, but money. The cost of cards and postage can go to something more meaningful for her.
4. Plan Ahead
Once you give yourself permission to refine your holidays, get what you enjoy about the holidays planned out on a calendar. Plan for a baking marathon one day, mark the day for the local Christmas Bazaar or to shop, buy concert tickets. You can also schedule a day with a meet up for breakfast before shopping with family or friends. Schedule these important-to-you things now before the holidays really kick in.
Many of my blogging friends have created planners to help you do just this. You can find a very nice one here: Free Printable Holiday Planner
Holiday Time Savers:
- Use a Planner or a folder to keep all your holiday related lists, concert tickets and other items together.
- Do as much online shopping as you can. With most retailers offering free shipping, online shopping is a big time saver.
- Buy cookie making ingredients when you are out shopping for your Thanksgiving meal groceries. This way when you are watching a Hallmark movie and get the urge to bake a batch of cookies while you watch, you have everything you need.
- Wrap gifts when you are watching Christmas movies or as soon as you bring them home. This will lessen the stress of having to wrap a huge pile of gifts in one sitting, unless this is something that you enjoy doing as part of adding more joy to your holidays. -)
Work At Adding More Joy… Slowly
I didn’t make changes to how I decorated or we celebrated the holidays all at once, but over a few years. I refine the list every year making sure to do only what will bring joy to the season and not do what we think is expected and truly doesn’t matter.
Remember… Life is too short to be the caretaker of the wrong details.
The holidays are even a shorter time period in your life. Make the most of them by editing your list and then check it twice to make sure that everything you do produces joy.
I promise your holidays will be merrier and brighter and when the new year rolls around, you will have less to put away and more happy, positive energy to start the new year.
Give yourself permission this year to do the holidays exactly how you want… in your own style.