Christmas is a few weeks away. There are many things to do between now and the holiday. Shopping, wrapping, baking, cooking, mailing, crafting, visiting and the list goes on. AHHHHHHH! Some years I’m stressed and scrambling through Christmas Eve to finish. Other years I’m cool as a cucumber with time to spare.
I remember one year I was so un-stressed that I thought maybe I had forgotten to do something. I had Mike reminding me of everything I was supposed to do, just in case I forgot something. Turns out I was just really on the ball that year.
Preparing for the holidays doesn’t have to be stressful. We also don’t have to start planning and prepping months in advance. We can simplify Christmas to have an enjoyable and stress free holiday season.
If you still have shopping to do there are a couple options to make it easier. Try to finish your shopping at one store if possible. Places like Target, Walmart and department stores are great options. There is lots of stuff to choose from, so you should be able to find something for everyone on your list. If you finish shopping at one store it means less time spent running all over town.
Another option would be to shop online. Just be sure you choose a shipping option that will ensure gifts arrive in time for Christmas. We use Amazon Prime and enjoy free 2-day shipping. Shopping online from home really speeds up the whole process. A lot of online stores offer free shipping on purchases over a certain amount, but it is still standard shipping, so the closer you get to Christmas the more you will pay to be sure your gifts arrive on time.
Don’t try to pull off the fancy wrapping that requires a tutorial in a magazine. It looks amazing, but do you know the time required to make it look the way it does in the magazine? Also a stylist has created that look. That means a professional has done it. If you’re not a professional wrapper don’t stress yourself out trying to match the look.
Arm yourself with a few rolls of coordinating paper and ribbon or bows. If the paper and ribbon/bows complement each other, you don’t need to try hard to make it look extra fancy.
Gift bags are your friend!
Purchase bags that coordinate with your paper. You can very easily plop the gift, especially an oddly shaped one, in a bag and top with a few pieces of tissue. Need help making the tissue look nice? Look it up on Pinterest.
Don’t wrap each individual gift. You can always put several gift items in a gift bag or box and then wrap the box. Have you ever timed yourself wrapping one gift? It takes me about five minutes between all the cutting and sizing up paper, taping, and measuring,cutting, and tying the ribbon. Then finally attaching a gift tag. Wrapping three items individually could take 15 minutes, but if you combine into one gift you save yourself 10 minutes.
Or to save time don’t use gift tags. Attaching and filling out gift tags does take a bit of time. Instead choose a different type of paper for each family member and only use that paper to wrap their gifts. On Christmas Eve place a piece of each person’s paper in their stocking and then each person will know which gift is for them.
Mike claims we could save time by skipping ribbon. I say, we’re trying to simplify Christmas, but we aren’t animals.
Do you make 20 different types of cookies for Christmas? Do you find yourself dreading baking as it gets closer to Christmas? What’s the point of doing it if it makes you unhappy?
Instead try doing a cookie/candy exchange. Get a group of friends or family together and every person bring one type of cookie/candy to swap with the group. You may still have to bake a lot of cookies, but the process is faster if it’s the same cookie. You don’t have to keep switching temperatures, ingredients and processes. Just get in your groove and before you know it you will be done.
Simplify Christmas cookies by making an adjustable cookie base for different types of cookies. Domino Sugar has a cookie starter mix that is the base for 1001 cookies. You can find it here.
Making the same base and simply adding extras to change the flavor creates endless possibilities without added time. Spices, candy, fruit, nuts, sprinkles, frosting, extracts and even food coloring is all you need to make different types of cookies without a lot of effort.
Enlist your family for help. First ask each family member what one cookie they need to have on Christmas. For me, it is cut-out cookies. One year that was the last type of cookie I made and I was feeling tired of baking, so Mike suggested that I didn’t make the cut-outs. My reaction was probably a little over the top, but for me those cookies are Christmas.
When I was growing up those were the only type of cookie we had, because my mom doesn’t bake cookies. My dad always made cut-outs with my siblings and me. It was our Christmas tradition. Mike on the other hand always wants peanut butter blossoms. Every year he would ask for them and that was the one type of cookie I never made, so finally last year I added those to my repertoire.
Each person has the chance to request a cookie. There are six people in our family, so even if each person asks for a different type, that’s still only six different types of cookie. For me that’s not a big deal, plus more than one person could request the same cookie. Unless you have a huge family, this plan will work.
Get your family to help with ingredient prep and clean up. Even little kids can get in on the action. A is ten and he makes really good chocolate chip cookies. You better believe he will be making those this year for Christmas and that’s one less I have to make.
You can pare down all of your other confections as well. Plus no one will judge you if you hit up the local bakery and purchase a few treats. Let someone else do the work for you, so that you can have more quality time with your family.
First of all these weeks leading up to Christmas are very busy and you could easily justify eating out or ordering in every night to save time on cooking. Seriously though, your wallet and waistline can’t handle it.
Enter the slow cooker. Quickly prep a few ingredients, set it and forget it. You can be doing all of your other holiday prep while your dinner is cooking away. To really make this work for you, make enough food so you’ll have leftovers and then lunch or dinner the next day is already done.
When it comes to the holiday food you can simplify Christmas dinner by thinking about whether every side dish is needed. If you’re doing all of the cooking, then don’t make yourself crazy. Pick the dishes you know would be missed if they weren’t on the table and scrap the rest. If you plan to make a huge feast then at least doing so will ensure leftovers and perhaps a few nights off from cooking.
If you’re having family or friends over for dinner be sure to let them bring something if they offer. Let others help and lighten your load. Even if it’s just bread or wine, it’s still one less thing you need to be responsible for.
Christmas cards take time. If it just feels like one more thing that you have to do then don’t do it. You shouldn’t feel obligated to send a card. What’s the point if it’s out of obligation? Only do it if you want to.
If you like sending the cards, but still feel like you don’t have enough time try sending them after Christmas. You can still send a Christmas card, but put it in the mail after Christmas day to give yourself more time for other prep. You could also send a New Years card if you feel like sending a Christmas card after Christmas is taboo.
Or, you could really change things up and send cards out at a completely different holiday or just randomly during the year. Maybe Easter cards could be your thing. The whole point of the card is to send holiday wishes to family and friends, so Easter would be a great time to do that.
You can simplify Christmas gift shipping by doing it all at once. You can purchase your own packing materials and pack and label everything yourself and then request package pick up from the USPS, but do this well in advance of when you packages need to be to their destination. The USPS tends to be a little slower and sometimes not always as reliable as Fed Ex or UPS. I have shipped lots of items through the post office, but have just found that the others are a little better.
You can also take all of your packages to the UPS store or Fed Ex to have all of your packages packed and shipped by professionals. Paying for packing comes at a price, but at the same time gives you peace of mind when shipping something fragile. You can also pack your own items, but just have them shipped with one of those companies if you aren’t concerned about breakage.
If shopping online you can have your gift shipped directly from the online store to the gift recipient. Sometimes gift wrapping is available, just be sure to specify that your purchase is a gift and fill out all of the necessary information for your gift recipient.
I hate to break it to you, but if you are just deciding on making some Christmas crafts you are late to the game. You probably should’ve started your Christmas crafting months ago if you wanted it to be done for Christmas. Mike thinks crafting at Christmas doesn’t need to happen at all, but I know why we do it. It’s fun and creative and is sometimes a great addition to the holiday festivities.
If you aren’t planning on doing any of the other things I have mentioned above then go ahead and get crafting. Maybe cooking and baking aren’t your thing and you plan to make all of your Christmas gifts. You will have time to craft.
As for the rest of us pick something small or something quickly made. Now is not the time to be painting a mural of the North Pole. Instead, go with a craft kit or something easily made with supplies you already have on hand.
If doing crafts with kids pick something easily prepped by you or get a craft kit requiring no prep. Then you can spend some time creating together without having to spend a bunch of time just to get ready to craft. I always put together and decorate a gingerbread house with the kids, but we always buy a kit. Yes I could bake the house myself, but it would probably be more fragile and I would get upset if pieces broke. With a store bought house the pieces are like cement and if they do break, no big deal I can just go and buy another one.
Christmas parties, holiday gatherings, cookie/ornament exchanges, pictures with Santa, light displays, and traveling out of town, whew! I’m out of breath just thinking about all of that. I think sometimes we feel like we have to cram everything into December to make it the best holiday season ever. The reality is that by the end of December we need another holiday break just to recover from the holidays.
Don’t try to do everything if you know you won’t enjoy it. You can say no or decline an invitation without hurting someone’s feelings. With the exception of Grandma. Try not to turn down your Grandma if she invites you to dinner or some other family gathering. Someday we’ll be Grandma or Grandpa and we’ll want our family to come visit us too.
For every other invitation you can politely decline. Instead of going to every Christmas party just pick one. If you dread taking your kids to get their picture taken with Santa why not go to the Christmas party that promises a picture with Santa. Combine two outings and still have fun making memories.
If you feel like you are always going to someone’s house over the holidays and can’t find time to just relax at home. Have a holiday open house and invite everyone to stop by for a drink and some treats. Yes you will have to clean and prep for a party, but you can keep it low key and informal and then it’s one day at your house as opposed to going out every night the week of Christmas to visit friends, neighbors and family.
As for the Christmas lights displays you can usually hit those up after Christmas and sometimes they are open even after New Year’s. Be sure to check schedules, but you should be able to wait until after Christmas to hit up the big displays. Until then take the scenic route home in the evening and enjoy the holiday decorations of your neighbors.
God bless you if you travel out of town for Christmas! I know I wouldn’t want to do it and I greatly appreciate that many other people are willing to do it to spend the holiday with family. My parents travel to visit my brother and his family and my sister are her family travel to visit my brother-in-law’s family and us.
I have only traveled for Christmas once and that was when I was in high school. I don’t really have any advice other than plan and organize. Do whatever you can before the trip to make it as stress free as possible. I could recommend that you just stay home, but then my sister might take my advice and then I wouldn’t get to see her over the holidays!
Front load your month. Plan as much prep as you can at the beginning of the month. Leave the week leading up to Christmas as open as possible. If you get everything done in the first few weeks then the days leading to Christmas can be stress free and relaxing. If you don’t get everything done in the first few weeks then you have your days open and can finish up tasks without worrying about missing out on holiday activities.
Most importantly, remember the reason for the season. The wonderful gift of our Lord Jesus. He was born in a lowly stable and lay in a manger. There were no lights, but a guiding star. There were no cookies and candies and treats, and the visitors were not family members. This humble beginning is the reason we celebrate with such fanfare, but sometimes we need to stop and take a moment away from the hustle and bustle to remember and appreciate this precious gift.