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Holiday Prep

Tips to Simplify the Holidays

Christmas wreath

Do you enjoy the holidays, or do you dread them?

Is this a typical thought for you: “I’m starting to get overwhelmed already, and it’s only Thanksgiving!”

And don’t you love to hate those friends who tell you on November 15 they already have all their Christmas shopping done? It’s not even black Friday, for Pete’s sake!

What can you do about holiday overwhelm?

Learn to KISS.

No, I don’t mean not kissing under the mistletoe, I mean learn to Keep It Simple, Silly!

If you’re a fan of the ‘be calm’ sayings, the holidays are a great time to embrace the ‘be calm’ attitude!

Don’t fall into the trap of trying to do everything just because the concerts, Christmas bazaars, in-person shopping, holiday parties and ALL of it is back on the menu!

From my vantage point, each aspect of Christmas can be simplified. And why not? Many other aspects of life have been scaled back. After 2 Christmases in COVID-19 isolation, be careful not to go hog wild!

If you’d like to enjoy the holidays this year instead of being stressed, KISS instead.

Simplify Shopping

Christmas presents for the holidays

After 10 years of being parents, my husband and I finally got wise. We created a simple budget, the same amount for each child’s Christmas gifts. Not only that, but we kept the budget quite low—under $50 each. Then we focused on the experiences as a family instead of the commercial aspect. Hiking into the forest and getting a tree, having a scavenger hunt Christmas day, performing a Nativity play together, and sledding & ice skating are all part of our family holiday traditions that stretch over the school break.

I’m not trying to tell you to keep your holiday budget as low as we did, merely to share the concept that once you set a realistic budget, you will avoid overspending and save time on shopping. Both staying within a budget and saving time will ease your stress at the holidays!

Another way to take the stress out of shopping is to have a list of ideas for each person on your list.

Also, shop as early as you can. I like to get most of my shopping done on black Friday weekend, and to KISS, I utilize online shopping as much as possible.

Simplify Social Engagements

Holiday concerts, parties, church events, luncheons, Holiday Bazaars, plays, and other social engagements all take up your time and can rob you of time and rest if you’re not careful.

I recommend listing all the events or social engagements you could go to and then prioritizing which ones are the most meaningful to you. Prioritizing will help you cut down the events you commit to, which will lead to peace of mind about your schedule if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Remember to KISS so you have time for the important people in your life!

Simplify Decorations & Cards

family making Christmas cards

For years, I sent out over 100 cards, and used an automated card service which stressed me out and didn’t save me any time! My holiday wish for you is that you will simplify your card list to save yourself time and stress. Maybe you’ll even decide not to send cards this year, to simplify your life.

If you feel guilty when a card arrives from someone you didn’t send a card to, do what I do, and have some cards handy to fire off to them.

Simplify Food

baking Christmas cookies

To me, food is one of the best parts about Christmas! I make cookies, pies and special dishes on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and New Year’s. Food becomes a cherished family tradition.

How to simplify Holiday food prep

  • Make cookie dough the first week of December and freeze it. You can actually create dough balls and freeze them on a cookie sheet so they don’t stick together. Genius idea I received from my sister-in-law, April!
  • Make not one, but 2 roasts at the same time. I do this because I serve pecan-encrusted pork roast, which has a time-consuming sauce. I’ll have a second roast to pop in the oven Christmas week.
  • Do anything you can ahead of time, especially dessert prep like baking the pies a day or two ahead of time. And don’t be afraid to use frozen pie crust. I do!
  • For Christmas morning or to save time at Hanukkah, try a casserole like French toast apple sausage bake, which is prepped the night before. Just pop it in the oven in the morning.
  • Enlist dinner guests to bring side-dishes to dinner!

I hope these ideas help you to simplify the holidays. I know it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but when you KISS, you’ll spend less time being stressed and more time having fun and creating memories!

Follow me on FB or Instagram, where I’ll share the 2 recipes I mentioned between December 13 and December 20!

(Pecan-encrusted pork roast and French toast apple sausage bake.)

Keep Calm: Prepare Early for the Holidays!

Remember the boy scout motto? Be prepared.

I find the earlier I start preparing for the holidays, the more I enjoy the season. Since I’m a Christian, I’ll concentrate on the Christmas holiday. Whatever your religious faith, December is a busy time of year and most people around you vibrate with stress. If you follow the following tips, your stress will be eased and the holidays will be more fun! Remember a little bit of planning goes a long way.

Why make a list?

  • Tasks not written down often bounce around in your mind, distracting you.
  • You see what you need to do at a glance.
  • Crossing off completed items brings a feeling of accomplishment.
  • A list helps you prioritize your tasks.
  • Your holiday preparation will be more efficient.

Try and set aside 30 minutes at the end of November. Then brainstorm all the things you have to do or want to do before the big holiday.  This can usually be done in one sitting. Then look at your list, cross off a few of your most dreaded tasks, especially time-consuming ones. If it absolutely HAS to be done, it doesn’t mean you have to be the one to do it (the tips will explain). To make it easier next year, save your list on your computer and file it under a folder named CHRISTMAS. You’ll thank yourself later!

10 + tips to simplify the Holidays 

  1. Ask your family what they really care about. Cross everything else off. Get out of the mindset of creating a ‘perfect’ Christmas. It’s amazingly freeing.
  2. Get help. Work together and delegate to family. Ask what tasks they will take on. Make sure to keep each person’s strengths in mind.
  3. Save some time on cards by not sending any, OR by using Sendout cards to do half the work for you! It’s a painless way to send cards to people who are important in your life. With Sendout cards, you make a card online, put in names and addresses, then they send it out for you. No licking envelopes! It costs about $1 per card & stamp. And it will take even less time next year because you’ll have all the addresses entered! My amazingly helpful Sendout cards person: Teresa Ball:
  4. Make cookie dough in early December. To save time in December, I’ve frozen butter cookie dough 30 days ahead of time. then I defrost the dough and  baked cookies. To me,they are delicious and I cannot tell the difference between fresh and frozen dough. For some of my recipes and pictures, see my husband Frank’s blog:
  5. Outsource. Is there anything you could hire out, like putting up outside lights? Or, can you get someone else to do your wrapping? Here in Southern Oregon, the orchestra kids wrap gifts at Fred Meyer for a donation to their program. It’s a win-win!
  6. Mail any domestic packages first week of December. The lines are shorter, and there’s plenty of time to reach loved ones. Plus, you will have peace of mind. Hint: Send books or movies because the US Post Office has a special “media rate” which is cheaper than the regular postage cost. Even easier: order online and have gifts shipped directly to family and friends. No lines, no waiting!
  7. Keep it simple: For teacher and hostess gifts, chocolate and coffee gift cards are the most appreciated. Take it from me, they don’t need more mugs. I recently read an entire article by a teacher, and the top 2 most appreciated gifts are coffee and chocolate.
  8. Going to a potluck? Make it easy on yourself by bringing a one-pot or crockpot meal. Something you can put together in the morning in 20 minutes like a roast, a simple soup or marinated little smoky sausages will save you time and stress.
  9. A few days before Christmas, prepare everything you can for Christmas dinner in advance. Bake pie crusts, tightly wrap and freeze. Cube bread for stuffing. Make sure you have all the ingredients you need. Don’t forget the crispy fried onions for green bean casserole!
  10. Easy Christmas breakfast: Put together a breakfast casserole that stays overnight in the fridge. Then, you get to enjoy Christmas morning because you just pop it in the oven when everyone gets hungry!
  11. Use gift bags and sticker gift tags whenever possible. They save so much time. Have plenty on hand. They are cheaper when bought in bulk online.

Favorite family tradition: The Christmas Jar

This is our family’s Christmas Jar. All year we save our coins in a cute jar with a nutcracker lid. In December, we count the coins and find a local family in need to give it to. We put the jar and the book The Christmas Jar by Jason F. Wright on their doorstep, knock and run. Most of the time we add a turkey or a ham for their dinner and a family gift like a game we enjoy. It’s the best feeling.

The kids really love this tradition. I love it because it helps them develop compassion, generosity, and realize how blessed they are.

5 fun traditions for Holiday cheer

  • Make cookies together. Probably my family’s most cherished—and delicious—tradition. Click for recipes and photos:
  • Lighting candles for 8 days, and having apple latkes.
  • Spend time as a family. Act out the Nativity with costumes using Luke 2 in the New Testament. Include some carols! To make it service-oriented, perform it at a rest home! Bathrobes, towels and neckties make great Shepherd outfits.
  • Go on a tree-hunting adventure at a local tree farm. Find the ‘perfect’ tree or your very own Charlie Brown tree. To find them, type ‘Christmas tree farm near me’ in your browser.
  • Gift matching pajamas to the whole family and open them Christmas Eve or the first day of Hanukkah.

Just for you:  See how many things you can cross off your list with my Simplify the Holidays guide, a free gift!  This guide lists Grants Pass and Medford, Oregon resources for outsourcing holiday decorations, lights, gift-wrapping,  Sendout Card services, and more!

For some Christmas budgeting help:

And for some helpful holiday tips and a fun Organizer’s 12 days of Christmas poem:

Simplify Your Holidays

Don’t stress, do less!  At the holidays, people are busier and have more stress.  Whatever your religious faith is, the holidays bring extra mail, concerts, requests for donations, parties, special dishes to make, deliveries to friends, presents to buy, phone calls to make, cards to write, et cetera.

Your head might be spinning now just thinking about all the things you need to do before the holidays hit.  For me, having a list eases my mind and actually makes everything easier.

5 Reasons why a list will keep you jolly:

  • Tasks not written down often bounce around in your mind, distracting you
  • You see what you need to do
  • Crossing off items as you complete them brings a feeling of accomplishment
  • A list helps you prioritize your tasks
  • Your holiday preparation will be more efficient

Every project needs a Plan of attack . Now, I know most of you know how to write a list, but do you know how to whittle your list down to the bare essentials?

The Write way to create your list:

Write it down.

Brainstorm all the things you have to do or want to do before the big holiday.  This can usually be done in one sitting, though you may think of other things and add them later. Once your list is complete, ask yourself, “Is this really possible?” Can you really accomplish all of these things in the next few weeks?

Identify the things you don’t have time to do or don’t intend to do.  Then, cut those from your list.  For example: if you have 30 jobs written and you realize you only have time for half,  you need to somehow cut 50 percent, or 15 tasks from the list.  This will result in a savings of several hours’ worth of time.

Option 1:  Figure out how to let those things go.

Option 2:  Determine how to get them done without spending your valuable time.

Delegating and outsourcing are excellent ways to accomplish this! (Link to a list of local resources at the end of this post.) Next, take what remains of your list and determine what needs to be done first, second, third, and so on.  Otherwise known as prioritizing. Now you have a plan of attack with a pared down list, and you are ready to take on the holidays without fear or dread.  Don’t delay; start today!

Just for you:  See how many things you can cross off your list with my Simplify the Holidays guide, a free gift!  This guide lists Grants Pass and Medford resources for outsourcing holiday decorations, lights, gift wrapping,  sendout card services, and more!

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