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Ten Tips for a Calmer, More Organized Holiday Season

December 6, 2023
Christmas Tree Decorating

Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hannukah or something else entirely, December has become one of the most whirlwind months. Today I'm sharing 10 tips, in the hopes that even just one of them will help you feel a little bit calmer, more in control and more fully able to embrace and enjoy the season.

1. You. Need. a. Spreadsheet.

Wait! Hear me out! I have used the same, very basic spreadsheet to track my Christmas gift-giving for over 10 years. Each year, I copy and paste to a new tab and it's the only way I could possibly stay organized while shopping for our large family (+ teachers and bus drivers and friends and...).


It's nothing more than the names, items, cost, store (optional) and Yes/No on whether it's been bought yet. I refer to it all the time throughout November and December to keep track of my ideas for people and my budget. $20-30 gifts all of a sudden can add up to a shocking overall Christmas budget, so to avoid credit card surprises in January, it's so helpful to have a pulse on your spending upfront.


If you don't have a way that you physically write down or track your gifts and spending, please start this year! If it's on paper, it'll be off your mind.

2) Do a toy cleanout in early December

Santa's impending visit can be a strong motivator for kids that usually resist parting with toys. Simply explaining that Santa "needs room" for more toys can be helpful for kids to warm up to the idea. This year, I pre-collected two large bins of toys that I know my kids don't play with anymore and just haven't kept their attention. I showed them each one and we decided "keep or donate?". Spoiler alert - they only wanted to keep ONE toy out of the entire two bins! I guess they get their sentimentality from me. Or they realize that whatever Santa's bringing next is way cooler than the old stuff.

3) Speaking of Santa...

Low-Bar Santa is the coolest Santa. If your kids are still really young, I guarantee you will not regret setting low (i.e. realistic/sustainable) expectations of what Santa brings. It's harder to revert a few years in and scale back. Santa doesn't have to bring an insane amount of presents. Really. They'll be ok. I promise.


Two of my favorite mantras I learned years ago that relate to this are:

  1. Santa brings "something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read".... communicating that to your child can help set realistic expectations (and guidelines for you!).
  2. Christmas is Jesus' birthday, not your child's (most likely). Treat their birthday like it's their their birthday with a giant gifty celebration for them, but Christmas doesn't have to be as them-centric.
Toy Organizing

4) Normalize "Experience" gifts

Warm your kids and their grandparents (and aunts and uncles and others) up to the idea of a "movie date with Grandma" or a "video game playdate with Uncle Joe" as a gift. Most kids love quality time and this can make them feel special and help occupy them through the long winter months ahead.


Same goes for memberships to zoos or museums or trampoline parks - don't feel embarrassed to ask Grandma and Grandpa for this instead of more toys.

5) Say "No" to one gift exchange

You know you don't have to participate in every gift exchange you're invited to, right? My husband and I decided years ago that we'd no longer participate in the family white elephant exchange (after years of stressing over what to buy and not even really appreciating what we received when it wasn't something we wanted or needed).... And guess what? No one misses us in the exchange, and we have more time to mingle and enjoy the party. I've never regretted that choice!

6) Instead of expensive or taxing holiday traditions, do something else!

Instead of booking an overpriced Polar Express Train ride (which always seem to coincide with nap time) and fighting with your kids to wear their coat and not spill their hot cocoa and not fight with their brother..... How about a Polar Express movie watch party in their pajamas with hot cocoa at home?


Instead of begrudgingly agreeing to attend a neighbor's cookie exchange party (for which you need to bake 10 dozen cookies), how about you only go if you really, really enjoy it (..and if you're not into baking, offer to bring wine instead!)


Instead of painstakingly mailing out overpriced Christmas cards, how about you give yourself permission to skip a year?


Whatever it is that does not ADD JOY to your holidays needs to be reconsidered. We can't do it all - ever - and especially not in December.

assorted-color gift box under Christmas tree

7) Outsource one thing

You don't win a prize for being the one to do it ALL for the holidays. Step back and take an honest look at all that you do for the holidays and consider whether you could outsource one (or part of one) of these holiday-related tasks:

  • Baking cookies (Either skip it or support a local baker!)
  • Cleaning your house before company (time is money, sometimes it's worth it to hire the help!)
  • Cooking everything (make it a potluck, get it catered...)
  • Dishes (could "fancy" disposables cut it?)
  • Hosting (can you go somewhere else instead?)

8) Simplify your gift wrapping

If you hate wrapping gifts, then don't do it! Buy a multipack of drawstring Christmas gift bags and call it a day!


And please, before you impulsively buy more wrapping at Target, do an inventory of what you already have at home! Most people have a huge stockpile.

9) Make a holiday "Bucket List"

No, I don't want to add MORE to your to-do list. This is about focusing on good, magical little things around holiday time and helping your kids to do the same. I recently saw my cousin's daughter's "Christmas Bucket List" (she's 7), and the things on it were just precious. "Use peppermint Chapstick. Eat a candy cane. Wear Christmas socks. Drink hot cocoa".... I feel like her heart is in SUCH the right place. I love that.

10) ...And if none of that advice works and you end December feeling completely exhausted, call Simplify Buffalo to help get your house back in order in January!

Holiday Undecorating with Simplify Buffalo
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