How to Simplify the Holiday Hustle

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The wreath is on your porch, the familiar tunes are on the radio, and you’ve even spruced up your behavior to ensure a top spot on Santa’s coveted nice list.

Yes, it’s holiday time again.

And with that comes the inevitable holiday hustle, or at least we seem to think it’s inevitable in America.

We go from store to store (or more likely during Covid, site to site), buying trinkets for loved ones and glittery decor for our homes. We bake, we send cards, we participate in a bit of do-goodery (after all, it is the season for giving – we feel an obligation to squeeze in an at least one act of goodwill toward men amongst the holiday parties and tinsel), and above all, we try to make memories, those indelible treasures that last long after the tree is on the curb and the last bits of shiny paper find their way to the trash.

The trouble is, all this holiday hustle often isn’t enjoyable.

In fact, it’s worse than that–it’s downright stressful.

We create so much anxiety about having a good time and enjoying the holidays that we often fail to do just that.

The irony. 

This is on my mind today because my friend Michele recently posted this on Facebook:

I’ve been thinking about Christmas cards this week. Specifically, about not doing them for the first time ever. I LOVE Christmas cards. I enjoy sending them and receiving them. I have fun selecting a design. But every year, they are a source of some stress for me. What photo will we use? Do we take our own or hire a photographer? How will I find the time to get them all done? 

I’ve also been thinking a lot about time and how we spend it. Very recently, I’ve known several young people who have passed away in their 30s and knowing this has been an important reminder to treasure each day and the people I love for the gifts they are.

So, I’m thinking no Christmas cards this year. I’m not saying I won’t do them again, but who knows? Maybe not. I’m also thinking that we will donate the money we save to children’s charities. More time for our family, money to charities, and less cards in the trash. This really is a tough decision for me–breaking away from the tradition and the ritual of actually taking the time to send something personal in the mail. 

Michele received some very interesting comments, from requests to not join the “anti-Christmas movement” to like-hearted individuals who, too, wanted to halt the crazy holiday hustle and actually enjoy the season of love and giving.

Which got me thinking…

Do we all feel this way about the holidays, secretly?

For example, I’ve noticed that my mom (love you, Mom!) sometimes seems a bit stressed about baking holiday cookies. Mom, if you’re reading this (and I know you are, because you’re one of those awesome moms who actually reads her grown daughter’s blog about simplicity), I want to say this:

We don’t come to your house for the cookies, although they are delicious. We come to see you, to love you, to enjoy the season of giving because we are lucky enough to be with those we love. If it stresses you out, skip the baking. I’ll love you just as much over a package of holiday-themed Oreos.

(In fact, I’m inordinately curious to find out if the red holiday filling tastes different from the everyday white…) There, I’ve said it. Mom, you’re off the hook for the cookies if you want to be. (Note: this does in no way apply to the anchovy spaghetti you make for Christmas Eve. That stays.)

Holiday stress stems entirely from expectations we put on ourselves.

No one else really expects us to have the best lighting display in the neighborhood or fill each of our children’s stocking with themed presents. We expect that of ourselves.

So my suggestion this holiday season is…

Let’s all give ourselves a break. Just say no to the hustle.

Ignore the online deals if you want to, don’t bake unless it brings you joy, forgo the holiday cards unless licking 200 envelopes is your idea of a good time. (Please know: I am sarcastic but I don’t judge. I’ve licked my fair share of holiday card envelopes and may well do so again this year!)

What do I propose instead of being a straight-up holiday hustla?

Do something you love. Spread some joy. That’s what this season is all about.

Greet your neighbors with a cheerful smile and hello. Surprise them by shoveling their driveway when they’re not looking. (Note to my neighbors: you are totally welcome to fulfill your need for cheerful giving in this fashion… and I promise to act very, very surprised.)

Spend your baking time selecting and donating nonperishable goods for a local food pantry. Better yet, do that with your kids.

Have a holiday movie marathon with your loved ones and copious amounts of holiday snackery.

Basically, ditch your self-imposed expectations and just do whatever truly brings you joy this holiday season.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy a package of holiday Oreos. I believe they’re already on the shelves.

To holidays that truly light you up… inside and out…

PS Are you ready to not just simplify your holidays, but your home, too? If so, grab my FREE Simplicity Starter Guide and let’s get going!

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