We are traveling pretty majorly for Thanksgiving AND Christmas this year - across the country for a week at Thanksgiving, and Mexico for two weeks over Christmas. I'm excited for the trips and the time we'll get to spend with family, but I know the travel, shakeup of our routine and packing/unpacking on top of all the other usual holiday craziness has the potential to make November through January feel super chaotic. Although it's only mid-October, I'm really thinking through our holiday season and ways I can make it simple, intentional and meaningful instead of crazed, stressed and rushed. Here's what I have so far.
SAY NO TO HOSTING
Although I love to host guests in our home for parties and get-togethers, I am letting myself not feel guilty for not hosting a single thing this holiday season. Last year we hosted a Friendsgiving dinner, a Christmas cookie + whiskey exchange (SO fun!) and I hosted the annual Christmas party for the book club I started. It was fun, but it was a lot. I know that with a busy toddler, being pregnant and two big trips, it's just not realistic to plan on all the cleaning, cooking and energy that goes into hosting people in our home.
PLAN SIMPLE GIFTS + BUY IN ADVANCE
I already made our "give" list for all the people we're buying for this year, and what I'd like to give them. I signed up for emails for the shops I plan to buy from, so I'm notified of sales so I can buy in advance. I plan to buy 90% of the gifts online, because I know I won't have the time or energy to drag Xavier through the mall and fight the crowds to hunt down that perfect item. We're also doing very simple, minimal gifts for our loved ones and only doing three gifts for Xavier in the tradition of the three wise men. When he gets older, I love the idea of doing 4 gifts - "something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read." He just isn't old enough yet to specify a want ;) Matt and I don't buy gifts for each other in favor of something we want or need for our home (hello, water softener!) or a fun experience together, so my gift-buying list is fairly small and easily manageable! Part of this is also budgeting in advance. We save all year long for Christmas, by putting aside $50 each month. That means that by December, we have $600 to put towards Christmas. This includes decorations, gifts for everyone on our list, cards, anything we need for parties we host, etc. However, this also means that by right now - October - we have $500 sitting in a savings account exclusively for Christmas. That means I already have the money to buy gifts as I find them. Actual dollars, not a credit card. I can order Christmas cards now if I want (and I plan to!) so that I'm not rushing to get them out. It might be too late for you to do this this year, but I highly, highly recommend saving for Christmas throughout the year so that come holiday time, you aren't stressed about blowing your budget on gifts or Christmas outings.
PARE DOWN THE DECOR
Before I started my minimalism journey, I had six large Rubbermaid totes of Christmas decor in our attic. I had it down to three, and last weekend I went through and purged again, and ended up with 1.5 totes of decorations. It's pretty much all meaningful, like the ceramic santa my great-grandmother made that I'm borrowing from my mom. I'm excited for a much more simplified version of my usual holiday decor, and to incorporate lots of natural elements and cozy textures that will keep our home feeling festive long past Christmas. I'm also excited to not spend 8 hours lugging all the totes down from the attic and decorating the whole house...these things are much different with a child and I learned my lesson last year, that the idyllic "let's decorate the house as a family" vision I had in my head was not realistic. I'm keeping my expectations much lower this year, my decor much simpler and hoping for a much more laid-back decoration day that doesn't end up with me being frustrated and sad.
SCHEDULE HOLIDAY ACTIVITIES NOW
Like most people, I want to do ALL the things at Christmas. Drive through the light displays, do Breakfast with Santa, visit Christmas at the Zoo, go to the tree lighting downtown, run a Turkey Trot 5k, do an advent calendar, make homemade ornaments, cut down a real Christmas tree, bake all of the things, on and on and on. This year, I'm choosing to aim for less of these activities, and rather than filling our calendar with everything, pick a handful that are truly meaningful instead. Another thing I'm doing is actually sitting down and scheduling these things NOW. Putting them into Matt and I's shared calendar so we know exactly when we have fun family outings scheduled. Of course this might have to change as it gets closer and other commitments arise, but planning in advance (buying tickets in advance, reserving seats in advance) will cut down on a lot of stress come December.
FOCUS ON THE REASON FOR THE SEASON
Truly the most important thing I'm doing to prepare for a simple + meaningful holiday season is by preparing my heart. This could mean doing a Bible study solo or as a family, buying or making an Advent calendar, reading a spiritual book or any number of things. I want to really think through realistic ways I can keep my heart focused on the true reason for the season - Jesus - and not be swept away by the consumerism and stress of the holiday season.
Are you traveling for the holidays this year? Any other tips for keeping the holidays truly simple, stress-free and most of all meaningful, especially with little kids? I'd love to hear! XO!