10 years ago, I was a single woman. My holidays looked much different then than they did now.
Then? I had just a handful of people to buy gifts for.
Now? At least 3-4 times the number of people, 4 of whom are my kids which means more than 1 present and the inclusion of stockings.
Then? I knew where I was going to spend the holidays; I only had one side of the family – my side.
Now? Now that I’m married, there are 2 sets of families. We celebrate Thanksgiving with 1 side and Christmas with both sides, just not on the same day.
With the increase in people and activities, the schedule gets busier. The budget gets tighter. The stress starts to rise. I don’t like rising stress. So I’ve implemented a few techniques over the years that helps me decrease that stress. Maybe some of them will work for you. Maybe some of them won’t. Each family is different with different needs. Take what seems helpful and leave the rest!
Tip #1: Plan Your Menu
I’ve written about this in another post, but having a plan for any meals that you’re hosting is key to reducing stress about the meal. Make it a realistic menu, not trying to bite off more than you can chew. Make it an affordable menu. It’s tempting to try to impress people with an over-the-top meal, but that will only increase your stress level. If you feel you must, pick one item to experiment with. Something meant to wow and leave it at that. No sense driving yourself crazy!
Tip #2: Don’t Be Too Busy
If you’re like me, there’s at least a few holiday gatherings to go to in November, December and January. There are Thanksgiving events. There are company holiday parties. There is a Christmas celebration with my side of the family. There is a Christmas celebration with my husband’s side of the family. There’s usually another family get together just because we’re all in town. There’s sometimes a New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day party. This year, we’re actually traveling to Hawaii (Woo Hoo!) for the week of Christmas. That both complicates and simplifies our schedule.
On top of all that, there are other things that we want to do during holiday seasons. Looking at Christmas lights. Black Friday shopping. Caroling. Tree lightings. Special church services. New movie releases. Pictures with Santa. Picking out a Christmas tree. Putting up decorations. Plays & concerts. Craft shows. (In Omaha? Check out this list of family-friendly things to do!)
One of the things that quickly stress me out is to be too busy. We each have our own level of busyness that stresses us out. For some people, having 3 things a week causes stress. To others, they don’t feel stressed until there are more than a dozen things in a week to do. As a mom of young kids, I honestly can’t handle being gone and out of the house as much as I could when I was single. Now being out of the house means diaper bags and late bedtimes and car seats and skipped naps. Ugh. Instead, I can really only handle being gone 1 night/week and maybe 1-2 events on the weekend, depending on what they are.
I like the freedom that a more open schedule gives us. But I still want to make sure the important stuff gets done. So I try to look ahead at the events and get the important stuff scheduled. That gives me the time to add in other stuff as they come up (if they want). It also gives me the freedom to say “No Thanks!”, knowing that the important stuff is covered.
Tip #3: Wrap Your Presents Without Waiting
When I didn’t have that many presents to buy, I used to just plan an evening to have a Wrap Party, where I’d spend the evening wrapping presents. Worked great.
Doesn’t work so great anymore. Now I have kids in my house that I have to hide the presents from. So my solution is to wrap them as soon as I can after buying them. I keep wrapping paper and gift labels easily accessible and wrap when I can. It’s easiest to hide them that way!
Tip #4: Plan Your Gifts
Sometimes, I just know what I’m going to get someone. Other times, I don’t really know and I have to think on it until an idea comes to me. So I start a list of all the people that I have to buy for and keep it handy. Normally, I’m a paper and pen gal, but for this, I keep a file going on my computer. Well, it’s an email draft actually. When I an idea comes to me, I add it to the list. When I’ve bought it, I add a note that I’ve bought it. That way, I know what I still have to buy and what I don’t. It allows me to know that I have it handled or still need to work on it.
Tip #5: Document Your Year
Since I keep that running file (well, email draft really), I just save it at the end of each year. I have a document for 2014 and 2015 and 2016 and 2017 on the gifts that I’ve bought people, food that I brought to events and what I want to do differently next year. It’s how I’ve avoided becoming “She Who Always Buys Socks For Her Nieces”. It’s how I know that there’s always way too much food at Thanksgiving. And that serving chili on Christmas Eve is becoming a good tradition! And that my boys have gifts overload and don’t really need that much.
It doesn’t need to be anything elaborate; just simple notes will do.
It’s a sanity saver!
Jayme is a wife to 1 and a mother to four little boys. She tries to coupon, builds a smart stockpile, and always meal plans. While she likes to cook, she’s in the stage of life where simple is usually better – she never knows how many hands she’ll have free at dinner time! You can find her on Instagram.