Thursday, December 10, 2009

Simplify Your Christmas

As a child I recall how Christmas was a time of fun and excitement - and why shouldn't it be? After all, it was our parents who carried the burden of making sure that everything worked out and we had only to bask in the enjoyment. As I became an adult and took on many of the responsibilities to ensure a successful celebration, I quickly discovered the work involved. Of course, some of the yearly traditions are fun and something to look forward to, but if the Christmas season leaves you feeling overwhelmed more often than not, you may want to reconsider your usual routine and try a simpler approach. Not only will this give you more time with the family, but will also keep your stress level at a minimum. One thing is for sure, the world is not going to end if you forgo a few of the usual rituals. Consider some of the following suggestions below.


When it comes to decorating, less is almost always more. Instead of putting out all the decorations from years past, select a few of your favorite pieces. This allows you to alternate items from year to year and keep clutter to a minimum. You may even find that some things are no longer practical and worth holding onto. You may even want to leave your entire box of miscellaneous nick knacks in storage and decorate with one simple theme or color. Low cost items such as candles, bows and garland are a good place to start. This will keep your home looking neat and well coordinated.


When it comes to Christmas cards, many of us like to include a family photo. One way to cut down on your time and resources is to combine these elements by transforming your photo into a post card. This eliminates the process of stuffing an envelope and even saves you money on postage. Consider letting the kids help out and not only will it add that extra personal touch, but you'll have those cards out in a flash! If you're really pressed for time, consider sending ecards to your friends and family that use the internet on a regular basis. It's not the same as traditional methods, but at least it will allow you to let people know you are thinking about them during the holidays.


Shopping for gifts is perhaps the most stressful part of Christmas. One of the best ways to relieve the pressure is by doing most of your shopping online. This will save you trips all over town and could even save you money if you are diligent with comparing prices. Many times we just have a hard time deciding just the right gift for people we don't see often. One suggestion is finding a one fits all sort of item and buying it in bulk. Things to consider would be a popular, recently released DVD, CD, book or board game. Other items people of many ages could appreciate would be a book of card game rules, blank CDs & DVDs, a tin of home made cookies and candies and if all else fails there is always the trusty gift card option! Certificates for movie theaters, movie rentals, popular restaurants, book stores and electronic stores are always big hits. You may even consider a popular online store or magazine subscription.


Wrapping is certainly a fun aspect of Christmas, but can also get tiring and tedious as you go along. A big help is using gift bags with colorful tissue paper. You can buy these materials fairly cheap and they also come in bulk. You still get the festive feeling of wrapping paper but in a fraction of the time! If you are shopping around town you might even consider having the volunteers at the store do the wrapping for you while you continue to shop. Or you could do what my parents have always done...pass the job of wrapping onto the older kids who can do the job properly. This will give you time to focus on more pressing things.


We all love to visit with family and friends around the holidays, and that usually involves preparing food. Instead of having a big dinner why not keep some simple ingredients and treats handy for last minute get-togethers and those unexpected guests. Keep items like cheese, crackers, chips, veggies, cake mixes and frozen hors d'oevres handy. Beverages such as sparkling grape juice, sodas and various juice cocktails should also be well stocked. If you absolutely need to have a dinner party, consider going with pizza, party subs, fondues, party platters, pot lucks or catering. Laying your meal out as a buffet can save space at the table and spare you some precious time to relax. When possible, use festive, disposable dinnerware to keep the sink from piling up with dirty dishes.


No matter the immense amount of responsibilities that tend to pile up during the holiday season, always be sure to save some time for family fun! After all, family is what's important at this time of year, so even if you are feeling financially strapped there are still many options for bringing everyone together. Local events are usually easy to find by looking in home town news publications or doing a search online. Festivals and parades are almost always free, but sometimes you will even find performances, ice skating, sledding and visits to Santa that are low cost or free as well. Driving around and viewing light displays from nearby neighborhoods or professional businesses is always fun. Add to the experience by bringing along some upbeat Christmas music the whole family can sing along to. Have a family game night or movie night. When it comes to movies, you may want to begin building your collection with family favorites and add to it each year. If you are in need of fresh choices you can always check local TV listings, rent from your local library or movie rental store, or pick up used VHS and DVDs on the cheap. Crafts and baking are also an excellent family activity that you are all certain to enjoy before...and after. No matter what you decide to do, or how much you spend, the memories are sure to last a lifetime!

I hope that somehow this list has inspired you to simplify your Christmas in some way. Hopefully it will birth new ideas to make the holiday season more enjoyable for you and your family in the years to come! If you have some good tips on other ways to simplify your Christmas, we'd love to hear from you!