Thursday, December 3, 2015

23 Tips for Reducing Holiday Stress

I know I owe you all a big fat home update, and I will be working on that this weekend.  My youngest boy has been under the weather and in need of his mama since Thanksgiving, and I can feel my own body working hard to fight off the bug as well.  Per usual, we are in the middle of a variety of projects around here, so I hope to get you all caught up on some of the happenings behind the scenes.

While I was snuggling in with my son this week, I found myself catching up on some of my favorite blogs.  I was instantly filled with a plethora of ideas and inspiration for our holiday decorating that is about to take place, but honestly, also a little overwhelmed because I haven't even dug the Christmas bins out yet.  It got me thinking about how stressed out I have been during previous holiday seasons, and also reminded me to focus on the things that have helped me tame that stress in the past as well.

ONE |  Keep a December calendar posted in a central location, and fill it in with any holiday specific obligations.  Do this as early as possible so that you have the ability to leave days blank.  It is nice to have open days for any last minute items that come up, because they always do, but more importantly it is necessary to give yourself time to wind down between events.  And as hard as it may be sometimes, offer yourself a little grace for knowing when to decline attending specific events, parties, concerts, shopping trips, etc...

TWO |  Make a list and check it twice.  Just like Santa, it is a good idea to utilize a gift giving tracker (free printable offered here).  This will allow you to keep track of the gifts that you need to purchase while also keeping you in check with your holiday budget.  Also, be sure to take advantage of the 101 different holiday gift guides you have stumbled across this week.  Make that 102 actually, mine is at the end of this post.

THREE |  Shop online whenever possible.  This time of the year there are endless promotion codes offered online for really great discounts and shipping rates.  Not only is shopping from the comfort of your own home more relaxing, sometimes it can end up saving you a lot of money (and stress!).  If you love to support small businesses this time of the year (yes please), head to Etsy for a lot of really great and unique gifting options. 

(let it snow)

FOUR |  Decorate for... YOU!  Fellow bloggers, I know we are looked to as content creators, trend setters and idea makers, but we are also looked to for real life ideas.  Many readers prefer projects and ideas that are attainable and realistic.  They like to know what we would do in our homes for ourselves, not for blog content.  Readers, your friends and family are the same way.  You ultimately have to live with your decorations, so do it because you love it, and not because you are trying to impress your Mother-in-Law or fellow neighbor.  It is important to remember what this time of year is really about, and be OK not having the biggest tree, newest decor, a Christmas Vacation style light display or the grandest tablescape on the block.  Your friends and family will still love you, I promise.

FIVE |  Lighten your cleaning load.  Focus on keeping your main/high traffic areas clean, and only do minimal chores in the rest of the spaces.  For example, I place a lot of emphasis on our kitchen, living and main bathroom, because those are the rooms seen and used by guests.  Our bedrooms, playroom, office and laundry room, all receive a quick vacuum and dusting each week, and not much more.  If you really prefer to have your entire home deep cleaned a few times during the month, consider gifting yourself a cleaning service in the month of December.

SIX |  Create mini stations and kits.  I am a believer that a little extra work upfront really relieves stress down the road.  It reminds me of my favorite Benjamin Franklin quote, "For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned."  A few ideas:

  • A cleaning caddy designed to make your house look and smell great with just a few essentials
  • A fully stocked baking cabinet, ready for any last minute holiday treat making
  • A beverage station, stocked with cocoa making items for the kiddos and holiday cocktail mixers for the adults (separately of course)

    • A gift wrap station organized with cards, bows, ribbon, scissors, tape and paper
    • A cabinet stocked with small, impromptu gifts (baked goods, canned fruits and jellies, gift cards, handmade crafts, etc...)

    SEVEN |  Give the gift of experiences and memories. A few years ago we transitioned to more memory based gifts (everything from a movie date to a water park pass to a weekend getaway).  Not only are the gifts well received and full of love and thought, they also require less shopping with large crowds and less gift wrapping.  A triple win!

    EIGHT |  Meal madness is a real holiday thing.  Take a step back and plan out your holiday meals in advance, practice any new dishes on your immediate family ahead of time, consider making finger foods and appetizers, cater in half of the items or ask your friends and family members to bring a dish to pass to cut your workload in half.

    NINE |  Donate!  There is no better time to do a quick sweep for items that no longer provide benefit to you, your home or your family, but may make another individual's holiday a bit brighter.  During this time of year, many cities and towns host a variety of events and drives collecting items such as gently used toys, clothing, winter gear and everyday housewares. 

    TEN |  Make time to volunteer.  Oddly enough, although another task is added to my calendar, a lot of my holiday stress is reduced by volunteering my time with charities and foundations that matter the most to my heart.  Volunteering provides perspective, offers the opportunity to meet new people and promotes happiness.


    ELEVEN |  If you are planning on hosting a few overnight guests, double check that the bedroom/bathroom is clean and the sheets are washed (with a second set waiting nearby).  It is also nice to set out a candle or fresh flowers, stack of towels, basket of toiletries, extra blankets, bottled water and the WiFi password.

    TWELVE |  Everything is better with friends, and that includes addressing envelopes, baking cookies and going Christmas shopping.  Put on some tunes and pajamas and grab a bottle of wine.  If you craft and DIY a lot of your holiday decor, ask your kids and family to join in on the fun.  Not only will you be checking a few things off of your holiday "to do" list, you will also be creating memories with your favorite people.

    THIRTEEN |  Add a small basket to your entryway or drawer to collect all of the envelopes from the holiday cards you receive throughout the month.  Also keep a small stack of your holiday cards and stamps nearby.  If a card is received from someone that wasn't initially on your list, now you can quickly address one in return.  Once the season is over, go through the envelopes and update your contact list/address book for the following year.

    FOURTEEN |  Relax guys!  Light candles, turn on some music, take a bubble bath, sit by the fire, read a magazine, drink some cocoa and binge watch your favorite Christmas movies.

    FIFTEEN |  Don't try to do it all or be it all.  If you love to decorate, forgo extra baking duties.  If you want to spend your time crafting with your kids or volunteering, settle for a house that is only surface clean.  Consider skipping the family photo card and pick up the phone or send a personal note.  If you are not a good gift wrapper, take advantage of gift boxes and bags.  Find a good balance to ensure you don't blink and miss all of those magic moments that happen in-between the bigger events. 


    And if you are looking to give the gift of organization this year, below are my favorite giftable storage solutions.  I will be sharing more details behind each one of these selections this week over on the Better Homes & Garden's Style Spotter's Blog.

    Now that I have shared my top tips for a less stressful season, do you have any additional ones that have worked for you over the years?  I would love for you to share your holiday sanity savers in the comments below.

    * post contains affiliate links


    1. Love all these tips so much! I'm always looking for ways to reduce stress around the holidays. There's something about ALL my family coming together- all 50+ of us- that really stresses me out! Have I forgotten to buy someones gift? Will someone say the wrong thing and we have a blow up? haha too much to worry about! Hopefully I'll be able to use some of these tips to diffuse the stress!

    2. What products do you keep in your cleaning caddy? What do you love? Merry Christmas, Bren!

      1. I keep it simple with a multi-surface cleaner, a couple microfiber rags for different surfaces and an air freshening spray. Around the holidays, I like to add holiday scents to my homemade cleaners, but Mrs Meyers also has seasonal products that smell great:

    3. I have several "easy button" ways of doing things that save my sanity. Instead of hours in the kitchen baking and decorating trays of cookies, I bake big batch pumpkin bread. Everybody loves it and the house smells great. Most of my decorations go up in minutes and I set up the tree and let the grandkids go at it. I send out an email christmas letter to most of our friends and snail mail it to the rest. My daughter-in-law is fabulous about sending me gift lists for the kids (most with links to the item).
      This may not be to everyone's taste but it works for me.

    4. A great list. My absolute favorite is #15 - dont try to do it all. Love love LOVE this reminder. Setting the priorities for what you want to do most is so essential for feeling successful and relaxed. And so so easy for competent people (for whom any one task or project is completely doable) to forget and get utterly swamped and discouraged. Not EVERY joyful thing needs to be done EVERY year in order to have joy. Thank you. This is the perfect motto to kick off my holiday celebration. <3

    5. Oh and one practical tip I love: if you have young kids (read impatient and hyper on Christmas morning) do your best to pre-open presents that have lots of lock-ties, require batteries, assembly, etc. time spent before wrapping is less stress after opening when the kids can get right to playing. No time for that? Then stock a Christmas morning 'tackle box' or basket and put in good scissors, wire cutters, fresh batteries, screwdrivers, allen wrenches, and trash bags. Then at least you arent scrambling over the house for the appropriate set up tool. :)

    6. Some great ideas, I'm trying to relax more this holiday season. I'm going to work on #11 today, I can set the room for guests now and close it off until Christmas week. Thanks for sharing!
      Lori in Atlanta

    7. Hello ,
      I just found your blog and it is just amazing ! You have one big fan form Poland !

    8. Thanks for posting your tips and reminders. My best tip is to start least make a list(s) and write things down. I make my own cards and it's not really a tip but I sure love this: When I have extra cards leftover from the year before and don't have to make so many. I also make them throughout the year. That may not be practical for everyone but sometimes card making classes are held early in the season.

    9. I love to start buying baking staple items at the end of October because it tends to be on sale. I stock up because the items can stay a few months in the cabinet. A few years ago, I made a holiday binder that holds things like recipes for parties, Christmas card lists, cookie recipes, and even a calendar I fill out for the month of December. I love it! Thanks for sharing your tips.

    10. Perfect post! We do pile WAY too much on our plates this time of year. Sorry to hear your little (or not so little) guy was sick but glad you got to get in some snuggle time to make the best of it! :) P.S. Stocking the baking stash seems like the perfect excuse to start shoveling chocolate chips, redi-whip and cookie dough into my face. Maybe this wasn't the perfect post. :/ LOL!

    11. Thank you for these tips -- some of them I have been implementing so far this month, others were new to me, and things I hadn't thought of. We are definitely in purging mode over here. A lot of things have been donated and it feels good. I love your solution for Christmas cards! Thanks so much, and I hope your little one feels better soon. And you, too!

    12. I feel encouraged by reading this Jen! So spot on. We do a family gift every year and I just came up with our plan and I love the fact that it will be another great memory and simply more time together. I would add to pre-make a few dinners that you can have stashed in the freezer. That way when you've got a busier holiday day you can have dinner ready to go!

    13. I have let go of a lot over the years. I stopped baking so much, as we are always gifted with so many baked goods. We make gingerbread cookies and houses, and that is enough. Also, I stopped sending Christmas cards, shocking...I know! Also, one stress reliever for me is to get holiday attire cleaned and pressed ahead of time. If I know we have an event where we all have to "dress up" I plan ahead and get everything assembled (right down to socks and ties) and pressed. This alleviates so much stress for me, especially if we are the ones hosting the gathering.

    14. Great tips! I especially like what you said about "decorating for you," no matter how grand or simple. We have large families on both sides, so we have tons of Christmas parties/birthday parties/church events to attend in the month of December. If I look at everything I have to do from now until Christmas, I get completely overwhelmed. However, I have learned that if I just look at what I need to do today, it's not so bad. As simple as that is, it has really taken a lot of stress out of my life.

    15. Hi, Jen! May I ask a pretty basic question? I would like to get a color laser printer and I was wondering what you use. I'm a mom working from home, but my black and white multifunction laser printer doesn't work for printing printables in color. Any suggestions?


    16. Great tips and blog. Thanks so much for sharing.

    17. Jen, these are great tips! Some I have followed for years and others are new ideas to incorporate! One thing that helps me is starting EARLY. :)

    18. I also enjoyed these! I have found that I have to tackle as much big stuff as possible, then revise and do a more refined second-round. For example, I made general shopping lists for presents, did most of the decorating, wrapped everything I had, etc. Then I could nit-pick exactly what was left to do/figure out, plot what dates everything needs to get done, and the list isn't so overwhelming because it's just the fine details. I can't get 100% of my stuff done in any one area in one shot, it's too much pressure!

      My favorite tip of yours is to give memories instead of stuff. I'm surprising my mom with tickets for her and I to see her favorite pianist- we haven't gone since I was a pre-teen and I had those rebellious teen years when I didn't want to go. I think she'll be shocked!

    19. Jen, I love your tips here! Especially number 13! Having cards ready to go is a great idea. In addition to holiday cards, having thank you cards near by makes it easy after the holidays are over.

    20. My December has been more organized this year thanks in part to your free downloads (other part due to being on maternity leave)! But, with two under two, I have actually been more ahead of the game then past years. Thank you!


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