Are you prone to over-complicating things? A perfectionist who thinks everything needs to be just so?
This Christmas give yourself the gift of keeping it simple – and remember the reason for season. It’s not about crazy spending, cooking the consummate turkey dinner or finding the ultimate present for that oh-so-difficult person who has everything. Christmas is about spending time with people you love and celebrating another year passed.
Sure, food needs to go on the table and there’ll be a few long faces if you don’t cough up some decent presents, but over the years I’ve learned to Simplify Christmas – and you can too.
Yes, the three wise men brought presents, but that doesn’t mean you have to go overboard. Gift giving is not compulsory – it’s a choice.
Hone your list to those you really must buy for. Maybe your old neighbour would prefer a chat over coffee than some bath oil? Does your kid’s teacher really need another scented candle? Could you do Secret Santa for the adults and buy for the kids only?
If you’re working to a budget, set a spending limit (and encourage your family to stick to one too).
Plan ahead and do as much online as possible – it’s convenient and cost effective. If you must head out to the shops, take a list and stick to it. You know what happens – you find one more cute thing for one kid and then you have to buy one more thing for the other(s). Before you know it, it’s out of hand!
Avoid Keeping up with the Kardashians Syndrome. You always spend more when you’re shopping with someone else. Shop solo – you’ll get it done quicker and spend less.
Simple Gift Giving
A small thoughtful gift will be appreciated much more than an expensive thoughtless one bought in desperation.
Our kids love homemade vouchers they can redeem for things like breakfast in bed, a movie night with popcorn, bowling, an at home mani/pedi/spa evening, a disco night, hitting the golf driving range, a massage, a candlelit bubble bath, dessert or meal of their choice, one on one time with daddy (or you). You can also do an adult version for your man – let your imagination run wild!
For younger kids it’s more about opening the present than what’s actually inside, so consider buying them stuff they need – crayons, art supplies, books, clothes, bubble bath, a calendar and wrapping them separately to make it more exciting.
Faraway relatives love to be kept in touch with what’s happening in your kids’ lives. Make calendars/photo albums online – it’s easy and not too time consuming. Each Christmas I send a ‘Year in The Life’ album to my aunt so she can see my kids growing up.
Last year I decided to put the emphasis on spending time rather than money on my hubby’s gift. So I created a memory book – filling it full of stuff that had meaning for us both – old photos, tickets, poems, song lyrics, sketches. He loved it.
One of the loveliest gifts I received one year was my friend Anna’s granola in a beautiful jar tied with tartan ribbon. Yummy!
And buy quality not quantity. I’d rather have a small bar of decent chocolate than my own body weight in Quality Street.
Simple Christmas Dinner
My husband and I used to row about this year on year. I always wanted the organic super duper gigantic turkey that practically came with its own hairdresser and makeup artist, while he would have been happy with a bog standard chicken. We agreed to meet half way (my turkey is still organic, but smaller and not top of the range). Our bird is no longer a (wish)bone of contention.
Keep it simple on veg. Five different vegetable dishes – seriously? Why cook sprouts when you’re the only one that eats them?
And remember it’s just one day. Don’t spend loads on ‘special food’ – you’ll end up eating it for days (or throwing it away). Immediately after the big day you’ll want to eat lighter and all the cakes, chocolate etc feel like a burden.
Don’t be afraid to delegate or ask for help. Who can take something off your plate? Your partner may not wrap gifts as pretty as you or might have a different idea of what to buy his mother, but if it frees you up to do other things – let go of perfection and take help in whatever form it comes.
If you’re hosting Christmas, don’t be afraid to delegate dishes to your guests. It saves time, money and stress. Remember – people come for people – it’s the conversations and the occasion (not the food) that make the memories.
As I have the biggest family, I host Christmas each year. And as cooking is not my favourite pastime I’ve honed the Art of Delegation.
I get everyone on board on Christmas Eve with peeling, prepping and chopping – to a backdrop of Christmas music (and with a few cocktails thrown into the mix – mocktails for the kids). Click here to listen to our fabulous free festive playlist.
This year I’ve taken delegation to a whole new level. Since my extended family will be arriving on the day itself, we’ve agreed that my mum will bring all the vegetable dishes, my sister will bring bring the starter and dessert, I’ll provide the turkey, trimmings and pre-lunch nibbles. We’ll be in charge of heating up/plating up our own contributions.
Now I won’t feel like the sucker in the kitchen while everyone else is relaxing with a glass of bubbly.
Simple Family traditions
If you don’t already have one, make one. Last year my eldest daughter had the genius idea of a bad taste Christmas jumper competition which created a lot of laughs.
Kelly’s kids always put on a Christmas day variety show with their cousins, complete with music, comedy, dancing and tickets for entry with a VIP section.
Another friend always goes open air swimming with her husband and kids (it’s a heated pool but that’s still pretty hard-core).
At the very least, get out and go for a walk around the hood to check out the Christmas lights.
I haven’t bought wrapping paper for ages – instead I use Christmas stampers (holly leaves, Christmas tree and reindeer) and three ink pads in green, red and silver to decorate plain brown paper. Super stylish, eco, and you’re not stuck with all those irritating bits of leftover wrapping paper that never quite fit another present.
Small kids won’t know the difference between brand new and gently used. Check out eBay or school fairs for nearly new games, toys, clothes. For hard to please teenagers, re-gift something special that belonged to you or your parents – a vintage dress, watch or piece of jewellery. Challenge yourself to make just one of your gifts a second time around one.
I’ve had the same wreath on my front door for ever. Just buy a basic wreath with greenery and ring the changes each year by adding something different – fresh holly leaves and berries, cinnamon sticks, dried orange slices.
How do you keep it simple? What are your top tips for a low stress festive season? We can all learn from each other – so please share in the comments below!
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