The minute the stores replace the Halloween decorations with Christmas ones, a tightness grows in my chest. I look at the calendar and count the Saturdays left until Christmas. The calendar. Oh the calendar. It’s already filling up fast.
The holidays sure can bring stresses and messes. I want to do all the Christmas things and have all the Christmas fun, but … life. There’s still bills, deadlines, school, homework, projects, commitments, extracurriculars, to-do lists, birthday parties, baby showers, work, raising kids, maintaining the house, traveling – throw in a car wreck, a broken microwave and sinuses and I’m about zapped of all Christmas cheer.
I don’t want to be a Scrooge, so I’m working really hard to fix this. Key word: simplify. Here is my plan to control the stress and mess that the holidays can bring:
Focus on What Matters
When we returned home from visiting family, I didn’t instantly jump to decorate. Instead, I pulled out just our Nativity set to focus on the reason for the season. This has helped me to change my expectations for this month. I recognize that before we dive headfirst into December, I need to set my eyes, heart and mind on Jesus, and less on the commercialization and hype that surrounds Christmas.
APPLICATION: I just purchased Unwrapping the Names of Jesus Advent Devotional and we are reading a chapter of the book of Luke in the Bible a day (24 days until Christmas, 24 chapters in Luke). We also read about the birth of Christ on Christmas morning in The Jesus Storybook Bible before we open presents – 3 of them each, just like the magi gave Jesus. Just 3 gifts also means less stress and mess. Win win!
Control the Explosion
Christmas explosion – that’s what I call our decorations when we pull them out of the attic. My motto this year? “Just because we have it, doesn’t mean we have to use it.” We may not even pull everything out of the attic this year, and I’m more than ok with that.
APPLICATION: I’m only going to put out what brings my family joy (or what my kids insist upon). A week after the Nativity set was up, we brought the tree down from the attic, but left everything else up there for now. We bought a few non-breakable ornaments to make up for the number of glass ones we broke last year, made our own garland and added a few special touches, but not ALL the special touches. We may add more in the weeks to come, but it doesn’t all have to happen at once.
Let it Go
I remember growing up in the tinsel years. My cousins and I developed a game where we would hold a strand of tinsel above our heads and blow as hard as we could to send it soaring to the top of the tree. My dad and grandma were adamant that only one strand of tinsel was allowed on each branch, so when they caught us blowing and throwing tinsel on the tree, they were none too happy. I can now identify with their perfectionism, but am trying hard to let it go.
APPLICATION: When making our new garland, I bought 10 yards of trim with pom poms and several rolls of different colored ribbon. We all worked together to tie the ribbons onto the trim and I let it go each time they put ribbons too close together, or two of the same color next to each other or too far apart. Because, who cares? And who else will notice anyway. They also talked me into purchasing their own trees on Black Friday and they have 100% free reign on decorating. Now, I still didn’t let anyone else put the lights on my tree. Baby steps.
Pick and Choose
He has traditions, you have traditions and then you marry and become one and you have to pick and choose traditions. It took both my husband and I a few years of trial and error to decide which traditions would become ours. We had to let go of some cherished ones to make room for ones that work and are special for our family.
APPLICATION: Here is the Lafayette Moms Blog Ultimate Guide to Family Friendly Holiday Events in Acadiana. This list is sorted by date with descriptions and links to websites and more information. Sit down with the family and your calendar and list your favorites, but just a few! Our family musts: Acadian Village, the Christmas Concert at The Bayou Church and ALL the Christmas movies. We also love to do Elf on the Shelf and send Christmas cards, but you won’t catch our family making sugar cookies from scratch or competing on the Great Christmas Light Fight TV show. Pick what works for your family and let it be yours!
There are opportunities all around you and sometimes that list and needs may feel overwhelming. I received about 12 papers and reminders for canned food drives, supply drives, sponsoring a family, donations, volunteer sign ups, etc. all in one week. I immediately felt stressed out, then felt guilty for not being able to do it all. Serving should come from the heart. As a family, choose how you want to give this holiday season. Whatever it is, do it together.
APPLICATION: I bought a new Christmas jar that is going to sit on our counter. My kids love collecting loose change around the house to fill in our collection jar. Also, they sell our chicken eggs to raise money to buy goats in Haiti through our favorite mission organization. This is something we do year-round, but we will step it up this month. Also, my daughter’s Girl Scout troop is putting together care kits for kids going into foster care and our family will go together to gather donations and shop for the kits – a personalized shopping trip for kids in need. I could easily take care of this myself which might take some of the stress off, but it is important that we do it together. I didn’t sign us up for every service opportunity, but I did what we can manage during this life stage and season.
I’m still working on lowering the stress and mess in our home, but am slowly replacing the anxiety with joy as we celebrate Christmas.