"In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take."

Turning Down The Noise: Minimizing Holiday Stress

Listen…I love Christmas.  The lights, the sparklies, the opportunity to spend time with family.  And, of course, the cookies!  But, things have getting a little crazy the past few years.  Christmas countdowns on Facebook started in March.  Lowe’s was putting up Christmas trees in August.  Walmart was preparing displays of Christmas cards over Labor Day.  And it was a struggle to avoid being immersed in Christmas music before the first day of December.  By the time December actually rolled around, it felt kind of…regular…and, like we were WAY behind on everything Christmas, even though it was only the beginning of December.  I started thinking about everything that needed done to “get ready for Christmas” and it quickly felt like the most wonderful time of the year was turning into the most stressful, most overwhelming time of the year.

Since I’ve been “turning down the noise” in a bunch of other areas of my life over the past year, and realizing some awesome success along the way, I decided to give it a go for Christmas this year, too.  This year, I’m determined to slow down, turn down the noise and actually enjoy the holiday season instead of getting caught up in the non-stop Christmas chaos and stress that leaves me exhausted, wondering how the holiday went by so quickly.   To do less so that we can enjoy what is most significant about the holiday season – spending more time embracing the magic of the season and spending time together while spending much less time being distracted, stressed out and overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.  So, we decided to make some changes to a number of holiday traditions that seemed to be particularly noisy.

Sending Christmas Cards – I’ve been sending Christmas cards for years.  In fact, my mom and I had a competition each year to see who’s Christmas card would end up being delivered on the first of December – not early, and not late, but right on the first of December.  (This actually takes some pretty significant strategics!)  But, when it felt more like a chore with a deadline that needed completed among the rest of the holiday hustle and bustle, it stopped being as fun as it used to be.  So, we decided to forego sending Christmas cards this year.  Not only did it relieve some pressure, it saved us some money on cards and postage for the 60+ cards we usually send.  P.S.  You won this year, mama!

Decorating Everything That Didn’t Move – The amount of Christmas decorations that we had was absolutely absurd.  And so was the amount of time I spent bringing the stuff up from the basement, unpacking it, putting it up and then, eventually, taking it all down and putting it away.  We decided to do a big purge of the Christmas decorations we had this year and sell anything we didn’t love at our Co-Op stand.  We kept the things that we loved and truly enjoyed putting the effort into putting up.  For us, this meant a lot of lights for inside and a few small knickknacks.  I used to spend a significant amount of time decorating outside, too.  This year, I decided to forego the outside decorations, too.  Seeing some lights inside the house brings me way more joy than putting lights outside that I don’t see except when I take the dog out.

Gift Giving – Last year was the first year that Josh and I didn’t exchange gifts.  And, to be completely honest, it felt GREAT!  Instead of spending a pile of money on some stuff that we really didn’t need, we focused on spending time together, baking cookies, checking out Christmas lights and watching Christmas movies.  We drastically decreased our holiday shopping stress by only buying small gifts for his parents, my mom and my stepdad and, by doing so, were able to avoid any holiday debt, too.  Added bonus: less gifts equals less wrapping!

The Christmas Tree – We haven’t ditched the Christmas tree, but, we have decided to simplify the whole Christmas tree process.  In years past, we’ve bought a live tree from a local fire company for $25.  It’s been quick and easy to pick it up on our way home, stick it up and get it decorated.  But, the fire company wasn’t selling trees this year and, was the whole idea for it to be just a quick and easy task to get checked off the list?  This year, we decided to pick up a $40 fake, Walmart special Christmas tree.  And let me tell you something…I don’t regret it at all!  After we fluffed it and spent some time putting our ridiculous amount of ornaments on it, it turned out exactly like we wanted it to – a bit quirky, bald in some spots and absolutely perfect.  Gone are the days of trying to wrangle the “perfect” tree, spending hours cleaning up pine needles for months and trying to remember to water it so it doesn’t catch on fire.  Our $40 Walmart special will enable us to put it up and take it down whenever we want, without being hurried, rushed or pressured.

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