Two years ago, I spent the vast majority of Christmas Eve with rubber gloves and a sponge. It was the worst.
And ya’ll, I don’t even have kids. I don’t even have my own house. And I still spent my favorite day of the year cooking, cleaning, throwing gifts into tattered gift bags, and feeling anything but Christmas cheer.
So, what went wrong? What goes wrong for so many of us women, who feel like we have to make this holiday?
It’s the usual culprit: overwhelm. We’re continuing our series on overwhelm (first post here) by talking about all the many things that demand our attention during the holidays. Whether you have kiddos at home, or you’re living the single-girl-life like I am, the busiest time of the year is on it’s way.
But you know what else? It’s also supposed to be the merriest time of the year.
I totally believe it’s possible to stay on top of the overwhelm and actually enjoy the season. Below I’ve put together the ultimate guide for doing just that: avoiding holiday overwhelm, and focusing on your reason for the season.
Guidepost #1: Figure out what it’s really about this year.
And when I say figure it out I mean make a list, girl. What do you love about Thanksgiving, Christmas, and everything in between? Who’s counting on you to make it special or memorable, and what matters to you about that? Make a list. Figure out what matters to you.
I’ve been working on mine for the year. Take a look and see if it sparks some thought!
- Make things festive in the spaces where I spend the most time (my room at home, and my office at work).
- Listen to lots of Christmas music.
- Choose meaningful gifts for my family and close friends
- Have plenty of relaxed, unrushed time with my people.
- Try a few new recipes, without over-volunteering to bring food to gatherings.
- Find some alone time closer to Christmas to watch The Family Stone.
- Keep the house clean and the laundry done (because mess stresses me out, and stress is not merry!)
See where I’m going with this? Great. Next, figure out what doesn’t matter to you. Here’s my list:
- An abundance of charity work (I WAY overdid it last year, had to bail on several things, and ended up exhausted).
- Wrapping every gift creatively.
- Bringing homemade/unique dishes to every gathering or Christmas party.
- Attending every Christmas party on my calendar.
- Sending Christmas cards (no time this year!)
Alright, I think you get the concept. But don’t skip this step! If you have a clear picture of what matters to you this holiday season, you can make smart decisions about how to direct your limited time, budget, and resources toward the long holiday season. And, if you don’t keep tabs on all those things that DON’T matter as much this year, they’ll bog you down.
Guidepost #2: Start planning now.
Yes, now. Early November is a great time to start thinking about your holiday season and will help ensure that you aren’t stressed to the max.
I firmly believe that procrastination is the number one reason that we end up in holiday overwhelm.
Last minute shopping, cleaning, prepping, cooking, party planning…well, just anything last-minute is not your friend this time of year. There’s just too much going on!
Not planning ahead is how The Year of the Rubber Gloves went down. I’ve shared many times before that messiness is one of my biggest stress triggers. In fact, I really don’t feel like I can fully enjoy ANY holiday if my house is a mess. But instead of planning ahead, I let the house get out of control from Thanksgiving on. What resulted was a Christmas Eve cleaning fest that left me crying and smelling like bleach, and the exact opposite of merry + bright.
Last year, I planned ahead. I was more diligent about keeping on top of my house then I normally might be because I knew how terrible it felt when it all piled up.
Maybe a messy house makes no difference to you, and more power to you, sister. But you catch my drift: you have presents to buy, stuff to cook, parties to attend and parties to plan, plus if you’re a mom, a gaggle of kids that are expecting actual magic.
Don’t. Procrastinate. Start making your shopping lists and really think about how you can prioritize those things that matter (I mentioned that having my office festive is a really important one for me, since I spend so much time there– you better believe I’ve already ordered Christmas candles from Bath & Body Works).
Start planning now, even as early as the second week of November. More on this later.
Guidepost #3: Adjust your expectations.
You can plan and plan and plan, and it’s just not going to be perfect. I’m a (recovering) perfectionist that loves Christmas, so it’s way too easy for me to convince myself that every holiday season will be worthy of the center of a snow globe. It’s just not.
Family members will throw their fits, those Kendra earrings won’t go one sale, you’ll forget to buy Christmas jammies and you may or may not burn the turkey.
(Side note: Have you ever burned a turkey? I have. Sweet LORD it smelled horrible.)
One of my #TotalSarahMoves is assuming that I will do ALL THE THINGS in the two extra days that I get off for Thanksgiving. IT NEVER HAPPENS. Totally unrealistic expectations.
Sister, this is why Guidepost #1 is so important. If you want to beat holiday overwhelm, you have to narrow down what truly matters to you. You can’t do it all, but you can still make some magic if you remember that you’re human. Oh, the irony.
And there you have it, the cardinal guideposts of Avoiding Holiday Overwhelm. Now on to some practical matters!
On Christmas shopping…
- Make your list, and make your list early. Last-minute shopping is stressful and tough on your budget, and is liable to nab every ounce of joy out of gift-giving. You’re totally set if your shopping list is complete by Thanksgiving.
- When I say make your list, I mean make it complete. Not just your immediate people, but also your friends, small gifts for coworkers, spare items for gift exchanges or parties that come up, a sweet treat for your cat’s vet, etc. If you have a good list in the beginning you’ll be more likely to remember people, and actually give them a gift.
- Take full advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. My sister and I head out to shop at 4am, but I rarely buy anything anymore. It’s when I get home, snuggle up with a cup of tea and my laptop, that the real shopping begins.
- Online shopping is your friend. Snag as much as you can on Black Friday/Cyber Monday to take advantage of sales and, at the very least, free shipping. If you just HAVE to do your shopping in person, do it early. But I can say with real confidence that online is the way to go. Leisurely window shopping is so much more fun when you don’t have a list of 80 things to track down.
- If you’re gonna get cute about wrapping, decide now. NOT ON DECEMBER 22ND.
- Whether you’re gonna get cute or not, make sure you have plenty of boxes, tape, bows, wrapping paper, bags, and tissue paper on hand EARLY in the season. Try to avoid buying wrapping last minute for one gift at a time (ahem, the office white elephant, anyone?).
- Make a deal with yourself about when you’ll do your wrapping. As I’ve said, I do almost all of my shopping online. On Saturday mornings I wrap whatever has come in the mail (or been purchased) the previous week. It gets done in chunks this way, and takes a huge load off my mind knowing that those little stacks of presents can chill under the tree until they’re gifted.
On baking and cooking…
- Don’t overcommit yourself. Last year I was in charge of almost every meal for my family’s Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It was exhausting and I missed out on downtime with family, which I’ve listed this year as one of the things that matters most to me. Don’t overcommit to bringing dishes, baking dishes, and handling meals yourself.
- Embrace store-bought. It doesn’t all have to be homemade. Even if you love being in the kitchen (I do!) time is of the essence during the holiday season and it just doesn’t have to be all homemade. Keep this in mind with Thanksgiving especially!
- Start collecting recipes now. We’ve got a full list of some of the easiest and tastiest Single Girl holiday recipes coming up next week! In the meantime, it never hurts to start hunting those recipes down now so you can keep the ingredients on hand or (gasp!) maybe even test drive that crockpot mac n’ cheese recipe you pinned last year.
- Shop for a dress now. If you don’t have something from last year, keep your eyes out for a great dress that can make the rounds with you. I’ve gotten amazing deals on party dresses on Black Friday before!
- Don’t forget: you don’t have to go to all of them. Just say no! Go to the parties you really want to attend, and don’t be afraid to bow out of the others. If parties are the highlight of the season for you, be sure to get them on your calendar early and make note of anything you need to bring along, like a gift, dessert, or bottle of wine.
- If you’re gonna host your own, don’t put off the planning! I love playing hostess this time of year. My schedule won’t allow for it in 2017 but if you’re planning to host, enjoy yourself! But be aware that hosting is almost always a bigger undertaking than you think, so start your planning early!
Alright, friends! I want to know, what are your BEST tips for avoiding holiday overwhelm? Are you prone to overwhelm this time of year? What matters to you, when thinking about the upcoming season?
Check back all this month and next for plenty more tips, tricks, and heart-to-hearts about the most wonderful time of the year!