10 Ways to Take the Crazy out of Christmas

Sometime around the beginning of September, after all the summer travels are over, back to school shopping is done, the kids are back in school and our daily routine has returned, someone on social media has the audacity to post one of the pictures of Buddy the Elf saying how many “sleeps” we have left until Christmas morning. I finally feel like we’re back into our routine, life is back in control and all of a sudden this wave of anxiety creeps over me…Christmas is coming. Now, I love Christmas as much as anyone- the lights, the gifts, the Christmas carols, the dinners, the parties, the celebration, the traditions and so on, but it can bring a hefty amount of anxiety and stress, too.  Anybody with me? So this year I’ve decided to happen TO Christmas to help alleviate this stress and free my heart and mind up to focus on what Christmas is really all about.  Here are some of the tips and tricks I’m doing this year to help take the crazy out of my Christmas and maybe they’ll help you too…

1.  Budgeting.  We are HUGE Dave Ramsey/Financial Peace University fans and I always tell people that aside from loving Jesus and loving each other, applying the principles we have learned through FPU is the greatest thing we’ve done in our marriage.  Dave is notorious for saying- somehow we are always surprised that Christmas is on Dec. 25th again this year!  Start budgeting for Christmas as early as you can.  Think through your holiday activities and gift needs:  teacher gifts, family gifts, special dinners, parties, potlucks, holiday activities.  Decide how much money you are going to spend on Christmas and don’t spend a dime more.  You don’t need to give more “stuff” to the people in your lives, focus on giving of presence over presents.  Can you even remember one gift you got for Christmas last year?  However, I bet you remember the time and memories you made with your loved ones!  The saying I’m trying to live into this season is “all you need is less”.   Dave and Financial Peace have lots of great articles, tips and tools to help make budgeting easy for you for you this season.

Embrace Christmas Creep Christmas seems to creep into stores earlier and earlier every year. Instead of whining about it, take the opportunity to plan for and finish all your shopping and DIY projects.  Take a good inventory of all your holiday supply needs and go stock up before the stores get Christmas crazy:  tissue paper, gift wrap, ribbon, bags and tags, boxes, hostess gifts, entertaining supplies, etc.  Plus, a lot of stores run sales and specials for early shopping and planning.  Each year Costco runs a fabulous deal on photo cards if you get them ordered before Thanksgiving.  If you know you’re going to order them anyway, save the stress AND the money and get them done early!  Check out our blog about Christmas Creep for more info.

3.  Clean out refrigerator and freezer.  November is the perfect time of year to do a massive clean out, inventory and organization of your refrigerator and freezer to make room for the Christmas (and Thanksgiving) food influx.  This a good thing to do from time to time and the holidays give you the perfect excuse! Pull everything out of the fridge and freezer and do a thorough cleaning.  I plug one side of my sink, fill with baking soda, vinegar (give it a minute to stop foaming), a few squirts of my favorite dish soap and fill the rest with warm tap water.  I use a wash cloth dipped into this cleaning mixture and do a thorough wash down of the inside of my fridge and freezer and towel dry the shelves.  I also use this mixture to wash out any drawers and removable shelves and towel dry those as well. Then take a close look at all the dates on condiments, dressings, etc.  Throw out anything that has been sitting around forever, is freezer burned, expired or just icky!  Take inventory of what you need to restock on and what essentials you’ll need for cold weather cooking and holiday entertaining.  Make room for the holidays!!  Think about that turkey and all those leftovers- they have to go somewhere.

4.  Clean out pantry and spice cabinets.  Just like cleaning out the fridge, do a thorough clean out of the pantry and spice cabinet.  Take everything out, wipe down shelves and doors, and sweep the floor.  Take a thorough look at expiration dates, old, stale and icky boxes/packages.  Did you know that baking powder is supposed to be used within 6 months of being open?  If this is news to you, it’s time to throw that can out and replace it!  If you have some non-perishable items that you haven’t used in the last year, but are still good, consider giving them to your local food bank. Take a thorough inventory of what you have plenty of and what essential items you need to stock up on for cold weather cooking and holiday entertaining.  Stock up on the basics (flours, sugars, stocks, soup bases, oils, etc..) and think through extra items you like to have on hand this time of year (cranberry sauce, fried onions toppings, pumpkin puree, peppermint extract, etc.).  Things to consider:  snacks for hungry kids home on holiday break, out of town family/guests, holiday dinners with dishes you only make once year, quick and easy hostess gifts, plastic wrap, parchment, aluminum foil and/or disposable food containers for all your holiday leftovers!  Having a well-stocked pantry and spice cabinet will alleviate a lot of stress and last minute trips to an overly-packed grocery store!

5.  Meal plan.   Meal planning is always a great strategy for relieving stress in the kitchen.  However, when it comes to the holidays and an already packed schedule, it can be even more helpful!  Sit down and write down some of your go-to family faves and sketch out a meal plan.  If planning for the whole month is too stressful, just plan out a week or two.  For me, not having to think through what I’m going to make for dinner is a huge stress reliever for me! My favorite tip in meal planning during the holidays:  During the month of November, make meals that freeze easily, double the recipe of whatever you’re making and freeze the second one.  Then when December rolls around and you’re balancing holiday parties, school programs, Christmas shopping, out of town guests and a completely packed schedule, you can just reach in the freezer, throw dinner in the oven and you’re done!  Your meal planning in December just got a whole lot easier!

6.  Pre-Christmas Purge.  Think of it as spring cleaning, but in the fall.  We have 2 young boys and even though we don’t go crazy with gift buying, everyone else does!  We are trying so hard to live into the saying that “all you need it less” and that can be difficult when grandparents love nothing more than buying their grandchildren STUFF!  So we do a pre-Christmas purge!  I go through all their toys and put aside things I don’t see them playing with often or they have outgrown.  We have a spot in our garage called “toy purgatory” and that’s where it all goes.  If the boys ask about a certain toy we give it back to them 99.99% of the time they never ask!  So we donate their toys to others who don’t have as much.  We do the same thing with our clothes and other household items.  All you need is less, right?  Because there are people not far away that actually need what we have in excess.  So let’s pass on the blessing!  We love to donate to our local pregnancy support center, foster care center, homeless shelter or church “blessings” closet.

 7.  Amazon Prime. Free 2-day shipping. Enough said.

8.  Simplify your calendar and commitments. Decide what activities you are going to commit to during the month of December and let got of the rest.  Check out our “Acts of Christmas Kindness” list and find some fun activities to do together with your family.  You don’t have to do one everyday- maybe you only pick one or two to focus on.  Decide what works for you!

9.  Cut corners where you can. I’ll admit it- I am a homemade, from scratch food snob. I love holiday baking/cooking. However, sometimes you just need to go with convenience meals to help you focus on what’s really important at Christmas. Besides, Costco pumpkin pie is nearly as good as any homemade pumpkin pie I’ve ever eaten and you can’t even make a pie that big for $5.99. Save the headache.

10.  Spend some time each day being still. This is such a hard habit to form, but it’s SO important. Spend some time each day during the Christmas season just BEING.  Maybe put on a Christmas CD, pour a cup of coffee or cocoa, open up your Bible or favorite book and just be still. We have an Advent Journal available to download for FREE on our Deeply Rooted Kids Christmas page for you to read by yourself or with your family.  In all the busy and the crazy that the holidays can bring, take some time to give yourself the gift of peace and reflect on what the season is really all about.