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When our oldest was in kindergarten he is now 36… his school presented a program based on the book Unplug the Christmas Machine. A great book, by the way! One of the ideas was a December calendar, loosely based on the Advent calendar idea. We would just print a generic blank calendar well, actually we started this before internet LOL so we just had to draw one!

The real secret, though, was that my husband and I sat down the end of November and planned our month based on school events, family events, community events we wanted to do and the special holiday things we wanted to do with our kids. Definitely not over the top stuff no Elf on the Shelf for sure! We scheduled shopping for the Giving Tree at church, putting up lights, calling the grandparents the days before unlimited long distance so this was a big deal. It was amazing the stress it relieved on us. We knew everything would happen in its time. The kids ran to the calendar every morning to see what would happen.

And yep, some nights we had to rearrange when we could see there was no way cookies would get baked the next day! They actually loved this so much we did it through high school, when they would actually help plan it so we could do the things they enjoyed during the holidays. Thanks so much for sharing this Ellen — great tips especially for those of us with younger kiddos!

Carrie Reply: November 17th, at am. Ellen, I am so glad you shared this tip! My 12 year old daughter has an absolute love for Advent calendars.

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Anyhow, it has become increasingly hard to figure out what to put in the Advent calendar as she gets older, but she still loves having one. I am actually in the process of wracking my brain, trying to come up with something different for this year. I love your idea of using it for special events or things to do! We go with the flow and just do what sounds fun, if anything at all. In our family, putting up our tree and spending the evening reminiscing about family members no longer with us and past Christmases while also reflecting on the outgoing year is my favorite seasonal tradition.


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Having Christmas music playing softly in the background during dinner every night is another one. I love how both your sets of parents seem to accept that the next generation has their own new families and traditions to establish and work with! I would love that.

10 Tips to Simplify Your Holiday - Green Child Magazine

And that makes my Christmas much more simple! Andrea Reply: November 14th, at am. It took a while, and we still go back and forth on some things, but if I want something to change, I know I have to instigate it and stand firm otherwise nothing will change. Dave is usually on the same page as me too — so that helps! ML Reply: November 14th, at pm.

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Yes — we get this same box from GFS and it takes out the sometimes laborious step of sugar cookie cut outs and allows us the time to enjoy decorating which my children prefer anyway! Frankly, simplicity makes holidays more enjoyable for me. Lots of people have just gone overboard IMHO with gift giving, decorating, etc.

Thanks for sharing, Andrea. Last year at work we were talking about Christmas gifts and I remember one of my coworkers talking about how each year each of her two kids gets 3 gifts for Christmas because Jesus only got 3 gifts and why should the kids get more presents than Jesus did. This really put a limit on how much was spent on gifting to the kids each year. LOVE this post!! Now that we have three kids, we really simplified everything else this month. We have traditions, but we hold them loosely.

For instance, we have gone to a local zoo the Sunday after Thanksgiving to look at their lights display, but this year, Thanksgiving weekend was busy and we decided it was better for our family to have a quiet day than cram just one more thing into that weekend. It was so freeing to even give just that one tradition up for this year! Andrea Reply: December 6th, at pm. Glad you were able to enjoy a little extra time at home this year! Andrea, my favorite on this list is 3! We have some traditions, but not an insane amount to HAVE to keep up with.

Keeping things simple for the holidays is so lovely. My family all gets together for Thanksgiving an Christmas. We all live within an hour of each other and take turns hosting. I try to have as much ready as I can, but it still feels a bit stressful. One year we stayed home to celebrate with just our household because of illness. My introverted self loved it. Still, once we arrive at the big gathering on any holiday I find I enjoy being with everyone so much we end up being the last to leave. We do have wonderful family and lots of fun together.

Makes the stress of packing it all up in the morning seem worth it. Remind me of that on Christmas morning though. Also, I wanted to note that I think your home decor lends itself just perfectly to being Christmasy. Andrea Reply: December 5th, at pm.

Thanks Tara — and yes, all the reds and wood tones really seem to work for so many holidays! I hardly need to add any decorations to make the switch from Thanksgiving to Christmas — and even Fourth of July! We do drive around and do lights one night, but there are several pockets of cool lights within a few miles, so we can complete the trip in an hour. Schedule in family quiet time - Over the years we have become more and more protective of our time together as a family. Really, you only get a handful of years with your kids to make those amazing memories, so we embraced it whole heartedly.

An advent calendar hung in the kitchen with tickets devoting various days to movie and popcorn nights, skating at a local rink, going to special events, and getting the Christmas tree. Now that Kevin is a teenager we don't use the advent calendar, but we still fiercely guard those traditions just as much as we did when he was little. Many of them have become our most loved, and best remembered, holiday moments. Make the holiday more about love and less about stuff - It's easy to be drawn into the sales, hype and the sparkly new objects and must haves of the season.

Shopping is a huge stressor for many people, be it financially or emotionally by trying to find the 'perfect' gift. When we discovered that most of our Christmas arguments centered around stuff my wanting to buy a gift for my husband and his not wanting one , we came up with a creative, and albeit unusual, solution.

On a day weeks before Christmas, we'd travel to the city and shop for our son together. After a nice lunch, we'd then hand over some cash to each other and buy our gifts for each other together, as well. Once home, they'd be wrapped and put under the tree. Do I miss the surprise? Not at all. Everyone gets what they want, there's no wrong sizes or returns, and there is no longer any pressure to find the right gift because it's right there, under the tree. Stockings, however, are completely fair game. Now that Kevin is an older teen, we've even given him the option of having us pick out his presents, or we can give him cash and he can shop for his own with us.

So far, he has taken the route of a little cash, and some gifts. Don't look at shortcuts as a failure, but survival - For many years after the gingerbread incident, I bought pre-fab gingerbread house kits at the store. Nobody cared, I had far less stress, and it got the job done. You are not required to go into full on Martha land every holiday. Class party and you need to bring cupcakes? Buy some. For a few years when Kevin was small, we took it even a step farther and went to a local hotel for a beautiful buffet dinner every Christmas Day. However, the idea is that, after this span of time, the impulse to buy is not as strong or you may have forgotten about it altogether.

Do things at home as much as possible. Save money on gas and the products or services you want to purchase by doing things at home — eating, watching movies, entertaining, working out , and more. If the weather is nice and the place you want to go is relatively close to your house, why not walk there instead?


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Work from home. Granted, this may not be an option for everyone. However, if you run your own small business or your boss will permit telecommuting, then working from home is a great idea. It is a more relaxed environment and again means spending less on gas. Decorate innovatively. Instead of buying and storing seasonal decorations that are only used once a year, find other ways to spruce up your house on the holidays.

Designing with festive colors or hanging up family photos are just a couple of alternatives. Do your holiday shopping throughout the year. Avoid the rush during the month of December by purchasing your gifts earlier in the year. There is no rule that says you have to wait until the end of the year to do your Christmas shopping. Alter your wishlist. Movie tickets, gift cards, edible treats, spa treatments, salsa dancing lessons, iTunes cards, and ebooks are just a few suggestions.

Ask for quality time together. A neat idea by Miss Minimalist is giving your friends one-less-gift certificates. Exchange experiences or services. Offer to accompany your friend to a concert by their favorite band, tend their yard or garden, organize or clean a room of their home, babysit their children, or do them a favor. Donate your gifts. The truly selfless and admirable route when it comes to Christmas is giving back to your community.


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  6. Eliminate stress. That is really what the rest of this list is all about. Less stress means a simpler, healthier, and more enjoyable life. Live intentionally. Start every day knowing what you want to accomplish before you go to bed at night, and have a central purpose in mind for your life on a broader scope. Focus is incredibly important to have a fulfilling life. Remove the extraneous to focus on the extraordinary. Strive for quality over quantity. Create routines. Rather, they will simplify certain aspects of your life so can more thoroughly enjoy everything else.

    Limit your commitments. Drop all but the handful of activities that enrich you the most. Trim your to-do list. Do not make yourself feel obligated to complete so many projects or chores within the span of a day. Make boundaries. Tell yourself you can only run so many errands or attend so many events during the week.

    Boundaries help you avoid getting overwhelmed and prioritize the important. Schedule time to pause. Focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking has actually been proven to reduce productivity, impair cognitive ability, affect your short-term memory, make it harder to tune out distractions and increase the number of errors in your work.

    Do only one thing at a time, and do that thing well. Finish one task completely before you start a new one. Do not start one task, take a break, then pick up a different one after. Complete what you were working on before switching gears and tackling something new. Only read one book at a time. I have been guilty of starting a novel, laying it down for a while, and then opening up a nonfiction book or collection of poetry, which is difficult enough.

    Even harder to juggle are two works of fiction. Learn to say no. In spite of the sad eyes your friends may give you, it is perfectly okay to decline invites sometimes.

    How To Simplify Your Holidays

    There is no harm in taking a night to look after yourself or spend quality time with your family; surely they will understand. This step also means saying no to bad or unproductive habits. Make room for meaningful relationships. Discard unbalanced friendships and end toxic connections. Life is too short to continue clinging to people that are only passively invested or not healthy for your emotional wellbeing.

    This practice generally only serves to stress you out and create clutter in your home. Just concentrate on being yourself! Carry less stuff. Try to narrow down what you carry to the things you use the most — car keys, license, debit or credit card, and so on. Get a simple haircut. Straightening, curling, spraying, styling, and otherwise tending to your hair can be time-consuming. Get a haircut that requires little maintenance. If you want to go one step further, cut your hair short so that it takes less time to wash and dry.

    Create a family calendar. Declare a work-free zone. Josh Rueff of Living Apex had an excellent idea for maintaining the proper balance between your work and personal lives. Whenever you are driving home, pick a landmark, and as soon as you reach it, thoughts about work are not allowed.

    If you work from home, the equivalent is setting down whatever you were in the middle of as soon as your hours are up and not picking it up or thinking about it again until the next day. Complain less. Cut down on critical and judgmental thoughts. Train your brain not to be so quick to criticize, and keep any unhelpful comments to yourself. Choose your battles. Not everything is worth picking apart and arguing about. Do not intrude where you are not welcome.

    If someone else wants your input regarding a situation in their life, they will approach you about it directly. Keep your conscience clear. Resist activities or mistakes that you know are impure, unkind, or would fill you with guilt. Reduce distractions. Close your email program, turn your phone on silent, switch off the TV, and concentrate fully on the task at hand.

    Eliminate wasted time. I will admit, sometimes I have every intention of getting work done, then I find myself scrolling endlessly through the blogs I follow, and the minutes tick away. Drastically limit activities you know are time-wasters, or drop them completely.

    Only engage in what is genuinely entertaining, educational, interesting, or productive. Stop procrastinating. Putting off tasks or chores for later is so tempting, but this always comes back to bite you. Be flexible. Learn how to go with the flow and make allowances for the constantly changing and unpredictable nature of real life. Think first. Consider what you are about to say or do beforehand.

    This can prevent a lot of hurt feelings and poor decisions. Soak up simple pleasures. How long has it been since you truly admired a sunset or took a quiet moment to savor a bit of dessert? Ask for advice. They will more than likely be happy to help because they can undoubtedly remember a time when they were in the same position as you. Let others help. If you find yourself frazzled with too many things demanding your attention, ask someone else to shoulder some of the burden.

    This could be babysitting your kids, mowing your lawn, raking the leaves, editing your manuscript, or whatever else you need. Request a favor from a family member or close friend, or pay a neighborhood kid or student a few bucks to get the job done. Take time to be thankful. Be grateful for every unexpected blessing, and appreciate what you have. If you adopt this mindset, contentment will naturally flow from it.

    December 20, September 26, December 8, December 8, December 1, February 27, Sarah is a recent college graduate, living and blogging in St. She's an incurable bookworm, prone to daydreaming, and always interested in a good cup of tea. Hey Rashelle, I was going to email you about this post, but it seems you found it on your own already! Thanks for providing that awesome piece of content; it was very helpful. And I appreciate you including the pingback to my post. Have a great day! Loved all of your great ideas. Only have two concerns. Also my husband of 35 yrs is not comfortable paying bills or storing bill info on the computer because we have had bogus charges on our credit cards which were caught and taken care of by the CC companies.

    I used to pay on line. He took over the chore and will not use our bank account on line. He pays all bill by check within 2 days of receiving them so they get there in time. Any suggestions for getting him to pay on line and feel safe? Hey Becky! Thanks for stopping by and for your insightful response! It is true that not all of these steps are for everyone; I know I'd rather not live in a house without a refrigerator, for example. One nice thing about a landline is that they may be more reliable during power outages and such.