It’s Halloween and the last two months of the year are upon us. For many people, this starts a stressful season of overbooked calendars with holiday parties, festivals, concerts, recitals, travel, and family visiting. Many are overwhelmed or become cranky, dare I say Scrooge or Grinch like due to the stress or not being able to enjoy one season at a time. I know many have posted on social media about the multi-holiday displays up in August/September each year. I must admit I’m a one holiday at a time type of person and do not put up my Christmas tree until the day after Thanksgiving or that weekend. Someone sent me this graphic to make me laugh about my one holiday at a time viewpoint.

How can we not be overwhelmed and step back to enjoy each holiday? Here are some ideas to hopefully help make your holidays less stressful and overwhelming, maybe enjoyable and productive.

Make a Plan

I suggest sitting down with a cup of coffee/tea and a notebook or computer with a monthly view calendar handy (I prefer to print off blank copies of each month), and write out all the events, parties, recitals, concerts, festivals, church/synagogue, gifts you want to do. Then I suggest taking a short walk or break from the process to clear your mind, then come back and review your list.

Ask yourself: Is this realistic? Are there items you could remove and still be satisfied? Are there things you can do now to make it easier to do all these things?

Develop a Budget

Determine how much you are going to spend on each gift and stick to it. Should you look at other options with family: only give gifts to younger ones, draw names, setting a budget per gift, or skipping gifts. It is important to have these conversations with your family including extended family. (see blog on “What Are Your 2019 Goals” about finances)

Shop Ahead

If you know what you are planning to get each person, you can watch for sales, pick up while out during the year, or purposely shopping small business or festivals/markets.   I used to do this for years, and it really made a difference especially the year I was due with my daughter to arrive 6 days before Christmas. I had everything bought and wrapped by early October and it made the last part of my pregnancy relaxing.


I don’t know about you but decorating an already cluttered home is not my idea of enjoying the holidays. The last couple of years, I have started going through my different seasonal decorations and selling/donating items I no longer use or want. This has been cathartic and made my life less stressful. I have decided simpler is better for me.  (see blog on “How Organized Is Your Home?”)

Here are some other ideas to help you get started:

  • Clean out the refrigerator and pantry especially check your spice expiration dates before baking.
  • Declutter bedrooms and donate items to a shelter or discard broken items. Great way to involve your kids.
  • Refresh the bedrooms & bathrooms guests may use and declutter if needed. Make sure your own and your children’s rooms are decluttered to offer a quiet space to seek refuge.
  • Clean out the coat closet or make space for guest coats especially if you live in cold weather areas. Donate anything that no longer fits or you do not need to a local shelter.
  • Set up a space to keep wrapped gifts and have your gift-wrapping items handy with everything you need. I have a gift-wrapping box that keeps wrapping paper, tissue, tags, ribbons, gift bags all in one place.

Cook & Bake Ahead

There are items you can make ahead and freeze to make your life easier, but it takes being intentional, planning and doing it. This helps if you have last minute guests or parties to attend to have items pre-cooked or baked or for quick meal ideas for your own family.

Make Holiday Reservations

It is best to book early in most cases for travel especially for airfares, lodging, and car rentals. Sometimes you can get a great last-minute deal and a travel professional may be able to help you find the best for your budget. (see blog on “Holiday Travel Tips”)

Plan Fun Events for Self & Family

Don’t forget during the hustle and bustle to plan some fun events for yourself and your family. This could include bucket list items or volunteering as a family. These types of events are just as important as the others and are usually remembered and treasured by family.

Prepare Holiday Cards/Letter

Take your family photo or I’m sure you have plenty to make a great collage from the year already. Then update your address list and start preparing your holiday cards. This will allow you to get first choice on stamps too! 

Make the Holidays Meaningful

Discuss with your family what is important reflecting on what they like and did not like from the prior year or two. It may surprise many that grown children miss some of the traditional items that we thought they had outgrown. Be intentional with priorities and keeping what is important to you and your family.

Make personal time and Self-Care a Priority.

Don’t forget to make some time for yourself: hair, nails, massage, outing with friends. Put it on your calendar now! 

It is important to leave some open space on your holiday calendar, or you could wind up with exhaustion or emotional meltdowns (not just your children but your own). Take time to slow down and enjoy the season, make it meaningful and make great memories.

Happy holiday season!

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