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A Simple And Memorable Christmas

Christmas is a crazy time for everyone for different reasons. Maybe you procrastinate. Maybe you over shop, over spend, or under budget. Maybe you go overboard on decorating or baking. Maybe you have kids with 5000 activities to attend in the month of December. That's the way of any holiday. And within reason, a certain amount of crazy is necessary, otherwise it would be just like any other month. My focus this month, however, has been to make it as enjoyable as possible while still creating memories with my children. I am still working on this (and wait until next year- I tend to swing between super Martha and simple is best from one Christmas to the next), but here are some of the things I have done so far to make my life easier during the holidays.
  • Pare down where you can. Do you really need to make 17 types of cookies or staple lights to every surface of your house? No. I tried this year to maintain the large scale things that really enhance our enjoyment of the holiday and scale back on everything else.
  • Keep (and live!) by a family calendar. This keeps all your events and to-dos where everyone can see them. It may also help to give you some perspective- can you really accomplish all of this in this amount of time? Look at your calendar and think about my first point. What won't you (or your family) miss if it gets left out?
  • Learn to say no. Okay, this isn't really an issue for me since I don't have friends. But it's a good tip for anyone who is. Don't over-schedule yourself, and don't feel guilty about the ones you refuse.
  • Use an e-to do list. There are several free apps for this. I like Things from It is most definitely not free, but I like that I have it on both my computer and my iphone and they sync easily. This allows me to add things easily and shows me what needs to be done by when. And checking things off is so gratifying.
  • Simplify your everyday meals. Save time and money for your holiday get-togethers by planning your entire month of meals around simple, frugal soups and one dish meals. Plan the entire month right after Thanksgiving, or do it two weeks at a time, and try to double and freeze as many meals early in the month as you can. Then, later in the month when you are exhausted from holiday stuff you can just pull a meal out of the freezer.
  • Take a few baby steps to simplify an area of your life. This is not at all Christmas related, but there is never a better time than now to simplify and streamline your life. What needs improvement in your house? Do you need to start meal planning? Come up with a better laundry flow so your clean and dirty clothes don't end up taking over your bedroom? If you're clueless as to where to do start, I suggest Checking out Flylady. It's very cheesy, which isn't really my thing, but when I was floundering a little after Oliver was born it helped get me into a rhythm, which helped me dig out of my hole. Plus, as much as I hate cheese (not the food...) there are a few little mini pep talks that I have taken from Flylady and use several times a day, like "you are not behind, you are not behind" and "you can do anything for 5 minutes" (the later has especially helped with my running- often I want to quit running two or three minutes before I'm supposed to, and I keep telling myself "you can do anything for x minutes"). Of course, don't try to overhaul everything this month, but you may find that the holidays give you extra motivation to get started on one or two tasks.
  • Think very critically about your gifts. Don't just buy someone something to check them off your list. Buy good, quality gifts that you really feel that person will appreciate. Try to think outside the box, and consider giving experiences instead of gifts (a massage, art lessons, a night at a B & B, etc). If you find yourself at a loss, I have two words- gift card. It may seem impersonal, but who doesn't love a gift card?
  • Be simple and environmentally responsible. There is a lot of waste at the holidays. Many of the ways you can reduce waste will also simplify your life and save you money. Reuse paper grocery bags as wrapping paper (last year I let my kids decorate it). Make gift tags and other crafts out of last year's Christmas cards. Send e-cards instead of paper cards (I don't do this because my kids are still young and I feel the need to send concrete cards with pics, but when they get older I'm all over the e-card).
  • Let someone else do some of the work for you. Many online photo-card sites will address and send your Christmas cards for you. Entering all those addresses online may sound like a lot of work, but the whole process (from designing the card to entering address to paying) took me about an hour and a half, and my hand wasn't even sore (you know, as it would have been had I hand written all of the addresses... and forget about licking all the envelopes and sticking stamps). I got mine from, but and most other photo sites do it as well.
  • Emphasize activities that focus on what is important to your family about the holiday. I'm not here to tell you what that should be. For us it's the birth of Jesus, encouraging charity (giving to others without expecting something in return- which is a REALLY hard thing to teach a 4 and 2 year old, but I'm working on it), and appreciation of family and friends. If you look at your spending and your activities with this focus in mind, it may help you to pare down even more.
  • Take a lot of pictures, especially after you have your second child. This is more of an "I wish I would have" than something I'm doing this year. I have only a few pictures of Oliver's first Christmas (and none of his actual Christmas day... I suck, I know). Even last year, I have pictures of them opening pictures on Christmas morning, but the next week my parents and sisters came to visit and I took no pics at all. So I'm doing some pic recon (thankfully my Mom, MIL, and sisters take pics) and will be trying to do a better job this year.
Those are some of the things I will be focusing on this month... as well as completely throwing out the door the healthy eatting I teach my kids the remainder of the year. In December we eat cookies. A lot. Sometimes for breakfast. And nothing anyone ever tells me will stop me from eating cookies for breakfast on occasion in December.

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