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How to make this year’s holiday season easier … in less than 10 minutes a day

THANKSGIVING - Shutterstock

Calah Alexander - published on 11/04/19

Here's a holiday prep checklist for all overwhelmed over-committers.

Now that Halloween and All Saints Day are over, it’s time to take a deep breath and relax, right?


Not even close. Actually, it’s time to batten down the hatches and gear up for the coming holiday season and everything it entails … class parties, Christmas concerts, gift lists, shopping, baking, traveling, and more. This is the time when I usually feel so overwhelmed that I have to fight the primal urge to curl up under the covers in the fetal position and hide till January, and this year is no exception.

But there’s one big difference this year. I’m tired of feeling overwhelmed. Not just tired of it, but sick to death of it. I’m finally motivated, perhaps for the first time ever, to plan ahead and smooth the road through November and December. If you’re in the same boat, here’s a list of ways to make the holidays easier … in less than 10 minutes a day.

1Put it on the calendar

I use my iPhone calendar daily, but I get so many emails about various upcoming events, field trips, parties, and concerts that at least 50% of it falls through the cracks. This contributes in no small part to the chaos of the holidays — I’ll get an email reminder the night before a class party or field trip and have to scramble to make it fit into the day I’ve already planned out, thereby shoving other important things off the calendar entirely.

Not this year, though. The first thing I’m doing is spending 10 minutes each day going through my inbox to add events and reminders to my calendar — and then deleting the email, so my head doesn’t get cluttered with panic every time I scroll through my inbox. The key to make this attainable is to set a timer close the computer and walk away at 10 minutes. This breaks the work up into manageable chunks and increases the likelihood that you (or me — mostly me) will actually accomplish this seemingly herculean task.

2Set limits

With five kids, on any given holiday weekend we could have as many as nine different parties, events, or socials to attend. I’m not going to sacrifice the Advent and Christmas seasons on the altar of doing-it-all this year, though. Nothing dampens the holiday spirit like spending an entire day chauffeuring various kids to various things. This year, the kids have to choose. If they’re invited to four parties a month, they can pick two. If I can get them rides to the others, great. If not, tough cookies — until I can bilocate, limits are an actual fact of life.

Same with class parties. I told my kids at the beginning of the year that I would go to one field trip and volunteer for one class party for each of them, full stop. That might seem stingy, but that’s 10 days I’ll have to find coverage at work and make it up later. I know it’s tempting to volunteer for all the things and be the class mom and president of the PTA, but the reality is that moms aren’t capable of spreading ourselves as thin as we try to do on a regular basis. Setting limits will preserve your sanity, as well as make those times you can help that much more enjoyable and meaningful.

3Set more limits

You know what else gets out of control this time of year? Christmas lists. How many times have y’all asked for Christmas lists and then been so overwhelmed by the sheer volume that you didn’t even know where to start? It doesn’t have to be that way. Give your kids limits on what they can ask for, and save yourself the time and headache of sorting through endless lists of unintelligible Pokémon names. My kids are allowed to put one need, one want, one book, and one activity or event on their Christmas lists. Yes, the gnashing of teeth is extreme — but I would rather deal with the angst on the front end than feel guilty over disappointing them or failing to meet their expectations on a day that should be full of joy.


Not the kind that you do under the mistletoe. This one is way more applicable: Keep It Stupid Simple. It’s so easy to go overboard and make cookies for the neighbors, the teachers, and random passersby. It’s so tempting to pick the tastiest-looking recipe in that fancy Thanksgiving cookbook. But usually when we do these things we end up tired, stressed, out of time, and out of energy. It’s so much smarter to actively choose the simplest option, and it will help you preserve valuable time for what really matters during the holidays.

5Savor the small stuff

When you plan ahead, set firm limits, and choose simplicity, you’ll have the freedom to enjoy the process of creating holiday magic rather than feeling like a victim of a runaway Christmas cookie train. If baking and decorating Christmas cookies is something you love doing with your kids, plan for it. Make the time to enjoy the doing instead of feeling the stress of trying to get it done. Have hot chocolate while the cookies bake, sing Christmas carols while you decorate … whatever it is that makes holidays magical for your family should be held in sacred importance.

These are the moments that really matter, so cut out all the clutter and chaos so you can focus on what’s most important during Advent leading up to Christmas. Give yourselves time and space to be joyful and to create memories that will last a lifetime.


Read more:
Why it’s not selfish to take care of yourself during the holidays


Read more:
15 Quotes to inspire gratitude this Thanksgiving and beyond

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