Do a quick Google search and you’ll find a lot of the same advice: spend less, do less, be mindful and present. It’s all good advice but here’s the thing: unless you live on a deserted island, you’re going to have to deal with some chaos. This will take the form mostly of friends and family, all of whom have different and sometimes downright contradictory ideas about what it means to celebrate the holidays.
The arguments will probably have already started about who is bringing what to the holiday feast and where everyone is going to stay, but it’s never too late to take some time and figure out a holiday schedule that works for you and your immediate family. Indeed, it is possible to have a joyful holiday celebration decluttered of stress and chaos.
One option? Opt out! Rent a cottage by a snow covered lake or splurge on a beach vacation and hunker down for the holidays. Let your relatives bicker and fight over the turkey legs somewhere else; instead, you can gather those most near and dear to you and get out of town for a couple of days over the holiday season.
Attend a family dinner before leaving, or have an early holiday gift exchange on December 21st so that the rest of the family gets to see you and yours as a compromise to keep everyone happy, but making the choice to put your family first is never wrong. Just like on an airplane that is losing oxygen, you put your mask on first before you help others.
Have an Adult Conversation With the Other Adults in your Life
Sure, holiday planning can make even the most zen person cranky, but the key is to communicate. If you don’t want to have every last second of every day of the holiday booked and busy, you’re going to have to say so. It’s not easy, but it’s honest and in the end, it will result in you having a more relaxed holiday.
Discuss what everyone else wants to do, so that everyone is heard, and then make some decisions all the while letting go of what doesn’t matter. It’s the holidays, after all! If Grandma wants to host the family dinner this year, even though it’s your sister’s turn, let her! There are things worth fighting about and this isn’t one of them.
The pursuit of some elusive picture of holiday perfection is almost always frustrating and disappointing. Start the process as you mean to finish and remember that perfection is an illusion best left on Instagram. Instead, look for the little moments that are the real memories to be cherished. As the year ends and moves into a drab and dull January, these memories will be the fuel to keep you going until spring arrives!
Block Time for What Matters to Your Family
Figure out what traditions you want to observe and block time in your family’s schedule for them. Too often, people reach the end of the holiday season not having done a single thing that they wanted to. Want to bake cookies? Block time. Want to tour the neighborhood and take in all the Christmas decorations? Block time. Are there things you don’t want to do, like the annual cookie exchange at your office? Drop them. It sounds drastic, but time is precious and wasting it on things that make you feel stressed at best, or unhappy at worst, is not what the holiday season is supposed to be about.
Your plans don’t have to be a set in stone schedule, but putting it down on paper does create a visual of what you want to do and what you feel is important. With those things planned for, you can then look at the rest of the list of tasks and events and more easily decide what matters, and what can be dropped.
Learn to Say NO!
Despite it being one of the first words children learn, “no” seems to get harder and harder to say, as people get older. There is the ever present feeling that saying no to something, particularly around the holidays, is selfish. It’s not. It’s absolutely okay to set boundaries around your family’s time so that you can get the full benefit of a relaxing and enjoyable holiday.
After all, finding the magic of the holiday season isn’t about excess: how many parties you attend, how many gifts you give, how much time you spend writing out cards and letters. The magic is found in the little moments, like when you trim your tree and look at all the ornaments that you’ve gathered over the years, or when you sit down with your best friend to have laced coffee and a good, old fashioned gossip session. These are the moments you’ll remember if you aren’t racing to one even after another, cooking one batch of cookies after another.
If All Else Fails
If you’ve tried saying no to no avail, your family isn’t equal to having adult conversations about the holidays, or you can’t afford to leave town, there are still ways to calm the chaos without hiding out under your duvet all day.
- Get outside. Fresh air and exercise do wonders for the emotional state, so if you’re feeling rumpled in spirit, a good walk, skate, ski or hike might be just the ticket to perk yourself up.
- Connect with your favorite people. Whether that’s a video call with someone far away, or a cup of coffee with your bestie, spending even a little time really and truly connecting with others will get those endorphins going and put everything that annoys you about the holiday season into perspective.
- Go to your happy place. Are you a bubble bath kind of person? Or maybe you find the greatest comfort in a good book, with a cup of something at your side. Whatever it is that brings you the greatest ease and comfort, make sure that at least once during the holidays, you do it. Don’t feel guilty about wanting a little time for yourself, even if it means leaving the kids with the grandparents for a day. They will have a blast and you’ll feel refreshed and ready for the next holiday adventure.
Finding the happiness amongst the chaos comes down deciding what matters and refusing to feel guilty about the rest. The best gift you can give to yourself and your family is to be actually happy, not just pretending to be to avoid annoying anyone. Sure, compromise will be part of the package, so that you aren’t alienating people left, right and center; but remember: the only behavior you can really control EVER is your own. So, make yourself and your family happy, and leave the rest out in the snow.
BIO: Marty Basher is the design and organization expert with Modular Closets, https://www.modularclosets.com. Marty regularly contributes on topics of DIY renovations, home design, organization, improvement and more, helping home owners get the most of the spaces in their home. Modular Closets are high-quality and easy-to-design closet systems made in the USA that you can order, assemble and install yourself, in no time at all. Using closet modules (closet and storage units you can mix & match to design your own modular closet), homeowners everywhere are empowered to achieve a true custom look- for nearly 40% less than standard custom closets from the bedroom to the laundry room, kitchen pantry, mudroom and beyond.
Really good advice! I think blocking off time for what is most important to your family is especially necessary. There have been holidays where I should’ve done that!
Keeping time in the schedule for what really matters is a really good point!
great tips….. I love all of them.
Learning when to say ‘no’ and mean it is a gift.
Great suggestions! The Holidays can be a chaotic time of the year and it is important to focus on the immediate family. I spent so many years caving to the demands of my extended relatives but I discovered no matter how much I tried to please it was never enough.