I actually wrote this two years ago, before I had a smaller house and traveled all over the country like a crazy person. But I’ve seen a lot of posts lately from friends and relatives who feel overwhelmed and I thought you might like to read it again (or for the first time, if you didn’t see it then). If nothing else, I give you permission to be a lot more slack. So, here you go: 10 ways to lighten your holiday load a little bit.
1. Stop making gift wrapping so ridiculously hard. There are so many ideas for how to wrap gifts and make name tags that if you Google “gift tag ideas” it gives you about 24 million results. Really. I’ll wait while you check. Twenty-four million ways to put a name on something. And they are adorable. Look at this one from Martha Stewart.
Who wouldn’t want to cut out tiny little mittens and stockings and then glue rickrack onto them and tie it all to packages with attractive grosgrain ribbon? And that’s great if you want to to do that. But do you know what else you can do with wrapping paper? You can write on it. Because that’s why paper was invented. So buy some paper and wrap some gifts and then write names on them in magic marker. See? This one is for my mom. She will know it is for her because I wrote “Mom” on it.
2. Get rid of your Elf on the Shelf. Last year I recommended that you kill Santa and this year I am freeing you from your elvish bondage. It’s not as though this is some age-old tradition harkening back to the Old Country. This is a fairly amusing book with a really good marketing team. Tell your kids that you can’t afford an elf. Tell them that the elf left to pursue other passions. Tell them that you just don’t want any more creatures to take care of in your house because kids are hard enough. Tell them that if they had been your age when the movie Child’s Play came out they, too, would know that this is clearly the kind of toy that tries to kill you in your sleep and you had to get rid of it for the safety of the entire family. Ta-da! No more frantic last-minute elf hijinks.
3. Create a “tradition” where your kids go get ready for bed and then come back to the family room for the Advent Calendar. Use the 5 minutes between when they walk away and before someone starts crying to put something in the Advent Calendar for that night. We rotate between handfuls of marshmallows, Hershey’s kisses, notes I write on index cards that live in the kitchen, and sometimes a bunch of Pirate’s Booty. Let other people have hand-crafted Advent cards strung artfully from the doorway–you have Pirate’s Booty.
It completely captured the essence of our family with a new baby and a bunch of other kids. See how happy my husband is? I thoroughly enjoyed sending that one out and it was not stressful at all. But this year? I don’t have a family picture more recent than Easter, we are moving in January and have nowhere to live, and I still haven’t shipped our gifts out to Jay’s sister. So no cards. I will get to it in March when I send out new address cards instead. I’m pretty sure our friends and family will survive without seeing what we all look like this year. If I have time and enough old cards left over I may just send these out again and tell people to imagine everyone a little bigger. My husband’s boss is sending out a card with a stock photo of someone else’s kids on it instead of trying to get a family picture. All good ideas and way more fun than worrying about getting that perfect family shot on that perfect card.
6. Give teachers money. Trust me, that is all they want. I did not need an ornament shaped like an apple. Target money, that I could use. This also applies to anyone in your life you sometimes “buy little things for and set aside in case you need a last minute gift.” No one on earth wants something that is of so little value to you that you buy extras and stick them in a closet. Give them money. Stop the charade.
7. Stay home. I give you permission to stop going to every single school event your kids have. If you have a problem saying no, just take some younger kids to the next school-age kid winter party and you will never be asked to help throw the class party again. I speak from experience.
But Sally, you say, these are all the FUN things about the holidays that I WANT to do. If I ignore all of these things, I won’t feel Christmas-y and it will be just another cold month!
You are right. And now it is time for a hard truth: Unless you have that magic thing that Hermione used in Harry Potter that allowed her to go back in time to take extra classes (what kind of school allows that, Hogwarts??!!) you will not have enough time to do all of these fun extras and all of the other things you usually do.
Which only leaves one other option: do a much worse job at your usual tasks.
8. Stop mopping the floor. There is a lot of floor in my house. Most of it is sticky. During the month of December I make myself content with sweeping up visible dirt/leaves/old food the day someone is coming over. Then, about half an hour before guests arrive, I give my kids a canister of Clorox wipes and tell them to wipe up anything not floor colored. I get to pretend that I cleaned the floor, the kids are kept out of my hair before people come over, and it is appropriate to dim the lights and use candles at this time of year. So let’s make a pact–we all stop mopping the floor and no one looks down when we go to each others’ houses.
9. As-needed laundry. For the next two weeks I will not do laundry until it is required. When a kid runs out of underwear, I will wash all the underwear. When a kid runs out of pants, I will wash pants. I do 7-14 loads of laundry a week depending on how many beds need their sheets changed. Not in December. Sorry kid, I suggest you wear a dress shirt with those sweatpants because I’m not washing anything until I have to.
10. Only make things in the crock pot. Last night I made enough chili to feed a family at least five times our size. Some of our kids don’t even like chili, but we will now eat it every day for a week. Next week is roast beef and the week after is barbecue chicken. Get used to it, kids.
These were my tips in 2014. In 2016, reality has the following updates:
- I do actually have Christmas cards to send out (but I went with the family pic from the spring where I have pink hair) and they will be very late.
- My floor is not TOO sticky, but that’s because a cleaning crew mopped it when they finished our house remodel last week.
- We have completely abandoned the Advent calendar…it is in a pitiful heap on the floor waiting for someone to do something, anything with it. But at this point, it’s not going up. Oh, well.
- I still don’t create name tags, have an Elf, or volunteer for the Winter party (I stick to the Valentine’s Party when I’m less busy).
- I still only cook in the crockpot. And I only bake things for me to eat immediately.
- I definitely just give teachers money. I make my kids write a note to accompany the money. Notes from kids and money are the love language of teachers.
- I expanded as-needed laundry to, like, 9 months of the year.
No matter how busy you are or behind you feel, just be encouraged that I’m sitting here typing away at ways to slough off responsibility instead of addressing Christmas cards. So you’re at least ahead of me.