This season of thankfulness and joy have you feeling frazzled? Here are 10 tips to take back the holidays and experience the peace and joy you so long for!

This is my first Christmas both as a mama and as the host to the festivities. My Type A, freaky planner self is both raring to go and absolutely quaking as I think about how to balance planning for the holidays with full time work, wife life, being a mom, and still trying to keep up with growing a blog.

Don’t get me wrong, I am super excited about planning for this holiday season. I have dreamed of the day when we would have a home where I could decorate to my heart’s content and host Christmas parties that would be filled with warmth and good cheer (and aaaalll the good things to eat!). 

However, I do have to consider all the things I have on my plate and take some time to come up with a plan as to how to get all the things done, stay within budget…and keep that dream of a peaceful, joy-filled Thanksgiving and Christmas with friends and family alike.

It is on these occasions that I am especially grateful for my crazy love of all things planning and organization! So many talk about how stressful this time is and how overwhelming trying to balance all the extra activities the holidays bring on top of their all ready busy lives; however, though I might feel a bit stretched in all directions, I know the steps I need to take to make the holidays less stressful and filled with good tidings of great joy.

It really isn’t all that difficult! A few small changes can make a big difference as to how you go through the holiday season.

Here are a few things I’m implementing to ensure that my holidays are fully enjoyable and far less stressful.

1. Update Your Calendar

The last thing I want to do during this time is forget what day my work Christmas party is or get called asking where I am for our church Christmas program rehearsal!

In order to stay on top of all the extra activities going on this time of year, the best thing I do is to have an at-a-glance calendar where I can see all those, meetings, rehearsals, parties, etc. 

My advice is to find a free printable monthly calendar that you can use, not only to keep track of those events, but to also program your other holiday tasks. Pick a day where you will decorate the home, do the Christmas shopping, or wrap gifts. No more events sneaking up on you or wrapping gifts late into the night on Christmas Eve. Assigning a date to all those to-do items helps to ensure they get done.

2. Reflect on your family values

Take some time to reflect on what the holidays mean to you personally and for your family. For me I know this means time with family and friends gathered together enjoying moment’s that we might not have during other times of the year. Thanksgiving and Christmas should line up with my families values of quality time spent together, love, and gratefulness.

Throughout the year it is so easy to become caught up in the daily grind and lose focus of what really matters. Use this holiday season as a time to come back to the basics and focus in on what truly matters to you and your family.

Thanksgiving and Christmas, though a flurry of extra work and activities, also provide moments to reconnect to our family, friends, and children. In order to make the most of these moments, select activities and events that align with your own family’s personal values. Don’t feel guilty about saying, “no”. As you select engagements based on your family’s values you will find that the holiday season becomes an even more grounded, special time as you pursue what matters most.

3. Prioritize

I find it is particularly important to prioritize all the extra tasks and activities during the holidays. Once you have spent time considering what matter’s most to you and your family, take those values and then apply them to all the possible tasks and activities you have available to you.

Take time to go through each event that you could attend, gifts you need to buy, tasks you need to complete and select those which align with your family’s values and desires.

For example, it might be a bit difficult to fit in the community holiday parade, the school Christmas pageant, caroling with friends, Christmas Light show, or just a fun night of Christmas cookie baking during the month of December…if it does all fit, wonderful! But if it makes you feel stressed out and stretched thin consider each of those events and how they fall in line with your families values. Which of them is the best fit? This is the event (or two) that you can prioritize.

As for gifts, while you may enjoy gift giving (and getting) with your famiy and friends, there’s no rule that says you can’t institute a White Elephant gift exchange or even a Secret Santa system for groups of friends or extended family. Sometimes, just the moments you get to spend together are precious enough that you don’t need many (or any) gifts. This practice can add a sense of fum to your holidays while helping all of us avoid the post-Christmas credit card hangover.

4. Start planning EARLY according to your values and priorities

Unfortunately, no amount of planning will help you be organized and stress free if you start the week before Christmas. The biggest boost you can give yourself in the joy and peace department is to give yourself enough time to get ALL THE THINGS done.

Believe me, it’s no fun to head to the store to pick up that Thanksgiving turkey and there are none left, because it’s Wednesday night…or, realizing that you don’t have enough wrapping and gift bags for the presents and it’s 11pm on Christmas Eve…not that I’ve ever done any of those 😉

Any type of headstart you can give yourself on the menu planning, gift purchasing and wrapping will go a long way towards minimizing those last minute headaches (and crowds!). 

I like to start planning for Christmas the moment it ends! “Whoa, she’s crazy,” you’re probably thinking. Perhaps I am, but I can’t pass up all those amazing deals the day after Christmas!

Here are just a few things you can do the day after Christmas to get a jumpstart on the next year.

•  Stock up on all the discount gift giving tools (wrapping paper, ribbons, tape, etc.)
•  Those Christmas gift sets that are now on super discount…stock up for easy teacher or extended family gifts!
•  Have a few items that weren’t purchased from this year’s Christmas list? See if there are any good deals on those items and save them for next year.
•  Did you want to add to your Christmas decor this year, but just couldn’t see it fitting in the budget? Take advantage of all those day after Christmas sales to keep decorating easy on your wallet. Plus, you’ll have everything all ready to go for next year without have to make a trip to the store through the crowds!

Shopping the day after Christmas is just one of the ways I help myself prepare early. A few other things I like to do is maintain a running list of things that my family or friends mention that they would love to have throughout the year. This way, when Christmastime comes and they are having trouble remember just what it was they wanted…I’ll already know 😉

The Busy Mom's Guide to the Holidays

5. Online Shopping

There’s just no time to get to the store! I completely get it, girl! As a working mama I feel I barely have time to do the weekly grocery shopping, much less go out and find the perfect gift for my family and close friends!

I don’t know what I would do without being able to shop online! Amazon and I are best buds, but this time of year…we are absolutely inseparable. Christmas shopping does not have to be about traffic, crowds, and walking all day trying to find the perfect gift only to find out it’s not in stock.

In fact, it can actually be relaxing and enjoyable! I mean, what’s better this time of year than snuggling up in your pj’s in front of the fireplace with a cup of cocoa? Add in your favorite electronic device and Voila the perfect Christmas shopping experience!

6. Make a list…and check it twice!

Now, we might not be the jolly man in the red suit, but we can certainly follow a bit of his planning expertise 😀 

Lists are my thing! Whether it’s to-do, groceries, goals…you name it…I will probably have a list for it! This time of year lists are going to be your best friend. I highly recommend having one for…well pretty much everything. And just as the song says…check it twice!

Whether it’s for groceries, gifts, guests, Christmas Cards…I think you get the gist, having a list helps keep us on track, minimizes forgetfulness (and last minute trips to the store, and simply keeps mom brain on track and focused. 

As a mom I have found my brain is generally a jumbled, sleep deprived mess. Keeping lists for everything is my way to stay sane and keep my brain clear to remember all the important things!

7. Set a Budget

As much as you have tried to save throughout the year it’s easy to breeze through those funds and then find yourself racking up more on your credit cards than you thought possible in such a short span of time.

The best way to combat this is to create a budget. You’ll want a budget for your presents, holiday décor, supplies, food items you’ll need at home as well as for socials. You may not know the exact costs of these items right now, but setting a range that will work within your general monthly budget will keep you from overspending on the holidays.

8. Keep Things Clean

One of my absolute favorite parts about the holidays is being able to entertain family and friends. There is nothing I enjoy more than being able to prepare a meal and a welcome environment for them to come relax and connect.

In addition to all the planned festivities, whether you are ready or not company is coming. There will always be some friends and family will be dropping by unannounced, of course.

A great way to prepare for guests, whether planned or surprise, is to make sure that your home stays clean. The best way to do this is to put your family to work and all contribute to cleaning up and then maintaining it. While it will be a challenge to keep your house clean over the holiday months, everyone, even the kids, will have less cleaning to do if you all give the house a major overhaul before your days get even more crazy. That way you can tackle just one or two simple tasks every day to keep everything neat and tidy.

9. Stock your pantry and bake ahead of time

With all the extra cooking during the holidays, it’s easy to find yourself low, or completely out of necessary items. To make sure this doesn’t happen stock up on those things you know you’ll need more of such as flour, sugar, baking powder, chicken stock, etc. If you have go to holiday recipes, check out the ingredient list and make sure you have enough on hand for a few of those meals.

Give me aaaaalll the Christmas goodies…well, maybe just one or two. Trying to stay healthy 😉

The great thing about all those baked goods that we make this time of year is that they can generally be made a few days or even a week or two ahead and then be stuck in the freezer. This minimizes trying to figure out just how you are going to time everything and fit it in the oven. Getting those baked goods done a few days ahead of time means less time in the kitchen once family gets here and more room for that Christmas ham, turkey, or whatever your traditional meal is.

*side note* my family always did hors d’oeuvres for Christmas dinner. We each got to pick an item to include on the menu, which made for a very personal and tasty Christmas dinner. It also made planning and cooking on Christmas day super simple for my mom, which was great because it allowed her to spend more time with the family on Christmas day. I’m always super curious as to other’s Holiday traditions. What did your family have for Christmas dinner? Feel free to share in the comments below!

10. Reflect

The best way to fully embrace the joy and peace this holiday season brings is to take a quiet moment to yourself and reflect on your values and what these days truly mean to you.

There are so many things to be grateful for, and this is especially true during the holidays—whether it’s a classic Christmas song on the radio, some ridiculously cute wrapping paper, your child’s delight at holiday decorations, or even the joy of indulging in hot cocoa with marshmallows, there truly is beauty in the details.

And remember, despite all the planning, there will always be something that does not go exactly as planned…and that’s OK! There might be small failures or mishaps, but it’s all right. It’s okay to not be a “perfect” mom…in fact, it is pretty much impossible, so give yourself some grace! It is not the things that matter, but the people and the memories you are creating together. That is what is important, even if things do not go as planned.

The truth is, we really can’t buy or cook or decorate our way to happiness—the real gift lies in simply being present for our families and loved ones. Spending time together is what makes this season truly magical. May you and your loved ones have a blessed holiday season!

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