5 Ways to Simplify the Holidays

Can you believe it? Thanksgiving is already three days away. If you're like me, the holiday season snuck up on you. Here in Minnesota, we've had exceptionally warm weather (up until last Friday!), so it didn't quite feel like November. But alas, here we are. Days away from the kick-off of the holiday season. And the stress/spending/overconsumption that comes along with it.

I started this blog as a way to document and share my ideas for living a simpler life. As I've been thinking about impending holiday season, I've started to reconsider what I deem 'necessary' during this time. I came up with these 5 ways to simplify the holidays. If you're looking to simplify your holidays, but can't/don't want to implement them all, start with one. You may find your spirits a little more jolly because of it.


1) Forget the Holiday cards. 

This one is tough for me. Last year we sent out holiday cards for the first time (holiday + wedding thank you's!) and this year I was kind of looking forward to creating a card with a picture of our new puppy on it. I photographed him playing (or more like eating) a red santa hat, and even formatted the card online. But you know what I was thinking while creating it? That it didn't look as good as the professional photography cards that we will receive from a lot of our family and friends. And then you know what I thought? That. is. ridiculous. I haven't even sent/received any cards yet and I'm already comparing our non-existent card to others' non-existent cards. So, at that moment I decided to let the card idea go. Those who want to see a picture of our doggie can take a look on my Facebook or Instagram page (most everyone I would have sent to I'm connected with on those platforms) and the family who can't see him online will meet the little guy at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Also, I just saved us easily $100 by not sending cards. (That being said, I still love and welcome when other people send us cards, and proudly display all of our good looking family/friends when they do send!). Maybe in the future when we have children I'll want to send something, but for now, I'm saying no to holiday cards. 

2) Go easy on the alcohol. 

Now this is coming from someone who is currently pregnant (surprise!) so take it with a grain of salt. However, not being able to drink has made me realize how unnecessary a lot of my drinking was (especially during the holidays!). Now, I'm not saying you have to give up alcohol completely (what's the fun in that?!) but try putting some limits as to how much/when you drink this season (such as only having one drink at a party/out to dinner or choosing one or two parties that you will overindulge in, but that's it.) It's too easy to go on a eating/drinking/spending binge during the holiday season, so putting some restrictions around the boozing will likely leave your wallet and waistline smiling. 

3) Give up the gifts. 

*Gasp*. I can hear you all the way from here. This was easy for me, as my immediate family and I had given up gifts a long time ago (and even before that we bought/received pretty practical gifts - socks and shampoo anyone?). Don't get me wrong, I love receiving the unexpected gift (that I actually like!), but a lot of times the gifts I receive I don't need/use, and I'm thinking the gifts I give may be looked at the same. So what about gift cards or just asking what someone wants? Here's a novel idea. Just save your money to buy what you really want (or actually need!) and have that person do the same. Hang out with them, laugh with them, and let them know how much you value your time together. That is the greatest gift of all.

And if you're dying to give gifts or can't convince your family/friends to let it go, make a rule that gifts have to be handmade or locally made only, or do a fun white elephant exchange game instead (who doesn't like cleaning out their junk to give to the next person!?). 

4) Limit the decorations. 

Everywhere you turn these days, there are stands and shelves stocked with this year's decorations just waiting to be brought home. I'm guessing you have plenty of decorations from last year, but the pull of new, shiny decorations is hard to resist. My advice? Challenge yourself to not buy a single holiday decoration this year. Not one. You can make it through, I'm certain. We don't decorate much for the holidays except a little themed decoration above the cabinets in our kitchen, and a wreath on the front door. I'm not saying to not decorate if you love spicing up your home, but see if you can make do with what you have (or better yet, donate some of the decorations you don't like/use any more!). 

5) Do one less thing. 

Take a look at your calendar. Is there a party or get together you can say no to? I just looked at mine. Between now and the New Year, we've got three Thanksgiving celebrations, three Christmas celebrations, three birthday parties, one concert, one ugly sweater party, and a wedding. That doesn't include our respective work parties, or other random get-togethers we have planned. Today I had to decline an invite for a Friendsgiving I was looking forward to, but it fell on the same day as two birthday parties (and a play I'm attending earlier that day with a friend!). It may hurt to say no, but rushing from one party to the next on the brink of exhaustion doesn't make for a happy holiday season either. See if there is one thing you can cut out this holiday season and fully enjoy the things you do participate in.

Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.
— everyone during the Great Depression, including my grandma who recited it often

Let's not lose sight of what's really important this holiday season. It's not the parties, the gifts, the drinks, or the food. It is about spending time with the people we love, practicing gratitude for what we already have, and giving a little extra to those who need it.