2013 Idea: Make Christmas Simpler and Less Stressful

It’s officially the new year, and all of our Christmas decorations have been put away for the year as everyone starts working (or, by this point, giving up on) their new year’s resolutions.

But before we finish packing away the holiday until next winter, I’d like to talk about it bit.

I don’t know about you, but the holidays are stressful for me. It was fun as a kid, but as an adult there’s a whole lot of questions to be asked each season:

  • who should I buy for?
  • how much should I spend on each person?
  • what should I ask for? As an adult I can generally purchase any small item that I want and the big things I’m saving up for are much more expensive than what I could ask for from someone else. But asking for cash toward those big goals seems crass.
  • what should I get for other adults, since they’re generally in the same boat?
  • how do I deal with the discomfort from one person spending obviously a lot more than another?

There’s so much focus on the presents, shopping for said presents, and cleaning up afterward that it’s hard to really enjoy the season of spending time with those I care about.

This year I felt both ends of the discomfort spectrum; on one hand, I got some small things from one person that I don’t need, or even necessarily want, but would feel guilty giving away. So they’ll sit around and gather dust. On the other hand, The Geek’s parents were ridiculously generous and gave their kids and me an iPad mini, but I hadn’t realized I was supposed to buy them anything. So the present is very functional and appreciated, but I feel tension since they spent so much money on me.

I’d thought before that maybe it was just me that is frustrated by how we do holidays since I’ve had some unfortunate experiences around gift giving, but I’m noticing that there’s a growing conversation about how we can change to have a simpler, less stressful Christmas that doesn’t suck the life out of you by the middle of December.

With a small amount of personal experience and what I’ve gathered from reading lots of blogs, here’s the some advice for an easier Christmas:

Focus on experiences rather than gifts and spending time catching up with friends and family. My absolute favorite adult Christmas was the year that my mom, grandma, and sisters and I made our traditional family cookies and decorated them together. It was a little cramped, but very fun, and the strongest Christmas memory I have from recent years.

If there are some family members that it’s hard to keep up a conversation with, bringing an activity or small present related to their interests can help get a conversation started.

(What can I say, I routinely bring a craft project, question, or idea to my mom when I visit my parents to avoid the topic of our divergent politics and religion. It’s easy, but it works!)

Try a gift swap, so that you’re focusing on giving a couple of well thought out presents to one person, rather than trying to buy for everyone. You can try giving gifts to just your nieces and nephews or friends’ kids. Having a simpler Christmas doesn’t mean that there has to be no presents at all, it’s all about finding a balance.

To keep this post from getting too long, I’m going to wait until next week to give you some ideas of what to do for inexpensive but still meaningful presents, and I’ll also post a list of my favorite blog posts on the topic if you want to read more.

Have you found any ways to make your Christmas less stressful? What are your favorite experiences you’ve had around the holiday?

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4 thoughts on “2013 Idea: Make Christmas Simpler and Less Stressful

  1. Christmas is a tricky time isn’t it? I have Christmas at home with my two children and my husband. The rest of the family are elsewhere. That does get tricky sometimes but it is also bliss!! I also stopped doing Christmas cards when I was 25. Love not doing that :) I also found the cooking side of Christmas Day stressful so I rectified that by having a special breakfast and no stress cooking for the rest of the day. Every year my Christmases get better as I refine refine refine until all the annoying bits are gone. Sorry to go on but I am loving being stress free at Christmas. (And we don’t buy for adults in our family at all – that was my idea too come to think of it. I met with a little resistance but I didn’t give in and now noone cares. So much easier.)

  2. I was right with you for many years as far as the stress level and expectation of gift giving. We did start off from the beginning and told both sides of our families that we would only be buying for the nieces and nephews. And told them to do likewise. As adults if there is something we want or need, we have the opportunity to go out and get it ourselves. There are occassions when a famiy member really wants to buy us a gift too, we suggest a family game or restaurant gift card.
    Knowing that my children will be receiving gifts from grandparents, aunts and uncles we reduced our gifts to 4 for each of them. (we have 4 kids). that first year was hard because they were used to unwrapping so many but we now focus on the playing after.
    I also know what my kids are into and let all my extended family know what to get them for Christmas and in most cases send a link via email so all they ahve to do is buy it and send it here. We don’t do stockings filled with junk, I fill it with their necessities like bath gel, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, maybe a little candy.. they love their stockings.

    My husband and I do buy 2 or 3 small gifts for each other (budgeting $100 a piece – but rarely spend that much). Start now outside of the season to start planning for next year and also start buying now too.. I do that for nieces and nephews that want gift cards and grandparents that we do get restaurant cards for. space it out and make a plan for next year.

    • I love hearing all the different ways people have gotten gift giving to work out; they’re all at least a little bit different, which is good reminder that this isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal. It’s not about some one, single way to do it, but finding what works for you and your family. Thanks for sharing!

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