7 weeks till Christmas: organize your family’s holiday calendar

Christmas can easily become such a stressful time of year -– too many events and not enough blank boxes on the calendar, too many people on the gift-giving list and not enough in the wallet.  Too many expectations, real or perceived, and not enough hands to do it all.  The idyllic holiday scene in your mind usually doesn’t match the living room scene.

So even though we still have seven weeks until Christmas, it’s not too early to get your busy calendar nailed down, and to solidify your family’s commitments. Then, once you’ve made your commitments, don’t let anything else in, barring an unforeseen event or emergency. If you want your holiday season to be family-oriented and chaos-free, do yourself a favor and guard your family’s time together.

12 weeks till christmas on simple momLast year, we did this exercise in early December. I think it’s more apropos to do it earlier, before the busyness begins. So even though you may not have even thought about your Christmas events yet, you’ll be so thankful to have your family’s commitments organized before December hits. That’s why this week’s 12 Weeks To a Peaceful Christmas exercise is to plan out your holiday schedule.

Here are a few tips to keep your upcoming Christmas season a bit less stressful.

1. Write down some descriptive words.

Take a moment with a cup of coffee, a pen, your family calendar, and your journal, and list three to five words that describe your ideal holiday season for this year.  Be careful to appropriately define the word ideal.  I don’t mean “magazine picture-perfect.”  I mean, what’s best for everyone in your family, in your current situation.

My words: joyful, prayerful, fun, people-centric, restful, celebrating the birth of Jesus

2. Update your calendar.

Now take your calendar, and get it up to date – at least through the end of the year.  Scribble in your kids’ upcoming school performances, your company parties, and the day you’ll want a babysitter to go Christmas shopping with your spouse.  When your calendar is up to speed, your brain isn’t scattered and you don’t have that nagging I-know-I’m-forgetting-something feeling.

You can even add the things you’d like to do but aren’t sure yet if you will. Do you want to take in a performance of The Nutcracker with your daughter? Hoping to catch a community-wide festival with the family? Look up those dates and mark them down. You’d hate to miss out because the dates slipped by.

3. Evaluate your family’s commitments.

Once your calendar is up to date, back up and look at the next two months, the big picture.  Is there enough white space? Are there blank boxes?

If so, good.  If not, you’re booked.  Don’t accept any more commitments.

4. List the rest of your priorities.

Now make a list of things your family would enjoy doing for the holidays. Keep it realistic (no “speed off to the airport with no one knowing and buy first-class tickets to Hawaii”), but keep it light-hearted as well.  Think of the fun things you’d like to do.

a christmas story
Movie image from s_herman

Some ideas for your list:

  • watch A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, Christmas Vacation, or The Nativity Story
  • address and mail Christmas cards to close friends and family
  • drive around and look at Christmas lights
  • make and decorate cookies with your kids
  • make a Christmas craft as a family
  • sit down with your spouse and write some family goals for 2010
  • relax, laugh, and play games with my extended family
  • get enough sleep

Then, for as the holiday season approaches, make those things more of a priority than doing what you feel like you should do.  Pay your bills, get enough sleep, and spend time with the in-laws, of course.  But don’t scale that gingerbread house from scratch if you just simply don’t have the energy, time, or money to do so.  It won’t be fun if you’re doing it because you feel like you’re supposed to.  Remember the words from the first task?  Keep your to-do list focused on making those words a reality.

5. Smile, laugh, and relax.

Remember your life’s priorities during the holidays, and respect them.  Don’t force it to be more than it is, and don’t neglect its spiritual remembrance. Reflect on your childhood holiday memories.  I’ll bet most of them have to do with family, friends, and a general festive atmosphere.  If you’re like me, you barely remember all the gifts and all the events.

Are you already stressed about the upcoming holidays?  Where do you think the pressure stems from?  Does your attitude about the holidays affect your family?  What are you looking forward to?

top photo source
Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

Encouragement for living simpler, right in your inbox.

We share our stories as we simplify our lives - no guilt-trips, just love.

(no spam, promise. we hate it, too.)


  1. Thank you, this came at the perfect time! The day after Halloween I began stressing about the upcoming holidays…the time constraints, the money crunch, even where to put the Christmas tree in our new house. This is a wonderful, simple reminder; I’m going to share this on my blog too. I can’t wait to follow the rest of the 12 Weeks of Christmas!

    .-= Kimberly´s last blog ..mommy? =-.

  2. LOVE this. Great way to start thinking, of course Christmas can never come to early in my house!
    .-= Molly´s last blog ..Everyone Makes Mistakes. =-.

  3. We love to do our planning during the Christmas time off. You have the whole year to look forward to. It is about the small things. The Christmas section in the basement has books, DVDs etc there that remind us to slow down and remember the reason for the season.
    Thanks for your timely tips 🙂
    .-= Melitsa´s last blog ..Chums =-.

  4. Such great photos in this post! I love the idea of being more intentional in planning events.

    We try to focus on experiences, not gifts, as most of our celebrations – so I need to get thinking about what those experiences should be this year!

    .-= steadymom´s last blog ..3 Weeks to a More Thankful Thanksgiving =-.

  5. I want to go beyond the closed door with the homemade wreath!! love this image. p.s.

  6. Awesome post. I love the idea of choosing some descriptors ahead of time and letting those guide our decisions. I’m going to do it, and I’m really curious to see what I’ll come up with.
    .-= Meghan´s last blog ..1000 gifts =-.

  7. Now that I have two kids I have to be organized. Thanks for the tips!
    .-= Maryann @Raise Healthy Eaters´s last blog ..Get Your Questions About Fat Answered =-.

  8. Great suggestions! This is exactly what I have been doing in the past week. With just the obligatory school concerts, recitals and soccer games, it seems like our calendar is already full. (Oh, and it doesn’t help that both of my daughters have December birthdays! 🙂 I am definitely making it a point to schedule in those special family times, like our girls shopping with Daddy for a present for me and our annual Christmas Eve dessert outing.
    .-= Tracey´s last blog ..Cooking a Whole Chicken in the Slow Cooker =-.

  9. My son’s first birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks, then there’s Thanksgiving and not too far away is Christmas. I suppose that is a lot in such a time period, isn’t it?! Thank you again for alerting me to these upcoming events. Our family is trying to make Christmas a little less hectic by planning gatherings on the weekends before Christmas. This will hopefully decrease the amount of travelling we have to do on Christmas itself. Thanks again!
    .-= Greta @ Mom Living Healthy´s last blog ..Fitness Plan Friday: Running with my Crazy Dog! =-.

  10. Such good ideas! I’m going to try to build a little “white space” into my calendar in December to reflect, renew, and enjoy the holidays. Maybe we could start a campaign for a different kind of white Christmas!
    .-= Amy Reads Good Books´s last blog ..Book Blogger Holiday Swap =-.

  11. Great suggestions – I used to do the calendar each December so things wouldn’t get out of control. As a Grandma and mother of a 29 and 31 year old – take it from me – they fondly recall our simple traditions like making a chocolate chip cookie house each year with another family, attending a Christmas Eve service, making play dough Christmas ornaments, and family times with their cousins. Not much mention of gifts or perfect trees. The best gift of all at Christmas is your gift of time – given freely and lovingly.
    .-= Joan ´s last blog ..Self Esteem and Children =-.

  12. Oh those pictures got me so excited. 🙂
    .-= Samantha @ Mama Notes´s last blog ..Lisa Leonard Designs (Jewelry!) $50 GC Giveaway =-.

  13. Wonderful easy tips – I will work on these over the weekend. I do want this year to be different – I have a 17 year old who won’t be at home much longer….I don’t want to wish I had been more proactive to slow down and enjoy our time together as a family.
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..Are You Stuck in the “Haftas”?? =-.

  14. Great Tips! I like the idea of penciling in some of the things I would like to do with my family, like watching a Christmas movie together and so on. Normally, I am so busy during December that I run out of time to do those special and important things.

    One thing I am looking forward to this year, is really focusing with my kids on the TRUE meaning of Christmas!
    .-= Tashia @ The Household Planner´s last blog ..Printable Christmas Coupons – Kids & Teens Gift Ideas =-.

  15. This year our family is doing a 10-day holiday trip to visit with relatives. We decided not to buy each other gifts, except for the little ones. We are not spending ANYTHING on new Christmas decorations either. As soon as plans were finalized for the trip, it seems as if everything for the holidays has been taken care of…..and our entire attention is the reason for the season: JESUS.
    .-= Karisa´s last blog ..Hijos exitosos: Lecciones NECESARIAS – Parte 4 =-.

  16. I am looking forward to the week off with my family. It is a special time for us as we take time off, and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.
    Thank you for your advice.

  17. Getting a baby sitter so we can go Christmas shopping is such a good idea. It will make things so much calmer! I guess it just never occured to me before. Mind you, it is my first Christmas with a kid, so I’ll cut myself a little slack =)
    Thanks for this series, it’s great!
    .-= The Accidental Housewife´s last blog ..Super sweet cubby =-.

  18. Christmas certainly is rolling around quickly!
    Thanks for all the great advice!
    .-= Juggling Motherhood´s last blog ..Valuing what we have: Day 7 =-.

  19. Thanks! You packed so many great ideas into one post. It made me realize how many things I’ve been trying to “remember” without writing them down. Amazing how fast the invitations, obligations, expectations, etc start to roll in around this time of year. In addition to your great list, I recommend the new Veggie Tales Christmas movie about Saint Nicholas- it is a great reminder to be generous and make joyful giving the focus of Christmas. Needed it. 🙂
    .-= tacy´s last blog ..From Where Annie Sits…. =-.

  20. My two daughters have birthdays in December, the 2nd and the 18th, and while we already basically have their double party planned (their joint choice to do it together) I had forgotten about planning for their special day. I am going to put that on the calendar today, too, and include the things I need to do for that in my holiday planning! Thanks for the great posts (and Greta for the birthday comment!) I already feel less stressed about squeezing in two birthdays between Thanksgiving and Christmas. 🙂
    .-= Spring´s last blog ..I am So Spoiled! =-.

Add Your Thoughts