Easy Ways to Simplify this Holiday Season

Simply for the Holiday Season

Written by contributor Emily McClements of Live Renewed.

It’s the holiday season, a favorite time of year for many of us. But, the holidays often also hold the stress and busyness of trying to get a lot of stuff done – shopping, decorating, cooking, baking, holiday parties, making homemade gifts, gift wrapping, and more, in a short amount of time – Christmas is only six weeks away! And I didn’t even mention spending quality time with family and loved ones and celebrating the real meaning behind the season.

Over the past few years, my family has really been striving to simplify this season so that we can do the things that matter most to us, and skip out on the many of the things that our culture tells us we are supposed to do, and the stress that those things can bring.

If the holidays bring more stress than peace for you, it may be time to consider simplifying your holiday season.

Simplifying Gifts

Does your pile of gifts under the tree seems to grow and grow every year? You may want to think about setting some limits on the gifts that you give, and receive. You may find that you, and your family, are actually much happier with fewer well-thought out and intentional gifts, and your house will thank you later when it’s not bursting at the seams from all the new toys and other stuff!

There are two different formulas for setting limits that I have come across, and that have helped guide our family’s gift giving. Besides being good for our stress levels and our budget, I also like how our children are learning to be content with fewer, more purposeful gifts, instead of expecting a enormous pile of gifts under the tree.

One formula is: Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. So each person gets four gifts that fit into those categories. We follow this guideline for birthday gifts, but it would also be great for Christmas and holiday gift giving.

The other formula is giving three gifts that coincide with the gifts that the Wise Men brought to to Jesus in the Bible. The gift of gold is something that the recipient really wants or is of great value to them.  The gift of frankincense is something that builds up your child’s Spirit, or helps them connect to God. And the gift of myrrh is something for your child’s body, this could be either something like lotion or bubble bath, or even clothing. These are the guidelines that our family uses when selecting Christmas presents for our children.

While it may seem like either three or four gifts is not very many, they don’t have to be the only gifts a child receives. We also fill our children’s stockings, they receive gifts that are from their siblings, and they receive plenty of gifts from their adoring grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

handmade gifts
Photo by LornaWatt

Handmade gifts

There’s still time left to think about making homemade and handmade gifts for your family and friends. To me, handmade gifts beat gifts bought at the store any day. Knowing that someone put the thought, time, and effort into making a gift is almost more special than the gift itself.

Last year, Nicole shared some fun ideas for Two Easy, No-Sew Handmade Gifts. I enjoyed making homemade sugar scrubs for gifts last Christmas, from contributor Stacy at A Delightful Home’s great ebook, Simple Scrubs to Make and Give. And we will have even more handmade gift ideas here on Simple Homemade in the weeks to come!

And, there’s always never ending inspiration for homemade gifts on Pinterest!

Simplifying Shopping

Of course, even if you simplify your gift list, and you make some homemade gifts to give, the reality is that you will still probably have to do some shopping, which can be one of the most stressful parts of the holidays. I often find that even if I’m not stressed about shopping, I usually encounter other people who are, and it seems like it’s too easy for their stress to rub off on me.

So, if you want to have a simpler holiday season, I think it’s wise to try to avoid doing too much shopping by:

  • Grouping errands together. As much as possible try to plan your errands at the same time so you’re not running out all the time, and having to fight traffic and crowds.
  • Shopping online. I love the Prime membership with Amazon for the free two-day shipping. Also, if you love the idea of unique, handmade gifts but don’t have the time to make them yourself, there is so much great stuff on Etsy!
  • Meal planning. Make sure you have all the ingredients you need and avoid making last minute trips to the grocery store.
  • Shopping local. Avoid the malls and the big box stores and support your local economy by shopping smaller, local retailers.

I think we would all like to enjoy a peaceful and lower stress holiday season. By being intentional, and making some of these easy changes, you can simplify your holiday season and have more time for the people and things that you love!

For the next six weeks I’m running a Simplify the Season series over on my blog, Live Renewed. I’d love to have you join me over there on Mondays as we talk about more ways to simplify this holiday season.

What is your favorite part of the holidays? How do you simplify the season so that you can enjoy peaceful and low-stress holidays?

top photo source

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. Great thoughts, Emily. Last year we followed your formula #1 and it worked so well for our family. (We’ve never given our kids tons of gifts at home, so it really wasn’t cutting back by much at all. But those 4 categories helped keep me organized with the Christmas shopping, and that was solo helpful!)

    I appreciate getting these reminders early in the season, when there’s still plenty of time to take care of things at a leisurely (enjoyable!) pace.

  2. I love the idea of the 3 gifts. What are some of the things you have gotten your kids that build up their Spirit?

  3. Nice to be here and see your post!

Add Your Thoughts