snowy leaves

For everyone’s sanity, keep this Christmas simple

by 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.

As you start this week—and as you start this Advent season—remember to breathe. Remember, as you unbox all your decor and start penciling in the squares of your calendar, that “more” of the holiday season isn’t always better.

Like a finely-curated art collection, sometimes less is more for Christmas. During the holidays, this might look like being content with the decor you already have by not wandering the store aisles right now. It might look like committing to only one or two evening activities per week, for everyone’s sanity. And it might look like saying no to something, even though it’s assumed you’d say yes.

Think back to your childhood Christmas memories. You can probably conjure a specific flashback or two to a particular event, but overall, your holiday memories are mostly about how they make you feel. You remember how you felt during Christmas, not necessarily that you got some particular gift or that your parents managed to take you to every Christmasy event in town.

It’s the same now, both for you and your family. If overcommitting this month means a grumpier you, then it’s not worth it. A mug of your favorite tea by the tree might do more to lift your spirits than any holiday-themed party or craft project.

I’m all about Christmas. But I know myself, and I know I enjoy the season much more when I keep things simple.

Encouragement to keep Christmas simple.

A few favorite holiday posts from years past:

• My favorite Christmas music (complete with three playlists—dinner party, reflective, and instrumental)

•  Megan’s ideas for avoiding relationship strain regarding gifts—one of our most popular holiday posts on the blog

• Lisa’s 20 suggestions for staying healthier during the winter

• Maya’s resourceful ideas for eco-friendly gift wrap

• Sandy’s reflections on when she overcommitted during Christmas, and what she learned to do better next time

• Angie’s suggestions for ten holiday photos not to forget

• And here’s last week’s suggestions for celebrating the Advent season—it’s not too late. Just jump in, if you want.

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  1. avatar
    Bethany Nash says:

    The “My Favorite Christmas Music” link is broken.

  2. “…overall, your holiday memories are mostly about how they make you feel.” I’m focusing heavily on that sentiment this year…if it makes mama grumpy, it’s not happening.

  3. Message received, Tsh! This year Christmas is simple, by pure necessity. We are up to our eyeballs in some really important – in the end positive – but intensely busy stuff.

  4. I completely agree. I am 38 weeks pregnant with my 4th, so simple has been my mantra. Neither my husband and I are into a lot of busyness, so little memories at home are what make the holidays for us. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. Amen :). I’m always tempted to pile too much on my plate this time of year–usually at the expense of my sanity. In hopes of a more peaceful Christmas, I’m scaling back a bit this year too.

  6. I’ve found that going simple this time of year is almost uncomfortable, which is probably a bright red flag! Thanks for writing!!

    • Ah yes, it is a red flag—that by going simpler, you’re going against mainstream culture, of what the world says is the best way to celebrate Christmas. I feel that way all the time! :)

  7. Thank you for this ! I am feeling overwhelmed and it truly helped!

  8. It’s so easy to feel like we can add just one more thing to the season or to plan for more month than we actually have. At our house we’re focusing on being okay with saying, “No” even to things we might be expected to do. Thanks for the encouragement!

  9. Thankyou. Simply put. Unplugging now to breathe before I’m off to pick up my preschooler!

  10. A cup of tea by the tree…perfection and everyone’s happy because mama is!

    7 Ways to Avoid Christmas Clutter

  11. It’s hard to keep it simple. Specially when I’m bombarded with the pictures of extravagant decorated homes. My youngest child just ask me why don’t we have big blow up characters in the front lawn like our neighbors and why we only have one Christmas tree (my siter puts one on each story of her house one artificial, and one natural).

    This year I’m hoping that by having a plan to make it other than what we have will be enough to steer us in the direction of simple, even if it doesn’t sound like it because it’s hard to go against the current.

  12. You are absolutely right about the best holiday memories being about how they make you feel. I will always love the season because the memories I have are wonderful…memories of music and stories, of sitting down as a family to play a game, of our Christmas eve fondue…oh, I just can’t wait as we make sure it all happens once again this year!

  13. Last year I went on a quest for a Minimalist Christmas. It was new terrain for me, but it was an amazing experience. I am practicing what I learned last year again this year, and sharing some of my secrets on my blog tomorrow…just sayin’

  14. We’ve simplified every year. It’s really quite liberating. Just this year, I’m posting on facebook daily (through Christmas) a simple suggestion a day for how to keep the holiday more focused, less about consuming. I’m determined to remember to look outward, rather than be absorbed with what we’re doing. I find the more giving I am (and I’m not talking money), the less stress I have. check out my facebook page, if you’d like:

    Enjoy your blog very much!

  15. Tsh–I’m having trouble finding the Advent handwriting activity you posted about a few days back. I viewed it on my phone, but now that I’m at the computer, I’m out of luck. Thanks! I love your ideas and thoughts, as always!

    -Amy (who had had at least 50 typos to correct because she has a punch-happy toddler sitting on her lap)

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