It seems everyone is trying to simplify Christmas these days! Everyone out there understands that this time of year can get really crazy, and people start frantically trying to find some balance and some peace in the midst of it all. I don't claim to be an expert in this area by any means! I've already taken part in a ladies' cookie exchange/ornament swap and have hosted a Birthday Party for Jesus for 8 kids in my home. The next few weeks we'll be hosting the annual family Christmas party and an Ugly Christmas Sweater party, as well as taking part in a kid's program at church, a coffee house night at church, a ladies' Christmas Tea, going up to a family cabin in the mountains to celebrate Christmas with my family, and hosting Josiah's folks for a few days at New Year's.
We stay very busy in December! But it's all fun stuff that we love doing!
Here's how I'm staying sane:
This week I cut the kids' clothing down to 4 outfits a piece and loaded all their dress-ups and all but 5 toys each out to the shed. They don't need to have so many toys out at once and it will make the new toys they receive at Christmas that much more special if toys are a little scarce before the celebrating begins! The clothing I cut down to simplify laundry. If I wash one load in the morning and one at night, we'll have plenty of clothing, even accounting for spills and accidents. (Katri has so many cute clothes and is so messy she didn't get her outfits cut down!)
I'm exercising the "no" word a lot! In one week's time I had 3 different people approach me with 3 different ministry opportunities. The week prior I had 2 ladies asking me to take on 2 different home businesses! Yikes! Yes, I like making money as much as the next person. Yes, I would love to mentor young women and start a Bible study for them. Yes, I would love to be on the missions/outreach team. Yes, I would enjoy serving the poor on the deacon/deaconess board. But....even if I have talents in those areas, I'm not called to those things at this season in my life. Someday, I will have the time to do more of those things. But for now, my family is the main ministry I'm called to. So, taking some time to carefully think about something before committing to it is really important for me to do in trying to keep life as simple as it can be. I used to be shocked that people continually asked me to do things endlessly, no matter how busy I already was. I'm done being surprised by it--I've just accepted that in this life, you will always be presented with more things to do than you can humanly do--you just have to learn to say no! Sometimes saying no can make you pretty unpopular, but I'd rather be unpopular than over-booked and stressed!
Limited Gift Giving
We cut out giving gifts to siblings, cousins, and friends this year. In September I mailed a letter to various friends and relatives who usually give us gifts letting them know that we will not be giving gifts this year. We found it frustrating to have so little money to work with because we had so many to buy for. It's hard to get someone something they will truly love if you only have $5 to work with. Plus, I have really been aware the last few years of how wrong it seems to give to the rich when the poor have nothing. So, instead of putting money towards gifts our relatives don't need anyway, we'll be seeking to give more to those who are without food and clothing and the gospel. It is such a huge load off my mind that I don't have to agonize over what to get people this year!
All Done at Once
I did my shopping all at once. Black Friday and Cyber Monday were my big shopping days and I got my kids, hubby, and parents done all at once. Now, I just need to wrap it all! A friend of mine and I are planning to wrap gifts together sometime--a chore is more fun if you do it with a friend!
I'm taking most of the month off of school. A wise homeschooling friend told me to do this a couple of years ago and I have found it to be EXCELLENT advice. Ali is ahead in her work thanks to starting first grade work in Kindergarten last year and we have plenty of weeks in the spring semester to keep on top of the boys' stuff. So, last week's water lesson was our last MFW lesson for the year. We're doing review work this week and then we'll be done until we start up again in early January! Ali will continue to read 15 minutes a day for Book-it and we'll play learning games and continue to practice the alphabet, but we'll be mostly focused on hospitality, social events, service projects, church stuff, etc. the rest of the month.
Miscellaneous Little Things
I'm buying cookies for the Children's program instead of making them. I'm having pizza delivered to a friend who is struggling with physical pain instead of making her a home-cooked meal. I'm using cute 25 cent Christmas gift bags for the cousin ornaments instead of wrapping them. I'm borrowing a Christmas dress for Ali from a friend instead of loading kids up for a 4-hour trip to a town 30 miles away to shop for one. I'm making simple meals that we love that don't take any thought: pizza, nachos, tacos, spaghetti, mac n' cheese, elk roast in the crockpot, etc.
In doing these things, I feel like I'm going to make it through the busy Christmas season in one piece! There are a lot of things I could still cut out, but the things we're involved in which I've mentioned above are enjoyable and worthwhile to us. It's true I don't have to send out Christmas cards every year, but I love to do so and think it maintains a connection with friends and family that we aren't able to see very often. I don't have to decorate the house and host parties but I love doing so and it energizes me.
Ultimately, simplifying Christmas isn't about following someone else's guidelines or do's and don'ts. It's about doing what works best for your life, your family, and your situation. You may find that simplifying Christmas for your family means not decorating, but instead visiting a nursing home a few times to sing Christmas carols. You may like to buy gifts for everyone you know, but dislike going to or hosting parties. Or you may decide to continue school through most of the month but not be involved in a church program. Do what works for you!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments section! How are you trying to simplify Christmas for your family this year?
We got this tree last year for $5 (after-Christmas clearance)
to give to someone who can't afford a Christmas tree.
Keep that in mind when you see the sales in January!
They make a wonderful, cheerful gift for someone
who may need some cheering up during Christmastime!