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The Pressure of the Holidays: 6 Ways to Simplify and Refocus

by | Dec 9, 2009 | Christmas Decorating

The Pressure of the Holidays: 6 Ways to Simplify and Refocus

Are you feeling stressed out and behind on your holiday preparations?

Too much to do and too little time left to do it all?

What does one do when you are way behind before you even begin?

Here are six ways to simplify and refocus:

1.Haven’t finished (or ah hem, started) decorating yet? Just say NO. Do you really need to empty all 25 holiday rubbermaid containers and use 132 strands of lights? Enough said. Find a small focal point in a couple of rooms to add a festive touch of greenery or a jar of brightly colored ornaments & Christmas balls. There is really no need to deck out every shelf and surface with an extravagant holiday display. Really. Totally not necessary. Give yourself a break and keep it simple.

2.Feeling like an epic failure because you don’t have enough time to bake with your kids? Devise a shortcut. You have my permission to use pre-made sugar cookies. It saves some time but still allows your kids the fun of decorating and eating holiday cookies. And isn’t that the point?

3. Short on money but pressured to bring a gift? Get creative about gift giving. If you can, give your time in the new year instead! Offer to babysit for a young couple, plant someone’s garden, cook for someone’s dinner party, offer a care basket of homemade goodies for a Saturday morning breakfast, share a stack of gently read books with handmade bookmarks, give a day of running errands or organizing for an elderly or busy friend.

4.Need to get the house picked up in a hurry for a holiday gathering? Use my grab and stash method — you may remember me talking about this and it is a perfect quick housekeeping strategy even during the holidays! Take paper bags, label the front with the name of the room you are cleaning and gather up all the miscellaneous clutter from that space. My only rule is no bills or important papers can go in the bag, but everything else is fair game. Put the bags in a closet and set an appointment with yourself in January to sort through it once the holidays are over. If you don’t feel like looking in the bag in January, toss it. You probably don’t need that stuff anyways.

5.Don’t even know where to begin? Put the top three projects that need to get done down on paper. Shut down the computer (yes, the computer needs to be turned off, eh hem) and tackle one project at a time. It is a lot easier to focus once you break it down. Multi-tasking leads to anxiety and lack of progress.

6.Need to rev up your holiday spirit? Give yourself a break! Pour yourself a holiday drink, turn on the Christmas tunes, read the Christmas story and remember the reason for the season.

Adapted and republished from December 2008
Photo & DIY Pinecone Elves instructions: Martha Stewart


  1. Bonnie

    Whew! Now here’s the post everybody needs to read.

  2. Dawn-Hydrangea Home

    Melissa – I’ve been know to do the “grab and stash” except I have put the bills in there! Gets me in trouble every time!
    .-= Dawn-Hydrangea Home´s last blog ..Dreamers into Doers! =-.

  3. Stacy

    Great advice. So many times we spend our time focusing on the “doing” rather than spending time with the people we love.
    .-= Stacy @ Red Door Home´s last blog ..My Home for the Holidays – Part II =-.

  4. Jade

    Excellent points! I’m especially a fan of the last one ;)

    We had people over for a meal at the weekend to get us in the Festive mood, the house was passable but in no way perfect and it really didn’t matter.

    We made a great Christmas cocktail too, called a Poinsettia by Nigella Lawson which I’ve just posted – my current favourite holiday drink.
    .-= Jade @ No Longer 25´s last blog ..A Dinner to Start the Festivities =-.

  5. gina

    For a super easy and cheap gift that people seem to love when you are going somewhere and need to bring something- melt a bag of chocolate chips down and ip the ends of pretsel rod in it. Sprinkle with holiday colored sprinles and cool in fridge. Get creative with the presentation- a jar, one of those “chinese take out boxes” – and viola. This is an easy one to let the kids help too- killing two birds with one stone.
    .-= gina´s last blog ..fill ‘er up. =-.

  6. Kim

    Great ideas! Especially as we work at simplifying Christmas and celebrating the true meaning of the season!
    .-= Kim´s last blog ..Building Memories =-.

  7. April

    oh my. thank you so much for saying this!!! my little 1400 sq. ft 1940’s home with no storage (tiny closets) is a total mess. the tree is up, but that’s it… i feel like taking a nap. thank you!!! love all of the suggestions, especially the grab and stash… I actually already did that one but didn’t have a name for it and thought I was the only one who did it… awesome.

  8. Abbie

    I actually did more decorating than ever before as I have more room than ever before, but only because I enjoyed it! But I’m not doing any that I don’t want to! I’ll definitely be stashing lots of things before our Christmas open house. And my list of top three – paint my daughters’ room, move their furniture back into the room, and bake cookies. All else can wait!
    .-= Abbie´s last blog ..Sweet paper chain =-.

  9. Sandy

    I have a feeling for those of us in blogland “turning off the computer” is time saver #1
    I’ve always thought enjoying the entire month is the best part of Christmas. All the preparation, baking, wrapping, writing cards, take time to ENJOY each one! If it’s not fun for you, then skip it, no guilt allowed!
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..a bit more of my Christmas decor =-.

  10. Deborah Milne

    Great advice Melissa. I ‘m thinking there is not one of us that can’t apply at least one or two of those tips to our holiday prep. All the best to you for a smooth & joyous holiday x

  11. LesleySW

    I’m going to share this post with friends and family. It’s full of great ideas. In fact, the “grab and stash” is my favorite method for dealing with guests!

    Thanks for your wonderful tips.
    .-= LesleySW´s last blog ..Try a Christmas color scheme to match your decor =-.

  12. Granny Smith Green

    What a great post! We all need to be reminded that it’s time to simplify and refocus. Think of the simple, humble environment that Jesus was born into–a barn, not a palace.
    .-= Granny Smith Green´s last blog ..A House that Needs a Party =-.

  13. Gena

    Wonderful post Melissa!! It’s as if you were talking to me?!?!?! I really need to get going, but am “so not with it” at present!! Thanks for the great inspiration! Gena
    .-= Gena´s last blog ..9 Gift wrapping Ideas =-.

  14. Emily

    love this melissa. love it. only 9 days into december and i am more joy-filled and relaxed than any other year because I have found ways to focus on the important stuff and have let go of the guilt of not doing more.
    .-= Emily@remodelingthislife´s last blog ..Sweet Dreams =-.

  15. LeAnn

    Good post Melissa. I made up my mind there will be no stressing this year. The older I get, the simpler I seem to make it. I am finding a lot of gifts online this year to save me from standing in lines at the store. Sometimes I wonder what Jesus thinks when he looks down and sees us fretting and stewing over baking, decorating, shopping, etc.

    .-= LeAnn´s last blog ..PLEASE VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE DOOR!! =-.

  16. teresa

    Thank you, thank you, I needed someone to tell me that.
    I’ve been feeling a little weary lately- it’s been a challenging couple of months.
    Have a wonderful day

  17. Gina

    Great reminders! Thanks for sharing, and I especially appreciate turn off the computer-that is a pretty big time waster!
    .-= Gina´s last blog ..What I learned from Charlie Brown =-.

  18. Colleen

    I promised myself I wouldn’t get stressed this year. However, I also promised myself I’d do all kinds of crafts & baking with grandson. Uh-oh. Too many plans. Plus, I had a last-minute client call last week who needs 2 trees (7′ & 11′), plus wreath, plus outdoor lights put up. Can’t say no to any business, especially Christmas!
    So thanks for tips. Perfect timing for me today.
    .-= Colleen@MuralMaker&More´s last blog ..Free Christmas Painting Project! =-.

  19. Pattyjo

    That is a wonderful reminder of the reason for the Holiday and the fact it comes and goes so fast. So just relax and enjoy. Thank you for the advice. Excellent advice!

  20. Kathy

    Very good reminders, Melissa! Too often we are all looking for that “perfect” Christmas {which I don’t really think exists except in our minds or television movies}. I know there are times when I’ve had to pull the reins in on myself and realize that not every single corner of the house needs to be decorated. Years ago, I realized that I am not a baker and so I would use the ready to cut and bake holiday cookies or hit the local bakery. It’s not my forte any other time of year, so why would I think it would be at Christmas.

  21. g.suzie

    Thank-you for the tips, I really needed to hear these today!!!! I look at the countdown everyday and get a little more stressed as we inch our way closer to the ‘big day’. . .Great reminder to just enjoy the season and remember it will come whether we’re ready or not, so might as well enjoy!

  22. Courtney

    oh my this is a great list and so what I needed to read today!! Feeling a little overwhelmed as I look at the Christmas list of To Do’s!!!
    .-= Courtney´s last blog ..happy birthday bub… =-.

  23. Sarah

    Thanks for the great tips! Unfortunately I don’t have a home to decorate (I’m in college) besides my apartment, so I don’t have to worry about that. I do, however, have finals, papers, presentations, and Christmas presents to buy which is very stressful, so do you have any tips for that? :P I’ll make it through. Your post has made me calmer already!
    .-= Sarah @ Dream In Domestic´s last blog ..Learning A New Skill =-.

  24. Sandy

    We put way too much pressure on ourselves. And why? Thanks for the great reminders!
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Hanging Ornaments! =-.

  25. Richella

    GOOD TIMING, Melissa. Just when all the big holiday tours of homes are about to be posted. We need to re-focus. Thank you!
    .-= Richella´s last blog ..Unwrapping a memory =-.

  26. Carmie

    I always feel a bit stressed during this time of year, as much as I love Christmas. My mom died a week before Christmas so all those old feelings are brought up every year. But, I am getting a bit crafty this season and it calms me down. I also remember the reason for the season.

  27. Pat

    Such a wonderful list! I’ve had a headache all day and I feel sure most of it is stress related. :-( I was on the verge of deciding to cut the decorating short and now that I have your permission, I’m doing it! ;-) Seriously, this is a great list that I would recommend to every female. The only part I have difficulty with is turning off the computer ~ but I would be in a better place if I did wouldn’t I?
    .-= Pat´s last blog ..~ An incredible volunteer project! ~ =-.

  28. Beach Vintage

    Ok so now I have a reason to have that Christmas drink…….it’s step #6!

  29. Marilyn Holeman

    Very wise advise, Melissa. Thanks for sharing!

  30. Nancy

    Just what I needed to hear… I feel so much pressure (from myself) to pull out all the big guns. Tons of crafts, homemade baking, lights/decor all magazine worthy. I just need to stop and enjoy. My kids will enjoy that more than a frenzied “check it off the list” mentality. Thank you very much! :)
    .-= Nancy´s last blog ..What’s that Goat cookin’? =-.

  31. Amy

    Shut down the computer??? (gasp!) hee.

    I like the idea of writing 3 things down. I get so side tracked and I think that would really help me! Thanks!
    .-= Amy @ Living Locurto´s last blog ..Free Printable Christmas Tags =-.

  32. Lei

    Very sage advice. Thanks! My only addition would be to start early. I bought my first Christmas gift in July!
    .-= Lei´s last blog ..Wrapping Ideas =-.

  33. Sue

    I needed to read this today. So after I comment I’m turning off the computer:-) My granddaughter and I have our annual St. Nicholas Tea Party tomorrow and I am going to use your grab and stash and enjoy the day. {I usually use that technique – just needed to the cute name !} Merry Christmas!

  34. Melody

    How did you know I have 25 rubber maid boxes of Christmas decorations? lol. I probably have 4 and I feel like it grows each year.

    Tip #4 is a good one, but I have to remember to put items back where they belong again.

    Baking with the kids is my favorite thing to do during the holidays. We already made a ginger bread house and several batches of treats for friends.
    .-= Melody @ Party Cupcake Ideas´s last blog ..Ice Cream Sprinkle Cupcakes =-.

  35. Emily-Sarah

    Good advice, all around!

  36. Pam

    When you set your sights so high there is absolutely no way to achieve them so you end up feeling disappointed and defeated which leads to overlooking the small things that really make Christmas special.



  1. Twenty Little Things I’m Looking Forward to This Christmas - [...] Related post: 6 Ways to Simplify and Refocus [...]

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