Simplify your holiday! (ten easy steps)

Ten tips to simplify your holiday {Clean.}

We're on a serious simplicity kick over here.

Our house is consciously small, and that means we have to filter out things we already have and stay on top of how much new stuff comes in. And that goes for our kids' belongings, too.

I remember an evening when Lupine was seven and I was tucking her into bed. She cozied up to her two favorite dolls, both made by me.

She looked up at me and said, "Mama, don't ever make me another doll. Because if you do I'll love it so much that I'll forget how much I love the dolls I already have."


Because, yes. It's like that, isn't it?

Too much stuff means we lose track of what we already treasure. We get buried. Overwhelmed.

We become consumers in a big and mindless way.

The truth is, two dolls is probably one too many already.

So this holiday we're keeping it simple.

It's a path we've been on for years.

And yes, I'm blessed with my own parents who "get it" and keep things simple.

And we have a small family. Very little stuff comes into our life every season.

But even without a like-minded family, you can take strides toward simplicity. And see measurable changes!

Here are ten tips to keep your holiday as simple as you can this season, regardless of where you are now.

Ten tips to simplify your holiday {Clean.}

1. Be honest with family

The holidays can be hard.

So. Much. Stuff!

And for many of us, we find ourselves buried in things to give and receive.

If the holidays leave you feeling a little sick with all the buying, be gentle and honest with those you love.

Year after year if you need to.

I have a few friends who have taken this step as far as being honest that much of what is given is not kept. It's a tough message, but an important one, too.

Request that they give less, or give consumables or non-tangible gifts for the holiday (think museum membership, restaurant gift certificate, or some special ingredients for your kitchen).

Sometimes it takes our family a while to catch on, so be patient as they move towards the path of less with you.

Ten tips to simplify your holiday {Clean.}

2. Create meaningful traditions

If your holiday revolves around what is under the tree, simplifying can be uncomfortable.

Create traditions that your family looks forward to more than the presents.

We love dipping or rolling candles every Solstice eve, decorating our gingerbread houses, and staying up far past our bedtime.

And this year we're serving dinner at a soup kitchen on Christmas day. We can't wait!

Yes, gifts are lovely, but they aren't the center of our celebration.

Ten tips to simplify your holiday {Clean.}

3. Ask for and give experiences

Gifts like a pottery class, a one-on-one day with someone special, or a trip to the museum are among the best around.

These are – hands down – the most treasured and remembered gifts my kids receive.

Remind your family that gifts of yourself are remembered for far longer than a new toy.

And keep asking.

Year after year if you have to.

With loving persistence most of them will catch on.

(I shared 101 toy-free gift ideas here if you need more inspiration.)

Ten tips to simplify your holiday {Clean.}

4. Live your truth

Be a good example!

Start this year by toning down the stuff that comes into your own celebration.

The first year we had a super simple holiday I was nervous. Will the kids be disappointed?

And the answer was a resounding no!

No one noticed how simple our giving had become because we took it a little at a time and we replaced things with experiences. 

(You can read about our super simple celebration from last winter here.)

Ten tips to simplify your holiday {Clean.}

5. Love coupons

Love coupons are wonderful filler if you are worried about there being not enough under the tree.

And they are a treasured gift in their own right.

My parents began this tradition when our budget was tight when I was a child, and I still love it today.

A Love Coupon is simply a promise – to shovel the snow or take a picnic together; share a trip to the movies or a night camping in the back yard.

Simple gifts of yourself or experiences to share.

One year I gave Pete a dozen date coupons. Sweet, simple, and stuff-less.

Often they are things you would have done anyway, but creating a coupon for it makes it even more special, and something to look forward to.

Ten tips to simplify your holiday {Clean.}

6. Shop small

If you are buying some gifts (or have a family member who is) give or request handmade.

Ditch the big box store madness and shop small. Shop local. Shop family-owned. 

You can even register for what you want at the Alternative Gift Registry and share the list with your family.

As someone who owns a small business myself, I'll attest to the impact of each and every purchase. You make a difference when you shop small. 

With a bit of searching all kinds of treasures (like this gorgeous doll) will appear.

(Art pictured by local-to-me artist Tammy Olson.)

Ten tips to simplify your holiday {Clean.}

7. Create it yourself

A gift made by you is the best gift of all!

And you don't have to be crafty to enjoy a DIY holiday.

I have collected some great (arguably crafty) holiday project ideas here and here, but consider a gift of infused olive oil or vinegar, canned goods, homemade mustard, bath fizzies, chocolates, or other simple kitchen wizardry.

And framed kid art is always a hit.

Trust me when I say that people flip when given a small, handmade treat from your heart.

Ten tips to simplify your holiday {Clean.}

8. Give to charity

If your family loves to buy, request items for a charity you love.

Gifts of pet supplies for the local animal shelter, a Heifer Project donation for a family in need, shampoos, soaps, and lotions for the women's shelter, food for the food pantry.

Make a habit of giving of the abundance your family enjoys.

If your message is not heard this season and more gifts come in than you want to keep, those can also be donated. As one friend put it, "Keep the love and pass the gift along."

Ten tips to simplify your holiday {Clean.}

9. Be patient

Remember that your partner, your dad, or your grandma might not "get it" the first year.

Or the second.

Or the third.

But trust that they are doing their best with the tools that they have.

Remember that for many buying equates love. And it can be a hard story to re-write.

Keep the spirit of love and compassion in your heart as those you care about (yes, maybe even you!) stumble along this new road.

Change is hard. Give it time.

And for perspective, while my parents give simply, my grandparents did not. When I was a kid I got more gifts than I could count every year.

And I turned out okay.

Ten tips to simplify your holiday {Clean.}

10. Enjoy this holiday

And when all is said and done, enjoy the holiday – whatever it brings.

Reach for gratitude for your family, your community, your life, and this season.

Go with the flow, as best as you can.

And then next year, begin again.




Originally published in 2013.

3 thoughts on “Simplify your holiday! (ten easy steps)

  1. Kimberly says:

    I too think this is great advice, but land’s, as a gramerly to thirteen, I so struggle with the want to buy them gifts. I try so many things. On December first each family gets a box with twenty-five gifts, mostly Christmas books, but a few coloring crafts tucked in. They keep their little craft of course, but return the books after Christmas. I mark each book with an initial and year, so some get switched around and some they get each year. I have a gingerbread party breakfast that all of them have attended every year. My oldest grandchild is twelve. Still I look at all the cute stuff and am so tempted. I’m glad you include to go gently and keep reminding. It is hard to want to do something that feels to you like a good thing, but doesn’t feel that way someone else. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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