Holiday Triage: a slash-and-burn survival guide

Overwhelmed? I feel ya. This post (from December 16, a couple of years back) feels more timely than ever this season! Even if it is only the 8th…


Our tree on December 15: a study in minimalism.

Let's all come clean. You just looked at the calendar, did some quick math, then freaked out. (It can't just be me.) Because seriously. December 16? What the?

I have my excuses, and you have yours. But all that aside, it's crunch time. For real. And as of this moment we have no cookies, no twinkle lights, no rustically wrapped gifts tucked under our rustic (and still not decorated) tree.


So two nights ago I faced a choice: panic or make a plan.

I chose the latter. (Well, I chose both, but after trying them on I settled for the second option. It was a more comfortable fit.)

And my plan, it turns out, helped calm me down before I even baked a single cookie. My plan made it all manageable by deciding what mattered most and letting the rest go. Here's how:

  1. There are currently 5 days before Solstice Night and 7 days before Christmas Eve.
  2. There are 247 tasks that I would like to complete before that time, some of them epic like, oh, I don't know – cast on, knit, and cast off a man-sized sweater.
  3. It's not all happenin'.

So to make sense of the madness I divided my pre-holiday tasks into categories. And from now until Solstice we'll do one thing from each category.

I have four categories, and I slashed my to-do list down to five items for each category.

Because no one needs 12 batches of cookies. No one.

Here's my list:


  • Lights and tinsel on the tree
  • Lights on the house
  • Decorate Solstice tree
  • Set up Christmas Village
  • Driveway lights and star on barn


  • Solstice Spirals
  • Gingerbread houses
  • Coconut snowballs
  • Ninjabread (Yes. Ninja.)
  • Thumbprints


  • Food pantry donation
  • Kids & Pete
  • Mom, Dad, & Leah
  • Friends
  • Neighbors


  • Bathrooms
  • Living room
  • Kitchen & Mudroom
  • Bedrooms
  • Hall & Stairs

And suddenly – just like that – my list went from dozens of things pressing down on me until I could scarcely breathe to just four tasks a day. I can manage four. Four a day? Done and done.

We gave this a test run yesterday, the kids and I. And I was a teensy bit discouraged only because I realized I wanted them to hit the ground running and crank out a wrapped gift and a squeaky clean, well decorated room that smelled of gingerbread before lunch time.

Which, um, didn't happen.

So think of this as your list. Not your sweetie's, not your kid's, but yours alone. Then dig in!

(My kids did get crackin' just after lunch time and worked like mad to finish a gift and get our tree tinseled and lit. Sage suggests that if you do involve your children you give them an easing in period. Good call, kid.)

Because honestly. What really needs doing before Christmas? Very little, my friend. Very little. 

Because sure, you and I may celebrate differently this season. But all religion and customs aside the holiday spirit has little to do with a sparkling toilet or 32 gifts beneath the tree.

And you arriving at the holidays all relaxed and loving and go-with-the-flow?

It turns out that is the nicest gift of all.

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Originally published in 2015.

One thought on “Holiday Triage: a slash-and-burn survival guide

  1. Michelle Payette says:

    Well, Rachel, you successfully freaked me out this morning. As I was reading your post I thought “What the heck? It is the 16th already!!” And then sighed with relief after looking at the calendar to find it is indeed the 8th. 🙂

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