Welcome back! Today I'm continuing with suggestions for ways to simplify the holidays. If you have more ideas, please share them in the comments section.
9. Embrace e-cards. Cut the cost of Christmas cards by sending online greetings to as many people on your list as possible. And if you send regular cards, buy them on sale, make them out, and mail them early. Check out your local dollar store's card section, too--you might be surprised at their nice selection.
10. Write it once. Instead of individual notes, write a Christmas letter. If you're not sure how to do this without coming across as bragging or sounding cheesy, there are templates and sample letters online to help you. Writing all the information once, then photocopying it, saves a great deal of time yet gives others an idea of what's been happening in your life. Keep a copy of these letters in a binder as a keepsake history of your family.
11. Window lights. Instead of outlining the windows with strings of lights, put an electric candle in each window. They look nice and are much quicker and easier to put up and take down. Just make sure cords and outlets can't be accessed by pets and children, and secure the bases so they can't tip over.
12. Opt for artificial. Buy an artificial wreath or swag for the door. As with an artificial tree, these can be stored and reused for many years, saving you time and the effort of shopping for or making a real one.
13. Pick and choose. There are many holiday concerts, plays, and parties this time of year. Don't try to do everything. Choose one or two things that are meaningful for you, and do something different next year. Another entertainment option is to invest in DVDs of favorite holiday films and concerts to enjoy at home. We have been using our collection of Christmas programs as a "countdown to Christmas" this year, and enjoying it immensely.
14. Take time out. When you feel yourself getting stressed out, take a break to recharge your batteries. Fix a cup of tea or hot chocolate, get comfy in a chair, turn on the Christmas lights, and listen to some holiday music. Watch the birds at the feeder, or the children outside building a snowman--or go build a snowman yourself. Take a warm bubble bath, or add relaxing bath salts to the water. Read a book with a holiday theme. Breathe!
15. Focus on people, not projects. Watching holiday programs together is enjoyable, but do other activities together, too. Have a Christmas sing-along. Make Christmas cookies together. Pop some popcorn and make a cranberry-popcorn chain for the tree, then put it out for the birds after the holidays are over. Read Christmas stories out loud as a family. Play games or make a puzzle. Gifts may be forgotten, but memories will last a lifetime.
16. Give to others. There are many charitable organizations that need help this time of year. Donate change you've collected throughout the year to a charity. Donate your time by cooking a hot meal and serving it at a local homeless shelter. Donate non-perishable items to your local food shelf. Have your children take old toys and games that they no longer play with and that are in good condition, and donate them for others to enjoy. If a local bank or other organization has a mitten tree or giving tree, donate to that. And don't forget homeless animals, too. Animal shelters are always in need of food, treats, used blankets, towels, paper products, etc. Charities often put their list of needs online or in the local newspaper, or you can call and ask how to help.
At the end of "A Garfield Christmas," Garfield says, "Christmas...it's not the giving, it's not the getting, it's the loving." Presents are a symbol of the love we have for one another; but it's the giver, not the gift, that is important. As the poem by Christina Rosetti, set to an Irish tune, says, "Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, love divine; Love was born at Christmas, Star and angels gave the sign." So, cut back on the commercial aspects of Christmas, slow down the pace, simplify to minimize the stress, but magnify the love.