Simplifying Christmas: 4 tips for keeping the holidays in control and stress free

I am resharing this post from 2016.

I remember the day Christmas finally broke me. There were four places my family needed to be. We had play practice, this a local event, a parade, and a party. I felt like as soon as we got somewhere it was time to leave and then drive across town to the new event. By the time the day was over we were all cranky, exhausted and I was snapping at everyone. 

Was it the most wonderful time of the year? Or was I putting way too much pressure on myself to create perfect memories that were actually staged? Nope. No more. 

This year I decided to keep things simple. Really simple. And frankly that many crossing a lot of things off our traditions list and saying not some events. 

So I wanted to share a few tips with you in the hopes that in these last two weeks leading up to Christmas, you too can find some peace and rest in the season. 

1. Keep things small

Last week we were invited to a big, multi-family cookie exchange. It sounded fun on the surface, bake cookies and then swap recipes with other families. 

There was even decorating and play time involved. That was until I calculated the amount of time and energy it would all take. 

I would need to bake four dozen cookies (did I mention I am a TERRIBLE baker??), decorate them and include a recipe card for each family. 

Did you catch that? A recipe card. I don't think "Go to Publix and purchase premade, place and bake cookies" qualifies as a recipe. 

I would love to commit to this. But currently, I am six months pregnant and I have two very active boys and a business I run from home. It wasn't going to happen. 

But I didn't want my kids to miss out. So instead I organized a smaller ornament making day at a friends house. It was my boys and my friend's two girls. We made really sweet hand printed ornaments and then the kids played while my friend and I chatted. It was perfection. 

A photo posted by Lydia Senn (@lydiasenn) on

2. Keep things semi-homemade

Again, I am going to talk about cookies. I still wanted my kids to have the cookie making experience. But the one time I tried to make a gingerbread house from scratch it tasted terrible and then I dropped it on the floor.  I have to keep myself settled in reality. 

My husband found a cookie making kit at a local grocery store and brought it home. It contains premade cookies cut into festive shapes, icing, and some sprinkles. We are going to break it open later this week and decorate cookies. 

And I feel NO shame in that. It's okay to go with a store-bought cookie, or take a pie from the bakery section to your Christmas party, or give out prepackaged candy. 

Some people LOVE making homemade treats. And they are so much fun to receive (seriously, if you want to make me some Martha Washington's I will SOOOOOO take them off your hands.) But if you hate baking. Or you're at a point where you just can't stand the thought of sifting flour into a mixing bowl, skip it. Just skip it. 

3. Limit activities to one a day

This is one rule I did break over the weekend. But otherwise, I have worked really hard to keep our schedule clear. 

If we have time set aside to go to a parade, we aren't doing anything else that day that requires a schedule. 

If we have tumbling class on Tuesday, we aren't going to make it to the Santa plate painting party because my kids will be exhausted. 

We are working to allow for family down time during the season. 

4. Find joy in the quiet moments

Last week Ryals asked me to sit down next to him by the tree so he could show me his favorite ornaments. I did. We drank hot chocolate and looked at the lights and whispered back and forth to one another. 

At night after bath time, both boys have piled in bed between Jason and me to snuggle and read Christmas books. 

If we were rushing from one event to the next trying to keep up with everything, I would miss out on these quiet moments. And I hope some of this lasts beyond the season. 

What about you? What steps are you taking to simplify Christmas?