Every year, without fail, I have big plans for the holidays that never really come to fruition. I think we’ll go to carol concerts, take Christmas light tours, watch endless Christmas movies, bake up a storm, and generally enjoy the seasonal magic to the max. What really happens is we spend loads of time stressing about finding the right gifts, figuring out our plans for visiting extended family, and trying to get the house presentable in time for our Christmas party. In the middle of all that, we somehow never get around to the “sit back and relax” part.

But not this year. This year, we’re doing things differently.

I got a jump start on the gift shopping. I scheduled in three events to attend between Thanksgiving and the big day. I created a journaling project to encourage some reflection. And I’ve been packing boxes of stuff to get rid of for months. I am going to totally own it this year.

Now, maybe going ultra-Christmas isn’t your thing. That’s cool. But surely there are a couple things you could switch up this year to make the season a little more meaningful, a little less stressful, a little better in some way? I thought so.

Here are seven suggestions, just in case you’re at a loss for where to start.

  1. Set a limit on gift-giving AND shopping

Instead of simply setting a spending limit, try also setting time limits for your holiday shopping. I started early this year with the goal of being done by the end of November–that’s one way to do it. You could also say you’ll spend no more than two Saturdays doing the holiday shopping or no more than 10 hours total. There are a zillion different ways to limit yourself, so just pick one and roll with it. The point, remember, is to reserve more time for family and friends and reflection and prayer.

  1. Set aside time to think and reflect

When your gift shopping is all done and you have hours of free time left (wink, wink), you’ll have to decide what to do with it. Holiday parties and cookie baking and such are great activities, but don’t forget to schedule in some time to sit down and think back over the year you’ve just lived. To reflect on life and the world you inhabit–past, present, and future. And most of all, to contemplate the meaning of the season we’re celebrating.

  1. Taste anything you want

Forget about holiday diets–go ahead and taste all the yummy-ness. Key word being “taste.” Don’t stuff your face, but have a nibble here and there. If you deny yourself, your odds of going totally overboard in a crazy binge are going to skyrocket. If you taste when you feel like it, you’re more likely to be able to maintain moderation. Everything in moderation, remember?

Another good strategy: share with someone. This means you’ll not only eat less (because someone else is also eating your meal), but you’ll spend time investing in someone else. Double win.

  1. Plan time together

Get out your calendar and actually schedule in time with your family. Go to local events, watch Christmas movies, play games. This time of year gets incredibly busy, and if you’re not purposeful about being together it very well may not happen–no matter how good your intentions.

  1. Focus on gratitude

After Thanksgiving is over, we as a culture seem to dive headlong into gimme-gimme-gimme mode. This year, extend the spirit of gratitude into Christmas. Make a list daily of things you’re thankful for. Write thank you notes to everyone who gives you a gift, and really put some thought and consideration into them. Share your surplus with others, either by inviting them into your home or donating material goods. Instead of putting al your energy into buying and getting and wanting, go out of your way to remind yourself and your family how blessed you are already.

  1. Volunteer

Here’s another way to reorient your time during the holidays. Give of your time and attention–make it all about someone else for a while. We spend a lot of energy giving gifts to the people we love, and that’s great. But we can do so much more, and it doesn’t have to cost a cent (though it can, if you wanted to buy gifts for underprivileged children or meals for the homeless). Serve at the soup kitchen, work a booth at a local event, sort food at the food bank, or see what the local homeless shelter needs done (there’s always work to be done, y’all). Look outward for a while, even just a few hours, and watch what it does to your perspective on the holiday as a whole.

  1. Focus on taking things OUT of the house, not bringing them in

Donate, donate, donate! Spend time every week scouring the house for things you don’t need any more. Go through the kids’ toys, everyone’s clothes, your stash of decorations, and your pantry. Whatever you don’t wear/play with/use/love, get rid of. If it’s still usable/edible, donate it. Instead of just adding to the piles, bless others with your possessions!

Do things just a little differently this year and get ready for a truly awesome Christmas!


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Kenzie Swanson

Kenzie Swanson is the blogger behind Hello Neverland http://www.helloneverland.com/ She’s also a wife, mom, Etsy shop owner, and avid journal writer. She likes her books printed on paper and her coffee hot. She’s shy and messy and can’t cook to save her life. Originally from Iowa, Kenzie has settled into life in Nebraska pretty well—she’s even embraced the crazy that is football Saturday in Lincoln (well, mostly). She spends her time working her day job, chasing her wee kiddo, and starting (and sometimes even finishing) crafty projects of all kinds.