Shopping, baking, decorating, cards and letters, parties, family gatherings. The holidays can make us crazy. These may be tasks we don’t have the time — and sometimes the heart — to perform. So what’s the solution? Invoke the “sanity clause,” says Andrea Van Steenhouse, a Denver psychologist and author of “A Woman’s Guide to a Simpler Life.”
“Ask yourself: ‘Who do I really want to be with? What do I really want to do?’” We often do things out of obligation, or because we’ve always done them. The holidays are a great time to re-evaluate our priorities, she says. Here are some of her tips for simplifying the holidays, many of which will save you money as well as time.
Christmas cards: If you really like writing Christmas cards, go ahead and do it, she says, but if not, find a way to gracefully get out of it. If anyone comments that they didn’t get a card, just say, “I’ve found that sending a card once a year isn’t very meaningful to me anymore. I’d rather find another way to connect with you.” (Maybe give them your e-mail address and let them take the initiative.)
Cooking: Let’s say you make some holiday treat (maybe your homemade fudge) every year, but find fewer people are eating it. Stop, she says. If anyone complains, give them the recipe and let them make it. If you’ve always made three desserts for Christmas dinner, cut it down to two, or even one. If you’ve always made an array of appetizers for Christmas Eve, pick the few that are most popular and forget the rest.
Gifts: Gift buying is a burden for many. But when a family decides not to buy everyone a gift and instead draw names, each person only buys one gift. Caveat: “There’s always a holdout. Someone who still wants to buy everyone a gift. Let them. Eventually, they’ll come around.”
Parties: If your holidays include a round of events and parties, be selective in what you attend. “At some point you have to say, ‘How much is enough?’” Van Steenhouse says. Choose the ones most meaningful to you and skip the rest.
Sanity: Stop reading magazines that tell you how to have a perfect Christmas, she says. “Your table setting will never look like that. The recipes are too complicated – who makes that stuff? They just put pressure on you to achieve a perfection that’s not attainable.”
In other words, relax, get real – and simplify. You can get her book on Amazon.com for less than $5.