Last Updated on March 11, 2024

December can be a busy, frantic season full of last-minute shopping, parties, baking, gift-wrapping, recitals, and get-togethers. While these things can all be memorable and special, it’s important that we not lose sight of what’s most important at Christmastime: celebrating the birth of our Savior and savoring the moments and memories.

Here are three ways to help you streamline your life and responsibilities so you can enjoy Christmas more this year:

1. Pare down your gift-giving.

Evaluate your gift list: Do you really need to give a gift to your uncle’s neighbor’s dog? I’m pretty sure Fido will survive just fine without another fancy chew toy, so save your money and use it to buy gifts for those you really care about or want to bless.

Creating limits for how many gifts you buy helps to simplify things. I know some families who give their children three gifts in three different categories (such as: something to wear, something to read, and something fun).

Our family doesn’t have specific limits or categories for what we give our children, but we’ve opted to just keep it to a few really meaningful gifts for each child. This allows us to really savor each gift as it’s opened, instead of being overwhelmed by a massive pile of presents.

2. Prioritize.

If you want to have a stress-free and simple season, you aren’t going to be able to do everything. Take 15 minutes sometime in the next few days to sit down and write out what the important things are for you and your family this December.

Each person’s list is going to look different—and that’s perfectly okay. Maybe you love to make homemade gifts but you really couldn’t care less about sending out cards. Perhaps you want to volunteer your time to bless those who are less fortunate but you really don’t have any desire to attend a lot of parties with people don’t know very well. Or, you really want to do fun and meaningful activities with your children but you really don’t enjoy baking at all.

Know what you want to invest your time and effort into this holiday season, then say no to opportunities and invitations that aren’t in line with your priorities.

We’ve found that it’s highly beneficial and fun to create a Family Bucket List of Activities for December — with each family member getting to choose a few activities they really want to do. We type this list up and then divvy up the activities throughout the month of December. This guarantees that we do things that everyone in the family enjoys and also helps us to be intentional about creating memories.

3. Plan ahead.

After you’ve decided upon your priorities for this holiday season, it’s time to make a game plan. Look at your calendar and commitments for the next four weeks and think of everything you can do to prepare ahead of time so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.

Make sugar cookie dough ahead of time and freeze it so it’s ready for that cookie-decorating party or to give to your neighbors. Go ahead and buy all of the necessary items to make the goody baskets for the homeless shelter. Buy or make hostess gifts to have on hand for last-minute party invitations. Check your closet to make sure you have outfits for the holiday parties you’ll be attending. Finish your shopping early and avoid the mad rush of crowds and traffic the final few days before Christmas.

The more you pare down, prioritize, and plan ahead, the more you’ll be able to relax and soak in all the memories and moments of the holidays — and focus on celebrating the reason for the season. And that’s what will really matter long after the elaborate decorations, fancy parties, and expensive gifts are forgotten.

{Editor’s Note: This post was first published on MomLife Today in December 2012.}

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  1. Good reminder! I think sometimes we feel pressure not to be left out of fun or that we will be seen as a Scrouge if we don’t attend every party/event. A person can only do so much, though. I have decided this year I will scale back too. Thanks.

  2. Loved your article and read your bio! I just finished my second half marathon this past October! Couldn’t run a 5k either when I started! It CAN be a reality and is one if the best gifts you can give yourself! There was also no better feeling than to hear/see my kids awe as they saw me running by! It gave new meaning to the words “go Mom” and was an inspirational. Good luck in your training and thanks for the Holiday Info.

  3. Elizabeth Kane says:

    These are great tips to keep in mind right now, Crystal. I don’t know what it is about November and December, but to me it just flys! I especially like your prioritize tip. I’ve noticed that if I don’t know exactly how I want to spend these weeks, it just doesn’t happen in the rush of it all. Plus, I’m moving in the middle of the month (already feeling the stress) and I want to enjoy the season. I’m a “let’s do everything!” kinda person around the holidays, so I know I have to pare things down if I want that to happen.

  4. Great reminders for keep those important priorities happening through this busy time of year!