Tuesday, November 21, 2017

How to Actually Enjoy the Holidays

This year, I'm a bit surprised to realize that I'm really well organized for the holidays already. Somehow, once I finished teaching for the season, I just launched into Christmas planning & got the basics done quickly. I want to have a fun, maybe even a bit relaxing, holiday season this year, rather than worrying if that online order is going to arrive in time, or spending hours in line at various attractions around the city.

Got the holiday card factory up & running early this year
When I was reading Minimalist Mom's post about "going zen" for the holidays, she had a lot of good ideas. I realized that I've been doing a few things to have myself a merrier little Christmas too. So I thought I'd share with you what I've done so far to achieve my actually enjoyable holiday season:

Minimize the gifts. I don't have a long shopping list, since we've already cut back on who we exchange gifts with over the years. One year, we decided that we weren't going to buy gifts to most of the extended family & friends anymore, we'd donate the equivalent amount of money to charity instead. Basically I only buy for children: four nieces & nephews, plus our two kids. I try to keep the gifts for our own kids fairly simple--though I admit in past years I've usually gone over budget a bit. Using the old rhyme helps keep me focused: "Something they want, something they need, something to wear, & something to read".

Another way we minimize the influx of stuff is talking with my family about what to give the kids. I talk with my sisters about what my kids would like or need & they give me ideas for their children, so our gifts to them are less likely to end up just taking up space somewhere. The grandparents tend to give money, which we spend on things like museum & gallery memberships. It's great to be able to go to places like Science World whenever we want & stay for a short time if the kids aren't up for longer, rather than wanting to make it "worth it" if we've paid for tickets just that day.

Quality over Quantity. I admit I'm no minimalist--my house is full of stuff & I visit dollar stores way more than I'd like to admit. However, I really try to restrain myself at Christmas. Part of me wants to buy one of everything in the store & decorate the tree in a different theme each year, or cover our outdoor trees in giant baubles, or wrap the entire house in lights. I'm also reeeeeeally tempted to get myself one of those fake white trees--I've just always secretly loved them. But I know if I buy the tempting cheap stuff, it'll break or just look awful by next year, so it isn't worth it.

Our Christmas Countdown felt board/hanging
DIY is a lot of work, but so worth it. I know not everybody is into making stuff, but if you are--make your own gifts &/or holiday decorations. This also ties in with quality over quantity. I've seen SO MANY DIY tutorials on YouTube that produce an end product that is unique, but no better quality than crap from the dollar store. The awesome thing about making your own decorations, is that you can make them heirloom quality. You can make them washable, durable, or at least recyclable.

I try to make one big project per year that can be used in future years too. I've made a wreath that holds holiday cards, a massive felt board (wall hanging, really) Christmas countdown calendar (which could also double as a Christmas tree if we were travelling, I figure), plus upcycling some ceramic Value Village knick-knacks into a Christmas village.

This year, my project is a sort of companion piece to the countdown hanging. I'm going to make a string of holiday bunting that the numbers will clip to, with pockets in each that will hold a note & maybe a treat for each day of December before Christmas. Which leads me into my next tactic...

Plan, plan, plan. As soon as November rolls around, I start collecting a list of holiday themed things to do as a family. Some of those will be events or festivals, like the ones in my post "12 Holiday Events to Bike to in Vancouver", but many will be simple things we do at home, like baking cookies, or watching a classic holiday movie. For some of the events that only happen on one day or during one week, I put them into my Google Calendar so we don't miss out, but I don't plan what we're going to do down to the minute.

This year I created a set of "cards" with activities from my above list on each that I'll keep hidden away somewhere. I'll decide which activity we'll do the following day & put it into the pocket in the countdown bunting for the kids to open the next morning. So the kids will have a bit of structure & know what they're going to do a little ahead of time, but there will be flexibility in case of bad weather, illness, or if something even more fun comes up.

There you have it. I'd love to hear about what your November/December looks like. What are you celebrating this winter? How's your holiday prep going? Are you getting overwhelmed yet, or have you got your zen on? ;)

If you're looking for more ideas on keeping Christmas simple & green, check out my list of "Ten Ways to Have a Greener Christmas" from last year.

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