Holiday Not-To-Do List: 10 ways to simplify your holiday

If the burden of making the holidays epically magical for your family is wearing you down, a holiday Not-To-Do list might be just what you need this year.

relaxing holiday not to do list.

This time of year adds an extra burden to the already hefty mental load of motherhood. On top of our full schedules, we’re usually the ones keeping up with school parties, teacher gifts, the holiday card photo, signing and mailing those holiday cards, family party planning, and the bulk of the gift buying.

Yes, it’s fun. But it can easily get overwhelming.

10 Ideas for Your Holiday Not-To-Do List

One of the tricks to simplifying your holiday is to decide in advance what you won’t be doing.

Every person’s list will look different. Some moms love organizing the kindergarten class party, while others would be happier spending an afternoon at the dentist. For some people, decorating every corner of the house is the highlight of their year. Others need nervous system regulation techniques just having the tree up for two weeks.

But even if the holidays are your favorite time of the year, there are probably a few things you can let go of to free up some time and space for more of what you love.

So let’s make this the year we undo some of those to-do lists. Here are 10 Not-To-Do items that might just free up a little extra joy this holiday season.

1. Don’t say yes to every invitation or volunteer opportunity

There’s no shortage of holiday parties, recitals, family gatherings, work functions, and charity events this time of year.

It’s easy to RSVP early on because it sounds fun or you don’t want to miss something that might turn into an amazing holiday memory. But sometimes those early agreements turn into burdens.

When you consciously limit the number of activities you plan to attend, you’ll have more time and space to relax and just be with your family.

2. Don’t go into debt trying to make the holidays special

Don’t let consumerism overshadow the true sentiment of this season. Everything is crazy expensive right now. Most people will understand if you can’t contribute as much as you have in years past. When or if you see your holiday expense list starting to exceed your budget, scale back.

One affirmation to keep in mind is that people are more important than things. For a simple way to plan your holiday spending, use our printable holiday budget.

3. Don’t cling to traditions that no longer serve you or your family

Maybe your extended family’s annual ski trip is amazing, but it doesn’t work out so well now that you have a new baby. Give yourself permission to skip a year or two without feeling guilty.

On the flip side, if you used to spend Christmas away from family and feel the need to be close, do it! Don’t get so hung up on how you’ve always done things that you miss the chance to start new (or temporary) traditions.

4. Don’t try to do everything yourself

Don’t let mother = martyr. Your job isn’t to guarantee everyone has the perfect Christmas. If you don’t have help, keep your activities, decorations, and gift giving to manageable level.

Your holiday Not-To-Do list should nix all the things that feel too challenging to handle solo. And no matter how hectic the holidays get, carve out a little time for yourself.

5. Don’t worry so much about your social feed

Your whole family rolled, shaped, baked, and frosted sugar cookies with plenty of laughs at your failures and cheers for the ones that turned out. You were so busy and in the moment, you didn’t take any photos.

Later while looking through Instagram, you see where a friend chronicled the entire process of their holiday cookies.

Does that diminish your family’s fun or efforts? Not at all! It’s not a contest.

Share what you truly want to share and keep private what you feel compelled to keep private. Resist the urge to check back in for likes if it takes you away from enjoying the moment.

6. Don’t try to make every festive craft or holiday treat

Here’s a newsflash that will either set you free or overwhelm you completely: Pinterest is never going to run out of ideas. And you can’t do them all.

If your gingerbread houses always end in tears, just don’t do one this year. If you can’t sew your own fabric gift bags, get creative with what you have on hand for gift wrapping.

Or choose three projects and give yourself a little grace (and a lot of humor) with them. A lopsided homemade wreath or burned cookies won’t ruin your holiday, but they will create a funny family memory.

7. Don’t take part in gift exchanges you don’t enjoy

You should feel generous and content – not obligated – to give a gift. If all you do is exchange various forms of $25 with your siblings or cousins, be the one to speak up and suggest a name draw or a charity donation. If everyone loves how gift giving goes this year, make it the new tradition.

Maybe you love giving gifts to all the people involved in your daily routine, but don’t enjoy the shopping part, give them cash. It’s easy, eco-friendly, and always appreciated.

8. Don’t set unrealistic expectations for the “perfect” holiday

Relieve yourself from the pressure of making this holiday the best ever. Most of us spend more time stressing over holiday planning, than actually doing the things we planned. It’s a waste of time and mental energy.

Instead of trying to take on everything, identify the most important tasks or activities and take small steps to make them happen.

Give your kids a break, too. Just because this is the season of peace and goodwill, it doesn’t mean they won’t whine or fight. And if you follow logical consequences, be careful with the Santa threats if you’re not prepared to follow through.

9. Don’t compare your holiday to others

Teddy Roosevelt was right when he said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” This is a very freeing addition to your holiday Not-To-Do list.

Someone else’s decorations, food, vacation, or gifts will always be better than ours. All it probably means is that their situation or priorities are different. Don’t hold yourself up to someone else’s standard, especially if it doesn’t suit you.

10. Don’t equate more things with more love

Buying more gifts and hanging more decorations is sometimes just that… more.

What purpose does it actually serve? And what message does it teach our kids?

Even if you’ve set a precedent of giving your kids loads of gifts for Christmas, you can incrementally cut back on toys.

You are not a better parent / human if you volunteer for your child’s class party or work three shifts at your church’s fundraiser. Choose what matters or makes the biggest impact, and that’s where to focus your energy.

Spend Your Holiday Time Intentionally

Now that you’ve freed up a little more time during the holidays, spend it intentionally. Make a plan… or don’t. But make sure you’re doing what you and your family enjoy most.

Spend a little time out in nature, even if it’s cold. Try some cold weather outdoor games or some of these ideas to keep big kids off of screens during the winter.

Coloring is great way to enjoy a calm day at home in the winter. Try these Hanukkah coloring pages or Mindful Christmas coloring pages.

What have you added to your not-to-do list? Share in the comments and inspire other parents!

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One Comment

  1. Hazel Avery says:

    I love this list! Such a creative article. One of the things on my to-do list this holiday season is to finally have a clean home for the holidays! It’s been such a long time and this is what I need for my mental health. I even got a dumpster rental company to help me. Thanks again for this really fun article. Happy holidays!