Less = More: Surviving December, Part One

I loved Christmastime as a young child, and many of my favorite childhood memories have Christmas as the backdrop. My dad would put thousands of lights on our tree (no exaggeration–you could see it from two blocks away). I thought the tree was so beautiful and sometimes would even sleep in the living room at night so as not to miss a minute of it. My mom and I would go shopping for gifts on the day after Thanksgiving; that was back when everything was closed all day and night on Thursday and didn’t open until Friday morn. We would get up early to head downtown for shopping, marveling at department store window decorations, and eating lunch at one of our favorite hotel restaurants.

Now, it seems like Christmas is shoved down our throats SUPER early–I saw decorations out for sale this year before Halloween. Yes–before Halloween! There’s seemingly no time to enjoy those little special moments that make Christmas so magical, and definitely no time for yourself because you’re so busy making sure to get Christmas “right” for everyone else. But remember; self care is SO important and should always be first on your list, because you can’t be your best for others if you’re not even your best for yourself. So how do we make sure we still have time for ourselves during this busiest time of year? By remembering this simple thing: less = more. (Note: for this and all other posts this month in this series, “less” will be defined as the topic du jour, which, for today, is gifts, and “more” will always be defined as time for yourself.)

When I was putting this series together in my head, I wanted to start with what I think is the number one stress-inducing thing for most people (and what used to be MY number-one stressor of Christmas): gifts. Who to buy them for, who gets what, trying to remember what I already gave so I didn’t repeat presents, trying to gift something better than before…my head is already starting to hurt. Well, guess what? I have almost no presents to buy. Every Christmas. Yep, you read that correctly. How did I create this awesome reality for myself?

  1. I don’t buy presents for my coworkers, even those on my team. What do I do instead? I focus on my teammates’ birthdays, either by giving them something small and meaningful (like a box of their favorite tea with a bow around it) or I chip in for the cake the rest of the office gets for them. Last year, I baked for my entire office for Christmas–yep, every department–because, as I told them, they all helped me at some point during the year and I wanted to show my gratitude. It just so happens I love baking so I invited some friends over and we made a day of it in my kitchen, listening to Christmas music and having a lot of fun (bonus self-care time doing something I loved AND bonus time spent making memories with friends!).
  2. My siblings and I don’t buy gifts for one another. Thankfully, my in-law sibs have decided to get in on this one starting this year, too (thanks, J and T!). It was starting to get too hard to come up with ideas and, because we are blessed to have everything we need, we just get Christmas gifts for the kids and our mothers. This allows me to spend more time coming up with and putting together more meaningful presents for my mom and Hub’s mom, which is a lot more fun for me.
  3. My son only gets four gifts for Christmas; we’ve done the four-gift rule of something he wants, something he needs, something he can wear, and something he can read for four years now. He already has more than enough and I don’t want him to turn into an expectant, non-appreciative child at Christmastime as he gets older. But get this; I put my own spin on it and let our family participate, too, so they can still enjoy getting my son gifts at Christmas. I divide the four things up between my son’s aunt, uncles, maternal grandmother, and Hubs and myself, and I rotate the list each year so we can all have a stab at the four ideas. So, Hubs and I only have to get our son one of the four gifts for Christmas. One! I know–genius, right?!?

Want to know what I did with all my extra me-time I had this weekend, since I wasn’t out in the maddening crowd that’s getting ever-more-desperate with each minute because, as I type this, we have only seventeen days left until the big day?

  1. I wrote this blog post.
  2. I outlined and started writing the other blog posts for the rest of this month that will be included in this Surviving December series.
  3. I bleached and toned my hair.
  4. I went out to dinner with Hubs and my son (aka my boys) last night, and we enjoyed the Christmas tree in our downtown city area in all its lighted glory.
  5. I enjoyed breakfast and coffee in the den by the fire this morning with my boys, then watched the original How The Grinch Stole Christmas cartoon with my son.
  6. I’m getting ready to watch something on Netflix while my son finishes his nap.
  7. I’ll probably paint my nails some festive holiday color later tonight before bedtime, because I haven’t painted them for a while and my hands look raggedy to me, and (most importantly) it will make me smile.

As you can see, you can still be completely unmuted during the holiday season, doing and focusing on the things that make you happy, if you make the time and space for it. Because, remember, a happy “you” is most definitely a happy “everyone else.” Next time, I’ll tackle another personal former Christmas stressor: Christmas cards. Until then, it’s your turn; how do you keep yourself happy and sane in December? Have you whittled your own gift list down from far too many to a precious chosen few? Have you started any of your own “me time” holiday traditions? I’d love to hear about it!

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