I don’t think I can express in words how much I love Fall… but, this is a blog, so of course, I’m going to try. 😉 To me, Fall feels like every warm childhood memory washing over me then filling my chest to the point that I almost can’t breath, and I have to squeal to let a little of the joy out, or I might explode. Fall feels like a swarm of butterflies soaring through my heart awakening all the giddiness and delight I left behind in my childhood, bringing it to the surface for an encore.
But I only feel this way when I slow down enough to take it in… when I am present enough to feel the brisk morning air on my way out the door, and when I notice the sound of the leaves crunching under my feet on my way to get the mail. When I breath in the smell of grapes on the vine and the slightly smoky smell of fields being laid to rest for the winter. When I look up from my phone and my to do list long enough to see the charming cornstalks and pumpkins cozily cluttering front porches and smoke rising from chimneys. When instead of picking up a pizza, I turn the harvest into a pot of a simmering something that fills my house with the smell of home and happiness. It is only when I do these things that I truly savor Fall and drink in every last drop of it until it disappears.
Fall also brings with it the anticipation of all my favorite holidays– the ones that bring my family together in joyful reunions that remind me what matters most in life. But it is so easy to get swallowed up in the to dos of the holiday season that we get to a point where we don’t even enjoy it anymore. Instead of filling our souls with happiness, the thought of the holiday season starts to fill our brain and stomach with stress and anxiety. In a rush to complete our ever-increasing to-do list, we miss out on the truly meaningful, joyful aspects of the season and fall down on the couch with a migraine when it is all over. People- no, NO! It has to stop! It is time to take back the joy of the season for ourselves and our families! Here are 5 ways to do less and get more out of the Holidays.
1-Focus on the Why instead of the What. Ask yourself why am I (or are we) doing this? Is it because it is expected? Is it because you’ve just always done it? Is it because you are afraid to tell someone no? Or is it because it is meaningful to you and your family? Is it because it brings you closer together? If it doesn’t do the latter, you might consider cutting it out entirely or replacing it with something that does. De-clutter your holiday schedule just like you would your house and make room for quiet moments of reflection, family togetherness, and just being present in the joy of the season. If you can’t stop and stand in the mesmerizing stillness of the first heavy winter snow– you are packing yourself too tight.
2- Ask yourself this question: Could this be done in a simpler way and still have the same impact? So many times it is the fluff, not the substance of what we do, that takes up the most time. Don’t be so fluffy! Decide what is really important and make sure that element is in place. Then, if you have extra time and want to add fluff, great. If the fluff is what brings joy to your heart- do it. But, if the fluff means you have to stay up until 3 am turning goblets into Christmas characters, resulting in a bleary-eyed host who has a hard time carrying on a conversation because of sleep deprivation– you might want to let it go. Just sayin’. I mean they’re cute, though, and stuff. Just… yeah.
3- Get your gift exchanges under control. I’ll be honest. I hate shopping. And trying to find that perfect something for someone who already has everything I can come up with is enough to make me want to rip my hair out. We spend waaaaay too much time walking through malls and perusing Amazon this time of year. Our time could be better spent in SO many ways. Most likely, all the people you exchange gifts with would love to simplify or, in some cases, even eliminate this experience as well, so be the one to open the subject up for discussion. Here are some ideas to make things simpler:
-Consider having everyone donate to a charity together instead of exchanging gifts.
-Do a sub-for-Santa as a family in lieu of exchanging gifts.
-Choose experiences over things- maybe plan an awesome date night or getaway with your spouse instead of getting each other gifts. With your siblings- choose a musical, sporting event, symphony performance, etc. that you would all enjoy and get tickets so you can all go together.
-Agree that gift cards are your favorite gift and make it easy on everyone. 😉
-Instead of gifts, do a service exchange where you give each other a coupon for something you are skilled at that you will help them with in the coming year. (ie: babysitting, haircuts, remodeling, yard care, decorating, photography, etc.)
-If you have all the little cousins exchanging gifts, have them all bring a wrapped dollar store item and use this game to help them exchange.
-And to deal with that awkward and time consuming neighbor gift situation… I know of a neighborhood that has a potluck dessert night instead of everyone exchanging neighbor gifts and treats. AWESOME IDEA!
4- Don’t do it all yourself. I know we like to have control over things and make sure they turn out just right, but it’s not good for us to be this way. Sometimes it is our white-knuckled grasp on the details of the event that determines whether we enjoy it or just survive it. Accept help. Ask for help. Let others be a part of making the event special. Many hands make light work. Don’t say yes or volunteer for more than you can reasonably handle and still keep your sanity. It is okay to have limits and admit that you are not, in fact, Wonder Woman. Some years we have more to give than others. Don’t feel obligated to perform up to last year’s standards when you are just not feeling up to it this year.
5- Focus on the reason we are celebrating in the first place. Let taking time to feel deep gratitude in your heart for all your blessings be your highest priority this Thanksgiving. Let your gratitude for a Savior who has changed your life center your actions this Christmas. Let’s choose not to participate in the madness the world creates to suck us in every year about this time– because we CAN choose. Isn’t that great? Let’s be an example to our kids of honoring the things that matter most and letting go of the things that don’t. Let’s focus more on creating the true feeling of the holidays in our homes than on keeping up with the neighbors version of the holidays. Then our children’s hearts will be full of meaningful memories of the holidays when they grow up and move away– like the simple moments snuggling with us in front of a lit Christmas tree drinking hot chocolate. And it will be those same memories that will draw them back to our homes each year when the holidays roll around, because they long for the way our home feels during the holidays.