How to Stay Sane During the Holiday Season

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It’s October and the cusp of the holiday season. The decorative pumpkins have been sitting on your bookshelf for weeks. The wooden “thankful and grateful” plaque leans against the wall. You even changed your outdoor welcome mat to the one that reads, “Hello, Pumpkin.”

Front door with pumpkin door hanger
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Everything looks neatly decorated and in its place except…

There are boxes of fall decor still sitting in your garage—boxes that didn’t fit or didn’t work this year. Your calendar is littered with crossed-out plans. Don’t forget to order Christmas cards. To-do lists. Ask the Marshalls if they’re coming for Thanksgiving. A list of ideas. Remember to order Christmas pajamas.

Packages start to show up…but you can’t remember what you ordered? Your mind is busy with things you absolutely have to experience before the holidays are over. And before you know it, you’re hyperventilating in a corner to the tune of Jingle Bells in early November.

Where do you start to manage the holiday chaos? Should you even try to maintain your sanity for those three months? How do you stay organized when everything seems important?

Holiday display with candy canes and packages
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Organized and sane are the furthest things from how you’re feeling right now.

Prep First

Once September hits, I get a new surge of energy. I think it’s the fall version of Spring cleaning. I want my home to feel comfortable and cozy as we enter a new season, especially the holiday season! I want to declutter and make space for the holiday decor and gifts.

And let’s face it, more clutter.

If that word stresses you out, be proactive before the holiday chaos hits! Ride the motivation to declutter, clean, and make space for the impending chaos…I mean the holiday season.

Take Inventory

By taking inventory of what you have before you put more inside your home, you’ll avoid accumulating impulse buys throughout the season. Decor, toys, paper plates, serving ware, pantry items. If you need it or will likely obtain it new over the holiday season, make sure you don’t already have it laying around! Know what you have, then use what you have. Less spending and less clutter. A win-win!

Declutter Holiday-Related Things

Use this time to ruthlessly edit your space. Not just your physical space, but your mental energy, too. Consider the systems and routines in your home already serving you. And then consider how they can or will help you when life becomes full.

Donate or sell old toys so someone else can experience their joy. Drop off any decor that no longer fits your home at a local thrift store or pass it on to a friend. Decluttering before the holidays gifts you more space and sanity. But it could also gift someone else what they need, too.

Decide What’s Meaningful for your Holidays

Is a massive dinner on Thanksgiving what you find meaningful about the holiday? Or do you do it because you feel like you should? Do you need to drive around on Christmas Eve in pajamas to look at lights? Or will a smaller downtown display suffice?

What matters and what’s meaningful around the holidays varies for everyone. A family that prioritizes going over the top for outdoor decorations and lights, may not care as much about their Christmas Eve tablescape. Someone who loves baking dozens and dozens of Christmas cookies to share with their community, may not prioritize matching family Christmas pajamas.

Decide what’s meaningful for you and your family. And I promise—even if it feels like everything is important, it’s not. Try picking your top five must-dos for each holiday.

Divide and Conquer

Chunk the holiday season by months: October, November, and December. Even if you don’t usually make a lot of to-do lists, graphs, charts, or calendars. This will be easier to alleviate the mental load. When you put the months in their own boxes (literally and physically!) you can better focus on the tasks at hand.

Open calendar with notes written in
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Maybe this looks like a brain dump. Maybe it’s separating out each event, celebration, or obligation. No matter what it looks like for you, it should help you be a little less jittery at the thought of December 25th on October 1st! Will there be tasks for Christmas you have to think about in October or November? Absolutely! But this will sort out what you need to focus on and when.

Don’t be Afraid to Outsource

Sometimes it can be hard to give up control. Delegating the important things sounds good, but is difficult for some of us. *raises hand* There are businesses and people who thrive when it comes to managing the holiday season. This is their time to shine. So USE them!

Do you hate cooking Thanksgiving dinner, but love having everyone around the table in your home? Phone it in! Plenty of restaurants or grocery stores will take full Thanksgiving dinner orders. Do you normally DIY your own holiday Christmas card photos? Ask a friend or hire a local photographer. Want to be the fun, crafty mom while your kids are home on break, but you work or don’t have time to scour Pinterest? Meet up with friends and arrange holiday-themed playdates. Take turns planning a craft or activity for the group to alleviate the pressure. Pinterest is always a great resource for a variety of crafts and activities!

Give Yourself Grace

Even if you’re a “holiday mom” and even if you love going all out for every major holiday, you can’t do it all. You may drop the ball once or twice. And that’s okay! Give yourself permission before the holidays even start. So that if or when it happens, you can give yourself grace. Moms are magic when it comes to the holidays. But we’re still only human!

Allow room for rest and your presence among the presents.

Treasuring the memories (and having the sanity to do so) might mean more than attending every single festive activity or cooking the most outrageous meal.