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5 Ways to Keep the Holidays From Becoming a Huge Cluster

By julieminer |

photo credit: photostockThanksgiving is next week. How did that happen?! I am so terrible at the holidays. Every year I end up broke, behind, and stressed. I love this time of year, and I want it to be special for my kiddos. But my inability to get everything done usually results in at least one episode of me losing my schmidt and having a mommy tantrum (mom-trum?) because all the pies got burned, the stupid turkey won’t thaw, or no one will smile for the camera.

It’s my annual shame, and this is the year that it changes! (She says in a voice filled with enthusiasm and hope.)

I’m inherently an overwhelmed and disorganized person, so this is going to present a major challenge. I need a plan. One with strategies that even I can manage.  So I scoured the interwebs and spoke to lots of friends and came up with a list of five things that I’m going to do this year:

Item 1: The Mean-Mommy-You’ll-Thank-Me-Later Gift Limit

My kids are each getting three presents from us this year. AND THAT IS IT.  At first they were not on board with this plan.  Then I asked them if they remembered what they got for Christmas last year, and each of them could only recall one or two things.  And some of those guesses were wrong.  All of which says to me that they got too much stuff.  Then we talked about how many kids might not get anything at all.  Kids who might even go hungry.  And you know what?  They thought about it for a while and, to their credit, they decided that they’re cool with only getting a couple of things. I pinched this idea from one of my favorite bloggers, Momastary (who also suggests Item #3).

Item 2: The Double List Cross Off

Someone told me about this last year, and I thought it was genius. Around Halloween, ask your kids to make a list of the stuff they want. Put it away. Then right around Thanksgiving, after they’ve been inundated with TV commercials and catalogues and hearing friends talk about what every cool kid has to have — ask your kids to write another list. Then compare the two. Whatever is on both lists is what they really want. That’s the stuff that I’m actually going to buy.

Exceptions to this include Bratz dolls, jeggings and live farm animals, including ponies.

Item #3: I will be done shopping by Thanksgiving even if I have to kill someone.

I sent out an email in mid-November asking my family to please humor me and send me an idea of what they wanted. I’ve got my two lists per kid. Unlike our friends in Washington, I even made a budget. I know what I have to buy and how much I can spend. November’s budget will be tight. December’s will be only kind of a nightmare. January’s checking account balance will not be an ulcer-inducing panic, as in years past.

Item #4: The Evil Duo That I Will Finally Defeat: Gift Wrapping and Christmas Cards

Every year I do these two things by myself, late at night, rushed, grouchy, and hating every minute. But this year, I’m enlisting my husband. I’m going to buy a couple of really great bottles of wine. And be very sweet to him. And we’re going to pick a couple of nights to stay up late together and do these things while drinking and talking and listening to a college basketball game or his favorite music (think old and random) in the background. It will be fun. And it will replace the tradition of me doing all the work while scowling at him and subduing the urge to kickpunch when he asks if we’ve gotten the cards in the mail yet.

Item #5: Wait. What Are We Celebrating?

I saved the most important thing for last.

Every week between Thanksgiving and New Years, I’m doing something service-oriented. I’ve heard people brag about doing this and even heard of celebrities who have their assistants do this for them. And I’ve always thought, “Sure, Gwyneth. Right after naptime, I’ll just take all three kids down to the methodone clinic and we’ll donate our time.”

But this year is different. My kids are a little older. I have a tiny bit more autonomy because no one is breastfeeding and even my littlest is in preschool two days a week. I really can do something. And I’m going to try and do as much of it as possible with my kids. We’re filling stockings for children who might not get any other presents this year. My church is hosting a Homeless Hypothermia program the week of Thanksgiving and they need a lot of help. There will be caroling at the nursing home. Each kid is going to go through their stuff and find things to donate. Collecting donations for the food bank? Yes. Cards for wounded soldiers at Walter Reed? Even yesser.

If I can do these five things, I will not spend the next six weeks frenetically flapping about only to have to flap even harder at the last minute.  No. I’ll be too busy doing things like not having tantrums and actually sleeping during the month of December. I might even get a chance to slow down and enjoy the holidays with my family.


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About julieminer



Julie W. Miner writes the blog Rants from Mommyland. She has three kids, a long-suffering husband, a very naughty dog and a geriatric, ill-tempered cat. In addition to blogging, she teaches at a college she couldn’t have gotten into because she made bad choices in high school. Read bio and latest posts → Read Julie's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “5 Ways to Keep the Holidays From Becoming a Huge Cluster

  1. Linda Z says:

    Loved this article, great suggestions to help kids and adults not grow up to be graduates of the “me university”. As a homeless shelter volunteer, I can tell you there are many hungry, needy people in our world. Thanks for reminding people that the “Reason for the Season” is JESUS and his focus was always the lost, sick and needy.

  2. Denae says:

    I always have my kids shop for gifts for their siblings. They find it fun and get more excited to give rather than receive gifts. My kids usually get one main gift along with stocking stuffers, books and arts and crafts. My kids are the first grandkids on both sides and I have 4 siblings and my husband has one, so my kids get pretty spoiled with gifts. I keep my kids ( still young, 4 years, almost 3 years and 9 months) focused on the true meaning of Christmas ( Christ being born for us, so he could die for us). I love to listen to Christmas music and let the kids make their ornaments and Christmas cookies. And they LOVE decorating the Christmas tree and the house with decorations. The gifts to them are such a small part for them.

  3. Linda, t.o.o. says:

    Hmmmmm. If you’re only going to talk about Christmas, why did you bother to say “holidays”? Please title your posts appropriately so we can know whether or not to click or skip.

  4. Kelly says:

    Gee, some really great ideas. Although our Christmas Eve tradition is getting the kids in bed and then wrapping ALL of the presents as Santa is making his way to our house. Since the older two now know of Santa, but also know that little miss does not, they beg to help wrap presents for the others. It helps a lot. But it is also kinda fun to leave all the wrapping until the last night–especially with a couple of drinks to help out!

  5. B.P. says:

    We give our kids four gifts: Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. It has really become a great way to talk to them about the difference between “want” and “need” and it cuts down on crazy ridiculous expectations for Christmas morning.

  6. Anna says:

    I love you.

  7. Joetta Stoner says:

    Yea for teh plan. I will keep you in my thoughts as I try to find time to do my cards as tomorrow is December and I haven’t started them yet, again. However, I love your service idea. Service is big in our family and I started a tradition a long time ago that they had to give away as many things as they are old. Until they were 10, now its 10 things each. Every year it’s funny to watch them try to come up with what qualifies as a ‘thing’, and it has to have all its parts and working. For instance 1 Duplo block was not but 20 connected together was. Now that they are both teens, their items are bigger, but harder to part with. It’s a tradition I hope they will pass on to their kids.

  8. Luna says:

    “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.”

    This is bloody brilliant. I am totally stealing this.

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