How to Plan a Stress-Free Holiday Season

Traffic. Parking lots. Long lines. Packed malls. Money worries. Does this sound like your holiday season? It pexels-photo-54200sure sounds like mine. When those first Christmas commercials start showing up right after Halloween, my mind starts racing with all of the things I HAVE to do before the holidays arrive. Stress bubbles up inside me and I feel like there’s never enough time. Whatever happened to the days when the holidays were magical and joyful?

I’m going to offer you a simple way to plan a stress-free holiday season full of magic.

Close your eyes and think back on a time when you were young. The weather began to turn cold and the fireplace was cleaned out to make a nice cozy fire. Can you smell the warm embers and hear the crackling wood? Picture the lights on the houses, the warm sweaters you wear as you take a brisk walk. Maybe you had a Christmas tree that smelled of pine. You would carefully hang the ornaments and put your stockings on the fireplace. Or maybe you would help your mom or dad light the menorah and sing songs while the candles glowed bright. There was an anticipation of Santa or presents. Your family would gather together and there would be a feeling of magic everywhere.


But somehow as we get older, the magic gets lost. By time. By money. By stress. It hides away buried beneath all that you have to do, the places you need to be, and the money you need to spend.

I recently attended a wonderful webinar by an old friend, Becca, from She talked about the slowing down of nature during this time of year, and how everything goes into rest. The trees, the plants, and the animals. It’s nature’s way of rejuvenating itself for the upcoming springtime. However, as nature is resting, we are entering the holiday season, where it seems as though we are ramping up and getting busier and more stressed. It is counterintuitive to what we should be doing. So how do we stop this? How do we get in touch with our more natural inner selves?

As Millennial Housewives a lot of the pressure of the holiday season rests on our shoulders. We decorate, shuttle the kids to all of their holiday activities, buy the gifts, and make the food. No wonder we feel ramped up. And the kids pick up on your energy. If you are stressed, they feel it too. And I know you as much as I want to make this holidays season magical for them just like it was for you.

Let’s do an exercise. 

First, get some snacks for the kiddos. Get yourself a nice cup of tea or wine (either works!). Find a spot where you can all gather together like the dining room table. Then set your kids up with some crayons and a piece of paper. You get one too. Ok, I want you all to write or draw everything you love about the holidays.

Ok, I want you all to write or draw everything you love about the holidays. When I say this holidays, I mean now through January 2, 2017.

For me, it’s being with family, watching my toddler open gifts and get excited about Santa, giving back, and shopping for a Christmas tree. I also love the smell of a warm fire, the twinkling of lights on houses, putting out milk and cookies, and lighting the menorah. (Little backstory, my family celebrated both holidays!)

Your turn. Write everything you love about the holidays. Have you kids draw their favorite things. Then sit down as a family and show each other what you came up with. Talk about it. Share. Maybe that will lead you into talking about fun things that happened in holidays before.

Can you start to feel the joy? The magic is already working.

Next step. 

You and the kiddos can now brainstorm on all of the things you WANT to do this holiday season. Not need. Want. For example, I WANT to go to the Christmas tree farm to pick out a tree, I want to take a night to decorate it, I want to make my own gifts this year, I want to take a walk in our neighborhood to see the Christmas lights, I want to have dinner with our family.  

Your want list should include things that are going to be whole family activities. It should be things that will bring you together. Activities that would bring you joy. Things that would bring out the magic in the season.

Your turn. Have the kids share their ideas as well and write them down.

Remember, there are things you feel like you HAVE to do versus WANT. But, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. It’s ok to say no when you are feeling overwhelmed. Give yourself and your family a few free passes. I know I love to participate in everything and go to every party and event, but sometimes that gets to be too much, especially for my toddler, so I have to say no. You don’t have to spend a ton of money shopping. You don’t have to go to your husband’s boss’ wife’s baking party, you don’t have to stand in long lines at the mall.

Have you guys written them down? Great!

Take a break and have some snacks and drink some tea.

Ok, back to work!

Have to

Now that you have your want list, you can look at your HAVE to list. But be very careful with this. I want your HAVE to list to be smaller than your WANT list. If you can , keep it under 10 items and make sure they are a must. But after each one, write why it is a have to with a want to. Sound confusing? Let me show you.

Here are my have to’s:

  1.   Host Thanksgiving dinner at my house, because I want to have my family over.
  2.   Save money so I can buy my toddler 2 specific toys because I want to make sure I see the smile on her face when she gets them.
  3.   Decorate my house, because I want to come home and see it look beautiful every day.
  4.   Go to my in-laws Christmas pizza party, because I want to celebrate with my family.
  5.   Work on my blog and Etsy shop, because I want to be successful and my readers are counting on me.

Ok, your turn! Make sure to include your kids. Maybe they have a Christmas concert they are in that you have to go to. Or maybe they have to do a special school project. But always make sure to include a want to. By doing this it makes it more meaningful and less stressful.

Wish list

Take a look at both lists. Compare all your lists with your family members. Now perhaps some things on your wants need to be moved to your wish list. These are things that would be great to have but perhaps won’t work for everyone. Each person gets their own wish list. It could be whatever they want to put on there. 

Here’s my wish list:

  • Put up more family photos
  • Hire a house cleaner the day before Thanksgiving
  • Watch the movie “Elf” while drinking hot chocolate
  • Go to the tree lighting festival downtown

Have you and your kids write or draw their wish list.

Plan it!

Now it’s time to write it down on the calendar! Get out your Google calendar (because I know you have one, Millennial), and put down that dates of all of the things you have to do from nor through January 2, 2017. Make sure those days are blocked off. Ok, next fill in the calendar with the wants

Be careful, because this is where it gets tricky. Sometimes people want to do a lot of things, and it’s great to try to get to them all. But, if you start to notice that there is no room on your calendar to do everything and you don’t have any days off, it’s too much. Stop, take a step back, and make a plan.

Take a moment to find out what’s really important to you and your kids. Figure out which of the wants is going to be the most meaningful and create the best memories for your family. If the want is to go to the mall to get that matching outfit for your American Girl doll, maybe that can go on the wish list. Find a way to make it work for everyone.

And, most importantly, give yourselves time and days where you are doing nothing. Nothing. These are the days where you can take a breath and relax. Where you can wind down, like nature. Reserve those days for walks and cozy fires.

Your wish list can be filled in where you see gaps. Maybe each person in the family gets 1-2 days where they can fill in their wish list item. Then if you have time, you can try to get to more.

Get ready to party (and relax)

Ok, so now you have everything on the calendar. Yay!! I’m so proud. Now you can see how much time you have for everything. You can see how much time you have to make your gifts (and not run around trying to get them last minute). You can plan ahead to book that cabin in the mountains (because I always wait till the last minute). You can see those days that you and your family will come together, relax, and enjoy the holidays.

Phew. Do you feel better? Now your planning is all done and you can sit back and enjoy the ride. It’ll still get busy, but you’ve prioritized the things that will be special for your family, build happy memories, and create some magic.

So let’s take a deep cleansing breath. Give your kids a hug and tell them they did a great job. And, admire this calendar you built together with love. Most importantly, look ahead to all of the wonderful things the holidays bring.

What are your favorite things about the holidays? What did your family come up with? Let me know in the comments below!

Oh, and coming soon will be a post of the best (and easiest, oh and cheapest) handmade gifts you can make with your kids!