With an overblown, all-out, retail-fueled holiday frenzy at one extreme and an all-natural, homemade Christmas worthy of Little House on the Prairie at the other, I’m guessing most of us have a holiday that lies somewhere in the middle. If you find yourself struggling to balance a desire for simplicity and sharing deep lessons with the urge to make the holidays memorable, fun and festive, you are not alone. Here are nine ways to have a simple holiday season.

1. Set intentions

Try to sum up the holiday experience you want to have in one or two words. For instance, “playful” or “meaningful grace.” Use this easily remembered word or phrase as a litmus test when deciding which holiday activities and traditions to pursue.

2. Create small, special moments each day

Photo by Jeni Lee

Indulge in hot cocoa at breakfast, light candles and sit around the tree in the evening, read a special holiday story, listen to music from The Nutcracker and dance around the living room. Often these little, everyday moments are what end up being the most memorable.

3. Think of ways to simplify a tradition

Photo by Jeni Lee

Instead of ditching a popular holiday tradition altogether, think of a way to scale it back a bit, so it’s easier (read: more enjoyable) for you. For example, bake three of your family’s favorite kinds of cookies instead of 10, or turn your holiday party into a potluck.

4. Set limits on gift giving

Photo by Jeni Lee

There are so many ways to do this, and many of them are actually fun!

  • Give local. Perfect if you want to avoid the mall. Sticking with shopping at local small businesses can be a fun self-imposed limit and will benefit your community to boot.
  • Give vintage. There is so much cool old stuff out there! Think vintage records and a turntable for a music-obsessed teen or a lovely china platter for your mother-in-law.
  • Give handmade. Either made by you or purchased from a crafter online or at a local shop.
  • Give experiences. Or even better, shared experiences. Try tickets to the symphony, a museum or zoo membership, cooking classes or (for a free option) a day of sledding.
  • Give gifts that give back.Choose gifts for which part or all of the purchase price goes to a charitable organization. It feels good knowing the gifts you are giving are actually helping people or the planet.
  • Give a certain number of gifts per person. This can be helpful to rein things in, especially in households with kids. If you’ve given with wild abandon in the past, maybe cut back gradually, with fewer (but carefully chosen) gifts this year.
  • Give gifts under a certain dollar amount. Decide on a realistic budget for all of your gift shopping, figure out how much to spend per person, and stick to it.

5. Fill stockings with consumable and necessary items — that is, stuff you would buy anyway

Gifts in stockings, if you participate in this tradition, are meant to be fun surprises. But for many tired and shopped-out parents, filling stockings with tons of trinkets at the last minute can feel like a burden.

Starting last year, I adopted the tradition of filling stockings with only things that are needed—and it’s working beautifully so far. Think crayons, watercolor sets and silly underwear for kids; hand cream, pretty postage stamps and socks for grown-ups.

6. Remove visual chaos

Photo by hoo Interior Design & Styling

Regularly remove packaging, shopping bags and glossy catalogs instead of letting them pile up. These are visual reminders of your holiday to-do list, and they have no business junking up your house. Being mindful about TV watching and screen time can also go a long way toward keeping the home feeling like a haven.

7. Try on a new tradition for size

Photo by Laura Collins Design

Feel like shaking things up a little this year? On the theory that lots of little moments can be more meaningful than one big blowout event, for December try adopting a daily tradition that gets at the spirit of the season. Here are some ideas:

  • Daily giving. Popping a few quarters into a stranger’s parking meter, shoveling snow from your neighbor’s walkway, volunteering at the animal shelter, donating to the food bank — it all counts!
  • Daily gratitude. Start each day by quietly thinking (or writing down) one thing you are thankful for in your life. If you have kids, by all means get them involved, too.
  • Daily moment of silence. Each evening after dinner, turn down the lights and sit quietly, either by candlelight at the dinner table or next to the Christmas tree, for one minute.

8. Breathe

Photo by Laura Collins Design

Which is another way of saying stay in the moment. The stress of the holidays usually comes not so much from our experiences, but from that running commentary in our head listing the many things we feel we ought to be doing.

The next time you find yourself getting wound up about the holidays, breathe. Realize that what’s really important is to simply enjoy what’s going on around you right now, in all its imperfect glory.

9. Take some time out

Photo by The Eclectic Creative Studio

Put on some nonholiday music for a change and do something you usually love but have let slip during the busyness of the holidays: Take a walk, read or just take a nap. It doesn’t have to be all festivities all the time!

Original story by Laura Gaskill for Houzz