What mama doesn’t need some holiday tips during the season? In addition to being the most wonderful time of year, the holiday season is often the most stressful, particularly for moms who carry the not-so-merry mental load of knowing who to purchase presents for (and what everyone actually wants), getting the perfect gifts and then figuring out where to hide the presents, planning family get-togethers, cooking Christmas dinner, decorating the house, putting up the tree, and well… the list goes on and on.
Of course you want to make the holiday magical, especially for the kids, but it doesn’t have to come at the cost of your sanity—and it definitely shouldn’t. According to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health conducted last year, 28% of parents feel they have unrealistic expectations of themselves during the holidays. Another 20% recognize how this extra stress negatively impacts the kids. If this isn’t a cue to stop the madness, then what is?
From outsourcing your never-ending to-do list to finally getting that perfectly symmetrical fake tree, you need to know how to balance it all.
Here are 10 holiday tips to help you save time and minimize stress
1. Don’t wrap the presents
Santa doesn’t wrap presents—so why should you?! He doesn’t have time (and neither do you!) There’s something so magical about waking up as a kid on Christmas and seeing all the toys Santa got for you in one big pile—already assembled and ready to be played with.
Hot holiday tip: Take everything out of the packaging and get rid of the evidence. This way, you can spend less time cleaning up on Christmas morning and more time being present with your family.
2. Look into free (or low-cost) gift wrapping
If you decide that you’d rather have the presents wrapped, take a mental load off and let someone else do all the wrapping for you. One of my favorite local LA boutiques always offers free gift wrapping around the holiday season. With three kiddos at home, plus lots of family to purchase for, you can bet that I take advantage.
If you’re shopping online to save yourself a trip to the store, search for retailers that let you tack on free or low-cost gift wrapping at checkout. Some will even send your stuff in a beautiful box with a bow on it. A few bucks per present may be worth the extra dough with all the time you’ll save.
3. Clean out the toy clutter and donate
Time for a giant toy purge. Make space for all the new stuff coming in and KonMari that toy closet—with or without the help of your kiddos. If they’re like my five year old, they’ll be willing to part with some toys that “don’t bring them joy” anymore. But if they’re more like my four year old who will gladly hold onto a broken party favor trinket from two years ago, you’ll need to do it when they’re at school (the stuff you know they won’t actually miss).
Look for local charities and organizations that will take any gently used toys. Your local Buy Nothing Facebook group is another great resource to sustainably get rid of the toy clutter without trashing it.
4. Create a to-do list
Organization is the key to your sanity this season. Don’t try to be supermom and get everything done six months in advance, but do set yourself up for success with a to-do list that you can chip away at every day or week in the months leading up to the holidays.
Whether that’s purchasing presents, getting the house decorated or figuring out what you’re going to cook for the holiday party you’re hosting, checking tasks off little by little will make it all feel way less overwhelming.
5. Skip the stuff that stresses you out
One of my fave holiday hacks is to stop trying to do it all! Seriously, it’s OK if you don’t decorate gingerbread houses with your kids or bake Pinterest-worthy Christmas cookies and hand deliver them to all of your neighbors.
And yes, you’re still a good mom if you don’t send out holiday cards, take pictures in matching pajamas or bust out the Elf on The Shelf this year. Let go of the mom guilt and give yourself permission to just enjoy the holidays without all the social media pressure.
6. If you can, outsource it
Because there’s probably an app for that. Instacart those groceries or gifts. Pay a professional to put up (and take down) holiday decorations for you. Pick up a pumpkin pie from the store—I promise no one will know or care that you didn’t bake it yourself.
7. Organize a gift exchange for the adults
Instead of buying gifts for every aunt, uncle and grandparent (um, exhausting!) in the fam, set up a Secret Santa for all the adults so you only have to purchase one present. Or, you know, come to your senses and mutually agree that it’s fine to basically stop exchanging money every year and just get gifts for the kiddos.
8. Cater the holiday meal
One of the best holiday stress tips is to just cater the food so you don’t have to spend an entire day slaving away in the kitchen. You can also share the workload and host a holiday potluck where everyone brings a dish to contribute.
9. Let someone else host
No time-saving holiday tips list is complete without this one. Chances are, your sister-in-law has been dying to show off her new house anyway. If someone offers, let them host the holidays this year. You just focus on showing up and bringing that delicious store-bought pie and all those gorgeous gifts that you didn’t have to wrap!
10. Buy yourself a beautiful, fake tree
No need to trek the entire fam to the Christmas tree lot year after year. The fakes are so good nowadays, you can barely tell them apart from the real ones. They’re low maintenance, cost-effective and require minimal cleanup. So yeah, save yourself the hassle!
No matter which holiday tips you choose to implement this season, the best gift you can give yourself and your kids is a happy, stress-free mama. So ask for more help from family or get the kiddos involved in the wrapping and decorating and turn your to-dos into a fun, festive activity. Because you deserve a magical holiday as much as they do, mama.
Motherly Stories are first person, 500-1000 word stories, reflecting on the insights you’ve experienced in motherhood—and the wisdom you’ve gained along the way. They also help other women realize they’re not alone. Motherly Stories don’t judge. Instead, they inspire other mamas with stories of meaning, hope and a realization that “you’ve got this.” If you have a story, please submit it here: https://www.mother.ly/share-your-story/