Simplify the Season (Without Being a Scrooge)

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By Erin Pittman

After a year like we’ve had, the idea of a simpler holiday season sounds rather appealing, doesn’t it? But when it comes down to simplifying, it can be hard to decide what to cut and what to keep. While COVID may naturally dictate some simplifications this year, there are additional ways to make your 2020 holiday season less stressful and more enjoyable. Consider some of these options to help you close out a crazy year with some peace and happiness.

Downplaying Decorations

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Downplaying your decorations doesn’t have to mean putting a total damper on your holiday designs. It means only putting out what truly brings you joy (and maybe not striving for Pinterest-perfect décor this year). If stringing together 200 feet of natural garland doesn’t actually make you blissful, why do it? Skip it this year or invest in some artificial instead.

Do you really feel like putting up three trees this year, or would one do? And what about Grandma’s 50-piece Christmas village? Do you feel joyous when setting up the tiny reindeer and mountains of fake snow? If you do, then dig in and create that village! If you don’t, leave it boxed up this year and reconsider it in 2021. It’s important to remember that just because you decide to simplify in 2020, it’s not a requirement for all the years to come.

Did you know that clutter can actually increase stress? If you’re already feeling stress from the countless “gifts” 2020 has delivered, putting out fewer decorations might make you physically feel better. As you decorate, consider packing up some everyday items to create space for the holiday trinkets, rather
than just adding more to your surroundings.

Paring Down Presents

The pandemic has left many households operating on tighter budgets. This is a great year to ease the focus off of gifts or to create new gift-giving traditions. It might not be the easiest subject to broach, but it’s important to talk to family and friends ahead of time and discuss a plan.

There are many ways to pare down your budget and still enjoy the experience of giving and receiving. Maybe this is the year your extended family could draw names, set a budget and have everyone only buy for one other person. Perhaps a silly white elephant exchange could bring needed laughter to your season.
Maybe the solution is as simple as setting smaller budgets and getting more creative with gifts in 2020.

If you’re counting your blessings or simply wish to avoid the clutter the gifting season can bring, consider adopting a family in need and sharing some of your gifting budget with them. Local social services departments and other nonprofits can help you find a family in need of assistance. Making a difference together is a wonderful family experience to share.

You can also reduce the number of gifts you purchase and receive within your household by sticking to this popular gift theme: “Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.” One luxury, one need, some PJs or a new sweater, and a book to escape into create a lovely balance of
holiday treasures.

Simplifying Schedules

One of the most stress-inducing parts of the holiday season can be a chock-full calendar. It’s fair to say that COVID-19 may naturally pare down some of your annual engagements this year, but it’s still worth focusing on being intentional with how you spend your time.

Think back to last year and how many gatherings/activities you committed to. How did it make you feel? Did you find yourself wishing you had time to catch that new holiday special with family or enjoy a cozy evening at home baking or sitting by the fire? If so, schedule more of those things into your 2020 season. It’s OK to turn down some invitations. It’s OK not to be involved with every charitable organization in town. And it’s OK to turn your focus inward this season and count your blessings.

Sit down with your family’s holiday season calendar, and schedule traditions like cookie baking and tree decorating. Once you’ve captured dates and times for those important activities, consider other holiday engagements you’ve been invited to.

Choose ones that mean the most to you and that add joy to your season. If while considering an invite you feel overwhelmed or stressed, sit that one out this year. Send a small seasonal gift instead, if you’re having trouble just saying no. Your host or hostess will still feel the seasonal love, and you can minimize that
holiday frazzle.

Celebrating COVID-Safely

We certainly can’t ignore the potential uninvited guest this holiday season – COVID-19. Pandemics don’t make holiday planning any easier. Keeping events small, moving what you can outdoors, washing hands and wearing masks aren’t new ideas for anyone at this point. But thinking about holiday celebrations and deciding what to alter and what to skip adds a new level of stress. Do your best to get a little creative this year and remember what truly matters — the people you love.

Maybe this year instead of renting a limo with 10 friends, you gather your household in the car in PJs, with blankets and hot chocolate for a self-guided tour of holiday lights. Set up some distanced outdoor seating for family and friends and snuggle up under blankets to watch a holiday movie under the stars. Pull out
heaters and firepits for some patio conversation. Let a gathering go to the birds and trim an outdoor tree together that feathered friends can enjoy.

With a little (OK, maybe a lot of) creativity, you can fight back against the crummy hand that 2020 seems to have dealt us and share some joy and happiness with those you love.

Savoring the Simple

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When you look back on holidays throughout your life, what do you remember? Do you remember specifics about elaborate decorations or the details of extravagant meals? Or is it the time with family and the feelings you remember more?

When creating a holiday for your family, take some time to savor moments from your past and focus on what has really meant the most to you over the years. Perhaps it’s the tradition of a roaring fire, hot cocoa and decorating the tree together. Or maybe it’s the secret family cookie recipe and time spent decorating them with your favorite people. Cozying up on the couch to take in an annual showing of a classic movie might stick out for you.

Whatever it is, take time to savor the simple moments this year. Memories don’t just come from painstakingly perfectly planned-out holiday events. Some of the best are born from moments at home quietly soaking up the sights, sounds, smells and treasured people around you.

Erin Pittman is Editor in Chief of Prince William Living. She’s been a writer for more than 10 years, but a lover of words her entire life. In these colder months, you’ll find her snuggled up with her yellow Lab, Wilson, 
desperately trying to finish reading the latest best-seller while hiding from the demands of her three (wonderful) children. Reach her at epittman@princewilliamliving.com.

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