Sanity Saving Tips for the Holidays

How Canadian Family readers avoid holiday hassles and celebrate on their own terms

Everyone has their own way to make life run smoothly…and what time of year do we need life to run smoothly more than right now, during the hectic holiday season? We asked and you answered…how you make it through the crazy busy season without having a meltdown.

Angie: Love the Busy-ness

Remembering why it’s hectic in the 1st place. Love,  friends,  family,  parties,  gift-giving. Doesn’t get better than that.

Leslie: Make Lists

I’m a big time “To-Do” list person. Being organized ahead of time is the best way for me to keep on track. I have lists for shopping, groceries and what needs to be done. I also make sure I take a few days before Christmas off from work to be calm and not rushing.

Sandra: Stick to what’s important

Remember what is important to you and your family…..only choose the activities that are. Being organized is important so when you do have guests you can focus on them and enjoy yourself and if you need to have outside help like cleaning people and a cater go for it…

Christina: Shop small and local

I do not shop in malls or large stores. I instead shop at small local shops and boutiques and craft and vendor sales.

Carmen: Start… NOW (a tip for next year)

I start early. Really early. After back-to-school shopping is done.

Anne Barbara: Easy-peasy

Make a list and keep it simple.

Jennifer: Schedule You Time

Make sure you don’t schedule yourself to the hilt with family and friends…even though the temptation to do that is so strong this time of year. I make sure to keep at least one 24 hour block completely to myself (no kids, no friends, no family) and spend it doing whatever I want, whether that’s taking an uninterrupted bath, binge-watching Netflix or reading and sipping coffee (or wine, depending on the time of day). It’s my gift to myself during the holiday season.

Monika: Keep the Kids Busy (Bribery is Acceptable)

During the summer, I collect small toys from yard sales or dollar stores—anything small enough to fit in an envelope, such as stickers or Dinky cars. Then, in the days leading up to Christmas, the boys can open an envelope each day: it’s like our own version of an Advent calendar. The new toys keep them busy playing so I can have time to myself or to get other holiday preparations done.

Kelly: Don’t Shop ’til You Drop

We try to shop early, to avoid the crowds. As we see sales throughout the year, we pick up presents and store them away. We also do a lot of our shopping over the Internet. The trick is to make sure you don’t overdo it! In other words, we set a budget and stick to it.

Shannan: Spread the Joy

We’ve taken the kids’ names out of the gift draws in our extended families since they get too many gifts as it is. Before Christmas, I do a toy clean-out and either swap with a friend or store them in the basement to make room for the new load. I’ll also sometimes put away gifts the kids have been given and hand them out later in the year. Do they really need nine new books at one time? Let’s spread out the joy, shall we?

Rachel: Special Delivery

One year, I sent a courier to deliver a bag full of Christmas gifts for my in-laws, who live in the suburbs. My husband and I decided we just wanted to stay at home and relax, cook for ourselves, read and take it easy. Since we didn’t drive at the time, couriering seemed a convenient option. We were incredibly overworked and stressed out at that time in our lives, so staying home was the best choice for us. His family was furious; they said we weren’t going to be welcome in their home again. No such luck though a few months later, the not-desired-but-hard-to-get-out-of family get-together invites started trickling in again.

Suzanne: Vacation Time

My brother and I have both remarried, so between our blended families, there are 10 kids. About 12 years ago, my mom came up with the idea that instead of giving presents to all of us, she would treat the entire family to a long weekend in July or August. We go to a beachside cottage and we’re all focused on each other, instead of being torn about the usual holiday stresses. Now, the holidays are a much more low-key time. We just have a turkey dinner with whoever’s around; it really takes the pressure off having to get all the kids to grandmother’s house!

Anne: Say “No Thanks” Sometimes

Last year, in an effort to make Christmas more sane, I sat down with my family in early November to plan our December and discuss the things that were most important to us and that we really wanted to do. We decided that while we love going to Montreal at Christmas to visit my husband’s family, we all missed waking up on Christmas morning in our own home. So we decided to stay in for Dec. 25 and Dec. 26 and not go anywhere. We stay in our bathrobes, read books and go for hikes. On the 27th, we leave for Montreal.

Kelly: Immediate Family Only

We have designated Christmas morning as “immediate family” time. Even before our son was born, we would spend at least the morning hours by ourselves opening our own gifts, taking our time over breakfast and generally appreciating and enjoying the magic of Christmas morning. By the time we meet up with our respective families, we are in the spirit of the season.

Natalie: Letters to Santa

After the kids are in bed on Christmas Eve, it’s time for my husband, Ron, and me to lay out the stockings for the kids. Part of our ritual is to set out some treats and a beer for Santa. As Ron takes a few sips, he sits down and writes out a letter to Santa from our family that summarizes a few highlights (and lowlights!) of our year: it’s usually a few grains of truth laced with many scoops of exaggeration and comedy, and there’s always some racy joke in there somewhere. When Ron has finished his riff (and two-thirds of the beer), it’s my turn to write Santa’s response on the back of the paper with a few good wishes and a few more jokes. We read an edited version of the letters to the kids in the morning and they always get a kick out of them. It’s a nice way for us to look back at what we’ve been through with a fresh perspective.

Sheena: Start New Traditions

Now that the kids are older, I really want to start traditions of our own. So I finally put my foot down and said I didn’t want to spend the whole holidays carting overtired, overexcited kids in a small car for several hours a day. Last year, we spent Christmas Day at home. My parents opted to join us that day, but we were staying here whether they did or not. This year, I’m going to suggest we host my husband’s family on Christmas Eve since we’re the only ones with kids, I think it makes more sense for everyone to gather at our place.

Jack: No Parents Allowed

I don’t get stressed with my daughter over the holidays; it’s my parents who drive me mad. So I’m taking back the holidays with a very simple strategy: go where my parents are not. Say it with me now: “Go Where My Parents Are Not.” That said, one year we stayed with them for free in Florida, and they looked after our daughter and let my wife and I go back to sleep. So maybe they’re pretty cool after all.

Natalie: Think About Giving Back

Two years ago, we sponsored a family for Christmas. We got their wish list, went shopping with our kids and delivered everything a few days before the 25th. The family was a single mom who had cancer, and her two sons. Although our kids were still young, we wanted to show them that we believe in thinking about other people at Christmas. We took the kids shopping so they could help decide on the presents, and we talked about how those boys would probably have huge smiles on their faces on Christmas morning. We even asked if the kids wanted to donate a loonie from their piggy banks to help cover the costs…and they did.

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