How to Avoid Christmas Planning Overwhelm

I love Christmas. I love the hyggeness (who knew that lovely cosiness and time spent having fun with friends actually had a special word until last year?!).

And I have to hold my hands up right now and confess that I actually love the anticipation of Christmas more than anything else…which is probably why I’ve been getting totally irate over the number of houses decorated well before December’s even begun (I mean, it’s like carving your Hallowe’en pumpkin over the August bank holiday, right?!).

But many times over the last few years, rather than enjoying the anticipation, the joy of being able to plan, prepare and look forward to some quality family time together has got lost under the frankly overwhelming list of things that need doing, buying, making and creating and the additional socialising, which all just takes up so much time that, well, frankly, I don’t have. All I can say is thank goodness my children go to a school where they provide the nativity costumes and don’t expect parents to get out their sewing machines/purses for that as well!

Last year, for the first time in a very long time, although I had less money, I had the luxury of time to prepare for Christmas. This new combination led me to reflect on the whole thing afresh, and think about why preparing for Christmas, which should be a time of fun, joy and excitement, so often becomes a chore, a task to be endured, that leaves us so exhausted it’s no wonder we can do no more on Christmas night than flop out in front of something on telly we wouldn’t ordinarily give the time of day to. And about why we put so much pressure on ourselves (yes, ourselves), to create a crazily spectacular Christmas, when, after all, the mince pies from the local supermarket are perfectly good enough – especially when drowned in brandy butter/cream/custard.

So, here are my three big tips for avoiding Christmas overwhelm while delivering a Christmas that everyone – you included- will enjoy

  1. Realise that Good Enough is Good Enough.

Perfection? It’s an illusion, a made-up concept. It’s in the eye of the beholder.

Don’t believe me? Ask a few friends what their idea of the perfect Christmas present/Christmas tree/Christmas dinner is. They will all be different…so stop trying to achieve perfection, and find something fit for purpose instead – it’ll leave you with a heap more time and will go down just as well as the magazine-worthy, over-budget, latest trend version you’ve guilt-tripped yourself into feeling you must have if you aren’t going to ruin everyone’s Chistmas!

  1. While we’re on the subject, PUT THE MAGAZINES DOWN.

You’re just giving yourself a guilt-fest by tormenting yourself with all those images of the latest trends and colour schemes in decorations, articles about the perfect gifts and party outfits, page after page of recipes that you simply must home-make to create the perfect Christmas.

This is not real life, it’s just pictures in a glossy magazines– they are given all the items for free, they have teams of (paid) stylists with time and professional tricks up their sleeves to create the amazing looks, dishes and outfits and they honestly don’t care how their gorgeousness makes you feel as long as you buy buy buy into their perfect vision enough to spend the extortionate cover-price to send yourself on an ever bigger guilt-trip.

The kids? They’ll be happy with a few bits of tinsel, as many different coloured baubles as they can find and the excitement of having a pile of presents to open. They have enough going on at school/nursery already in terms of crafting and partying to make them feel like Christmas is great – you don’t need to do any more.

Your partner? Probably be really happy with an endless supply of booze and snacks and some time off work to watch back-to-back films for a couple of days. You certainly won’t ruin their Christmas if you don’t serve up three types of home made stuffing for Christmas dinner.

Your friends? In the same boat as you. They get it. They’ll be glad if someone breaks the mould and says “enough is enough”.

You? Only you know the answer to that. Work out what’s truly important to you about Christmas (what you actually want, not what you feel you should want) and make sure those things happen. Anything else is a bonus.

  1. Prioritise, and then plan it like a project

You know the drill – heck, you’re probably doing it at work all the time:

Work out what’s essential, what’s desirable to include if you possibly can and what’s a nice to have (but which won’t stop the big day from going ahead if you don’t have it) .

Once you’ve worked out what’s REALLY important, focus on those things first…and only on those things. Move on to the ideals and “nice to haves” once you’ve ticked off the big things.

Make a list of everything outstanding and break the list down week by week, taking into account the amount of time you’ve actually got and not what you wish you had. I love Trello for this: I have one Trello board for Christmas overall, separated into separate lists by theme (people to buy gifts for, invitations/events to reply to, Christmas food shopping list, things that just need doing like decorating, wrapping, sending, cleaning, sorting) – it helps me feel in control, I have the satisfaction of ticking things off as they get done and seeing the list get shorter and shorter, I can share the list with my husband  and allocate specific tasks to other people to spread the load. Or I can just decide I’m not going to do something and delete it without trace. Now that’s my kind of planning.

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