If you’ve left your house, collected your mail or turned on your television recently, you’ve probably seen it. It’s been happening for the past few weeks. Gradually at first. Now it’s full-blown. In countries where Christmas is celebrated, retailers are all decked out in their holiday finery. It’s about to become 'the most beautiful time of the year'...and for many, the most stressful and frenzied.
When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was the line in the sand. Holiday decorating did not begin prior to that famous fourth Thursday in November. The following day, known affectionately as Black Friday (because it was always the day that put a retailer’s financial books back into the black) was first beginning of the holiday madness.
It seems that the holiday hubbub hits earlier every year. Stores begin stocking holiday merchandise in October...or even September. Halloween goods now share the floor with Christmas gifts and decorations.
I’ve worked retail my entire life. I’m quite comfortable being surrounded by ornaments and garland at work, long before I even consider unboxing those items at home.
I love the holiday season and all of its splendor...but I don’t love the imposed urgency that all of the holiday marketing creates within me.
For many years, I bought into the entire holiday frenzy.
I was strongly influenced and overwhelmed by the advertisements and displays.
I always felt I was behind the holiday eight ball...in my planning, my shopping, my decorating, my wrapping…
I allowed the outside ‘pressure’ to make me feel like I wasn’t living up to my holiday potential.
Then something happened...
A few years ago, our family’s financial situation took a sudden, dark turn in early November. We found ourselves in a new and very scary place just as the holiday marketing madness started.
I had no choice but to take a step back.
I knew I would not be ‘buying’ into the holiday purchasing frenzy that year. I simply couldn’t afford it.
Lots of deep breaths and hot tears later, I realized something simple yet profound…
It is the marketer’s job to make me feel the Christmas crazies! They benefit (mightily) from inducing a purchasing panic in shoppers as the season approaches.
There’s a human psychology at play that I’d been missing for years. The role of the retailers and advertisers is to make us truly believe that we need it all!
We must shop earlier and later.
We must buy sooner and more.
We must decorate until we don’t even recognize our own homes.
Well, the truth is...we really don’t have to do any of that.
During that financially frightening time, I learned a lot.
I discovered that I can do the holidays my way. I don’t have to follow the masses or keep up with the Jones’.
Some years, Christmas is sparse and minimal and others it’s more plentiful. But it can always be abundant.
I now realize that I more fully enjoy the holiday season when I don't become caught up in all the trappings.
Want to experience a calmer, more authentic holiday season?
1. Schedule at least one date with a friend. It’s easy to say you're too busy during the weeks leading up to the holidays...but you control that busyness. Spend an hour or two with a friend who feeds your soul. It might be the best gift you receive all season.
2. Don’t accept every invitation. Just because someone wants you at their gathering doesn’t mean you have to go. Say a gracious ‘no’ to the invites that just don’t fit onto your calendar...or into your heart.
3. Choose the things you really love about the holidays and deep dive into those. For instance, I love to wrap presents. I now schedule and carefully guard the time I spend wrapping gifts. The act is soothing and peaceful for me. I don’t like Christmas cookies, so I stopped attending cookie exchanges and baking for the holidays. Two of my kids enjoy baking and have happily taken on the task of creating seasonal desserts.
4. Share the love. ‘Tis the season for giving. Find ways, big or small, that you can give back or pay it forward. Carry a pouch full of change to drop in the Salvation Army bucket. Feed a parking meter to keep a fellow shopper from getting a ticket. Donate your time. Buy a small gift for a giving tree. Then, pause and really enjoy how awesome it feels to spread good cheer.
5. Spend wisely. In an effort to cut expenses and reduce waste, I’ve stopped sending Christmas cards. Now I share our family’s photographic cheer through email or social media. Saves money and the planet. Works for me.
6. Buy what they want. I love to shop for gifts and in the past have gotten carried away. I now stick to a wish list. In an effort to keep our home free of clutter, I’m careful not to buy things that are cute or fun, but not really wanted or needed by the recipient. I don’t feel the urge to fill up the space under the tree with more stuff. We spent a long time purging and tidying...I definitely don’t want to do that again!
7. Get clever. If there's something you can create that makes a wonderful gift, do it. Just be sure you are enjoying the process and the ‘making’ isn’t making you crazy. Or give an experience...lunch with a friend after the holidays, a walk in the snow, a movie date.
8. Spend cash. I learned way too late how fabulous it feels to have a cash only holiday season. Go small. Stay intentional. There is something beautiful about a January free of credit card statements.
9. Decorate within your personal limits. I like a house that twinkles during the holidays. I love greenery. I rely on white lights and candles to create a festive glow and I always ask for a big pile of the discarded greens when we buy our Christmas tree. I use those pine clippings to craft a simple wreath for the front door and to line the mantel.
I don’t like to completely redecorate our home to make room for Christmas. So, I'm choosy about what I display. I've recently purged any holiday decor that didn’t spark joy. Now I enjoy a few amazing pieces that make me and my family really happy.
10. Take time to recharge. Whatever that looks like for you...make it happen. A bubble bath. A cup of tea in a cozy chair. A 30-minute break to read or nap. In this season that’s all about giving to others, be sure to give something to yourself.
I hope the start of this holiday season finds you calm and relaxed.
Don’t get lost in what doesn’t matter to you. Stay true to yourself and do the things that will truly bring you joy over the next six weeks.
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How do you stay chill throughout the frenzy?
What’s your best tip for finding peace during the holiday madness?
Please share what works for you!
Thanks so much for reading.
Hello, I'm Kristen.
As a personal stylist,