Holiday Minimalism: Five Ways to Keep Your Sanity

by Productivity

Do you race around the mall frantically trying to find the perfect gift during the holidays?
Do you spend time worrying about what to wear, how to decorate and which party to attend?
Try out some Holiday Minimalism and stop the flip-outs and hissy-fits.


I have very little stress during the holidays. I used to worry. I worried about the perfect gift, going to multiple stores or websites, sometimes without any appreciation by the recipient at all. I worried about how much food I put out at my annual Holidays & Hygiene party (charity event where the price of admission is a bag of hygiene products to donate). I worried about getting decorations up on time and if I had an outfit to wear that no one had seen me in before.

No more. I stopped all this several years ago and now holidays are so much nicer. I recognize that not everyone will feel comfortable with these recommendations, but maybe try just one to ease your frustrations. It shouldn't be a time of stress.

1. Give fewer gifts. I love giving gifts much more than receiving gifts. I'm not someone who keeps track in my head of who I gave a gift to and who didn’t give me a gift. That's not the reason to give. What I don't like is the obligation to buy gifts for people. If I buy for Bobbie, I must buy for Sue. What if I don't really like or know Sue? I don't like the generic gifts either where everyone spends $20 on something and then randomly gets a present. How thoughtful can it be? Buying something that is going to work for my 76-year-old mother-in-law and my 22-year-old niece means buying something completely boring like bath products and even then the scent could be cloying to one and nice to another.

2. Don't decorate or decorate less. I used to put up a tree, lights, and all that jazz. We always go back home for the week of Christmas so I wasn't even really there when it mattered. It was a lot of work to put up and take down and took up storage space in my attic. Now I don't decorate at all and it's wonderful. If you are someone who likes to do that, consider hiring someone to help you with set-up or take-down.

3. Buy less food. The first four years of the Holidays & Hygiene, I made everything from scratch and had a counter full of food. Because our house is small and people are shoulder to shoulder, there isn't a lot of moving around to get food and people didn't seem to care. I always ended up with so much food left it was frustrating. Now, I only put out a few things and don't go nuts over it (bowls of nuts….check).

4. Attend fewer parties. I don't stress over invites. I can't be everywhere at once and there always seem to be at least two things going on at the same time. I have to pick and choose. I never get offended when someone declines my invite and chooses a different party over mine. I might be disappointed I won't see them, but just like we have tiers of friends, we have tiers of parties, and mine might be tier two. I'm okay with that.

5. Outsource. I can't stress this enough. Hire people to help you. I can get sucked into the rabbit hole of reviews when trying to buy something because I am a research nut. Instead, I give my Virtual Assistant (VA) the information of what I want to buy. For example: Please research blue-ray blocking video game glasses under $75.00 with reviews of five stars and send me the top six. If you don't have a VA, purchase a month of Fancy Hands online tasking help or ask a niece or nephew to do it. I also have a housecleaner/food prepper, who I call “Angel,” that comes every Wednesday and cleans three rooms and washes, chops and preps my produce box. It is worth every penny and I'm willing to sacrifice other things to have her.

What do you think you could try to minimize your holiday stress? What do you currently do to keep from going crazy?

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jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects