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How to Simplify Christmas for Less Stress and More Joy

How to Simplify Christmas for Less Stress and More Joy

Here are some ideas on how to simplify Christmas and the holidays for less stress and more joy. Intentional tips for a meaningful Christmas by planning, organising, decluttering and getting clear on what’s important to you and your family at Christmas.


Christmas can be a wonderful time of year, full of magic, meaning and memories. For many of us though, Christmas can also feel a little complicated, even stressful. We give ourselves an endless list of things to do, plan and remember in our efforts to make Christmas ‘special’.

Unfortunately, the end result can often mean that we feel frazzled and overwhelmed and most definitely not in the Christmas spirit!

If this sounds familiar, then I hope this article gives you some tips and ideas on how to simplify Christmas and the holidays without compromising on what makes the holiday season so special to you!

The way you spend Christmas is far more important than how much.

Henry David Thoreau


Here are 11 things to think about and ideas on how to simplify Christmas and the holidays for less stress and more joy. You might like to have a notebook and pen to hand as you read!

1. Identify what stresses you out

The first thing I suggest you do is to grab your notebook and pen and reflect back over previous years. When you think about Christmas, what stresses you out the most? Is it planning what to cook? Having so many people in your home? Too many invitations and places to be? Buying presents? Your financial situation? It could be too much stuff coming into your home.

We’ll cover some of these points in this article so hopefully you won’t be stressing about them all this year, but it’s good to think about what’s stressed you out the most in the past.

I encourage you to be honest. It’s not about being ungrateful for having so many kind invitations, or plenty of presents under your tree, or plentiful food in your fridge. There are so many people in the world who aren’t as fortunate but don’t feel guilty for listening to your heart and being honest if you’d like something different from Christmas this year.

2. Decide what’s important

Whilst you have your notebook to hand, I’d like you to make a note of what Christmas means to you. In a practical sense, what do you need to have in your home, on your table or in your calendar, for example, to help you feel that Christmas is special for you and your family.

List the elements that create magic and meaning for you. Is it the people you see, the traditions you follow, the decorations you put around the home? Is it having time off work, quality time to enjoy together as a family, catch up with friends and family you haven’t spoken to or seen in a while, an endless list of parties to enjoy, the food?

When you think about how to simplify Christmas, what are the 5-10 most important things for you to have, enjoy or feel at Christmas?

This exercise is all about defining your priorities. It’s not possible to do everything, be everywhere and achieve it all. For many of us, we spend most of the rest of the year trying to do ‘all the things’ (or trying to avoid doing ‘all the things’)! Let’s make a pact with ourselves to slow down and focus on what’s important to us – our priorities for a meaningful Christmas.

3. Choose your key traditions

In looking over what you noted in point 2, you may have written down some of your favourite Christmas traditions. Perhaps these are things that you remember fondly doing every year. It could be sitting around the table at lunch on Christmas Day, surrounded by family and good food? Maybe it was putting up the Christmas Tree and watching the kids decorate it? Maybe it’s baking cookies or decorating a gingerbread house? Or playing games on Christmas Eve night.

Traditions bring fond memories but sometimes I think we keep on with some traditions more out of habit. We’ve always done something so we feel we have to carry on doing it.

If we have too many traditions that don’t mean something special to us then we’re doing things for the sake of doing them and that just piles on the pressure and removes us from doing what we’d rather be doing instead.

Take a moment to look at the notes you’ve written in your notebook. Can you identify some traditions that you love and really work for you? What traditions have you kept on, which perhaps have been passed down from previous generations but which no longer suit you now? Is it time to let some go?

Life is always changing and it’s good to revisit habits (and, in this case, traditions) to make sure they still mean as much to us now as they used to. It’s ok to make changes and try new things to see what works.

Here are some simple, memorable but meaningful Christmas traditions that are simple and cost-effective.

How to simplify the holidays

4. Christmas décor

Put down your notebook and when you have a moment, summon up the energy to look through your Christmas decorations. If you haven’t done this in a while, then you might find you have plenty to go through!

I’m sure that many of you reading this will already know, but a minimalist and simplified home doesn’t need to mean bare white walls and very little furniture. It can mean that if you want it to, but in my book, a minimalist and simplified home means something different. It means a home without excess clutter, a home where you can find everything you need and a home with character and personality without random stuff distracting your mind or line of sight.

When it comes to Christmas, it’s easy for our homes to fill with tinsel, lights and all manner of festive clutter. Although it looks pretty and fun, I do find too many Christmas decorations makes me a bit crazy. What with all the everyday clutter of having a busy family plus the extra stuff that comes into our homes around this time of year (food, presents and people to name a few!), too many baubles, tinsel and sparkly things just makes my home feel cluttered and me stressed out.

I prefer to declutter Christmas decorations and keep just our favourites to let these shine out. So, for example, we have lights on the outside of the house above the windows, a Christmas tree in our living room, a centrepiece for the Christmas Day lunch table. I use candles and natural pinecones and holly to put in vases and that’s about it.

I change it every year or two and sometimes try different colour schemes, but I keep it simple and, I think, more effective.

Another suggestion which I’ve tried for a year or two is to have seasonal cushion covers, towels, bedding and throws. Whilst you may not want to store these items through the rest of the year, I have found it brings the seasons into my home without the clutter of extra decorations. I just swap the cushion covers on my sofa, the handtowels in the bathroom, even the oven gloves and tea towels in the kitchen, for festive ones. I don’t know if I’ll continue with this but I like it for the moment!

Return to your own Christmas decorations, get rid of the broken ones, choose your favourites and donate your excess to those who might benefit from them more than you.

5. Presents

Gifts are an integral part of the Christmas season. Some of us start buying them well in advance, others hit the shops on Christmas Eve in a mad dash! One thing I do know is that deciding what to buy and the act of buying it, is one of the things that can stress me out the most if I don’t have a plan.

I’ve found it helpful to ask friends and family for a Christmas list well in advance of when I want to start buying things. I buy what I can online and then make a trip to the shops in person for the things that I want to see and touch in person.

I don’t want to add to anybody else’s clutter by buying something they don’t want, which is why I find asking for a Christmas list helpful. I also create a wish list for myself and encourage my husband and kids to do the same which I can then give to loved ones who want to buy us something. That way, it’s easier for people to know what to buy us and it means we don’t get given a present that we don’t really want!

As a minimalist, I always try to go for gifts that won’t add clutter. Here are some suggestions for clutter-free Minimalist gift ideas.

Useful things to have in the home at Christmas

6. Plan and prepare

One tip on how to simplify Christmas is by planning well in advance. When you leave everything to the last minute, you’re much more likely to feel pressured, let alone forget something important.

Take a moment to think about what you could do to plan and prepare for Christmas. Brainstorm the important things such as food, gifts, cards and anything else that comes to mind. You could use this list of 30 things to plan and organise for Christmas to jog your mind.

Brainstorm in your notebook everything you need to do. Now grab your calendar and put all your To-Dos down into your calendar so that you have a visual record of what you need to do and when. Refer to it often and tick things off as you go. Use your phone to set alerts and reminders to keep you on track!

One of the key components to simplifying life is organisation. That’s not to say that getting organised will instantly make your life easy but it will go a long way to making it easIER! You’re less likely to overlook or forget something, run out of essential items and stress yourself out with last-minute and frequent trips to the shops to buy things that (with a little bit of planning and organisation) you could have avoided.

You might also like to look at this list of useful things to have in the home at Christmas for some other tips!

7. Take care of yourself

Sometimes when we’re busy and thinking of what to do next, taking care of ourselves slips to the bottom of the priority pile. However, I know from my own experience, that if I don’t pay attention to my body and mind then it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and tired. Not a great way to enjoy the festive spirit!

Self-care at Christmas is vital. Whether it’s a few minutes each day or a luxurious afternoon nap on the sofa, listen to your body and what it’s telling you. Even more than that, make self-care a regular part of your daily routine so that it becomes a habit, not just something you squeeze in when you’re running on empty and desperate for some you-time. Try these tips on how to maintain healthy habits during the holidays.

Here are some Christmas self-care tips that are easy, effective and realistic, even if you’re in the midst of festive busyness.

8. Declutter

Christmas comes with so much clutter. Not in a bad way, but there’s more people, presents, food and stuff in our homes at this time of year than perhaps any other. In preparation for all this extra stuff, I like to declutter my home before Christmas.

I pay special attention to the areas in my home that will be working really hard. It could be the living room where our guests will relax after eating, the kitchen with all the extra cooking and food preparation. The fridge and freezer are certainly fuller as are some of my kitchen cupboards.

I also like to encourage my kids to declutter their toys, I make space on my bookshelf for new books and in my bathroom for new bath and beauty products I might receive.

I also try to create some extra storage space. For example, storage for presents that need wrapping, the gift wrap itself, extra drinks and nibbles I’ve stocked up on, clothes, shoes and bags that our guests bring with them when they visit.

Sometimes I shuffle the furniture around to make space for the Christmas tree or extra chairs for visitors.

Once Christmas is over, I return the furniture to its usual place, unless I fancy a switch around. The decorations come down and everything goes back to normal.

Read more tips on decluttering before Christmas.

9. Household routines

Your home might be working hard for you over Christmas so, although it probably won’t be perfectly neat and tidy, it’s helpful to keep it reasonably tidy and clean.

That’s why it’s a good idea to keep up with some basic household routines just to keep things ticking over. You won’t want to spend the entire holiday cleaning, but a few minutes every day, perhaps before mealtimes and at the end of the day, will keep your home presentable with minimum effort.

For some tips on household routines and keeping your home clean and tidy, quickly and easily, here are some articles you might find helpful:

10. Finances

Christmas is special but it can be expensive as we feel compelled to buy things to make it even more special. According to the latest data from the National Retail Federation (NRF), Americans spend an average of $997.73 each Christmas. Whether it’s food, Christmas clothing, gifts or activities to keep our kids busy, Christmas can drain our finances.

If your budget is tight then keep on top of your spending. Come up with a maximum amount you can spend on each of the different aspects of Christmas and keep to it. Take cash to the shops instead of credit cards. If you do need to use credit or store cards then make sure you know the minimum monthly payments and how much you can afford to pay each month to pay off your debt.

Here are some other things you can do:

  • Set up a savings account for Christmas next year
  • Buy presents throughout the year to spread the cost
  • Get your cards and gift wrap when they’re discounted straight after Christmas
  • Keep store card vouchers and bonus points to put towards Christmas shopping

Christmas comes once a year but the debt can last much longer. Go careful, spend within your means and focus on traditions that cost the least but potentially bring a greater reward. Try these Christmas money saving tips for more ideas.

11. Your time

Your time is precious. Consider how you want to spend the holidays and what’s important to you. Are your priorities (that we mentioned in point 2) to accept all invitations, party hard and see as many friends and family as possible? Or do you want to focus on a Christmas spent quietly at home with books, warm blankets and mulled wine?

Like the rest of the year, I encourage you to be clear on how you spend your time. Don’t be afraid to say no to an invitation, postpone an activity or take it slow if that’s what you feel like. Whilst it can be difficult to say a complete ‘no’, what about suggesting postponing an invite til January when you have more time and bandwidth? Give yourself plenty of wiggle room, even factor in some quiet and calm one day if you have a busy day the day before.

Plan your schedule, write everything down in your diary and keep it where you (and your family) can see it. Head into the New Year feeling your best self after fun, joy and some relaxation rather than feeling tired, frazzled and needing a holiday. Give yourself time for what you want to do, rather than just what you need to do.

Simple Christmas Quote


I hope this article has given you some ideas on how to simplify Christmas and the holidays for you this year. I think the two main things that have helped me find more joy and peace with a lot less stress have been to be planned and organised well in advance, and also to DO LESS.

A special Christmas isn’t always a jam-packed Christmas with ALL the trimmings and traditions. For us, it’s often about spending some time together at home, catching up with loved ones and choosing memorable and meaningful activities that we can do as a family.

For some more tips on how to simplify Christmas and be organised, pop your details in the box below to receive your copy of my free Simple Christmas Guide…


I’m Antonia and on this blog I share practical inspiration to simplify your home, time and life. Follow me on InstagramFacebook and Pinterest! You can also subscribe to Balance Through Simplicity and receive regular simplicity tips straight to your inbox for free. Make sure you never miss an article plus you’ll get a copy of my free Declutter Starter Kit as a welcome gift!