I Wish I’d Just Kicked the “Holiday Bucket List”

holiday bucket list

I did it. I said I wasn’t going to do it, but I did it anyway. I couldn’t resist.

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What is this confession about, you wonder. Well, let me just tell you. I started a holiday season bucket list.

*SIGH*

I know better. I know that I am nearly eight months pregnant – and WILL BE by the time the holidays are in full swing. I know that I’m working on a huge project and working part-time and pretty much hooked on my afternoon naps right now. I KNOW.

I even wrote about Giving Up on Holiday Bucket Lists for my friend Amanda’s blog today!

I am hypocrite, hear me roar!

But…but…but when I saw the pin for “Grinch cookies” and realized my own recipe for mint chocolate chip cookies would be the PERFECT pairing with our annual viewing of the [original, non-creepy-live-action version] Grinch movie, well, I lost all resolve.

I opened up a Word document and quickly typed, “Make green cookies and watch the Grinch. Make waffles and watch Elf.” Because, well, ELF.

Then I stared at my screen, cursor blinking expectantly. Obviously this list needed a title (“Holiday Fun List”)…and a cute font…and HELLO! more than two things on it!

I’m relieved to tell you that I resisted the pull of specialty fonts and colored paper and LISTING ALL THE HOLIDAY THINGS. For now.

Honestly, I can’t guarantee this resolve will last.

Is it because I’m crazy? Sure, maybe. [PROBABLY.] After all, it wasn’t even a week ago when I proclaimed, “I just HATE IT when I have such good ideas!” You know what prompted me to say that? No? ME EITHER. Because this is an extremely regular occurrence in my house.

1. Have brilliant idea.
2. Begin executing with enthusiasm.
3. Realize it’s not as easy as it looks.
4. Recruit help.
5. Promise help IT WILL BE FUN. No, REALLY.
6. Feel interest wane.
7. Decide you must finish.
8. Decide it’s not worth it to finish.
9. Wish you’d never started.
10. Put all supplies away. (aka, Hide the evidence.)
11. Vow to never have another good idea.
12. Have new, brilliant idea…

Last year I decided that instead of making a separate list of fun and meaningful things to do over the holidays, we’d simply Christmas-ify our regular activities. We’d read Christmas books. We’d watch Christmas movies. We’d go on Christmas dates. No pressure, just adding the holidays in where we could.

It worked. But honestly, I didn’t REALLY stop there. When faced with fourteen thousand options for Making The Season Special, it’s hard to say no to every single thing. [And when you add Pinterest and my penchant for COMING UP WITH THE BRILLIANT {to me} IDEAS? Well, it’s a match made in holiday hell sometimes.]

So yesterday as I pondered my upcoming post at OhAmanda (oh, public declarations of good intentions, how you slay me every time!) and the almost mindless way my hands opened a new document to begin our annual holiday to-do list o’fun, I came up with some ideas for truly resisting the siren call of busyness this year.

1. Choose one activity per week. I originally wrote “pick one tradition,” meaning we would just pick one. For the whole season. ONE! Then I realized that was dumb. And unlikely to happen. So I compromised with one per week. That means we can do extra stuff – once a week. That way we don’t finish the week exhausted and wishing the holidays were over already. On December 1.

2. Streamline everything you can. I mean gifts (buy 10 Ever Grateful vases and give them to every teacher, girlfriend, aunt and party hostess on your list). I mean wrapping (use the same paper to wrap every single gift. Just do it.). I mean meals (make a 7-day menu and use it every week for the next month) and potlucks (what’s your favorite side dish to make? Sign up to bring it to all four of your holiday meals!). Do as much in bulk as you can – it will save time AND money. You know, those things you never have enough of, especially this time of year?

3. Give back however you can. This does NOT mean you need to host a shoebox-packing party for your entire church or perform 25 acts of kindness between now and The Big Day. Just do SOMETHING to remind yourself and your family why we celebrate every year. Get a roll of quarters (or stack of bills) to keep on hand for the red buckets. Spend a couple hours helping build the set for the Christmas play. Donate online. Write a check. Make slice and bake cookies for that widowed neighbor. Even the smallest gesture will help someone – and remind you that there’s more to this season and stress and spending and doing and going.

4. Embrace your limits. I’m not good at saying no. Or not at least TRYING to do it all. But sometimes, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. So when I said I’m not putting up a tree this year (and you all cried out in pity and sympathy), I meant it. We’ll put up our small tree, and Annalyn already has the tiny tree in her room displaying her new Lisa Leonard ornament (ahem! Don’t forget that code for 15% off – VERYMERRY15). I’ll do wreaths and greenery and stockings and candles. But the tree? Is staying in the shed – and I’m OKAY WITH IT.

In that vein, while I’d love to sit down with Annalyn and make a new, meaningful ornament every day of Advent, I know I won’t. But if that’s my goal and expectation, I’ll be disappointed and frustrated all month long. That’s why I LOVE the pre-made ornaments from Truth in the Tinsel. (Another discount alert! Use GIVINGUP for 20% off your own Truth in the Tinsel purchase!) We can still read the devotion, color the printable ornament, and call it GOOD. Because it is.

If you can’t make it to every family gathering, every church service, every parade or concert or play, IT’S OKAY. Pick what’s most important, ENJOY those things, and let the rest of it go.

[I know, I know. Easy to say…but let’s just TRY this year!]

5. Make a plan. Sure, you might not stick to it anymore than you stay within your grocery budget each month (oh, you do that? Well, never mind then. Find your own analogy.). But at least it’s a starting point. Plan how much money you’ll spend on gifts. Plan how many extra outings you’ll put on the calendar. Plan your meals. Plan your days off. Make a plan – and then even if you deviate from it a bit (spontaneous invites! last-minute ideas! SALES!), you’ll have started with a good, sane foundation.

And…yeah…if you’ve made a plan, it gives your family or friends something to refer to when they see you get a case of the crazy eyes and slipping into DO ALL THE THINGS mode.

For those of us who thrive on ideas! and fun and special! and doing more!more!more! this time of year – and maintaining a slow, simple focus on gratitude and the gift of our Savior…and not the really-fun-can’t-miss-it mania – will always be a challenge. And it seems likely, based on my track record, that I’ll fall off the wagon sooner rather than later.

But I’m going to climb up on that wagon anyway. I’m going to do my best to keep it simple, remember the reason for the season, and avoid making my family and friends any crazier than I already do.

How do YOU resist the siren call of busyness during the holidays?

This post originally appeared at Giving Up on Perfect.