It seems that many people are trying to determine ways to simplify the holidays this year. My family tries to do this every year, and admittedly, our success fluctuates. Sometimes it's just too easy to get wrapped up in buying things, and you don't realize until it's too late that you've gone overboard. In general, though, I think we do pretty well. Particularly in these economic times, I thought I'd share some strategies for simplifying the holidays.
One of the things we've done in my family is to limit the gift exchange to just stockings. Stockings are always the most fun anyway, in my opinion, and great things come in small packages. You have to use your creativity here, and smaller does not always mean less expensive, but it's a fun way to focus your shopping energy. And I'm sure you'll still have a few gifts from grandparents and others to throw under the tree. (If you have kids, maybe Santa fills the stocking and Mom/Dad get one gift for under the tree, or vice versa.)
In my husband's family, we choose names. I love this, because it means I have only one person to buy for, and you can really spend time on them. It makes budgeting a lot easier, and it can be more fun to buy a larger gift for one person than trying to find smaller gifts for everyone.
Stephmodo recently posted about this same topic, and I adore one of the ideas she shared: a Craig's List Christmas. It means everybody will give/receive something they find on Craig's List. My sister would love this idea! As Stephanie pointed out, "It's a great way to recycle, to be able to offer someone else a little cash in exchange for an item, and to keep the gift-giving budget at a very reasonable level." Particularly if you live in a bigger city, this would be a fun approach.
Now all these ideas are focused on simplifying the gift exchange part of the holidays. I know others get stressed out this time of year due to entertaining and sending cards and hosting dinner and sharing their home with guests. I don't have any silver bullets for these items, except to say - only go to the parties you really want to, don't throw a party if it will stress you out, delegate when hosting the big event, and prepare ahead for out-of-towners. Focus on the beauty and happiness in the season. Make a list of all the reasons you love this time of year and focus only on those things. Hm. Perhaps there are some ideas there. I feel a future post coming soon...