12 Ways To Make The Holidays Less Hell-Ish

by Caila Smith
Originally Published: 

As much as any one of us loves the holiday season, there is no denying these months as being the most stressful time of the year. So why do we always insist on making it harder on ourselves? We try to jam-pack our kids with meaningful memories they can cherish forever, and we do it all in two months. But sometimes in the process of our well-meaning holiday spirit, we are the ones who miss out.

We feel so bogged down by what we “should be” doing, instead of what we want to be doing. And dammit, it’s our holiday too. Here’s some ways we can get through it:

1. Say no to holiday cards.

The sentiment is great and all, but where do most of these holiday cards end up in the long run? If we’re to be honest, in the trash can after the kids have taken them down off the fridge and scribbled all over them. That’s a lot of time, money and effort for it to be hung up for a month and then thrown into the garbage. If you really want to keep folks in the loop, holiday emails are cool.

Holiday cards=one more thing to worry about. Just. Say. No.


2. Tell the kids that “Elf on a Shelf” can’t get to you.

I understand that this is “for the kids,” but who can honestly remember to move a dang doll Every. Single. Night for (almost) a month? And don’t even get me started on creating elaborate scenes every night, or having him deliver gifts and treats each night. Hard pass.

If you’re already stressed to your max, Don’t. Give. In. Just tell your kids that the Elf on A Shelf doesn’t come to your home, because you live too far in the country, elves are scared of your dog, or ____ [fill in the blank with whatever excuse you can think 0f].


3. Skip out on long-distance family gatherings.

Of course, it’s a good thing to visit with family and dear friends around the holidays. But if it comes at a personal cost to you at a time that’s supposed to be joyful, it’s not worth it.

Maybe you have small kids who will make a many-hour drive dreadful, or perhaps you just don’t want to drive so far on the holidays. Whatever the reasoning may be, it’s okay.

You deserve a happy holiday too.

4. Ditch the cutesy wrapping.

I’m one of those people who Googles all of the fancy ways to wrap presents, but then come Christmas Eve, I’m throwing everything into bags before calling it a night. And guess what? That’s okay.

Yes, it looks nice. And for people who enjoy wrapping presents, that’s a different story. If it brings you joy, keep doing it. But just like holiday cards, all the sparkly paper, cutesy bows and curly strings are just going into the trash. If it isn’t making you happy, save your money and time.

5. Do the 4-gift rule with your kids.

Not only will they be more appreciative of what they are given, but for those of you who hate wrapping presents, there will be fewer to wrap, Win-win!

If you don’t already know this “4-gift rule,” it goes like this: one gift they want, one gift they need, one gift they wear, and one gift to read. And really, do they need much more than that? If so, make it a stocking stuffer.

6. Wrap a couple gifts each night.

Don’t make yourself suffer the night before your kids wake you up at dawn. If you’re an early shopper and have many people to buy for, start wrapping one or two gifts every night starting December 1st. Easier said than done? Yes. Will you be glad you did? Also yes.

7. Have a “just us” holiday.

There’s nothing wrong with skipping out on time spent with the extended family, so you can make memories with your family at home. No matter what the “usual” is for your family, you can say skip whatever event(s) you wish to make your holiday as enjoyable as possible.

It’s okay for families to make new traditions by themselves.

8. Don’t buy gifts for extended family.

Not only can it be difficult deciding what to buy for your extended family, and take up a huge amount of time, but leaping Rudolphs… it can be expensive too. If you aren’t one with the extra money to spare, it can make you totally loathe going to holiday events with the family because of the added expense.


If your family still insists on buying presents and you don’t want to show up empty-handed, suggest a gift exchange so you only have to buy one present.

9. Plan holiday events instead of winging it.

A certain level of spontaneity is thrilling, but this is a great way to take control of this busy time with the family. Instead of winging every holiday event and having to tell your kids no to the certain ones they ask for, find out what events are going on, make a list, and decide on them as a family beforehand.

That way, your child(ren) can look forward to what’s to come without feeling like you’re always raining on their parade.

10. Don’t miss Free Shipping Day on December 15th.

I. Live. For. Free. Shipping.

Okay, okay, okay… I live for “free” just about anything. Kohls, Amazon, and over 400 other retailers participate in this online “holiday” so you can get everything you want while saving money and staying on the couch in your underwear.

11. Buy shatterproof ornaments.

My kids are five and two years old… need I say more? For the past three Christmases, I’ve been sweeping ornament shards off the floor when one of the kids knocks them down. If you have small kids, or perhaps an asshole cat, shatterproof Christmas bulbs are the time-savers you need.

12. If it hurts your mental health, don’t do it.

The holidays are supposed to be a time of love and giving… but not so much that it harms you in the process.

Don’t agree to go anywhere/do anything that might rob you of your joy. It’s okay to think of yourself during this season. In some cases, it’s healthy to say no to being with people who make you feel unhappy or unwanted.


These are your holidays, it’s okay to plan them in a way that makes you, and your family, happy. If your family is finding joy in your celebrations, or lack thereof, then you’re doing it right.

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