December is a month that can be overwhelming for many of us.  There’s the rush of the holidays, with the new year looming.  School is wrapping up for a long break (that usually means extra tests and projects).  There are concerts and plays to attend, parties that require gifts and goodies, family traditions to celebrate, and in our home a few birthdays to pay special attention to (lest they be lost in the madness!).

It’s easy to feel defeated by the load.  It’s tempting to spend your time napping since you can never get it all done anyway!

But before you pull the covers over your head, let’s put together a plan.

How I'm Keeping My Sanity This December

Simplify!

It can be difficult to decide which traditions or expectations just aren’t meeting the needs of your family right now.  We feel obligated to do so much this time of year.  But if something just isn’t working, consider whether it has really earned a place on your busy schedule.

Just because you can’t attend your 3rd cousins ugly Christmas sweater party this year doesn’t mean you’ll never go again.  Sometimes certain events just don’t fit into this season of your life.  When you don’t have a brand new baby and a two year old anymore, you may be able to find the time to go to the party.

You might be surprised to find that things you feel weighted with doing are actually not that important to the rest of your family.  If you’ve always made a dozen different recipes of cookies, find out which of those recipes are the absolute favorites of your crew.  If everyone agrees on three that they really love the most, you can let go of the other nine and reclaim that time for things you enjoy more.

Schedule

Now is the time to sit down with your family calendar and map out everything that your family considers a “must do”.  There are parts of the schedule that are out of your hands, such as band concerts, school plays, church events, large family gatherings.  The ones that are the most important to you should be put on the calendar first.

If you notice conflicts on the calendar, put a plan in place now as to how you will handle the conflict.  Can you divide and conquer with your spouse or friends or family members?  If not, you’ll need to decide which event is the most important so you can make your apologies to the other person.

If you don’t already keep a family schedule, I like to use a free Cozi calendar.  It’s online, and my hubby and I both have access to it at any time.  It makes scheduling appointments much easier!  There are many other options out there, so I strongly recommend you find one you like and stick with it.  I don’t know how we’d get anything accomplished without our family calendar.

Traditions

Now that you have the “must dos” on the calendar, start to consider your family traditions.  Are there things you family loves to do each year?  Some years we find that the entire season slipped past us and we never had a chance to do some of our favorite things.  So now I make a list of our favorite traditions and put them on the calendar ahead of time to be sure that we have time to do them.

Some of our favorite traditions include:

  • building gingerbread houses at our local library
  • seeing lights at our zoo
  • drive thru nativity at a local church
  • driving around to see lights & decorations (while wearing PJs, drinking hot chocolate, and using a scavenger hunt list)
  • baking cookies

Gift Giving

I try to keep my gift giving simple by not purchasing too many things for each person, and not overthinking the process.  I don’t worry about spending exact amounts of money on each child as long as each of them are happy with what they get.  And once I find a nice gift for someone, I stop trying to top it with a better idea (I used to do this all the time!).

If you’re worried that you might be tempted to buy too much for your family members, give this idea a try.  Declutter five garbage bags of stuff from your home that people aren’t using, either because it isn’t loved or isn’t working.  When you find that kind of waste in your home, it will often remove your desire to bring more items into the house!  In my own home, it seems like no matter how many times I take out 5 bags of items, there are still 5 more bags of stuff lurking around.

[Tweet “If you feel the urge to spend money, declutter instead! @mediumsizedfamily”]

Don’t forget to check out 7 Days of Finding Money for Christmas Presents for more ideas on simple gift giving.

Take It Easy

When I’m feeling especially overwhelmed by the amount of things that need to be done, I step back and take it a day at a time.  What has to be done today?  What items will be needed tomorrow or the day after?  Those things are usually enough to occupy my time right now.

If that is still too much, ask which of those things feel pressing, but really are just nice extras?  Some of those things will slip by this year, and that’s ok!

It’s possible to have a fun season without losing your sanity.  Plan ahead, put the plan into motion each day, and let go of some of those things that just seem like “obligations” without letting anyone make you feel guilty.  Your family craves more simplicity in their lives, and you’ll probably find that everyone enjoys the holiday more with a sane Mama.

How do you keep your sanity in December?  I would love to know your tips!

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