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The Holiday Edit: Lifestyle Edition

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I’m on a plane flying home from a fabulous trip to New York, my first since just before COVID shut everything down.  In pre-COVID times the week after Thanksgiving was usually a travel week for me and I loved being in the city when it was all dressed up for the holidays, it really got me in the mood. Much has changed in the time since my last holiday trip to NYC and I found myself reflecting on the many pre-COVID Decembers, when life was a blur and there was so much to juggle that it was a real challenge to make it through with your sanity intact, not to mention your physical health! 

Among my acquaintance there are the holiday-lovers (of which I am one) and many friends who would just as soon move beyond all the hoopla and be done with it.  Even for the holiday-lovers December can be overwhelming, with a whole extra layer of activity that adds a pretty significant mental weight to already overloaded psyches.  I have a lot more bandwidth now than I did a few years ago.  My kids are mostly grown and independent, my work life is more flexible and even though this year’s festivities have increased tenfold over last year we are still not quite up to the pre-COVID levels of celebration.  There is less craziness and I have more time to slow down and enjoy my favorite holiday activities. Even so, I find myself falling back on a practice I began when the Christmas-crazy was REALLY crazy and there just wasn’t enough time or mental capacity for everything. 

Every weekend my husband Jay likes to assess the lay of the land, he separates his activities into ‘have-to’s’ and ‘want-to’s and once he has figured out when/how he will address the have-to’s he picks some things from the want-to’s list (a nap is always on the list) and then the rest of the things on the list fall out.  In the peak years of holiday-crazy I would burn out because I tried to do everything on both lists.  I would frantically attack an exploding family calendar, filling in every available gap with activities, and cramming it all into a month that never slowed down.  It would look something like this: 

HAVE-TO’S that are just a part of everyday life, not specific to December 

  • Going to Work – I worked for Nordstrom for 3 decades and December was by FAR the most hectic, stressful and crazy 

  • Children’s activities – in our house it was mainly sports and luckily none of theirs really peaked in December but regardless there were carpools and pick-ups and games to attend on weekends.  

  • Provide dinner – I like to cook but it’s not as much fun when you have to make dinner after a stressful day of work + kid stuff 


  • Holiday School Concerts – I have to say I don’t miss those at all 

  • Decorating the House/Tree – I personally have always liked doing this (see last week’s blog) but it goes on this list because if it didn’t get done my family would revolt plus it feels baseline holiday to me, doesn’t feel like I’m celebrating if the house isn’t decorated. 

  • Holiday Cards – yes, I send them out every year and I am one of those people that does a letter as well 

  • Gift Shopping – not a fun experience if you don’t have a plan and list 

  • Wrapping Presents – which I love to do but SO MANY PRESENTS 

  • Christmas Crazy Kids – my kiddos used to become increasingly agitated as they waited for ‘Christmas to come’ and so were generally at a higher level of maintenance for 4 weeks.  Isn’t really an activity but did add to my stress level for sure and I didn’t have a choice about whether to deal with it 


  • Baking Cookies

  • Holiday Show! (Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol, etc.) 

  • Watching Christmas Movies Together! 

  • Holiday Parties! 

  • Holiday Drinks with Friends!

  • Holiday Light Display! (very popular in Seattle which is cloaked in darkness in December!) 

  • Hosting Christmas Eve! (Fondue for 20ish) 

  • Hosting Christmas Dinner! (Intimate for 10) 

 ACK!  There is way too much on that list!  The years I tried to stuff everything in I did not enjoy the season and inevitably got sick towards the end.  Also my husband got super grumpy about halfway through the month. What I learned to do over time was write it all down (important to include the Have-To’s Not Specific to December – your regular daily life takes a lot of time and energy, your list is not complete without them) and then prioritize and edit. You can also modify some of your Have-To’s so they are less of a time suck/burden and you can keep some of your of your Want-To’s.  My new edited list would look something like this: 

 Regular Have-To’s

  • Going to Work – can’t be avoided but plan to take one Mental Health Day in December, this should be a weekday when your kids are in school so you can have time to yourself 

  • Children’s Activities – if your kid doesn’t want to go to practice/class/etc. one day let them skip it, their mental health needs tending too 

  • Provide Dinner – I learned to scale my back my cooking efforts in December and went with a lot more shortcut-type meals that didn’t take a lot of effort.  Pre-marinated meats, easy pasta recipes and favorites that I had been making for decades that didn’t feel like work. Also concede to more take-out in December, it’s okay!

 December Have-To’s

  • School Holiday Concert – trade off with spouse (especially if there are multiple kids with multiple concerts!) 

  • Decorating the House/Tree – stays as is

  • Holiday Cards – I never did edit this one but this falls out for a lot of people and it’s FINE.  Your friends and family will forgive you if you skip a year, don’t worry! 

  • Gift Shopping – not avoidable but can be a lot less stressful process with a Gifting System 

  • Wrap Presents – pay your kids to help with this one as soon as they are old enough to A) wrap effectively and B) care about money, t’s a game changer!

  • Christmas Crazy Kids – you can’t avoid this one but I did find that keeping them busy with holiday-related projects (that I didn’t have to be involved with) was somewhat effective. Put them to work on anything on either of your December lists, as long as it has to do with Christmas/Hanukkah they will be into it – two birds with one stone. 

December Want-To’s  

  • Baking Cookies – EDIT 

  • Holiday Show (Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol, etc.) – EDIT 

  • Watching Christmas Movies Together – combine with Have-To’s like Present-wrapping, decorating, etc. so you can kill 2 birds with one stone!

  • Holiday Parties – Pick ONE

  • Holiday Drinks with Friends – Pick ONE

  • Holiday Light Display – EDIT

  • Hosting Christmas Eve – KEEP

  • Hosting Christmas Dinner – KEEP

So I modified my Have-To’s to make them less time-consuming, easier and/or more fun. Then I prioritized my Want-To’s, for me that meant editing out a lot of the activities that took place outside our home (shows, light displays, parties) so I could have energy for the ones that happened at our house (Watching movies, hosting both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners.) When the kids were little my parents were still hosting the holidays so I had more time and energy to take them out for shows; your priorities flex as you move through different stages in your life. The important thing is to recognize that when something new lands on the holiday calendar something else will likely need to be altered or edited to make room. Says easy, does hard – I know.

You will be thrilled to hear that I am once again baking cookies, having drinks with friends and exploring the many venues for light display in Seattle. This is because I no longer have school holiday concerts, children’s activities, or work in a stressful corporate environment. So I can flex for my current lifestyle, which is liberating and exciting! I wish I had realized this 10 years ago when I was in the thick of the crazy, but that’s the way we learn I guess…through experience.

There have been a lot of blog post and articles and books about nesting and hygge in the last decade but what none of them talk about much is you really need to plan the time for down time.  This time of year it’s not going to happen on it’s own unless you are sick! Be intentional about enjoying the season your way and you will eliminate that extra layer of weight that always descends onto your shoulders during the holidays. Being intentional means editing and having boundaries so get going on your Have-To’s and your Want-To’s, and then edit for your lifestyle! I guarantee Happy Holidays with this approach! 

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