Stress-Free Holidays - 5 Ways to Avoid Overwhelm

Who doesn’t want a stress-free holiday season? As ubiquitous as the desire, however, a stress-free holiday season feels almost impossible to achieve in our culture!

As a professional organizer, I see how much clutter and overwhelm the holidays bring into homes. The average American will spend $1000 this year and gain 7-10 pounds. That’s A LOT of OVERAGE and leaves people and families struggling to catch up in the New Year.

These overages can cause us to lose sight of our priorities during the holidays. At Restoring Order, we help people get back their LIFE – not just their SPACE!

To bring ORDER and SANITY to your holidays, I’m going to share some “OVERS” to AVOID so you can ENJOY a stress-free holiday season.

Each overage we commit during the holiday season is a result of a mistaken mind-frame. I’ll show you what mind-frame is powering your “overs” and how to change them to have a stress-free holiday this year.

Watch my live segment on More Good Day Oregon where I cover the first 3 “overs”:


Stress-free holidays - overcommitting


This time of year, there is an explosion of holiday activities! Office parties, charity events, school festivals, concerts, bazaars, church events, family gatherings – how many can we cram in before we implode?

Instead of a peaceful, cozy Christmas enjoying the people and traditions we love, we spend our time stuck in traffic, drained of energy, and completely stressed out!

Mistaken Mind-frame: “The holidays are THE time to show everyone how much I care.”

Solution: Spread out your good intentions throughout the year.

Stress-free holidays - spread out intentionsMake showing others how much you care an ongoing practice instead of a hurried, obligatory token of effort or gifting.

Find another time of year to create traditions:

  • Send your yearly greeting card at Valentine’s Day or Thanksgiving
  • Host a backyard campout or bonfire in the summer
  • Drop May Day goodies at friends’ doors in lieu of Christmas gifts
Tactical tip: Take 20-30 minutes NOW to calendar some of your own ideas to spread out your intentions to convene and show you care

Get creative about spreading your love throughout the year to free yourself up for a stress-free holiday. 

As the invites for holiday events begin flooding in, be discerning about committing to activities. If the activity doesn’t bring life and joy to your holidays, graciously decline. You have that power!

Your time, and therefore, your calendar is sacred and should be reserved only for the things that align with your priorities. Remember, the holidays aren’t about proving how much you care – you show that with your life throughout the year.


Stress-free holidays - overlooking


Have you ever rushed children through cookie making or become impatient when the tree isn’t decorated by December 1st?

The next “over:” OVERlooking – happens when we look right over the most important things in our haste to “get it all done”.

We create our perfect holiday to-do list and get to work. We feel great about checking items off and not procrastinating! On paper this may be called a “successful” holiday because everything gets “done.” The problem lies in what our to-do lists overlook: the sweet, special EXPERIENCES of the season.

Mistaken Mind-frame: Our culture has  conditioned us for accomplishment, not enjoyment, and so we can fall into the trap of perceiving our activities as TASKS instead of EXPERIENCES.

Solution: Calendar your true priorities

Stress-free holidays - calendar prioritiesIf you’re an achiever and to-do lists are your jam, that’s ok! Make a holiday to-do list.

Tactical Tip: Before you plow forward and begin checking tasks off at lightning speed, write down next to each To Do item what priority the “to do” item serves.

If a task doesn’t serve any of your top priorities, ditch it or delegate it!

Then, as you’re doing the remaining, intentional activities on your list, take a deep evergreen breath and purposely savor each experience.


Stress-free holidays - overspending


Nationally, we spend $465 billion dollars on Christmas. The UN says it would cost $30 billion annually to end world hunger. Let those statistics sink in for a moment. We could end world hunger, care for the needy, drill fresh water wells….or we could SHOP.

One of the tragic parts of overspending at the holidays is that it results in a pile of debt! Families wake up December 26th with stress and anxiety as they try to figure out how to dig out from under their holiday debt. There is a better way!

Mistaken Mindframe: Marketing messages drive us with the NEED TO GIFT, and we are left with the mindframe that presents are what make the holidays special.

Solution: Stop adding clutter & and GIVE LIFE

Stress-free holidays - give lifeThis year, instead of adding clutter and debt, give more experiences and fewer things. Give your time, your presence, the priceless gift of YOU!

Before you worry about “ruining” anyone’s holidays by giving fewer material gifts, think back to your own favorite holiday memories. I am willing to bet that special experiences come to mind before a gift. When you invest in making memories, you are giving life to your relationships. That is priceless!

Tactical tip: Make a list of the people with whom you typically exchange gifts. Then, think of an experience, like a monthly or quarterly “date” with that person, or a service project they’d appreciate – and then make a gift certificate or “coupon” for them to that effect. Make time together your gift!

Another great idea instead of adding to the clutter (and perhaps storage units!) of friends and family is to give to HUMANITY on their behalf.

Tactical tip: Some of our favorite organizations for this are World Vision and Food for the Hungry, which both have gifting catalogs of clean water, livestock, clothes, food.

Trade in the focus on presents for a focus on presence! Your generosity of time and memory-making experiences will help you to have a meaningful and stress-free holiday.

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Stress-free holidays - overconsuming


One of the major stressors each holiday season is OVERconsuming. We eat, entertain, and collect ourselves into a stuffed state of numbness. An over-abundance of holiday treats, parties, special events, and presents leave us over-stimulated and unable to enjoy any of it. After all, we can’t savor what’s shoveled in.

Mistaken Mindframe: Our compulsion to consume tricks our minds into believing that more is better.

Solution: Simplify

Stress-free holidays - simplifyIf we are accustomed to over-stuffed holidays, it can be difficult to think of cutting back. The fear of missing out – on a good sale, the party of the year, or our favorite treats – has us over-doing it!

But, I’m not saying to cut out the things you love. In fact, the opposite!

Instead of shoveling in all that’s thrown your way this year, be intentional about SAVORING your seasonal favorites.

Tactical tip: Color code or denote somehow on your calendar the EXTRA activities that you’re adding related to entertainment and dining. This will help you be alert to avoiding excess.

Being choosy about what you consume will help you avoid over-consuming and lead to a stress-free holiday this year.


Stress-free holidays - overachieving


I blame Pinterest for this overage! From the perfect cards and handmade gifts to impeccably decorated tables and mantles, so many of us get trapped not only in CONSUMER life but CURATED life. Trying to keep up with curated excellence causes striving, perfectionism, and overachieving that leave us missing the wonder of the season.

Mistaken Mindframe: In this curated world, we start to believe we have to DO and BE it all

Solution: Just STOP.

Stress-free holidays - Just stopYou’ve heard that comparison is the thief of joy, and it’s never more true than at the holidays.

The problem with Pinterest and other social media is that they display a posed moment in time. You don’t see the yelling and tears behind the smiling family portrait or the mess in the other room.

To enjoy a stress-free holiday this year, take yourself off the hook for perfection.

You are enough just as you are.

When you stop striving for perfection, you’ll be able to notice and appreciate the beautifully imperfect all around you.

Tactical tip: If you struggle with OVERachieving, take a moment to embrace the mis-steps. Pause and take pictures of the messes and the misses so you can lighten up and laugh at yourself.

Wishing you a stress-free holiday season full of joy and wonder.

Be sure to get our Ending Holiday Overwhelm free ebook – it expands on this topic – including other OVERS of the season to avoid and includes a worksheet to reclaim your holidays and your life!

Comment below with what you’re going to change this year to avoid these holiday “overs”!



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