Give Yourself Permission to Enjoy a Merrier Holiday Season This Year

When I was thinking about how to title this post I came up with a few different titles that all went something like this…

How to NOT decorate this year and still enjoy the holidays or How to make the next two months of your life feel magical and stress-free.

Every year my holiday prep list is slightly different. One year I may be hosting Thanksgiving dinner and have to shop and prepare for that, but not Christmas dinner.

I may have the neighbors over for an Open House, or I may attend a charity event or a cookie exchange with my friends. The events may change, each year, but no matter what, over the holiday season there will always be Christmas music all through my house.

The Christmas tree will be twinkling in the living room, candles all over, cookies baking in the oven and something crafty in progress to decorate the house.

Create Holiday Bliss, Not Holiday Stress

My path to finding holiday bliss instead of holiday stress began with yards and yards of expensive, fresh cedar garland for my foyer staircase banister 7 years ago. I was preparing for a holiday photo shoot for BHG magazine and decked my large foyer staircase with fresh cedar garland. It looked amazing.

Outdoor deck and dock Christmas decorating ideas

After about a week, the garland started to dry out and crumble. The heat of the house was just too much for it. It was truly a mess to look at and a nightmare to clean up. It was such a waste in what it cost and the effort involved to get it up and arranged in a pretty way.

I vowed that year to never ever again bring fresh garlands into the house in such a big way. They need to be outside in the cool air to last the season. 

The fiasco with the garland was my Christmas decorating turning point.

I love the holiday season and all it brings, except of course the stress we bring on ourselves. That we feel we have to do it all…. and on top of this mindset… we think we need to also do it all perfectly.

I realized to create holiday joy that I didn’t have to do what others thought was needed to say holiday or buy tons of trendy new decor that is being promoted by retailers, bloggers and others.

I now intentionally avoid expensive decorations or anything which is time consuming to create. I vowed after that year to only do what was important for me and my family when it came time for the holidays.

A group of brass candlesticks and white candles on mantel decorated for Christmas

Over the last few years I have pared down, more like “refined” what I have done in the way of decorating the house for the holidays, both inside and out.

I still like fresh cedar in the house, but add it in small ways and mix it with faux greenery. In doing so, everything for the holidays from the planning to the actual decorating, shopping, baking and entertaining is much more enjoyable. 


Recently, a friend told me she didn’t want to decorate this year only because she doesn’t like how long it takes her to take it all down, box it up and store it come January.

She said she was feeling guilty that she was letting her family down if she didn’t do it all in grand style, but the thought of doing any of it, exhausted her. 


My reply to her was, If doing it all in grand style falls only on you to do and you don’t want to do it, then it is “time to edit”. Or ask for help from the family members she felt she was going to let down.

When you edit all the things you do for Christmas to only what is important so you can enjoy the holidays while at the same time making sure no one feels you have become the Christmas Grinch may make the season feel even more special.

I went on to explain to her that I have been editing over the last few years to build upon my “More Joy” Christmas philosophy.

What’s My “More Joy” Philosophy?

My philosophy is choosing to do only what makes the holidays feel special to my family and I and not worry about the rest.  

How to Have a Merrier Holiday Season This Year

1. Decide What Really Makes The Holidays Feel Special

After the cedar garland mess, I asked Ed what were the most important things for him that made the holidays feel special? His answers along with mine for the same question are how I began to refine the holidays. Note, I didn’t say simplify.

What I choose to do may not be simple, but it takes away what is not needed and that gives us more time to enjoy what we really love about the holiday season. We can forget about the rest and not feel one ounce of guilt about it.

To enjoy “More Joy” over the holidays, I made a list of what made the holidays special for us. Then I broke it down even more specifically answering:

  • What was it about each thing on the list that was the most important part?

My “More Joy” Must Do Christmas List

  • Christmas without a tree is just not Christmas, but what is it about the tree? It’s the white twinkling lights on it that we love.
  • Christmas music that we fondly remember from our childhoods playing through the house and cars all day long.
  • Candles lit in the late afternoon and early evening while I prepare dinner.
  • Having the time to do nothing except watch Christmas movies, bake cookies to eat and fill up festive metal tins to wrap and give to others.
  • A day filled with Christmas shopping in a bustling city and coming home exhausted to the twinkling tree and a house filled with Christmas music and lit by candles is pure Christmas joy.
  • Attending a Christmas concert. It can be choral music to Holiday Pops.

This year I am refining my joy list even more. I am giving myself permission to do something I have been wanting to do for the last few years. Not placing any ornaments on the tree.

There is something so pretty and magical about a Christmas tree dressed in nothing but twinkling white lights.  Truly twinkling lights, not blinking or flashing, but gently twinkling.

Seeing the twinkle lights brings back nostalgic warm and wonderful memories of laying under the lit tree at night and watching the shadows of the branches dance on the ceiling of the room when I was a  child.

Another big change we made a few years ago was when we realized we haven’t even been home for Christmas the last few years and always needed to ask a neighbor to water the tree for us while we were away.

We love the fresh pine smell of a real tree, but it wasn’t practical anymore for our life. We bought our first artificial Christmas tree. They have come a long way in how real they look and feel. All I had to do to the pre-lit tree was add a few more strands of white twinkle lights to make it just right for us.

2. Make a List and Check it Twice

Candle glowing in front of a Christmas tree with white lights

Try making your own Christmas Joy list. It truly will help you to focus on what decor, food and events are the most important to you.

Make a list of items that make Christmas feel special for you. It doesn’t have to look like my list at all as you and your family have your own special holiday traditions that are important to you.

Making a list is the first way to remove from your holidays what no longer feels special to you or is needed to enjoy the season.

If you have kids, ask them to make a list and add what is on their list to yours. You may have thought they liked a certain thing you always did, but then realize they really don’t care which frees up time for you.

Next go down each item on the list and figure out a way to make each happen.

3. Pass on Holiday Traditions That No Longer Hold Meaning

Stop and think, do I really need this decorative item or need to attend an event to make it feel like Christmas? If the answer is no, then there is no need to use the item or schedule the event on your calendar this year.

For instance, do you mindlessly bring down storage bin after bin filled with Christmas décor and place it all the same way as last year? Ask yourself – why?

If it is tradition and Christmas would not be the same without seeing a time-honored decoration on the mantel, then this is a must for you to do.  It brings joy to the season for you.

But what about other decorations? Do you still like a snowman that has seen better days? Would he look better on a thrift store shelf?

If the snowman is worn because you or your children have played with him every Christmas that he has become so worn with love, then he is a keeper no matter what. It can be hard making decisions like this, but you want to only add things that bring joy, not just because you have them and feel you should use them.

My sister stopped sending Christmas cards a few years ago. Since she sees, emails, texts, and chats on Facebook with everyone she knows through the year, she sends her greetings online. This saves not only time, but money. The cost of cards and postage can go to something more meaningful for her. 

4. Plan Ahead

Once you give yourself permission to refine your holidays, get what you enjoy about the holidays planned out on a calendar.

Plan for a baking marathon one day, mark the day for the local Christmas Bazaar or to shop, buy concert tickets.

You can also schedule a day with a meet up for breakfast before shopping with family or friends. Schedule these important-to-you things now before the holidays really kick in.

Many printable planners can be purchased for a few dollars. You can find a very nice one here: Christmas Planner

Holiday Time Savers

  • Use a planner or a folder to keep all your holiday related lists, concert tickets and other items together.
  • Do as much online shopping as you can. With most retailers offering free shipping, online shopping is a big time saver.
  • Buy cookie making ingredients when you are out shopping for your Thanksgiving meal groceries. This way when you are watching a Hallmark movie and get the urge to bake a batch of cookies while you watch, you have everything you need.
  • Wrap holiday gifts when you are watching Christmas movies or as soon as you bring them home. This will lessen the stress of having to wrap a huge pile of gifts in one sitting, unless this is something that you enjoy doing as part of adding more joy to your holidays.  

Work At Adding More Joy… Slowly

Outdoor light fixture on house with a red bow and greenery.

I didn’t make changes to how I decorated or we celebrated the holidays all at once, but over a few years. I refine the list every year making sure to do only what will bring joy to the season and not do what we think is expected and truly doesn’t matter.  

How to make a table top Christmas tree or centerpiece using boxes

Remember… Life is too short to be the caretaker of the wrong details.

The holidays are even a shorter time period in your life. Make the most of them by editing your more joy list and then check it twice to make sure that everything you do produces joy.

I promise your holidays will be merrier and brighter and when the new year rolls around, you will have less to put away and have more happy, positive energy to start the new year.

Give yourself permission this year to do the holidays exactly how you want… in your own style. 


Christmas Ideas Gallery

Need some Christmas decorating inspiration? Here you will find hundreds of my ideas for budget friendly Christmas decorating, family favorite cookie recipes, creative gift wrapping ideas, festive table settings and more.

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