Creating a Life Free From Chaos

5 Easy Steps to Beat Holiday Stress, Save Money & Stay Sane

This is a guest post from Deanne Welsh

There are people who can’t wait for Christmas to come. Every year they move their Christmas decorating up a few days with no regard for other holidays. When they see Christmas decorations hit the stores, they squeal with glee, “YES! Christmas is coming!”

Then there are those who sigh loudly and roll their eyes when they see Christmas decorations hit the stores, “What! It’s not even Halloween yet…I can’t believe this!” They believe that Christmas belongs squarely in its place, after Thanksgiving.

Which are you?

I won’t tell you which I am because I don’t want you to hate me, in case you are in the other category.

Can’t we all be friends?

Really though. I don’t care which type of person you are — I just know that I hate the stress and bustling busyness that is often associated with the Holidays.

Years ago, I learned that the only way to beat it was to follow these 5 easy steps:

1. Begin EARLY.

Regardless of whether you want Christmas to come early, or to stay in its place, the way to beat the stress is to begin planning early.

Every year, I set aside time in early November. My goal is to get all the bustling associated with Christmas done by the end of November.

I want to enjoy and relish every day of December doing what I love with the people I love instead of having to brave the crowds and run around like a crazy person…

2. Brainstorm WHAT is IMPORTANT to you this holiday season.

My time is limited and instead of letting circumstances or others dictate my priorities, I want to get down to the heart of what is important for me. When I write my list, it includes:

  • When I want to decorate for Christmas
  • Watching Elf
  • Christmas Lights with my immediate family
  • Scheduled one-on-one time with my closest friends in December so I can give them their gifts

As you write your list, aim to keep it simple and focused on what you want: what would make the Christmas season meaningful and joy-filled for you?  You can get your family’s input later.

Once you have your list, keep it handy for the beginning of December so you can schedule these experiences and keep them safe and sacred.

It’s OK to say no during the holiday season. Really! It is! Every rational person will understand that you cannot do it all. If they don’t understand, it is on them. It is not our job to please and make everyone happy. This is why you spend time deciding who you want to spend time with, and then if there is extra room in your schedule, you can always say yes without short-changing your priorities and loved ones.

3. Brainstorm your GIFT LIST.

Who do you want to get a gift for?

Do you know what you want to get them, or even a price range? Make a list and write this next to their name.

SAVE MONEY: Encourage your group of friends or extended family to participate in a special gift raffle. For example:

  • On my husband’s side: everyone has agreed to only buy gifts for the kids and to simply enjoy each other’s company ($10-$15 per kid).
  • On my side: the adults in one family draw the name of one other family and we only buy gifts for those adults ($40-$50 total).
  • On my side: the kids each draw the name of one cousin and buy them a gift ($10-15 value).

This allows us to focus and buy meaningful gifts that will be loved. We can ask specific questions about what people want without having a huge list with too many people. We don’t want to be stressed and hurrying, buying random crap, and breaking the bank.

TIP: It really is the thought that counts. Aim to find gifts that are meaningful and thoughtful regardless of the price tag.

If your family is strapped for cash this year, don’t feel badly and don’t apologize. You are not alone.  Millions of people face the holidays with a sinking feeling of not having enough. This does not have to be you.

Embrace the truth that friendship, appreciation and love are truly the most important. Don’t be afraid to get creative and give handmade cards, presents, or home-baked goods. Please do not apologize.

This is not a season for shame and feeling less than. ~@Eclecticwaters Click To Tweet

Every single person has a gift to give, and if this is not the year for expensive things, then make it a year for the things that are eternal: experiences, fun, laughter, friendship, and appreciation.

If someone does shame you for your gift or expects more than you have to offer, it’s probably time to evaluate that connection before the holidays so they don’t ruin the holidays for you. When someone shames you, it says more about them than about you!

4. Brainstorm your CHRISTMAS CARD list & get the ADDRESSES NOW.

This is so easy to leave to the last minute, and if you’re like me, in the past my Christmas cards have arrived after Christmas or not at all.(If you don’t mail Christmas cards or presents – you can skip this section. 😊)

Once you know who you want to send a card to, make sure you have their current address & then schedule time in November (so your cards can be in the mail on December 1) to:

  • Update your address list
  • Create or order your Christmas Cards
  • Address envelopes
  • Buy stamps
  • Have them ready to pop in the mail on December 1.

Bonus Tip:  Schedule your family pictures for July or August so you have them ready for your Christmas card. We do this every year.

You can always wear long sleeves and winter accessories if the Christmas look is important to you. Or, if you are like me, I know people really just want a picture of us so I don’t worry about what season we are dressed for.

5. SAVE MONEY & Buy your gifts by the end of November.

Now that you have your Christmas gift list, make it a point to ask recipients what they like, or be a detective and pay attention to what they enjoy.

Then browse stores for sale items (they are still valuable when bought on sale – you are the only person who will know).

As you buy gifts, take the time to wrap them and set them aside as you buy them. You can do this while watching TV or listening to a podcast. The goal: have all of your Christmas shopping and even wrapping completed by the end of December.

Bonus Tip: I buy gifts all year long. I have a large Christmas tub in my closet and when I see beautiful items on sale, I buy them and add them to the bin. Since most of my girlfriends and sisters love beautiful things, I often create gift baskets for them.

You’ve done it!

You’ve mastered the holidays and are free to enjoy the whole month of December anxiety & bustle free. Kick your feet up, pour that glass of eggnog or tea, and enjoy the sights, smells and festivities with those you love.

Which of these tips did you like best?

How do you prepare for the holidays?

Deanne Welsh is the founder of Unstoppable Writers for writers passionate about catapulting themselves and others to success through mastering their messaging, marketing, and money. You can join them here.  Deanne writes at

P.S. To escape the overwhelm of the holidays, sign up below for Sandy Kreps’s Modern Simplicity 5-Day Holiday Challenge!

The Best Way to Organize Your Home

This is a guest post from Jennifer Ullrich from A Life Designed.

I sat at my desk with a pencil in hand, making a list of things that needed to get done around the house over the summer. As a teacher who works long hours during the school year, my catch up time was over the summer months when I had time off. 

A sense of dread at all the work to be done appeared as I added to-dos to my list. Most of the items on my list kept reappearing over and over again. I just couldn’t seem to make lasting change to get my home in order. I chastised myself for not being organized enough, not taking care of my stuff enough, not tidying up enough.

Organizing things over and over wasn’t working.

Maybe…just maybe…it was time to take a different approach.

I read books and consulted websites about organizing, thinking that if I could just get better at it I could solve my clutter problem. And then I read this:

“If organizing your stuff worked, you’d be organized by now.” ~Courtney Carver

This realization changed everything for me. Sure, it helps to have a place for everything and to create order at home. But things don’t stay in place for long. Over time, keeping things where they belong requires time and energy. 

I realized that the key wasn’t a need for better organization. Organizing my stuff was only a temporary solution.

The only way to spend less time taking care of my stuff was to have less stuff.

Simplifying is a Process

And so I began the process of getting rid of the excess in my home. I went one drawer at a time, one room at a time, and slowly purged the belongings we didn’t need. Clothes my kids had outgrown, toys and sporting equipment they no longer played with, and decorative items that I purchased over the years but didn’t really suit my taste anymore.

This seemed scary at first, but the more I let go, the more free I felt. I donated, sold, and gave away a lot. 

Getting rid of stuff gave me space to think, create, and dream. ~ @alifedesigned8 Click To Tweet

My life is very different now. Getting rid of stuff gave me space to think, create, and dream. I traded my high stress job for a low stress one, started writing, and now have the time that I crave with my family. I am able to enjoy my down time because I’m not overwhelmed with a home full of stuff.

How about you? Is your home a place where you can think, recharge, and strengthen your relationships? If not, is it because your home has turned into a storage container (like mine was), rather than a place to really live

“I’d rather have extra space and extra time than extra stuff.” ~Francine Jay

How much is too much?

If you’re ready to consider the idea of living with less, know that what’s just right for you may be too much for someone else. That’s ok. Consider what you’re comfortable with, and create a home that reflects your priorities.

As you begin to clear the clutter, you will feel the difference almost immediately. With every small step you take to simplify, you will create space for something more meaningful.

Here are some benefits you can experience when you get rid of the excess:

  • Less time spent dusting and cleaning
  • No more guilt about not using things you have
  • More time with your family
  • More space to recharge and connect

How could your life be better with less? I’d love to hear your ideas. Please share in the comments below!

Jen writes about creating a simple, meaningful life with less stuff on her blog, A Life Designed. Visit her there to get updates and freebies on how to create a life that’s just right for you. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook