Modern*Simplicity

Creating a Life Free From Chaos

Simple Hospitality When You Have Holiday Guests

Simple Hospitality When You Have Holiday GuestsAre you having guests for the holidays? The month of December tends to be a busy time of hosting friends and family for holiday parties, cookie swaps, and family gatherings. If you’re the host, that can be stressful, particularly if you have perfectionist tendencies like me! While it’s natural to want your home to be as welcoming and comfortable to guests as possible, you’ll make them anxious if you spend all your time fussing over your home and your guests. Here are a few easy ways to be a five-star host while also keeping your sanity in check.

Be Prepared

Stock up on some easy entertaining supplies for unplanned or last-minute guests. Tidy up your guest room, keep the bathroom clean and stocked, and fill your pantry with easy appetizers like chips and salsa, crackers and summer sausage, hot cocoa and ciders. There are also some yummy snacks and treats that can be kept in your freezer and heated up as needed for drop-in guests. During the holidays, I also keep a frozen lasagna on hand — you never know when you’ll need an easy dinner to feed a houseful!

While it’s natural to want your home to be welcoming and comfortable to guests, you’ll make them anxious if you spend all your time fussing over your home and your guests. Keep it simple. Click To Tweet

Keep It Simple

Instead of hosting a big, expensive party, try inviting friends over for cider and cookies. People get partied out pretty quickly over the holidays, and a laid-back evening can be a welcome treat during the busy Christmas season. Potlucks are an easy way to host a dinner party while keeping you from working in the kitchen all night.

Christmas Simplicity Tip: Tidy your guest room, clean and stock the bathroom, and fill your pantry with easy appetizers like crackers and summer sausage or hot cocoa and ciders. You'll be ready to host guests at a moment's notice! Click To Tweet

Meal Plan

If you’re having guests during the holidays, preplan breakfasts, lunches, and dinners and shop in advance so you’ll have all your groceries on hand. This is a great list to keep in your holiday notebook for reference next year. I like knowing exactly what we’re doing for each meal so I don’t get anxious trying to come up with dinner at the last minute.

Say Yes

When friends and family offer to bring a dish to your party or holiday meal, say yes. To simplify even more, pre-plan the meal as a potluck and invite guests to share a favorite food. This works especially well when the host provides the main dish and drinks, and guests bring appetizers, side dishes, and desserts. A few years ago, I was a control freak when it came to my menus, and I didn’t want anyone to bring something that might “conflict” with the plan (terrible, I know!) Now, I’m all about simplicity, so I am thrilled when someone offers up a dish. Saves me some work and I get to enjoy someone else’s cooking!

When friends and family offer to bring a dish to your party or holiday meal, say yes! Keep your gatherings simple to avoid stress! Click To Tweet

Keep Your Expectations Realistic

Don’t set expectations too high. If you’re hosting a party, remember it’s just a party. It’s supposed to be fun, not perfect. You won’t be the worst host in history, but you’re not Martha Stewart either. Stop stressing and have fun.

Simply Christmas by Sandy Kreps

For more ideas for an easygoing holiday, check out my book, Simply Christmas, with 101 ways to simplify the holidays. 

Simple Hospitality When You Have Holiday Guests

Holiday Hacks: Simple Christmas Traditions You Can Start Right Now

Holiday Hacks: Simple Christmas Traditions You Can Start Right NowPart of the fun of the holidays are those little traditions that your family shares. Most people have some sort of traditions around Christmas — usually an activity, a certain food, a movie, a gift-opening “ritual.” Those little traditions are what make the holidays meaningful and memorable — and they’re the things your children will remember for the rest of their lives. Here are a few suggestions for creating or maintaining your own holiday traditions.

Choose a simple way to record holiday memories.

If you have kids, you probably take the same kinds of pictures each year — a traditional photo with Santa or the kids in their pajamas under the tree. If you have a photo tradition like this, consider a holiday photo book that you add to each year. I have a Santa book, with years of pictures of the boys with Santa. It’s fun to look through it and see how the children have grown. There are the usual “smiling while sitting on Santa’s lap” pictures, but I’ve also included more candid shots of the boys showing Santa their Christmas lists or getting hugs from the Big Guy. The album is easy to update with just a couple new photos each year. It’s important to find a simple way for you to record and remember your traditions that doesn’t take more time than the celebrating!

Christmas Simplicity Tip: You probably take the same pictures each year — a photo with Santa or the kids in their pjs under the tree. Consider a holiday photo book you can add to each year. Click To Tweet

Start a Countdown tradition.

Use an Advent calendar to count off the days leading up to Christmas with your children. An Advent calendar can be just about anything — here are a few suggestions.

  • A countdown with a small chocolate candy each day.
  • A little “gift” that gets unwrapped daily, such as a small toy or an ornament for the tree.
  • An envelope listing a family activity, such as movie night, hot cocoa together, or a board game night. 
  • A commercial calendar, either with candy or toys, such as the Lego boxed calendars.
  • A simple paper garland with the days counting down to Christmas — remove a paper ring each day leading up to Christmas Eve.
  • A daily devotion that recalls the Christmas Story can be read along with the Advent calendar to keep the focus on the holiday toward the Reason for the Season.

Make your holiday celebration personal.

Share your love of music by hosting a home holiday sing-along party with simple refreshments. Sing along to holiday classics from your CD collection or use a service like Pandora. If you really love singing Christmas carols, organize a group of carolers to visit elderly neighbors, the nursing home, or a hospital. Love to bake? Host a cookie exchange. Take your family to a candlelight Christmas Eve church service, or drive around town looking at holiday lights while sipping hot cocoa. Make a gingerbread house, or invite an Elf on the Shelf into your home. Whatever you do, keep it personal and close to your heart so that you look forward to it. The goal is to create traditions that really mean something to you.

Christmas Simplicity Tip: The goal of Christmas traditions is to create memories that are personal and meaningful. Choose activities you and your family enjoy, not those that are too much work for not much joy. Click To Tweet

Make a “Signature” contribution to holiday potlucks.

Master a signature dessert or appetizer, then stick with it. My grandmother made chocolate-covered cherries filled with brandy. My mom makes chocolate no-bake cookies. I make snickerdoodles. My college roommate makes some awesome biscotti, a friend of mine makes some amazing stuffed mushrooms, and my neighbor has a stacked artichoke dip that is to die for. If you make it well and love to eat it, even the simplest dish can become a signature must-have. People will forget about the canned green beans as soon as they smell your prize-worthy apple pie.

Simplify your gift-giving by using the “4 Gifts.”

Need a way to keep the holidays from becoming a frenzy of ALL THE GIFTS? The 4-gift tradition helps keep your Christmas season from focusing on materialism and (bonus!) can help you stick to a reasonable gift budget. With the 4-gift tradition, each person gets just four gifts for Christmas:

  1. Something you want,
  2. Something you need,
  3. Something to wear,
  4. Something to read.

Giving just a few gifts can actually help your kids to appreciate what they have instead of always wanting more. It’s a critical lesson in “enough.”

Make up your own traditions.

Don’t be afraid to make up your own traditions. When my sons were babies, I wanted a special way to show them that Christmas isn’t just about Santa and all those gifts, but a celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth. How does a kid understand a birthday? A birthday cake, of course! Since then, we’ve made Jesus a birthday cake every year for Christmas Day. The kids get to decorate it however they like, and we eat it for dessert at Christmas dinner. We light a candle and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. It’s a simple way to reframe the holiday.

Christmas Simplicity Tip: Choose traditions that remind you of what you're celebrating. We have a birthday cake to celebrate Jesus's birth as our main Christmas dinner dessert. It can't all be about Santa. Click To Tweet

Don’t be afraid to start over.

Got a holiday tradition that’s becoming more work than fun? Ditching a tradition because it’s become too frustrating or too labor-intensive does not negate the memories that are attached. Sometimes traditions start out great but then become more trouble than they’re worth. Traditions are meant to bring joy, not frustration and resentment. Keep the ones you love and let the others go.

Simply Christmas by Sandy Kreps

For more ideas for an easygoing holiday, check out my book, Simply Christmas, with 101 ways to simplify the holidays. 

 

Holiday Hacks: Simple Christmas Traditions You Can Start Right Now

7 Ways to Simplify Christmas This Year

7 Ways to Simplify Christmas This YearThe holiday season is upon us! Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, it’s time to get in the spirit of Christmas! The holidays are a lot more fun and a lot less stressful with a little planning and the intention to keep things simple. Here are seven ideas for simplifying Christmas and enjoying this month of celebration.

Create a holiday notebook

Photocopy your favorite holiday recipes and keep them together in a notebook, so you don’t have to scramble each year looking for those special family dishes. You can also keep a copy of your gift list in your notebook, as well as to-do lists, directions to holiday parties, and your plans for cookie swaps and homemade gift-making.

Christmas Simplicity Tip: Photocopy your favorite holiday recipes and keep them together in a notebook so you don't scramble for them later. Click To Tweet

Create a gift spreadsheet

One of my lifesavers is a spreadsheet I use every year to track and organize my gifts. I create a new worksheet each year (all in the same document), and I list who I want to get gifts for down the left side. I have columns across the top for my budget, what to give, whether I’ve bought/ordered/made it, how much it actually cost, whether it’s been wrapped or shipped, and a space to write notes to myself. The budget and actual cost columns add themselves up automatically using the SUM function, so I can always glance down and see how I’m doing. I’ve been doing this since 2003, so I can look back and see what I got someone for the last several years, ensuring I don’t duplicate myself! You can download my spreadsheet right here!

Keep your calendar current

While it’s always good to keep your calendar up to date, it’s even more important during the busy holiday season. Special events, holiday parties, cookie swaps, kids’ parties — it all adds up fast. Record upcoming events as they come in so you don’t double book yourself. If requested, make sure you RSVP as well!

You can also use your calendar to track your gift giving. Mark your calendar now for your gift purchasing deadline and your mailing deadline, if you have to ship gifts. Planning ahead saves you from costly last-minute binge-buying and excessive postage fees, and it ensures your gifts arrive on time.

Christmas Simplicity Tip: Jot down upcoming events in your calendar as they come in so you don't double book yourself. You can also use your calendar to track gift orders and shipping dates! Click To Tweet

Online shopping for the win

If you do any of your shopping online or by catalog, it’s time to get going. Keep in mind shipping time and charges, and give yourself some leeway in case your items are canceled or on backorder. Keep track of what you ordered in your gift spreadsheet and mark off items as they arrive.

Wrap as you go

Instead of saving all the gift wrapping until the last minute, set aside a few evenings here and there to wrap some gifts. Keep your wrapping paper, bags, tissue paper, scissors, tape, ribbons, and gift tags organized together in a box or other container so you can find what you need easily.

Christmas Simplicity Tip: Instead of saving all the gift wrapping until the last minute, set aside a few evenings here and there to wrap some gifts. Click To Tweet

Stock your supplies for entertaining

Stock up on easy entertaining supplies for last-minute guests. Tidy up your guest room, keep the bathroom clean and stocked, and fill your pantry with easy appetizers like chips and salsa, crackers and summer sausage, hot cocoa and ciders. There are also some yummy snacks and appetizers that can be kept in your freezer and heated up as needed.

Enjoy yourself

Simplify the holidays where you can, organize the rest, and vow to have fun with friends and family this year.

For more ideas for an easygoing holiday, check out my book, Simply Christmas, with 101 ways to simplify the holidays. 

7 Ways to Simplify Christmas This Year