How to Not Lose Your S&*!# this Holiday Season

Decorations and calendar with Christmas Day marked out

Ladies, raise your right hand and repeat after me:







-Over schedule

-Overdo it

-Be a jerk


Two years ago, during Christmas 2014, I went a little nuts.

It was our first Christmas with our second adopted daughter so I wanted to spoil both her and her sister (whose nose was still firmly out of joint. And by out of joint I mean it was now located somewhere around her right ear).

I was on parental leave too, so not only did I have the time to plan, think, shop, etc., but I also felt like I had to make everything perfect for our family since that was essentially my job at the time.

But after close to a month of running around like a headless chicken and putting my energy in all the wrong places, I vowed I would never do it again. I promised myself I’d be more relaxed, more practical.

Christmas isn’t necessarily the best time for practicality and I know it sounds Grinchy, but now that I have a job, two kids, three pets and a husband who answers “I don’t know, what do you think?” when I ask him about gift-giving, simple and practical solutions are my best friend.

Practical doesn’t have to mean boring. For me, practical means I can cross something off my list with a minimum of fuss and wasted energy. Practical means I’ve made a good and thoughtful decision without spreading myself too thin or compromising mine and my family’s ability to enjoy the season.

That whole “it’s all about balance” thing is never more true than in December. And let’s be clear:  I’m no lifestyle guru. My homemaking style can be best described as a cross between Peg Bundy and Cookie Lyon. But I do have several strategies for minimizing the chaos and maximizing my sanity during the holidays.


  1. Each of my kids has at least five teachers they interact with on a daily basis and I can’t afford to buy for all of them. So instead, I help organize a buffet breakfast for all teachers and staff featuring gourmet goodies from the shops in our neighborhood. It’s my way of saying thank you in a way that’s more meaningful than a #1 TEACHER mug.
  1. My girlfriends and I take the pressure off buying for each other by committing to a lunch or dinner date in the middle of the Christmas chaos. It’s our calm in the middle of the storm and we consider time together to be the greatest gift. Okay, we consider a Jo Malone candle to be the greatest gift, but togetherness is a close second. We book the date, shop for fun $25 “secret Santa” gifts and make our poor waiter distribute the loot. It’s great fun.
  1. Retailers like Pottery Barn, Bath & Body Works and Whole Foods all want me to have that elusive “perfect” holiday, which is really nice of them. However, they are not the boss of me and I will not give in to the temptation to feel like I am less of a friend, mother or hostess if I don’t have all the accessories and food items (reindeer pâté, anyone?) they deem necessary for an awesome celebration. My budget décor will do just fine, at least until my kids grow up, move out and stop wrecking all my stuff. Until then, I will spend my money on wine instead.
  1. Two words: edible gifts. At this point in our lives many of the gifts we receive from other adults amount to clutter. Lovely, thoughtful clutter, but clutter just the same. Admittedly, I am ruthless when it comes to useless items up in my space. Barely a day goes by when someone in my house doesn’t discover that something they need has been moved, given away, thrown out or recycled. Therefore, edible gifts are amazing because they usually come in cute, gift-ready packaging and they DISAPPEAR WHEN YOU ARE DONE WITH THEM.
  1. Now more than ever, you need to look after your physical and mental health. Late nights, early mornings, sugar-fueled kids, crowded stores, credit card statements…. They all take a toll on our mental health. Whatever your wellness regime is, don’t sacrifice it because you think you’re too busy. Hit that yoga class, rock that kickboxing session or lock yourself in the bathroom with noise cancelling headphones if you have to. But make sure you take the time to take care of you, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day.


Now, one more time, raise your right hand and repeat after me….



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Picture of Jen Millard

Author: Jen Millard

Jen Millard is a writer who's not afraid to say what everyone else is thinking about parenting and relationships. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram via @jennemillard or at

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