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Making a List, Checking it Twice

December 21, 2010

As the last days of the year approach and the holidays come rushing in, I notice that the todo list grows and the deadlines loom. One of the things I did a few years ago is to make a list of all the things I like and dislike during the holiday season. I then looked for ways to do more of what I like and less of what I dislike.

Simple right?

Well, not so. Holidays come with a lot of guilt. Ideas of wrong and right and things you should do. Feelings of inadequacy or expectations from people around you. Many people around me feel a strongly under-appreciated during the holidays. As my kids grow and the Christmas wonder dwindles, I know this will happen here too.

Which is where the list comes in handy. The idea is to focus on what makes you happy during the holidays and increase the amount of time you spend on that. And all the chores you don’t like, see if you can get rid of them, or at least make them much much less time consuming.

Here is an example:
I don’t do Christmas cards. I never have and I have no plans to. I take photos of my kids all the time and I love doing that. I also talk to, email, or write to most of the people I am friends with. I don’t need the holiday season to remind them of me or send them a printed photo of me that they won’t know what to do with. I generally don’t know what to do with Christmas cards I receive. I like them and look at them for a moment and then I toss them. And, maybe because of that, I think they are a huge waste of money and time and hassle for the recipient because I imagine them hesitating (like i do each year) and then guiltily throwing them away. So I just don’t do them. I save the time, the money, and the hassle. I don’t feel even 1% guilty about it and I use that time and money elsewhere.

Please bear in mind that these are my thoughts. You might love making and getting Christmas cards. That’s perfectly fine. The idea is to not to what you don’t want to do. Without guilt.

I also don’t put bows or other fancy wrapping on our presents. This year, I might try to even use gift bags instead of wrapping. I don’t spend time making a lot of hand-made presents. I might make one or two each year. Maybe. I also hate shopping. I always hate it but during the holidays even more so since the stores are so full. So I do all my shopping online. Early enough to get free or cheap shipping. I do it all in one night and then I am done.

What I do love to do is go on family excursions and to craft. And to put up a tree with decorations. I do a December Daily album each year to document the season as it happens. We have a beautiful tree and I decorate it mostly by myself. I don’t resent it ever because it’s one of the things I love most about the season. I love looking at it all month long. I love baking with my kids. I love relaxing and reading. And I try to spend most of my time doing that.

This gives me the mental and emotional space to really enjoy the season and be grateful for everything I have. It gives me the energy to snuggle up with my kids and be thankful they still let me hug them.

So if you’re finding yourself resentful or rushed this holiday season, my suggestion to you is to make a list. Write down all the things you resent doing. See if you can get rid of them. See if you can delegate them. See if you can minimize the time you spend on them.

And then make a list of everything you love. Schedule those into your week/day/month. Make sure you do them often and for longer periods. Remember that life is short and it’s better to feel joy over guilt. And doing more of what you love will fill you with gratitude.

And remember to snuggle up. Even if it’s just with a book.

Happy Holidays.

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