The 6 Things You Gotta Do Now for the Holidays

Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Kwanza, Yule, Quaid-e-Azam, even just the month of December) comes but once a year

For as long as I can remember, Christmas has been my favourite holiday, but it’s also a season of stress. From party invites to buying and wrapping gifts, November through December 24 is always hectic and harried for my family. 

As the holidays draw nearer, these are the six things I highly recommend you do (and not one of them involves standing in a ridiculous lineup for a sale):

Purge and donate.

A pre-present purge has been a tradition at my home for years. Well before the holiday season is upon us, we hit our closets, toy boxes, cupboards, and bookshelves to remove items that no longer serve us.

At the same time, we see what items might need replacing (like the beige-ish t-shirt that was once white or the socks with holes in them) to begin creating our “wish & need list.”

Most importantly, the process of purging helps us realize exactly how fortunate we are. 

(Bonus: occasionally we find gifts from previous years that have been unopened and unused and are able to be re-gifted!)

Set expectations.

For the first few years of his life, my son all but got the moon on a silver platter at every holiday and birthday. Now? Not so much. 

As Christmas music begins playing and the advertising campaigns featuring kids opening enormous gifts bombard us, discussing the true meaning of the holiday season becomes a priority for our family. My son knows he’s not going to get everything on his “wish list” and also knows the holiday will be split between all the families that meld together to make up ours.

He knows we’ve decided to reduce the number of gifts and instead concentrate on experiences, like an upcoming trip to Florida, so we can spend more time together creating memories instead of more money on stuff we don’t need.

Set boundaries (and budgets).

Grandparents going overboard on gifts and treats? Set boundaries well in advance - especially if you’re doing things differently this year (like we are). Communicating our wishes to family and friends felt a little uncomfortable at first, but was ultimately well-received. 

Similarly, set budgetary boundaries for yourself early on and stick to them. The only red you want this time of year is a hat and Poinsettia.

Volunteer or give back.

Want to be reminded about how fortunate you really are? Give back to those less fortunate than you and yours by rolling up your sleeves and giving back to your local community. Bonus points if you can make it a family affair. 

Although we aren’t the most time-rich, we try to find an hour or two before the holidays hit to help sort donations of goods, and my son is always given the opportunity to shop for another child or family (either food or gifts) to help teach him the value of money and the gift of being able to help others.

Shopping for the person who has everything? Try donating to a favourite charity in a loved one’s name.


Repeat after me: I cannot be everything to everyone, every second of every day. See also - you can’t be in three places at once. 

I’d love to attend every party or event I’m invited to, but it’s not sensible and hardly possible. I’ve had to streamline - and I’d bet you could stand to do the same. I tried to Elf on the Shelf thing, but I just can’t remember to move a damn elf every night, so I pitched it. Instead, we try to remember our Advent calendar (mostly for the chocolate).

Looking for other ways to streamline? Buy instead of baking or making and reduce some stress. Choose to attend the events/parties you really want to attend, and politely decline others. Pick one or two traditions for your family. 

Finally, Find time to enjoy.

Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Kwanza, Yule, Quaid-e-Azam, even just the month of December) comes but once a year. Focus on the things that matter most to you and enjoy the time you have with friends and family. 

I highly recommend you pour a large eggnog (with rum) to help support the relaxation and enjoyment.


RELATED: 10 Ways to Have a Fun and Frugal Holiday Season

Ashley MacInnis is a public relations professional, writer, and mom living in Dartmouth, NS with her two kids, retired racing greyhound, and partner. 

Ever the storyteller, Ashley’s spent most of her life boring her family with long-winded tales and decided to put her passion to work by choosing a career in PR and writing. She’s had the pleasure of helping brands and individuals tell their stories to build businesses and reach new audiences and it never gets old. When she’s not typing away on her keyboard, you can find her wrangling her boys into a rink somewhere, running around the lake, or searching for the perfect pair of shoes. 

Follow her on social @imashleymi