Creating Holiday Margin

I love the holidays. LOVE them. I am a repeat offender of cramming my calendar full of holiday magic. Think I’m exaggerating? Currently on my calendar I have 3 different tree lighting events AND the Rockefeller Center Christmas special so I don’t miss it on TV. That is just tree lighting events people. I have a problem.

Today our moms group was encouraged by a speaker, Amanda, to create space in our lives so we can be more generous with our time by pruning the vines and clearing the underbrush. In a nutshell, pruning looks like getting rid of what is draining and saying no to the things that aren’t right for us. Clearing the underbrush involves those little things that start to pile up in our minds each day (negative thoughts, worries etc…) and giving those things up to the Lord to take care of. It was such a refreshing reminder as a mother to be ok with saying no.

She shared Job 34:4 which says “Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good.” While we learn together what things are good (holiday parties, Christmas tree lightings, family gatherings etc…) we must decide for ourselves what is right for us.

We are so excited to be back in San Diego and already (in addition to my tree lighting obsession) there are 3 Christmas parties on the calendar. There are just so many festive things to do and never enough time. I will drive my husband (and probably my toddler) insane with a calendar that leaves no room for just spending time together by a fire with a cup of hot chocolate. (Actually, that is on my list too.)

As an 8 months pregnant stay-at-home mom with a toddler, I’m learning that it’s ok to say no and how to be confident that what I am doing is enough. Here are 5 ways that I’m trying to create more margin this holiday season and hopefully it helps you too.

  1. Make a list

I love lists as much as I love Christmas. Grocery lists, packing lists, to do lists, give me all the lists. Making a list really helps me visualize all my hopes and dreams for the Christmas season. Create a list of everything that sounds fun to do and even the things you know might show up on your calendar (work events etc…). Lay it all out there so nothing comes as a surprise.

2. Determine your priorities

Are you a memories family? A traditions family? A try something new family? A gifts family? Decide what matters to you most and reevaluate that list. Remove anything that isn’t essential and doesn’t line up with your values.

3. Say no and choose your best yes

There are currently 2 things I can think of that come up every Christmas that I desperately want to do and just haven’t had the time for: Advent Calendars + Christmas Cards. The holidays, as joyful as they may be, are also full of expectations and therefore, comparison. I see the other moms and the cute advent calendars they are doing with their kids and the thoughtful, stylish cards they are sending out with family updates. In the past, I’ve had to continuously say no because it was too stressful to put energy towards planning, styling, shopping, and photo shooting. This year I threw myself a bone and decided we can do Christmas cards because these will be the last photos with us as a family of 3.

The other thing we’ve learned to say no to is gifts. What? At Christmas? Yes. We have always been very minimal, and honestly it began as a necessity because of small space living and finances. But we’ve come to enjoy it and appreciate it. My husband’s love language is gifts, so we don’t eliminate gifts all together. He and I set a limit on our gifts to each other and typically gift each other 1 thoughtful item. Last year, we implemented a 3 gift rule for Brighton. I read this idea from another mom who decided that since Jesus got 3 gifts, her kids got 3 gifts. We loved that idea and it has saved us so much money and stress.

The things we have to say “no” to sometimes are not usually easy “nos” and are not always the most popular with other people. But they work for us. Maybe it’s not forever, maybe it’s just a no for this year, but what do you need to say “no” to?

4. Stop comparing

Don’t let the instagram photos fool you. That Christmas nook might look cute, but the rest of the house is a disaster. Those Christmas cards may look very put together, but they were fighting the whole way there. The crafts that mom is doing look really fun (and like a great way to kill time), but if you don’t enjoy crafts don’t do them. SO much of the stress of this holiday season is brought on by our own expectations and comparing ourselves against other families. I get it. I want the season to be as magical as possible, and it ALWAYS looks more magical in the Magnolia Magazine Holiday issue and on that one mom’s instagram.

This goes back to that verse in Job. You do what’s right for you and celebrate every second of it.

5. Slow down, soak it in

I love getting out of the house, but sometimes it’s good to just put on those matching holiday PJ’s and snuggle to a Christmas movie. I want to make it a priority to have a fine wine holiday season, not a 2 buck chuck season. You know what I mean? Choose the best moments possible and let each moment age to perfection. Don’t settle for an over scheduled, too busy, stress-filled season.

Well there ya go. 5 ways to create some margin this season and hopefully enjoy every snuggle, every moment, every cookie, and every hot toddy (no seriously, please have one for me) there is to enjoy.

Also, check out Amanda’s blog ( to read more about living a generous life. Her words inspired me, I hope they inspire you.