Intentional Christmas Planning (free template!)

Last year I did something I have never done before. I wrote down everything I did for Christmas on January 1st. Maybe it was because I was on maternity leave and had the time, or maybe it was because last Christmas felt so well executed that I had an epiphany that I should document it. Either way, I wanted to bottle up what I did last year and remember the details so I could easily recreate it each December. Last year we scaled back on Christmas because we had a 6 week old baby and I was unpaid at the time on maternity leave. I had also started a new job a few weeks before the baby was born so we were very conservative about spending with so many uncertainties ahead. On Christmas morning I was fulfilled and truly content. There is something so fulfilling about feeling like you did what was best for your family and not what society says is best. I felt like I bought the perfect amount of gifts, made really simple recipes, maintained meaningful traditions and was somewhat organized with decorating, shopping, cooking and crafting (about as organized as you can be when you’re nursing every 90 minutes).

Since I had a new baby, there were so many aspects of Christmas that I had to simplify. I couldn’t barnstorm Target every week night in December when I had a newborn baby. I couldn’t make 400 chocolate covered pretzels for the neighborhood at 2:00am between feedings. And to be clear, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with doing those things. I just learned last year that those things don’t align with the season of life that I am in right now.

Christmas is so overwhelming in this Pinterest world of motherhood and this year I am determined to be intentional about the traditions we sustain as a family. I don’t want to spend every December with my hair on fire trying to order things that are on a flash sale. I don’t want to pull all nighters on Christmas Eve trying to finalize the details of things I saw on Pinterest on December 23. Most importantly, I don’t want to go into debt once a year just to create a Christmas that looks good but doesn’t feel good.

A few days after Christmas I sat down and did a major brain dump into a Google doc. I wrote down everything that I did, bought, decorated and baked. I took detailed notes such as:

What was on sale? (Shutterfly’s best deal is NOT Black Friday or Cyber Monday)
How many Christmas cards do I usually order?
What traditions did we do?
What appetizers did we make on Christmas Eve?
When did I set the table for Christmas brunch?
What recipe did I use for cut outs?
What did I buy the nieces and nephews?
What was in my kids’ stockings?
When do I buy the fresh garland? (NOT until the week of Christmas or it will die and you will buy it twice and waste your money...)

At the time I was really proud of myself for getting it all down on paper, but it wasn’t until this November when I opened up the document again that I was actually thrilled. There is ZERO CHANCE that my mom brain would have remembered these details. Having everything written down also gave me a clear view to the finish line of Christmas. Instead of seeing the holidays as one Amazon order at a time, it helped me to think of ALL of the things we would be spending money on between November 1 and January 1. As a result, I made some decisions of what to cut out this year in order to stay on track with our other financial goals (I’m taking a year off from Christmas cards this year and we're not going on a Polar Express ride).

The lesson I am learning with Christmas is that like every other aspect of life, I have to be intentional and planned. Christmas is not an emergency and it’s not a surprise. It comes at the same time each year. Many people would say that having a Christmas planner in and of itself is “excessive” and Pinterest-y but I don’t care about the opinion of others. This works for me. I want to recreate the feeling that I had last year on Christmas morning when we did what worked for our family.

So why do you care? Well, like anything, I felt like I had figured something out that everyone else already knew. Don’t we always feel like that? Like everyone else has the secret sauce and we are still dipping in ketchup? I posted my Google doc one night on Instagram back in November (the night I reopened it and was thrilled). I received a ton of messages asking if I would share it. It turns out I wasn’t alone in feeling overwhelmed by the holidays. Many of you are young moms like me and figuring it out one day at a time. So I prettied it up (because it truly was a brain dump) and made it into a Google doc you can make a copy of. I am also going to share what my brain dump from last year looked like to inspire you to write down ALL THE THINGS this January even if you don't put them in a planner. Then once you write them down, delete the things you never want to do again or make a note of them.

Regardless of the season of life you are in,  may you have a holiday that works for YOU and your family, not what the world is telling you Christmas should look like.

Merry Christmas!

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