I adore the holidays. It’s an excuse to eat chocolate, drink a little bubbly, and enjoy a few days off of work in good company. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to be drawn into the commercialism, complex family (or friend) dynamics, the urge to spend too much money, and a general sense of being overwhelmed. The Center for a New American Dream, a non-profit that I semi-follow, is suggesting that we simplify our holidays. Here’s my list for this year:

1) Spread out the travel. I, for example, should theoretically be in three states over Christmas. Not happening, even if weather and airlines functioned ideally. Each year, I pick one place, and visit the others later in the year. (You’ll save on plane tickets, too.)

2) Delegate. Maybe you’re not up to the pies this year. Assign them to cousin Sammy in lieu of a gift.

3) Prepare ahead and reduce. This works best with wrapping and cookies, but it can apply to food too. Make fewer kinds of cookies (although, please, do NOT drop the raspberry spritz cookies in favor of the boring molasses nut cookies). Don’t make a ham and a turkey and a vegetarian main dish, just make the turkey and give the non-turkey eaters the vegetarian main dish. Make and freeze a coffeecake for the big family breakfast, and serve it with fruit and hard-boiled eggs instead of French toast and sausage. Lower labor, less time, less stress.

4) Gift (and ask for) favors for Christmas. Need some help with the garden in the summer? The garage door painted? Someone to organize you hard drive or photos? A week of dog/goat/bunny/child sitting while you go on vacation? Way better than odd-smelling bubble bath or a sweater.

5) Less stuff. I like gifting edibles because they are consumed, useful, and delicious. Experiences are also a delight: take someone to a show, a performance, a great hike, or share your favorite “secret places*.” Aim to give fewer gifts that will end up dusty or given to Goodwill the next time the giftee moves. Heifer International offers a nice option for supporting a good cause, as do many other organizations.

Their holiday pledge has even more suggestions, if you’re considering downsizing. But, maybe the holidays are the only time of the year you splurge, and you don’t need to simply. Maybe you already simplified. Either way, enjoy your cookies and vegetables!

*You know, the coffee shop where you can actually get a chair and decent hot tea? The best patch of wild blackberries, or the wonderful little sandwich shop that makes four star food for the price of Chinese take-out…

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