A Minimal Approach To Holiday Obligations

A Minimal Approach To Holiday Obligations

For most of us, the Christmas season has become two months of stress and busyness wherein we work, plan, shop, attend parties, host parties, bake, cook, wrap… and BOOM! It’s over.  We then switch to “aftermath” mode, a dreary several weeks of cleaning and organizing, punctuated by pondering creative ways to serve leftovers from the over-stuffed refrigerator and consoling children as brand new toys are broken.

Maybe you define “organization” as doing the same amount of stuff, just more efficiently.  But I want to challenge that idea.  To achieve the holiday we envision in our heads and our hearts, we need to do less.

Start by trimming your obligations:

  • Scale back your work schedule, if possible.
  • Host fewer parties.
  • Attend fewer parties.
  • Don’t require perfection when it comes to housework.
  • Don’t commit to as many outside activities — church, school, work, etc.
  • Don’t make as many gifts.
  • Travel less.
  • See fewer friends and relatives.
  • Engage in less screen time.

If you implement those edits, it’s easier to organize what remains.  Still, “what remains” may be a pretty lengthy list, so let’s do some analysis of how we want to use our time.  Start by downloading this printable worksheet.

This exercise provides the best insight and most emotional buy-in if conducted as a family meeting, but that might not be tenable for your household.  If not, go it alone and do your best.

First, gather all the family members who will be involved in the holiday and list the top 25 things you want to accomplish this Christmas.  Think about your to-do list: making fruit cakes, cookie exchange, sending Christmas cards, decorating the house, hanging lights, shopping, etc.  Don’t worry about family traditions here, but rather the chores and tasks you feel need to get done.

Second, look at your list of 25 and circle your top five most important things.  These are things that you enjoy doing or it just wouldn’t “feel” like Christmas if it doesn’t happen, like, say, setting up the Christmas tree.  Write those in order of importance.

Take a look at the 20 that still remain on the list.  Which ten would you be glad were just accomplished? Write these ten on their own list in order of importance.

Now let’s talk about delegating.  It can be difficult for us to pass responsibilities to other people, especially if we’ve been “doing it all” and this is how Christmas has always worked.  But delegating is going to make a huge difference in enjoying the holiday.

So, in our third step, take that list of ten items from the second step and assign who will be in charge of each task.  You are going to free up your time by letting the rest of the family participate in making the holiday.

The goal is this: You only do the top five things.  The other ten tasks are not your responsibility.  If the other things happen, they happen — but you aren’t going to stress about it.  Don’t pass judgment; don’t nag.  Focus only on your five tasks.

And those ten leftover unassigned tasks? Just let them go- they aren’t important enough to happen this year, and that’s just fine.

When you’re done- tell me what 5 things you will be doing and the 10 things that you delegated.


A Minimal Approach To Holiday Obligations

About Rachel Jones

Hi there! I’m Rachel Jones, and I founded Nourishing Minimalism in 2012 at the beginning of my minimalist journey. If you're looking for encouragement in your journey, I created a FREE Facebook Group - feel free to join me there: Nourishing Minimalism Facebook Group and I share videos each week on YouTube


  1. Julie, A Mom of Ten on 11/12/2015 at 1:24 pm

    You know, Rachel, as I read through this, I thought, “This could be used for any number of holidays, events, etc…just filling in the blank for other stuff.” We’re Messianic, and don’t celebrate Christmas, but we do celebrate a *number* of other feast days, holy days, etc., not to mention (as your family is fully aware) a _boatload_ of birthdays. 🙂
    I already started, in my brain subbing in Passover, Hanukkah, etc. This plan is brilliant. I’m going to write this idea down in my Holiday Planning notebook. This also covers my very first base…not forgetting the *reason* we’re celebrating. For us, that is loving our Abba, loving the people He has given us to love and keeping Yeshua (Jesus) front and center of every single event. The top 5 choices would *have* to cover that base. (Or, conversely, show us where our choices are getting off the mark and in need of a reset.)
    Man, I love this. Thank you for continually sharing your journey.

  2. Rachael Woodard on 12/22/2018 at 3:10 am

    Thanks… I love that I gave myself permission to quit doing the newsletter.. the annual Christmas event which used to plague me and guilt me until the thing was done, sometimes only 3 days before Christmas. I simply quit doing it and don’t even apologize. I don’t think a soul misses it and I gained at least 20 hours of time and at least $50 to $60 in ink, paper, mailing costs (probably more)…

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