Article Line Long1

On Preventing (Or Preparing Or Coping) With “Overwhelm” During The Holidays (And A Letter To The Universe On Behalf Of Women)

Tis the season of overwhelm, but it’s different this year. As one of my best friends put it last week, “My strategy is to prioritize the balls I don’t want to drop, and hope for the best with the rest.” She has a very demanding corporate career and two kids. She’ll hold on to the kids (not compromising there), prioritize the work projects that can’t get neglected, then phone it in, delegate, or push off everything else. The overwhelm can be real. As a Q4 content creator, I thought I was in one of only a few industries with this unreasonably busy season. And then I started talking to EVERY SINGLE WOMAN I KNOW. This year I have a strategy that I hope to god works. 

On top of the holidays, which rely heavily on the labor of moms, unfortunately every industry is at its most busy in Q4. It’s gnarly. The biggest challenge with 2022 is that the world, all industries, and society at large are treating us like we are still in 2019. We aren’t. And we can’t go back. 

What we’ve learned about priorities can’t be unlearned. So much came into focus during those two years that we can’t unsee. It’s this expectation and pressure to hustle, to do all the things, keep every ball in the air, scramble, feel scattered, and yet be ok with being exhausted as if it’s just “normal”. I feel like my friend is right – Either some balls are going to drop or we are.

Before 2020 I was maniacally just doing it all because that’s the expectation. And while I would take a full week or 10 days off between Christmas and New Year’s, most of that time I felt I was recuperating (to be fair my kids were also much younger, and so much more exhausting). Christmas of 2020 was the first full season that was so slow and as we all know, such a different experience (with different highs and lows). This year I was already on the chaos train in early November, and it was driving recklessly. So I put on the breaks, hopped off, and came up with a plan to slow down. 

So here’s my strategy to cope or better yet AVOID the overwhelm – advice I’m giving myself and thought I would share (and I think it’s working!!)

daytime work hangs are preferred around here | photo by veronica crawford | from: affordable party outfit ideas + the ehd holiday party

Rebrand Some “Holiday events” As New Years Events (And Push Off Til January)

Example: A few years ago we were behind on our holiday gifts for our clients (we would send our clients fancy boxes of 6 chocolates). We missed the shipping deadline and after throwing my hands in the air and beating myself up we sent them as “New Years’ gifts instead”. They were all ELATED and actually had time to enjoy them, reach out, and connect with us in January. These might have even gotten overlooked during the holiday season. We did this three years in a row and it proved to be a far better gift marketing strategy (I think they noticed us more, tbh). Since Covid, we stopped doing client gifts altogether because managing addresses was impossible (who is remote? Who is in office? Who quit? Moved companies? Did the office close down?) THAT IS OK! Too. The same principle goes for New Years’ family photos/cards and even New Years’ neighborhood potlucks or cookie drop-offs. Shove it to January.

Plan your service efforts in January. We want to be the family that does meaningful service projects to help others during the holidays, but the truth is that I never get my shit together, and then I beat myself up. But listen, so many organizations and churches are helping the underserved in December (one of the reasons I wish I belonged to one), and maybe a January or February project would be more impactful when there’s typically less help. This could also easily turn into a really great resolution where you help more throughout the year and not just for the holidays.

Reschedule every optional personal appointment for January. This could be a lunch, a non-urgent doctor’s appointment, a girl’s night, or your pet grooming. Unless it’s holiday-specific or urgent, reschedule anything from December to January. Of course, we can’t let people down and we are scared of hurting people. You’ll say to yourself, “it’s just an hour of my time” but nothing is “just an hour”. You have the time to get ready, the commute, finding parking – everything is a thing. I went through my calendar and rescheduled so many appointments and I feel SO MUCH BETTER. I got like 15 hours back in December plus the brain space that would have been sucked into those appointments. 

Turn any work event into a long lunch or 3 pm happy hour, not a nighttime event. My team loves doing this – meet up early on Friday and have fun DURING work hours. They’ll thank you, I promise. Those that want to roll it over into dinner will:) 

pretty but not necessary! | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: holiday entertaining just got a whole lot easier

Lower Your Expectations

You can’t be disappointed if you have low expectations. This means for your house, your food, less personal gifts, and your hosting abilities. I’ll go first! Done is better than perfect. 

Our tree this year is cute but definitely not “there” as far as design content for the internet. So my options are: 1. Stress about making it better but like REALLY FAST (was supposed to shoot tomorrow), spend a ton of time, and money, rearrange all the ornaments, DIY a garland, etc. Or 2. Shoot it unsatisfied and tree shame myself or have people disappointed in it not being up to par (both are guaranteed to happen), or 3. Not shoot it at all since there are no sponsors involved and just leave it as is. I’m definitely not doing 1, but not sure if I want to do 2 or 3. The pressure to be perfect is back/real – and I feel responsible for other people feeling that way, too. Did we OG design content creators create this holiday monster of everything looking so chic and perfect on the internet so that even we are disappointed if it looks just OK even though our kids couldn’t be happier???? I’m SORRY!! Which brings me to:

Don’t Feel Like You Need To Post On Social Media Unless It Brings You Happiness

Release all your self-imposed social media posting obligations and take yourself out of the comparison culture hunger games. Example: I saw Brian trying to write a post for me on Facebook for my birthday while we were having such a fun family day and I was like, “oh, no, you don’t have to do that, I promise, just come hang out” and he looked at me, with hope in his eyes like, “really???” We were both so relieved that we made a pact to not have to tell the world in a poignant yet funny way how we feel about each other, our kids, our holidays, or every single occasion. Only post if you want to:) I’m taking my own advice on Christmas Day and maybe I’ll photo dump at the end of the day or end of the week but no, I will not be on social media when I don’t feel like it, which is often these days:) 

these snacks are almost 100% from trader joes | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: we asked and you delivered – here are the best trader joe’s appetizers, dips, and food hacks

Employ The Genius Of The Potluck (Say Yes To Offered Help And Even Ask)

I know that this might be a regional difference, but y’all I have found that when we lived in LA we felt this pressure to provide it all, cook or cater the whole meal, “Just bring yourself.” So if we have a get-together this year (which will be small -I’ve learned my lesson re large party panic attacks), I am going to try answering the “What can we bring?” with “A cheese plate or chips and guac would be great!” (with hopefully some notice). If your friends know you they’ll understand that you are busy and not think twice which also gives them permission to do it themselves. If you are busy and have no time to make something, we wrote a whole post about Trader Joe’s appetizers here – they are GREAT and your real friends won’t care where it’s from. 

Stock Up, Buying Once The Stuff You’ll Use A Lot

Stock your pantry full of 10 good but generic (universally appreciated) hostess gifts that don’t take up a lot of space. I’d suggest something consumable (local wine or candle) so as to not make someone else store/donate something that might not be their style. DONE. 

Stock up on biodegradable and compostable cups and plates. I truly don’t like promoting anything single-use, but if you are having folks over give yourself permission during the holidays to have an easier cleanup. Obviously, stay away from plastic or styrofoam if you can, but if that’s not in your budget just do your best! There are a lot of options out there now and we can’t be perfect all of the time or we are all going to actually explode and splatter our guts all over our faux wreaths. And then they’ll never biodegrade:)

this is not our normal | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: emily’s “messy” but full of memories christmas family room

Set Boundaries And Be Firm (To Protect Mental Health)

I try to only schedule two or three social or holiday “events” a week (even that is a lot). This year we are doing the Hood River Santa Train, Elf The Musical, Zoo Lights, and two crafting/cocktail parties with different kid friend groups before we leave on the 16th for two weeks (where we’ll see Santa at Skypark!). Book in recovery time for just yourself or your family, time to clean the house, do laundry, and meal prep – Just say you are booked. This is a personal limit, I know, but for me limiting my social schedule has helped my depletion greatly. Yes, I see my friends/family less than I used to this time of year, but they are so busy, too! Maybe this is an age thing, maybe post-covid life shift, living in the suburbs (which I love), or maybe I’ve always needed these boundaries for myself but was socializing so much that I would sacrifice my own health to have a good time (pretty sure it’s all of those things).

Let yourself be the person you are, not the one you want to be. I want to be the family that sings carols door to door, but I don’t really think that’s for us. I want to be the family that bakes cinnamon rolls like our family did, but it’s just so messy and I’m terrible at baking. I’m good at decorating, messy crafting, filling the house with spirit, and making big batches of soup/grilled cheese. All the rest is someone else’s expectation of me which I’ll fail at and then feel bad about myself. Lean into what you enjoy because that is what you are going to be good at, which will make you feel better, not worse about yourself (general life lesson). 

Any other good holiday hacks to help prevent (or cope with) overwhelm? Brian’s therapist gave him the best tool that we use all the time now – “Expand your timeline” – which has helped us not only slow down but also take the pressure off doing everything “this year”.

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Jayme Burrows | From: Christmas Through The Years


Never miss a single post and get a little something extra on Saturdays.

90 thoughts on “On Preventing (Or Preparing Or Coping) With “Overwhelm” During The Holidays (And A Letter To The Universe On Behalf Of Women)

  1. Re: your tree. I miss the days when blogs were less styled and more personal. There are still a handful out there but not many. One “big” blog that I can think of that still does this well is Cup of Jo, who I know you have collaborated with in the past. Yes, Joanna is in a different space than you are but whenever she posts snapshots of her home or even from her life, it all looks so much more relatable than overly styled home decor blogs. A smaller blog I follow that focuses on home improvements is The Gold Hive. Between the blog and social media Ashley will post pictures of her young daughter surrounded by non-stylized mess and I love it!

    I think that only posting pictures of perfectly styled rooms and decor ends up perpetuating the myth of perfection and unattainable goals. I appreciate when you get personable by discussing design regret but design regret that costs at least tens of thousands of dollars is still vastly different than my reality where I am very conscious of the cost of any project I take on.

    Happy holidays and enjoy your scaled back plans this year!

    1. I was just going to write this as well! I would much rather see a relatable and attainable decor post, rather than one that would cost me $100s or $1000s to try to duplicate myself. Plus I’m a full time working mom and don’t have time for all that. I’m happy to get my tree up and presents under the tree and minimal Christmas decorations around the house. I say go back to pretty and simple, Emily. Don’t apologize, make it the new trend. I’m over trying to impress other people. Bring back the simple and focus on enjoyable experiences, family time. Totally on board with you here!

    2. Also, this stuff takes practice & building up our muscles/resistances. It’s good to talk about how we don’t want to shame ourselves over coordinated wrapping paper for all gifts and not giving in to the pressure to do too much, but unless we force ourselves to live with the discomfort so that we can see the world is still spinning round, my people still love me, readers still read my blog, well the discomfort will never go away. You have to “lie in it, till your fingers get all prune-y” in order to work those muscles to build strength and resistance to old ways of thinking and societal norms. (Thanks to whoever made that movie French Kiss. It’s not a great movie, but I find it so quotable.) Of course, don’t jump in the deep end! Start gradually, like you would piano as a child: 10 minutes a day when you first took lessons so your hands didn’t hurt and you end up hating it. As you get stronger, push yourself to do a bit more but never forget that simply never having these thoughts and pressures inside us is an *ultimate goal* – something we are always working toward, never fully arriving at and That’s Okay.

      Happy December everyone!

      1. I love this. On stories I have NO PROBLEM showing the snow show. I don’t even think about it. its if/when I hire a photographer that i’m like ‘why would i pay for a production to show something that is kinda mediocre’. I think i need to learn photography so I can take the pressure off of that as well. Speaking through a sports metaphor (naturally) as a seasoned professional athlete its hard to go into a game knowing that I’m going to phone it in, but maybe I can reframe decorating more like a pickup game with friends, rather than a televised playoff game. 🙂

        1. What if you’re not a seasoned professional athlete at all? What if that story doesn’t serve you well, no matter how you try to reframe it? What if you’re a normal, ordinary woman who for X years made her living doing ____, until ____ began taking over her entire life. Maybe that would have been OK had she stayed the one-dimensional young woman she was when she started out, but she’s a different person now. More mature. Wiser. More seasoned. A mother of two children. A wife. A successful entrepreneur who runs a business with multiple employees. As hard as it is, she now has to update how she does things to match her new reality, because they belong to a different era of her life. They served her well then, but aren’t serving her well now and won’t carry her into the future.

  2. I think it’s important to concentrate on the “Reason for the Season” – be that religious or otherwise. Corny I know, but the rest seems irrelevant if I remember that (and it’s definitely not perfectionism or consumerism). Also – I avoid endless Christmas advertising by watching my TV on catch up, Netflix or Amazon Prime (as well as YouTube). I think a lot of the pressure for perfectionism comes from the huge marketing push to have the “perfect” family / home / gift / decoration etc. etc.

    1. Agreed. the marketing machine is unrelentless. Just unrelentless. we also don’t have live TV and when at my inlaws last week watched a lot of it, including commercials, and our kids were like ‘we want that! we want that!’ and I was reminded why never to watch live TV.

  3. Emily, I like how you share the process of your priorities evolving. A lot of what you say in this post reminds me of The Lazy Genius (Kendra Adachi). If you aren’t familiar with her already, I bet you’d like her perspective, tips, and pep talks. She has a podcast with hundreds of episodes and 2 books. You could skim the books in a couple of hours and get the point.

    You might also like the Minimal Mom (Dawn Madden), who Caitlin indirectly wrote a post about a few weeks ago.

    Minimal Mom focuses on cleaning out the physical clutter in your life to make room for more meaningful “things” (which I agree with but might stress you out given your line of work) and Lazy Genius focuses on removing all clutter, meaning anything in your life that doesn’t really matter to you.

    Merry Christmas! If your looking for a church,I hope you find a good fit soon. This is a beautiful time of year to attend services and be part of a meaningful community.

  4. Love all of this. Another idea my friend came up with this year was Thanksgiving cards. She had cute family photos done in the fall that she wanted to use for Christmas cards this year but she decided they were too “fall” so sent them out for Thanksgiving instead. A big project done and out of the way before the holidays really start and it was nice to get a card in the mail early 🙂

    1. I sent Arbor Day cards one year, I was that behind on Christmas cards. It’s April 28, if anyone else is feeling overwwhelmed.

    2. I have a brother that is wealthy and is really hard to buy for and whatever I get him gets lost in the holiday rush. A few years ago I started sending him a Groundhog Day gift instead. I though it was funny to celebrate a holiday that doesn’t involve gifts or really celebrating (tongue in cheek, if you will). I get him something quirky and he seems to really enjoy the whole thing more than any Christmas gift. We have similar senses of humor and it’s become a fun little tradition. (I do bake him and his family a cake every year that was a staple in our family so he does get something at Christmas)

    3. Love it! A friend of ours does valentines day cards with a bunch of family photos and an update and every year I think what a genius.

  5. Thank you Emily! So good!
    And I echo what has already been said and I know will be said by many more – if you ever feel like sharing, I would love to see your new home exactly as is this first Christmas in it. (Like, walk around for 3 mins recording on your iPhone.) No prep or “shoot day” or editing required (unless you WANT to!)

    For me, the first Christmas in any new home, things in general are still not well set up and any holiday decorating that does happen is makeshift. It would be so relatable!

    At this point I do not just follow you for the gorgeous photos. I’m personally invested in you and your family! So anything you guys do is interesting even if it doesn’t meet insane internet standards. I and so many others love you, Emily, the person, not what you can produce for us.

    P.S. if you decide to share anything please do it on the blog too! (I’m not on social media because it doesn’t suit my temperament and for all the reasons you articulated so well in this post 😊)

    1. I second the thought about sharing on the blog. Opening up this blog is a morning ritual I enjoy. The blog is a slower pace, more intentional, etc. It’s getting harder and harder to find content creators that regularly attend to their blog. Someone here mentioned The Lazy Genius and I quickly found her website but much of her content points me back to Instagram, which is a different experience. Sigh….

    2. Yes agreed! I’m on insta less and less these days and one of the few things I miss is the extra video from EHD. I like that they stories are (often) a little less perfected and more straight up and relatable. (Love the blog content too, but I think they complement each other really well.)

      This wasn’t the post I was expecting today but really enjoyed it! Love the “extend the timeline” reframe, too.

      1. Me, too guys. I follow less and less on social and still love going to daily blogs. So i’ll be sure to not keep things just for social. You are helping me shoot my tree tomorrow – so thank you. and thank you Vera and Karina for the investment. that means so much to me. and keeps me going on the darker days 🙂

  6. I work for Meals on Wheels (non profit that delivers food to people who are homebound ). Every year I get so many phone calls to help on Thanksgiving. The one week a year we don’t need help is Thanksgiving week. You know when we do need help? Every other week of the year! So I highly support your advice to find an organization to help in the off season. For example, one group makes homemade Valentines Day cards for our home bound clients. Our clients are delighted to be recognized that day! And if anyone is looking to give a year end financial donation, find your LOCAL Meals on Wheels chapter. They are doing good work for people in your community who would otherwise fall through the cracks.

    1. I spent a career in children’s services and every year the push to make sure children in need have a happy holiday (which means lots of presents) is on. The problem is those kids will get a ton of gifts, but what they really need is a healthy/sober parent to play with them. Providing those services for the parents is much too expensive and long term for our society to think about.

      Just think how much easier the holidays could be if everyone over 20 years old just said “no presents for me”. This whole gift exchange thing among adults is crazy!

      Another through from Paula Poundstone – Christmas every other year!

      1. We did a ‘no grownup present’ thing, but we don’t want the kids to think the holidays is JUST about them going back and forth and back and forth. So we have 2 designated presents for each other (literally picked out by us so we know we want them and ZERO stress) and then done. I know that giving gifts brings people a lot of joy so I don’t want to take that away, but its not my thing and i’m extremely hard to shop for so i’m happy to take this off people’s plates 🙂

  7. The older I get, the more I feel it is necessary to budget my time and energy along with my finances during the holidays. I don’t do cards anymore, I don’t mail gifts anymore (that’s what Amazon is for), I keep charitable projects small (one trip to the grocery store for the food pantry and one trip to shop for a toy for the Giving Tree at the Karate studio), Chinese takeout for Christmas Eve dinner, and bake 2-3 types of cookies instead of 5-6 the way my mom did. Gifts include necessary items like socks and underwear (but I try to throw at least one funny gag in with them to make opening them fun). I make time for watching movies and playing board games. I invite people for appetizers or desserts instead of doing an elaborate meal. I’ve realized that my family doesn’t need me to be a stress mess for the holidays. We’re all happier without it.

    1. Yes to all of this. I love the ‘appetizer and desert’ instead of meals. and chinese for christmas eve is a GREAT idea.

    2. This is great! If you want to simplify further AND have your impact go farther, consider skipping the grocery run and just give that money to the food pantry. They can stretch those dollars so much farther than you can. Even better: find a yearly amount that’s comfortable for you, divide it by 12, and set up a recurring donation. It makes planning and budgeting so much easier for the folks who run the pantry.

  8. So much yes to all of this, Emily. Come holidays and throughout the year. I choose a very unconventional life by today’s standards. Part of this includes being extra minimalist when it comes to material and online consumption (though I stop by here every day :). Haven’t watched tv since 2019…quit FB in early 2020…not on TikTok, Twitter, etc…never say yes to social events that I don’t want to attend. Not to say anyone else has to do those things! But from my mid-40s on, I’ve done my best to choose what TRULY makes me happier and less overwhelmed. So much other stuff is “extra” and not required for joy and connection at all. Thank you for all that you share with us now and year round!

    1. Agreed Dana. I hope other people feel permission (if they need) to take a page from your/our book. xx

  9. What a fan-tab-u-lous post, Emily!!!💗💗
    Sooo many great strategies! All doable!
    “Either some balls are going to drop or we are.” Hell, yesss!!!

    My coping strategies include:
    🌻 Building in 2 days a week for me to ‘catch up’ on stuff at home. I may not actually rest, but washing, cleaning, gardening, food shopping, etc. need to be done and it’s waaay easier if I plan time to do it.
    🌻 Going like a ninja on days where I can, so then on days where I can’t, I’m covered (kinda like a personal pay-it-forward).
    🌻 The ol’ “No” is a complete sentence. I’m still learning this one after yearrrs of never saying no and being worked to the bone day and night by my ex. Little, tiny, elephant steps will get me there.

    I love the idea of transference of community service to the start of the new year! 👍
    Once the overt ‘help’ dies down after the Christmas flurry, people can get down and feel forgotten.
    I was speaking with a group of women at a shelter/refuge and they said they go to Christmas lunch here, a Santa date there for their kids where each child recieves a gift, etc. But then, in the new year …. *crickets chirping* and it then gets overwhelmingly q.u.i.e.t. for them. That’s when they could do with some ‘service’.

    🤣 NB: “guts” are biodegradable!🤣 Are faux wreaths though???🤔

    “Every single woman I know” = ONLY the single women.
    Every, single, woman I know = ALL the women.
    It was confusing for a hot second!🤣

    1. haha. will edit 🙂 and I think you point about crickets in January is a great one. even i get kinda blue in january, post holiday let down, so of course people that are underserved and more deserving could use extra boost that time of year. I think it could be part of a good new years resolution conversation with our kids. xx

  10. Love this. For years I have sent new years cards not Christmas,I love sending them just not in December. One work place I had in retail always did our holiday party in January bc it was easier logistically. It was much more enjoyable.

  11. As a Jewish American woman, I can’t relate to a post about the stress of Christmas, because it’s not part of my life. My family observes Hanukkah with gifts and a holiday meal, but Hanukkah does not equal Christmas. It takes maybe 10% of the effort and none of the stress. All cultures most likely mark the Winter Solstice in some way, but it may be valuable for all of us to imagine a way to mark the long nights and short days with family and fun and little to no stress.

    1. Every year when I read and see the stress (and debt) the Christmas season poses, I’m thankful to be Jewish and only have to worry about making a batch of potato latkes! I stopped giving my children Hanukkah gifts when they became adults. Less is more, keeping it simple is the way to go.

    2. Here here! I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with Christmas and the constant stress of more more more and perfection to meet some ideal hallmark movie version of a holiday. I cant even imagine.

    3. I am not Jewish, but my husband is and we are raising our children Jewish as well. I thought I would miss over-the-top Christmas as a part of our family celebrations, but it’s been lovely to experience the much more low-key celebrating we now do in our family; and it’s really helped me appreciate the power of rituals.

  12. My family once sent Easter photo cards instead of Christmas cards…we included a letter making fun of ourselves for procrastinating, and everyone said they loved it haha. As for your tree- as much as I love the look of perfectly styled Christmas trees, the most magical trees are those that are decorated by kids in a style that is all their own, with mismatched ornaments and crooked lights/garlands.

  13. We just finished building our farmhouse on our forever farm and it is our first holiday season in our home. I have already spent way too much time and money trying to make it perfect. By the time I got ready to decorate the brand new tree I bought I was out of gas and over it. So instead of getting all the sticks and twigs and matching ornaments I dug out my childhood ornaments my mom had saved along with old family ornaments from my husband’s grandma. My daughter and I had such a good time talking about each one and hanging them. It is the most low-key tree I have ever had and it is BY FAR my favorite. I just love how US it is. Definitely paring back next year and sticking with family traditions and experiences over the perfectly styled home. We also had lights put on our house professionally – SO WORTH IT. Looks beautiful and I don’t have any of the work or stress. Enjoy your holidays!

    1. AGREED. family tree FTW. BTW I love our ornaments I just don’t love the actual tree I bought. too dense and perfect looking. And re lights – that is what we are doing too. I just talked to brian about it an hour ago. part of me wants to skip it this year since its a mud pit outside, but the other part thinks that it will help the outside be a little less depressing 🙂

      1. Do it! You won’t regret it. It makes me smile every time I drive up. We are on a hill and I love seeing them from the road. So worth it. Love your home! I followed your whole process very closely as we were building at the same time. Now you need to add animals! We started with animals and added the house later 🙂 I recommend mini donkeys. They are ridiculous in the best way!

      2. Emily – I want to encourage you to do what you want for your family, regardless of whether it makes blog/instagram content. For me personally, arriving home in the darkness of winter after workout outside the home to a house lit up with warm white lights really lifts my spirits and gives me great joy. It doesn’t take a lot or need to be instagramable – no need to build a big ornament/garland column on your front porch. For me, I would hang a few stars with a suction cup in your sunroom windows or hang a few strands on the front porch railing. There’s just something about coming home to light in the darkness.

  14. You’re on the right path to figuring it out Emily. You have self awareness and it seems like you are having some epiphanies by stepping back to analyze the big picture. You’re correct in that there is a big disconnect between our culture norms/expectations and maintaining optimal metabolic health for just the average person. Being a popular social influencer has to be 1,000 times more difficult and pretty trippy since your job is so intertwined with your real life. The line between living authentically and living to create interesting content/posts, I would assume, is very fuzzy. 

    I’ve been binging on podcast interviews with Chris Palmer explaining his theory behind his new book Brain Energy. He pretty much takes the mystery out of how to maintain optimal mental/physical health. It’s simple but also mind blowing and makes so much sense.

  15. This was a fantastic post! I’m hope you’ll choose #2, shoot the tree as is. I think more real online would be really so helpful for all of us!!

  16. I have sent New Year cards for years. My friend, Jenny, sends Valentine’s Day cards which I love! So much easier during winter quiet times.

  17. Pushing off and rescheduling are essential. I’m blessed with 13 nieces and nephews all over the country. I want to treat them all equally, and I couldn’t afford to send 13 “memorable” gifts at Christmas. So I started restricting Christmas to my own children and sending Valentines to the nieces and nephews. A $20 bill gets lost in the shuffle in December, but they all seem to truly appreciate it in February, the dead of winter here. That was years ago to do what I could afford financially, but now it also saves my time and sanity. Happy Holidays everyone!

  18. I haven’t been checking in here as regularly as usual due to all the sales / gift guide posts at this time of year (not a criticism – just not my thing!) so reading this was an unexpected joy today – thank you Emily! x

    1. OH I get it. We try so hard to make the gift guide/sale stuff personal but they are part of the business and hopefully bring value for others, but i know its not everyones thing. Thanks for coming today and commenting 🙂

  19. I really love and enjoy Christmas, especially with two kids. One key to that for me is taking a day off work at the beginning of December. I’ve already brainstormed gift ideas and ordered things online, so that day is spent doing local gift shopping and wrapping gifts. It’s a fun day where I feel like I’m playing hooky from work, listen to Christmas music and drink a little Bailey’s while I wrap. And then I feel so on top of things and can relax and just enjoy the rest of the Christmas season.

    1. that’s a great idea. I also think that there should be a national “organization” day on the day that kids go back to school so that we can pull our houses back together after the holidays. A national ‘day off to get your life together’ day 🙂

      1. Yes! I often extend my personal vacation one additional day for this exact reason. I know not everybody’s work is that flexible but it really helps. Also, I’m another reader who no longer does Instagram, so I just wanted to say thanks for all the daily blog content (I read every morning with my coffee) and I love the idea of more lived- in images as well as progress photos. I saw some design videos from England where the people left their photos on the frig, etc. And it was surprisingly refreshing.

  20. Great post – about the only thing I disagree with is using disposable plates/utensils. They still take resources at both ends (manufacturing/getting to stores/getting to you, and disposal. Composting doesn’t just happen unless you’re doing it in your own yard.) If you have a dishwasher you can easily manage the washing up – I say this as someone who has a monthly brunch for 20 and I never use disposable plates or utensils.

    1. You will always with this. I don’t disagree with you, but also want to give compassion for those struggling to stay afloat. But when we have four families over, with two kids each, so nearly 40 of us total its just hard and you spend the next day cleaning up all day. these are expensive, too so I avoid buying them and prefer to just do the dishes but IF i’m going to do single use, at least i’ll buy compostable. xx

      1. Silly me who loves to clean up after a party. I joked after the last one that it’s so easy b c every plate is similar and so there’s not this “figuring out” where to squish things in to the dishwasher. I know, that’s silly. BUT I do have a quick tip for parties: renting tablecloths/runners and some dishes/glassware. You just rinse and pop into trays to return. We downsized and don’t have as much space in the kitchen A friend said set up a surface in the garage to take the dirty dishes off the table so your kitchen doesn’t overflow! We did a Friendsgiving first weekend of November . Everyone loved it and enjoyed getting into the swing of the holidays early. And I checked that off my list!

  21. Loved this! We’ve scaled holiday things back a lot these last few years too, and it’s been great. Never going back.

  22. I appreciate this post and the reframing of mindsets and expectations for the holiday season. I’d be perfectly happy to see your real Christmas tree and however you actually decorate, rather than something styled with lots of “on-trend” decor I’d never buy anyway. Creativity and style with personal meaning is so much more interesting! Also YES to more potlucks, hostess pressure is real!

  23. Emily, I just want to say that this post was lovely and resonant in addition to being extremely practical. Also, shoot your tree as-is! A Christmas tree is always magic; there’s nothing mediocre about a snapshot of real life.

  24. One year (not recently) I stood in a post office line and the woman ahead of me kept bemoaning loudly that her Friday Valentine’s Day cards weren’t going to make it by Monday. Finally I said, with humor, “I’m mailing Christmas cards!” Now I email a letter with pictures for Christmas or early Jan because I’m not on social media, but I do feel like I miss out on the stories/cards/pictures others used to send before everything was posted real time

  25. “Let yourself be the person you are, not the one you want to be.”- Thank you so much for sharing this wisdom. During a time of year with so many expectations this message is incredibly valuable. Thank you for acknowledging it is ok to have soup and a tree that is not magazine worthy.

  26. This might be one of my most pathetic internet comments, but here we go. I just wanted to chime in that since I’ve been following your blog for at least a decade now, you feel like a “friend.” An internet friend, sure, but still, one of a small number of voices I look forward to hearing from regularly. And just like I don’t expect perfection from my real-life friends, I don’t from you either! I’m just happy to read your authentic posts, revel in your creativity, and absorb your design and life wisdom. I’m sure the internet trolls out there are very real, loud, and consuming, so I just wanted to add an alternate perspective to balance out that chatter and pressure. Thanks for being so open, honest, and encouraging, and I hope you have a joyful holiday season!

    1. I agree with this! I recently became aware of these trolls—talk about pathetic. It must be very depressing to fritter your time away like that. Of course you know this already Emily, but remember that (a) they are in the minority; and (b) their lives are obviously very small and sad. How lucky we are to feel and want to share joy and kindness, instead. It makes me want to hold you and this community closer, not push it further away!

  27. As a Christian I’m leaning very hard into Advent this year. Not the Christmas prep, parties, gifts etc. Just reading Advent related scripture and focusing on WHY I even celebrate Christmas. I don’t have kids. My husband isn’t religious at all. I find that this helps me enjoy the season of preparation for Christmas Day much more and is so much more meaningful. Then I’ll lean into the 12 Days of Christmas which actually start on 12/25 not end that date and plan to have a party on 1/7 a couple days after Epiphany which marks the end of Christmas as a liturgical season.

    To me it seems we Americans have completely lost sight of why we even celebrate this season and it’s become the season of Keeping up with the Joneses (sorry to all you Joneses out there!). If you aren’t religious, ask yourself why/what you celebrate and lean into that. Is it the fellowship with friends and/or family, then lean into that. Is it the act of celebrating, then lean into that. The love of traditions (although I’ve seen that get pretty toxic, too)? Or maybe gift giving is your love language! No one call be All The Things, and if anyone looks that way there is sure to be some kind of breakdown or has existing toxicity they are going to have to deal with eventually.

  28. About a decade ago, I couldn’t find the energy to decorate the trees my husband set up, so I didn’t. They had lights and looked beautiful just like that. I’ve done that a few times since. My husband and daughter aren’t really into the decorations, so it’s all me. I like it when it’s done, but sometimes the whole setup and cleanup process doesn’t feel worth it. Sometimes, I’ll spend two weeks decorating, adding a little at a time, which also works.

    For my family, we host a Christmas Eve brunch, and a couple years, when we were unable to make the whole spread, we did takeout from multiple neighborhood restaurants: sushi, Chinese, pizza. Everyone loved it. I agree potluck is great, too, but the takeout gives everyone the day off from cooking. And if you live in a city or neighborhood with good options, it’s easy to do.

    Our extended communities (friends, family, followers) benefit when we model reality rather than perfection. The more we give ourselves permission to do “good enough,” the more we give others permission to do what is realistic.

  29. Many years ago I got into the habit of buying all my gifts by November 30th. Makes December so much more enjoyable with all of that out of the way. I have more time to relax and spend with family.

  30. We do a fun and silly Valentines theme photo shoot with the kids and mail them out like we would a Christmas cards for Valentines. It’s fun and takes one less thing off my holiday plate!

  31. This year, I was not up for the entire Thanksgiving turkey feast. So I made lasagna, which was a lot of work (to make the noodles) but I did it the day before and was AMAZED at how much time we had to visit on Thursday. Guests brought everything else. And, the leftovers were all gone after the next day. Yay! My husband, who does the dishes, begged to not use the china, so we didn’t. It was still a great holiday and the focus was on the people. I dropped my Christmas card list from 65 to 18. Now I can write a personal note in each one. Many of the people I don’t send to, see my stuff all year on Facebook. And I was sending 3 times as many cards as I was receiving. Told our kids (adults) not to buy us presents this year (just stocking-stuffers). It really helps happiness to not have so many expectations. I think I am enjoying and will enjoy the holidays more this year without so much pressure and so many expectations.

  32. When my kids were in grade and middle school, there was a lot of stuff that went in between Thanksgiving and Christmas at school…”we don’t acknowledge the holidays that the kids are actually excited about, but we will complicate your life by having some kind of festival that you’ve never heard of and please provide food.”
    So in my own home, we reverted to the concept of the Twelve days of Christmas, which start on the 25th..bake the Christmas cookies during the school holidays, etc.
    It really helped.

  33. Previous years I’ve felt a pressure to check everything off the list- all the Christmas family activities from zoo lights, Santa pictures, decorating a gingerbread house, etc etc etc. My kids don’t need 25 Christmas activities. They need a relaxed mom. Now I do waaay less, sometimes skipping things their friends are doing. Do they care? No!

    Looking back at my own childhood, what were my memories of Christmas? A favorite present, the one time we drank hot cocoa and drove around looking at lights…. Simple stuff. And we didn’t even get pics with Santa every year. Social media makes us feel like you have to do every. Damn. Thing. Delete social media from your phone, hang out with kids and do the easiest version of anything. They’ll be happy to have a mom who is feeling free from holiday pressure.

  34. Yes to all of this here!! My career has nothing to do with design and yet, just today I was having an internal dialogue s to what was wrong with me and why does everyone else appear to accept this pressure to run ourselves into the ground as acceptable, or even “normal.” Thank you for the validation! It is so comforting to know that others will fight back against this type of culture and provide solutions to keep things healthy and more sane. Wishing you a peaceful holiday season!

  35. Hello Emily and everyone! 🙂
    I am a day late to reading this so unlikely anyone will see my comment…. but this has struck a deep cord with me (I am actually crying ) and I am planning on re-reading this post and the comments a couple more times before Christmas and yearly thereafter. Thank you Emily and so many of you commenters!

    So many inspiring ideas and great tips – Christmas since college (decades ago) had been very challenging since nearly all of mine have been lacking and strange by most people’s experience and expectations (including mine) which usually makes me very, very, very sad during the season. A perfect storm combining 20+ years in retail management and working looong days for 6 or 7 days a week during the 6 week Holiday shopping season, family thousands of miles away (they moved across country when I was in college) being single, and an introvert caused me to burn out and I still haven’t found a way to celebrate and enjoy the season that feels right (authentic to me) and in a way that others can understand and see it as worthwhile. Reading this is helping me find some peace and perhaps a way accept that the way I celebrate Christmas is valid and worthwhile.

    Thank you Emily and commenters!
    Wishing you all a Joyous Season (however you spent it!) and Merry Christmas!!

  36. Thank you so much for this post! I was a balm I didn’t know I needed. We are doing much of this, specifically a small party (like 10 people). It’s a drinks and snacks potluck and the dress code is Whatever’s Festive, so my husband will be in a suit because that’s fun, I’m wearing antlers and velvet and gobs of costume jewelry, some folks are ugly sweater people, and I know there will be at least one adult sized reindeer onesie.
    I’m doing lights on the tree, a star on top, and nothing else. Every year when I get the tree up and put lights on it, I think, “this looks gorgeous already; it really doesn’t need anything else.” But then I still do ornaments anyway because FEELINGS, and I spend the whole month moving them higher so the 3 year old doesn’t throw them across the room. So this year I’m pretty sure it’s lights and done. I might dig out the handful of ornaments that spark the feelings and put them into little vignettes on mantles and bookshelves or whatever.
    The other thing that has worked SO WELL for quelling the onslaught is that since our children were born, what we’ve told everyone at every birthday and holiday is “Gifts are not necessary, but if gifting brings you joy, we will always welcome more books.” People still get to do the ritual of picking something for our kids and wrapping it, and the effect has been that we have a massive children’s book library, and we’ve had more agency over what their toys are. Also, because our kids (7 and 3) are used to presents being books, they’re still really excited to get them.

Comments are closed.