Silly Season Series ~ Banishing the Busyness: by Idgy of the North

Banishing the Busyness: by Idgy of the North

Growing up in small town Canada, the holidays were filled with the Hollywood version of Christmas.  My mom would bake lots of cookies in holiday shapes and Christmas cake. We would go into the forest and cut down a snow covered pine tree.  Our house would be covered in lights and the inside would be decorated for the holidays.  There were always lots of social gatherings both at our home and at friends and families.  We would end with a huge feast with my parents, siblings and grandparents.

When I was an adult, I tried to recreate these idyllic scenes.  I would spend months shopping for the “perfect gifts” for family and friends.  I would send out holiday cards to everyone we knew.  We had a large tree that would take a whole day to set-up and decorate.  I would bake dozens of cookies.  We would setup a schedule to visit as many family members and friends as possible in the few days we had off work.  If we were “hosting” the holiday dinner, we would spend a couple of days cleaning the house and prepping food followed by a day of cooking.  We said yes to any social engagement we were invited to.  Our extended family is spread out around this large country so we often travelled snowy highways for several hours or took very expensive plane rides so we could spend the holidays with family.  At the end of the holidays, we were left exhausted.  The holiday season became something to dread.  Where did we go wrong?

In looking back at my childhood, I realized my life looks nothing like my parents.  My mom was at home with the kids.  My dad had 2 weeks off work for the holidays.  In asking my mom if she enjoyed the holidays when we were young, she answered that it was stressful and exhausting!  She spent weeks baking, shopping, wrapping, decorating, cleaning , sending out over 250 holiday cards and cooking.  The tree took a whole day to get into the house, into the tree stand, floors cleaned up and  tree decorated.  She had to remember to water the tree everyday so it wouldn’t become a fire hazard.  She had to vacuum several times a day due to the needles dropping from the tree.  On Christmas Day, we kids would wake up ridiculously early in anticipation of opening presents.  My parents often had 2-3 hours of sleep after setting up all the gifts.  My mom would then spend hours in the kitchen preparing the feast.  She would then fall asleep shortly after dinner and be exhausted and/or sick for the following week.

My life does not resemble my parents.  We live close to the country’s largest city and have long commute times.  Both my spouse and I work full time.  I travel by plane a lot for work.  We also have 2 school aged kids with special needs. We just don’t have time for the fairytale.  We began to say no to anything that was not high priority.  High priority for us means spending time with our kids and spending time outside.  This included scaling back the decorations to a small tabletop artificial tree, saying no to events that were not meaningful to us and saying no to driving hours on dicey roads to spend a few hours with others.  We also scaled back on gift giving.  We now only give experience gifts to the kids (ours plus nieces and nephews).  We no longer exchange gifts with our siblings, parents and friends.

I now look forward to the holidays as a time to rest and enjoy the season.

What have you done to banish the busyness?

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow


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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.

Comments

  1. This so much reminded me of me…….always trying to live up to the Hollywood version of Christmas and the holidays. I would worry about the perfect gifts and the perfect holiday decorations and table settings. I would be exhausted from the shopping, cooking, cleaning and the general busyness of the holidays. This year I have pared down my gifts, my holiday menu and my running around like crazy. The quest for the “perfect holiday ” is over and this year I will spend more time reflecting on the real reason for the season. Idgy…loved the post and I want to wish all of the 365 ers a Happy Holiday and a decluttered New Year…

    • Idgy of the North :

      Hi Connie,

      Glad you liked it. So happy to hear that you are reclaiming your holiday time. Let the group know how it feels afterwards

  2. 18 years now my house has been the “host house” for the big event. We are centrally located and have the big dining table. There is a lot of pressure from all angles to do it right, decorating, cleaning, foooooood. Now that the siblings all have families of their own, it gets completely nutty with new-borns to sulky teens making a house of joy (and the inevitable tears too). And don’t forget about the range of temperaments in the grandparents! We have to set up a “schedule” that covers Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day so that the people that clash aren’t at the house at the same time for gift-giving – it gets competitive!!! It’s like a grand central station filled with wrapping paper fragments and baked goods.
    The ONLY thing that has kept me sane over all this time is the tradition of everyone bringing part of the feast. I delegate a dish to each family… Grandpa might bring dinner rolls, Aunty brings the potato dish, Gramma brings a big salad, the other Aunt brings a pie, etc, etc… Its wonderful because everyone can take credit for the meal and I only have to worry about the giant turkey and the snacks!!!!
    As my own children have grown past the magical phase, my own enthusiasm has gone down a bit. but the tree-hunt is a tradition we won’t be giving up for a while yet! It trudging through the tree farm, saw in hand, debating the merits and flaws of each tree… then dragging our prize back to the truck and all the fun of setting it up. It’s my favourite tradition and even my grumpy teens still love it.

    • Creative me,
      Several years ago I found wine tags that I put on the bottles of wine at the table. They said, “Pairs well with difficult relatives”, hahaha!

    • Idgy of the North :

      Creativeme, that sounds like one busy schedule! Glad you found a way to help share the load with food.

  3. Oh how this sounds like how I grew up Idgy. It was like this until about 10 years ago when I had to go on disability. I told Mom I was no longer able to spend a day decorating the tree and another decorating the house. I also told her I was no longer going to send 130 Christmas cards. I scaled back everything. She wasn’t happy at first but after a year or two she saw it was best for her too. A couple of years ago she stopped doing all the baking she used to. Things have calmed down so much. We only have a small tree we put on a table and few other decorations. We only send about 20 cards now. It’s wonderful.

  4. For many years Christmas happened at our house as we hosted my husband’s family. Then my sister-in-law took over. Now we have a grandchild we have moved to a smaller family get together with our daughter and son-in-law hosting the event. Very child friendly, not too much pressure, with us all contributing to the day. We have cut down on sending cards through the post apart from immediate family, sending e cards to everyone else. Once (originally nieces and nephews, now great nieces and nephews!) reach 18 we don’t give presents. As I am British I have always been intruiged as to why Americans and Canadians refer to Christmas as “The Holidays”. Why is that???? Do tell me. Why not call it “Christmas”?

    • Because we include Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Hanukkah…etc, so Holidays

    • Linda,
      Don’t the British also say “Happy Christmas” rather than the USA version of “Merry Christmas”?
      Growing up we never said Happy Holidays. It was always Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, or Feliz Navidad depending on ones own circle of friends and family. I believe the” Happy Holiday” was started to be politically correct and not offend anyone who does not celebrate Christmas.

    • Idgy of the North :

      Hi Linda,

      Where we live, it’s a diverse population with people from many parts of the world. Neighbours on one side are from Scotland, neighbours from other side are from Trinidad, another family is from west Africa and another from Eastern Europe. We have friends from many different faiths and backgrounds. My son’s best friend was born in China and immigrated here 6 years ago. It seemed disrespectful for our family to say Merry Christmas when others celebrated Diwali, Kwanza, Hannukah, Ramadan, winter solstice, etc. Where I grew up, the population was predominantly of a single belief/faith so it was more common to say Merry Christmas.

    • Hi Linda!

      I think we say “The Holidays” because it starts with Thanksgiving Day, peaks with Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, then concludes with New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day. In America, most people get off work for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Therefore, The Holidays. It’s a holiday season, if you will.

      That being said, I always say Merry Christmas when it comes to Christmas!

  5. I have also simplified Christmas and it is wonderful. I have only a few decorations, decluttered the rest. We usually have a tree, but this year we are going out of town, so no tree at our house. I make one kind of cookies, we don’t need all that sugar anyway. So many friends are on Facebook, don’t need to send a card and a Christmas letter. And cutting back on gifts was a relief for everyone, just a couple little nieces to get a small gift for, plus a contribution to their college fund. Christmas should not be stressful! It should be a time to relax and enjoy.

  6. For years I “had” to make sure everyone got the right gift, I gave 70 gifts. Overs the years I have cut back to less than 10. If I find something I think someone would like I send random gifts as I find the them. I used to handmake & send over 100 cards, now down to 24 store bought cards. I went from a live Christmas tree to an artificial one. Between all these actions it makes for a much more relaxed & enjoyable Christmas. As far as food, we just do meat, cheese & veggies trays. Sometimes I make a special dessert, but only if I want to. Merry Christmas to all!

  7. Hi Linda,
    As a fellow Brit who’s lived in N America for over a decade now, I can understand the “Happy Holidays” greeting. It’s political correctness since not everyone shares the same religion and the same religious festive days. “Happy Holidays” is just a convenient catch-all … it even covers the atheist base nicely.
    Happy Holidays!

  8. Great post Idgy! This is exactly what this series is about!
    I saw a t-shirt on Facebook that had written on it “OCD Obsessive Christmas Disorder” which I thought was quite apt!

  9. Idgy,
    Great post. You are spot on. I think for most of us it is all too much. Less is so much more.

  10. It’s good to see that you have all found a place that’s comfortable for Christmas gift giving, entertaining and decorating.
    I have cut down on the gift giving, we don’t exchange presents in my family. The decorations are rather minimal too.
    I don’t mind all the baking and food prep as I find it relaxing – my happy place. After a day of nursing when things don’t always go to plan, cooking is a way to unwind.

  11. Hi everyone – we didn’t know when Idgy’s post was going to be posted and as Idgy often works out of town, there might be a delay in her responding to comments. Keep up the conversation amongst yourselves in the meantime. 🙂

  12. (1) I don’t try to do it all or be everything to everyone.
    (2) I don’t over-schedule tasks and activities. It’s good to be realistic about what I can and cannot do.
    (3) I schedule some free time for myself.

  13. I’m going off topic here, but I’ve had the opportunity to give away one of my over lockers today! I have all sorts of random items leaving the house at the moment. I gave my son a chilly bin yesterday. Lots of sewing stuff and Dance Mum stuff all heading out the door too.

  14. We buy gifts just for the kids and we buy them in October in order to avoid usual holiday rush.
    I skip black fridays and this year I am most likely going to spend the holidays doing charity work, for a change it should be nice to spend it a different way.

  15. After years of me trying to be perfect, we have now made it very simple. We don’t decorate or send cards anymore. I used to buy everyone the “perfect” gift. Now we don’t exchange gifts with anyone in my family. Hubby and I generally don’t exchange gifts with each other. In his family we give monetary gifts in balloons to all the kids. We need to begin making some rules on that as the oldest one is now 18. We adults play Dirty Santa and almost all the gifts are gift cards. We travel 8 hours a couple of days before Christmas to hubby’s sister’s home. She decorates a lot and tries to keep up all the traditions. We don’t have to bring food. I love that since I don’t like to cook. We usually have a good time…but are so happy when it’s all over.

  16. Idgy of the North,

    This was such a good post!