The silly season series ~ Part 1

This blog post is by Moni Gilbert who is coordinating this series of posts.

As we enter the Silly Season I would like to kick off a series written by Deb J, Andréia and myself entitled “365-ing The Silly Season”.  So often women plan their holiday seasons to the nth degree with the goal of the ‘perfect’ day and while the home might look grand, the menu perfect and all the little details might be delightful, is there a tired, stressed out woman behind it all?   I would like to suggest the gift of going a little easier on yourselves.   Trust me, no one will notice the difference if you omit a few things.

I’d like to encourage you to decide what is actually important to you as far your preparations go, cull some not so important details and reduce your menu by an item or two.  I’d like folks to think about how their expectations and preparations would appear mapped out on the calendar.   If every single day in December has a huge to-do list on top of all the regular workload and commitments, add an escalated social whirl, its a recipe for stress.  Set yourself a limit of how many ‘extra’ chores you can realistically achieve in a day and stick to it.  It is realistic to have time to yourself to relax in the evening in the weeks leading up to the holidays.  Explain this new arrangement in advance to your family, they might have suggestions of what they’d be happy to forego or volunteer to do in your place.

What would you be prepared to forego this year?

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something that was really useful in the past but hasn’t been used in a long time. Maybe its time in done for you.

“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Day 84 Read posts and blogs It can be very helpful to read about other peoples experiences with de-cluttering their homes. There are so many helpful tips out there on the big Wide World Web and I will explore more of […]
  • Mini Mission ~ Friday 22Dec2017 Declutter a couple of old shabby shoes that you no long choose to use.
  • Mini Mission ~ Thursday 21Dec2017 Declutter your fridge of out of date items or by using up as much as possible before adding more. With the holiday season here you will likely need every inch of spare space.
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. This will be good.
    The cooking side of things I find very relaxing and am already excited about the menus I’ve planned.
    I do want to cull some of the parties hosted at our place this year, either by combining a few together or going to a restaurant or park etc.
    We haven’t exchanged gifts for the last 2 years and that has saved time and money.
    I have down sized the decorating and will further that this year.
    I look forward to everyone’s ideas on how to simplify Christmas.

    • Mich McGill – I am cateringly challenged when it comes to planning menus so I admire your skill. Good idea to combine a couple of parties. I assume by the mention of the park you are in the Southern Hemisphere? The warmer weather certainly does give us a few more casual options!

      • Yep, an Aussie married to a Kiwi. We are able to take advantage of the weather.
        I will be asking others to bring a plate. Especially if it’s an outdoors venue.

        • Mich – we are fortunate here that a bbq or even a beach side picnic is considered acceptable. But pot-luck is also a great option.

  2. Idgy of the North

    Looking forward to this series. We have been working on simplifying the holidays for several years. Spouse and I no longer exchange gifts and we don’t exchange with my family (except kids). We are working the other side of the family We try get our kids experience gifts like museum tickets or something they need.

    We have simplified the decorations. We got rid of the large artificial tree and now have a table top sized tree. It is up and decorated in under 10 mins instead of 3 hours.

    We do visit family and friends during the holidays, but try to keep it low key/low stress.

    Interested to hear how others have taken the stress out of the holidays.

    • Sounds like you might have some good advice to impart on this subject Idgy. Perhaps you would like to contribute a blog post of your own. I am sure Moni would be very happy to another contributor for the series.

      • Idgy of the North

        Hi Colleen,

        I would be honoured. Can you please email me the details on how to do this? I am traveling for work a lot in the next few weeks (I am in the airport now awaiting a flight) so may have some spare time in the evening while at the hotel.

      • Idgy and Colleen – I second the idea to join our team, sounds like you have this all under control!

  3. A few years ago I passed the baton for hosting Christmas Day onto my daughters in law which is a huge relief to me! Of course I help with the food but it’s a big difference to being responsible for everything!

    I have a metre high artificial tree which I enjoy putting up and decorating, but nothing else.

    I send ecards mostly and proper cads only to immediate family.

    I try and make or buy presents well in advance.

    I have made plenty of fabric drawstring bags and home made tags for gifts and they look so pretty around the tree and of course are recyclable.

    Now I’ve simplified Christmas I enjoy it much more!

    • Janetta – it sounds like you should be writing this series! This sounds like the perfect outlet for a crafter. I’m interested to know more about the presents you make.

      • In the past I have given knitted or crochet scarves and beanies, embroidered Christmas tree decorations, marmalade, lemon curd, bead necklaces and bracelets, quilts, cushion covers, fabric bags, that kind of thing. However, more and more now I give gift vouchers or consumables, or find out what they actually want. It is nice to have a present to give though.

  4. This year I am trying two new variations in gift-giving…

    In lieu of gifts, a group of three friends and I are treating ourselves to high tea at a local tea shop together.

    Usually, for my family, I shop for a few things from their lists, a few surprises and one or two practical items. But this time there will not be as much time and money involved. For my husband and two adult children, we are spending a day going to each of our fav places to purchase a gift of our own choosing. For me, I will probably bring the family to a yarn shop and choose some wonderful skeins to knit.

    I’m already feeling lighter.

  5. Since I have been on my decluttering journey in earnest, I have cut back on giving and receiving gifts. I was doing “stockings” for my daughters and gift boxes of tea for relatives, since they looked nice and were consumable. The stockings were pantyhose (a pair for each daughter) and I would wrap small gifts to fill both legs. Many hours & sore back from wrapping everything plus clutter around the house! No more stockings! Now we give mostly gift cards and a few small useful items and/or pay off a bigger purchase (like the year our younger daughter wanted eyeglasses). I asked my extended family a couple of years ago not to buy us anything for Christmas. I said we didn’t need anything and they have been complying! I don’t give them anything now either. When we make our visit to these relatives, the focus is only on the visit and not gifts 🙂

    I have refrained from “Pollyannas” (exchanging gifts with coworkers) in the last several years. The items exchanged can definitely be clutter!

    We haven’t been putting a tree up since we have young grandchildren (3 and almost 2 years old) living with us. It would just cause too much scolding. I do put out a couple of snowmen on the bureau in our living room though.

    We aren’t social enough to have trouble being busy with parties, so that isn’t an issue. I have never baked cookies or any other goodies because I watch my sugar intake and I am gluten free. We might have a special meal Christmas day, prepared by my husband (if he wants to do it). I don’t push that either.

    I think the main change for us is just in the amount of gifts. We may not spend less money, but we spend it differently. I am much happier with the outcome 🙂

    • Peggy – I think you’re very wise to reduce temptation to toddlers, there will be a time for all that later down the track.

    • Oh Peggy, you have hit a bugbear of mine with the coworker gift exchanges!

      For years my workplace rule was all the ladies bring a ‘girl’ gift, and the guys bring a ‘boy’ gift. Ensuing random distribution of gifts within those categories meant the ladies usually got candles/jewellery/chocolates/stemware/herbal tea, and the guys very happily either got toiletries sets or water squirt guns/nerf guns. Boys will be boys I suppose!

      But last year we somehow introduced a more ‘fun’ rule, a stealing game where once someone has picked a gift the next person can either steal it from them or test their luck with a wrapped gift. Well. I can’t think of one gift last year that wasn’t absolute junk. And I don’t recall anyone being particularly happy with their gift, or being able to think of anyone else who might even want it. Very disappointing. I am guessing this year will be the same unfortunately.

      • Hi Amelia, This is an idea for you and everyone else stuck in the co-worker gift rut and looking for an inventive way out. We did this at our school one year:
        1) you set a dollar limit
        2) you draw names
        3) you buy a gift for the ‘child in that person’ (i.e. a football for a football fan, a toy horse for someone who owns horses
        4) gifts are exchanged at a party, unwrapped but not opened and then…..
        you donate the lot to the local toy drive! It is best to have a charity in mind and find out what their greatest need is so you can suggest that the gifts be for toddlers or teens. We found that the staff had fun finding out something about their coworker’s personal life and the gifts were thoughtful instead of junk.

      • Hi Amelia, I have had bad luck with “Pollyannas” every single time. No way will I agree to do again… (with apologies to anyone who likes them)

    • Great Christmas. Do young children really need a whole lot of stuff that they will hardly look at, let alone use?

      • Hi Mich, I haven’t yet bought any gifts at all for my grandchildren and they are 3 and almost 2. If I am someday inspired to get them something, I will. But until then, my gift to them is my time and attention.

        • For babies and toddlers whose parents expect gifts for ALL the children, I give a small, inexpensive, stuffed animal or mitten-type hand puppet. Always well – received, and suits both boys and girls infallibly.

  6. Sorry for my slow start reply to comments this morning, a bit of a hiccup in my routine. I’d like to add that this series of posts is about whatever you do celebrate, wherever in the world you may be or if you don’t celebrate any of the upcoming holidays, we could all apply the ideas here to whenever we find ourselves the hostess. I am attending a wedding this weekend of a young man I have known his entire life – goodness, I am old enough to be going to a wedding of someone I knew in nappies! Well I can’t say that the parents of the groom and the parents of the bride are stress-free right now, I love that this wedding is a lot about contributing. Items borrowed, food donated and skills of friends and family utilised. What I also love is that the Bride and Groom noted on the Invitation that they are not expecting gifts, but if you wish to do so, they would prefer money as they wish to keep their home simple as they hope to travel overseas together.

    • That is lovely Moni. With food donated, is everyone bringing a plate?

      • Mich – the groom is from a rural background and so there is gifts of meat and produce. My wedding was in the same area, although I lived in town, but pretty much as soon as the engagement was announced my mum would get calls offering a side of beef or chickens or trays of strawberries or vege crops or offers to make half dozen pavlovas to put towards the catering. Fortunately the local caterer was used to this arrangement.

  7. Aside from my mother, I only send cards to emotionally close, but physically distant, family and friends. Instead of hosting parties in my home for adult friends and Co – workers seen on a regular basis, we agree to meet at a casual restaurant or a nice pub. The venue appreciates the business, and the is no clean-up. I have never bought new decorations each year as some do, instead, we decorate our potted Norfolk pine tree with granny’s antique ornaments and tree decorations received as small gifts over the years — which, by the way, is a perfect small gift for those who still expect “something.” The adults in our family have not exchanged gifts in many years; instead, we donate money to the local food bank and animal shelter. The “big” gifts for kids are left up to the parents; aunts, uncles and older cousins give young kids stocking suffers like crayons, watercolors, colorful modeling clay, or coloring books. Teens get a gift certificate at a bookstore. Very little shopping happens at our house. We have few decorations, just tree ornaments, some lights and a wreath for the door. We do not have special holiday dishes. Our dishes ate white, so all we need is a red tablecloth and a few green candles to look quite festive. Wreath, candles, lights and decorations for the tree ALL fit in a medium sized plastic tub and everything is re-used, year after year. It takes about an hour to decorate the tree, hang a wreath and a few lights around the door, and dress the table. I also use ONLY white paper for all gift giving, with different colors of bulky yarn for different occasions. One roll of white paper, and the yarn also goes in the holiday storage tub. So simple and uncomplicated.

    • Dez – sounds like you have sensible boundaries on your holiday celebrations.

    • Love the white paper and yarn wrapping for gifts. I use brown paper and coloured ribbon for my gifts, all year round.

      • Brown paper… great idea as well. Suits all seasons. I used to have a box of seasonal rubber stamps to embellish the plain paper about a decade ago. Then I decided that the different colored yarns were quite enough and sold the box of rubber stamps at a yard sale. Less is more. If only I could think that of books. 🙂

    • Wow Dez, You have it down to the basics. I love it! You are saving time & money & being good to the environment 🙂

      • Thank you Peggy. I grew up in a clutter bug home and from the day I moved out for college I swore to — and did — practice simplicity.

  8. When we moved to Hawaii 15 years ago, Thanksgiving was the first major holiday that we were not hosting family and friends as they all live on the mainland. I planned, prepared, served and cleaned up the entire feast while my husband napped and watched football all day, haha! After that, I said “never again….and I mean never”. Been there, done that for too many decades. All special holidays and celebrations are now enjoyed at one of our favorite restaurants on the beach at Waikiki. When guests are here for the holiday, they know the routine. The women are particularly grateful that I made such a bold move 15 years ago. I’ve never looked back 🙂

    • Good for you, Kimberley! 🙂

    • Kimberley – I think you’ve made a very wise decision.

    • A great Christmas plan Kimberly.

    • You are such a smart lady, Kimberley.

      • Mahalo Nicole, Moni, Mich and Deb J.,
        It works beautifully for me. I still bake and prepare all of our favorite dishes for each holiday, but the big feasts are always at the restaurant. I never realized until I stopped doing it all, how much I was missing out on each holiday. So much more enjoyable.

    • I love your post. My friends in Maui do bake a turkey and invite friends/relatives, but they cook and clean together and put everything else outside on the grill and serve, very casually, on the deck. It only amounts to a little more cooking and minimal clean up. To live in Hawaii, eh?

  9. This is an awesome post!

    My husband and I are very unconventional when it comes to the holidays. We love and celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, but we do things differently. We don’t have kids, so there’s no real need for tradition. We also don’t live near family, so we haven’t spent many holidays with them over the years. So we just do our own thing depending on where we are.

    One Thanksgiving in Rhode Island, we discovered that everything was closed, so we ate turkey sandwiches and cookies out of a gas station and drove across Massachusetts and back. Another year we had fish sticks and tater tots. We got married at Christmas-time, so we usually try to go to a hotel for our anniversary. I don’t care for Thanksgiving and Christmas food, but I love Christmas decorations, so the hotel allows my husband to have a nice traditional meal, and we get to enjoy the most beautiful decorations.

    When we lived on our sailboat, our dock hosted a huge Thanksgiving and Christmas party each year for the entire marina. Those parties were epic, and you’d be surprised how many boat people are gourmet cooks! (Not me….I’m in charge of the cheese plate.)

    This year, we are moving and will be driving across the US during Christmas week. If our timeline works out, we will be surprising my mom on Christmas Day.

    Thanks for letting me share our tradition of not being traditional. I really believe that you can celebrate the holidays no matter where you are or what you are doing. If you are 100% traditional, then God bless you, because I love those traditions. Thank you for keeping them alive. If you are a misfit like me, then just do something. Anything. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just be grateful and celebrate.

    • Oh, we don’t do gifts, either.

    • Oh dear, I had blocked this out. We cooked a big turkey last year for a neighborhood potluck party, and we used a ton of butter to baste with. Well, I didn’t have a turkey pan, so I used one of those disposable ones from the store. Guess what? They aren’t so sturdy with a 10-pound bird and a ton of melted butter in them. It crumpled and spilled all over the kitchen (we didn’t drop the turkey, fyi). I spent Thanksgiving Eve night cleaning butter off the floor and oven. #nightmare

      It was a good turkey, though. LOL.

      • Great comments, Melanie … you sure do know how to tell a story! I totally agree that there is no single “right” way to celebrate the holidays, just celebrate in a way that feels right for you and your family, regardless of what the rest of the world does.

    • Melanie – I love the turkey sandwich story.

    • Love your Christmas simplicity Melanie. All the best for the move.
      I love moving, so am very envious.

      • Thank you so much! I love moving, too. Do you move very often? If not, then change all your furniture around. It’s almost as good as moving!

    • I like your way of thinking Melanie.

    • Oh Melanie, I chuckled all the way through your comment. The cheese plate, haha, that would be me. My husband is the cook in our family, although my daughters are also fairly adept. My diet is very strange – vegetarian, gluten free, no added sugar (usually). So I’m a misfit wherever I go LOL. I love your turkey sandwich and buttered turkey stories, too 🙂

      Hope you are able to surprise your mom 🙂

    • “Just be grateful and celebrate” — THAT is the reason for the season! So well and simply put.

  10. We don’t do much for Christmas. It is just Mom and I. We don’t exchange gifts with friends or family as they have all decided it is basically just an exchange of money and the gifts are seldom things you really want. We don’t exchange between ourselves either. Neither of us are fond of the regular Christmas dinner so we just “celebrate” by having a few of our favorite foods. We have a low key day and try to spend more time celebrating Jesus’ birth rather than getting into the rest.

    • That sounds so nice, Deb J! The one Christmas food I look forward to every year are sausage balls. I can eat a whole batch of them. But they are messy to make.

      (Jimmy Dean sausage, cheddar cheese, and Bisquick squished up and rolled into balls then baked, for those wondering. They might be just a Southern food.)

  11. Melanie, I love those sausage balls too. We have that recipe and we have used it often at the holidays.

  12. When my daughter was a toddler I used to decorate the tree with homemade cookies so she could eat them right off the tree.

    Years ago I cut my gift list to only close family members. I only sent out 24 store bought cards, down from 100 handmade cards. Those changes made Christmas much less stressful.

    These days I have grandkids…oh my. For Christmas Eve we get together and the grandkids each get to invite a friend and another family is invited for a snack potluck and lots of cards. It is so much fun.

    Christmas Day is pretty laid back with lots of meat, cheese & veggie trays.

    • Aww, what a sweet memory with those cookies! One year (maybe 8th grade) I decided to string popcorn for our family Christmas tree. It took so much time! But it was fun and worth doing….at least once. I’ve never done it again! LOL.

      I love a laid back Christmas Day spread with sandwich trays, sausage balls (see my previous comment), and some good cheese dip.

      I’m getting sentimental and hungry.

  13. I love the quote . ” If we don’t feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we would be happy with more of it?” I heard it during a Thanksgiving talk given by Yogi Amrit Desai at Kripaulu Yoga Retreat Center in Lenox MA.