Christmas,  Friends,  Gifts

5 Ways to Untangle Your Tinsel: Tackling Christmas Without Tackling Your Family

Ever found yourself stressed and annoyed at just the thought of getting ready for Christmas? I know—it can happen to anyone.

Our culture tells us we can do it all but fails to equip us with the tools to get there. So when I catch myself thinking, “This year is going to be so much better than last!” I know high expectations are looming.

Here are a few things I’ve started doing that help make this season a tad less hectic.

Disclaimer: The way I created this list was by struggling with all five of these things. So don’t you dare think I have these mastered or even managed. I purposely decided to work on them, not teach a class on them. But since untangling tinsel falls in the same category as counting grains of sand (thank you, no), I’m choosing to work at these to avoid tangled tinsel.

1. Decorating

I’m a die-hard “Thanksgiving first” decorator. No Christmas tree, music, wreath, or garland before we do a fall puzzle and eat pumpkin pie.

But on the Friday after turkey? Game on. All the orange and brown decor gets packed up and the red and green take center stage. Enlisting help (even from whining teenagers) usually makes the process go faster. 


My boys… 2001 & 2006

2. Christmas Cards

Two words: Start. Earlier. 

I took a Christmas card break for a hot minute, but last year my husband said he wanted us to revive the tradition. 

Aww… that’s cute, honey. So when you say us

Knowing the answer and feeling the stress, I put a note in my phone calendar to research cards in October. It felt ridiculously early, but I have bad memories of staying up wayyy too late and stressing over getting cards in the mail by December 20th 22nd.

It took me till my late 40s (read: this year) to finally admit that the whole Christmas card process takes longer than a week. Between choosing pictures, designing cards, buying stamps, writing notes, and addressing envelopes, sometimes I strung it out to a month. 

Bahhhhh humbug.

Added Motivation: most online printing companies run huge sales in November and especially on Black Friday. And since I never want to pay full price again, this bird is planning on always being early. 

Of course it’s the first week of December and they haven’t arrived yet, but it’s fine. I’m sure everything’s fine. 

My favorite spoon rest.

3. Gifts

I don’t intentionally Christmas shop year-round, but when it comes to good deals and the “perfect gift,” my radar is always on. So if I find something in April that reminds me of my husband or kids and is on sale, you know I’m going to snatch it up and save it till Christmas.  

As for extended family gifts, here’s how our gift-giving has morphed and gotten way easier over the decades:

  • 1990s: Bought for everyone (no kids yet but still expensive)
  • 2000s: Bought for just the kids
  • 2010s: Drew names
  • 2020s: White Elephant gifts

Making a game out of the gift-giving had us sitting in a circle, laughing at the ridiculous gifts, and building memories. On the flip side, the stress of choosing and paying for the perfect gifts for every single person no longer lingered.

If you’re at a point in life where you don’t want or need much of anything, I would highly recommend suggesting a reduction in gifts to your people. Not only will your stress be reduced, but your credit card will thank you too. 

This year we hope to focus on each other and some fun experiences a bit more. Between puzzles, Kahoot, hikes, and board games, we have no reason to be spending thousands of pesos and opening gifts for three hours. 

4. Serve Love

While working full-time, keeping a house running, and stringing a few words together, I tend to feel selfish about my time. Add two holidays, a few parties, and Christmas shopping, and this season quickly starts looking like Santa’s belly: full. 

So why in the world, when I never feel like I have enough time, would I want to volunteer to serve others? In a word… perspective. Taking the focus off myself and turning toward someone in need shifts my mind from getting to giving. 

Doesn’t mean I always want to serve, but I know the joy it brings. Plus it’s good for my soul. As soon as I get out of my own way I notice a difference.

Serving up dinner can be hard; sometimes serving up love can be even harder. Do it anyway and watch your heart change. 

5. Focus

Speaking of taking the focus off ourselves, why do we all agree to do this crazy Christmas dance every year? 

For the children? For our own nostalgia? For the eggnog?

Whatever your reason, I truly hope you take time to slow down at some point during this month and focus on why we do what we do. For me that could look like any of these:

  • Reading an advent book or calendar
  • Praying with my family outside of mealtime
  • Watching a movie about the Christmas story
  • Toning down the expectations I place on myself
  • Telling a coworker or neighbor why we celebrate Jesus’ birth

Go tell it on the mountain

Over the hills and everywhere

Go tell it on the mountain

That Jesus Christ is born

Any tips or tricks you’ve learned to untangle your tinsel at Christmas? Do tell. I need all the help I can get! Share your thoughts in the comments below and know that I am grateful!

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  • Amber

    We too have gone through the same extended family gift sequence! In some cases we just buy small gifts for cousins. But for adults, white elephant/dirty Santa game is where it’s at.

  • Miquel

    Hey! merry Christmas!
    Simple is always better (sigh), this coming from Clark Griswold Martha Stewart! While Chris and I are in a different season of life than you two, we have gone overboard in decorating, buying presents and over-indulging in celebratory intake! No more! Even with 7…..yes, 7 grandkids, we have pulled way back and are spending more time in the quit zone. Advent has become way more deep and being open to helping others have become our priorities. Your slower time will come and you’re probably already doing the real fun stuff Christmas brings as you’ve both been givers your whole lives! Give Doug a hug from us!!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Dear Clark,

      You and your wife Martha have most definitely outdone yourselves. I have a feeling a little of Raf’s style rubbed off on you. I can still picture him walking around Linfield with his Christmas Mickey hat during the whole month of December. Pretty sure he was always too warm, but he wouldn’t dare take it off. Haha.

      As for spending more time in the quit zone… did you mean quiet? Maybe you meant you’re quitting certain practices? Either way, I love the fact that advent and helping others takes up your time now.

      Good luck with your 7 grandkids. Wow! Maybe if you pay them a quarter they’ll rub your burr.

      Christmas BLESSINGS,
      Aunt Bethany

  • Brenda

    Ahh good reminders. I learned this from my mom, but I number the presents (1-?) that are under the tree, so it’s another surprise for Christmas morning. I wrap right away, slap a number on it and wahla. It’s fun for me to see the reaction when the presents appear miraculously, and they have no idea if it’s for them or not. My youngest likes that a lot as he’s got his list and checking it all the time! Lol. But I need to purge my old decorations, which I’ll do this year. Enjoy your holidays! Merry Christmas ????

    • Carrie Talbott

      Ok, wait. You number them and then keep a list of who gets which number? If not, how do people not open the wrong gifts?

      I just purged a few old decorations and ornaments. Felt kinda sacrilegious but mostly awesome. 🙂