SIMPLIFY: 5 Tips for a Slow December – UPDATED!

December 5, 2017

***UPDATED 12/13/2017***

Last night my husband and I were standing around the kitchen counter after we had put the kids to bed, looking at the calendar and discussing our plans for the upcoming weeks. There are school plays, Christmas concerts, holiday parties, school parties, dates with friends, the list goes on. It’s been on my mind to put together a piece about intentional slow living in the month of December, because let’s face it, the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ often turns in the most stressful and hectic time of year.

I put this post together largely as a big piece of advice to myself, and I’m hoping you’ll find it helpful too. As I’ve been filtering out my to-do list this month, and weighing whether or not to say yes to certain commitments, the things I am about the share with you have been impacting my decisions – for the good.

Here’s what I’m doing to try to keep our family’s December slow:

1. Shop online. Avoid the mall.

Use the internet to your advantage, when you need to. Don’t fight the crowds on the roads or at the malls (trust me, it will elevate your blood pressure). Shop early to reduce stress over delivery deadlines. Try hitting up a local craft fair/market with local vendors selling their goods. You’ll probably find a way better present than you would at the mall anyway. When shopping online Garmentory and Need Supply are fabulous places to hunt for unique gifts. (Buy this for your coffee/tea lover!)

Make time to visit your local toy or bookstore, but plan to do it during off-peak retail hours if you can (weekday mornings are good!).  My husband and I had a sitter last weekend and we went to a local toy store and had the most wonderful experience. We were trying to find one compelling toy gift for each of our kiddos (the rest of their gifts are clothes and shoes!) and it was really nice to be able to shop a selection that varied from what I typically see at Target or other big box stores. Browsing toys is much easier in person than online because the collection is already curated. It was also nice to get a sense of the items by being able to pick them up and turn them over in my hands. My husband and I found ‘just the right things’ for our kiddos, and the kind folks wrapped the presents for us! All this to say, consider shopping small when you are looking for gifts for loved ones this season.

2. Examine your online habits.

It’s really easy to unwittingly play the comparison game this time of year. ‘Her Christmas tree looks professionally decorated!’ ‘I wish my kitchen looked like that’ or ‘I wish I had X to wear this holiday season. It looks so good on her.’ It happens quicker than you can blink when you hop on your favorite social media sites. I don’t know about you, but these sort of thoughts leave me feeling stressed out or bummed out. I’ve been consciously reducing the amount of time I spend on Instagram these last few weeks and it feels so good to engage more in real life and less in online life. Is your online time affecting your face-to-face relationships?

If you are looking to unwind and relax, ask yourself if scrolling actually helps you achieve that goal. Perhaps a book or a conversation with a loved one would be better. Or cuddling and watching your favorite Netflix show (with no phones in sight).

3. Know who you want to spend time with.

Goals are a wonderful thing, because they help bring clarity to daily choices. When you prioritize who you want to be around, deciding how you choose to spend time gets a little easier. If time with your young family is at the top, plan your time and dollars around what you’re doing as a group. Put a family date on the calendar. Mark the night you want to go look at Christmas lights. If time with your best friend is high on your list, set up a date and make a plan. Don’t wait for these things to happen because the rest of life will crowd into your calendar before you know it!

4. Think hard before you say yes.

In order to not live a life of flying from one activity to the next, it is imperative that we say “no” to good things. I think this is the hardest part about intentionally setting a slow December. Many of the activities we are asked to participate in are good things (a party at church, a happy hour with coworkers, taking a meal to a friend, making treats for neighbors). But if we say yes to everything, that’s when the busyness and stress sets in. As much as our hearts want to, we cannot do everything. This is why point #3 is so critical. When we prioritize who we want to spend our time with, we have a better idea where to say yes and where to say no.

5. Be intentional about allowing yourself white space.

As humans we all need time to rest, recuperate and recharge. As our days fill up this month, we must allow ourselves the freedom of mental downtime. This is where creativity and spontaneity are born. What if a need, you can easily meet, falls in your lap at the last minute? But your schedule is so full you can’t do anything but grimace about how you wish you could help. By protecting downtime we allow ourselves to recharge and we allow ourselves the capacity to serve others should the opportunity arise.

If this resonates with you, I’d love to hear how you’re being intentional about having a slow December. Please share in the comments!

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  • Dara December 5, 2017 at 6:27 am

    YES! This is so good and I couldn’t agree more. Last week at church my pastor challenged us to say no to something good, so we could make room for something great this Christmas. I had already decided not to send Christmas cards this year. (I always stress way to much about the “perfect” photo and put way too much time and energy into them.) It feels great to let go and make room for even better things.

    • Andrea December 6, 2017 at 1:02 pm

      I love that! What a profound and important concept. Also, we don’t send Christmas cards very often either, mass printed and mailed cards feel so impersonal to me. Not only that, they usually end up creating more waste. :/ Thanks for sharing what your pastor said – good stuff!

      • Dara December 7, 2017 at 8:22 am

        Yes, so true. I design handmade cards, so I struggle with the idea that what I create just ends up in the trash (and ultimately creates more waste).

  • Jodie December 5, 2017 at 7:55 am

    Great article for this time of year- all year really!
    A good mindset to have going into 2018!

    I did all my shopping online with Black Friday/ Cyber Monday deals.
    I’ve definitely cut down on my time on Instagram, since that’s the only social media app I use. Really helps me direct my time where I want it, and stop the comparison game.
    We are getting our 4 month old son 1 toy for Christmas. My husband and I set a low budget that allows for about 2-3 gifts max. We also don’t do gifts with extended family at all.
    Setting your intentions about who you want to see, and what you want to do is major. Throughout the year we try to have one day of rest of the weekend, and we continue this during the holidays, unless it’s something super important to us, like celebrating Hanukkah at my Mom’s both weekend nights.

    Hope you have a happy holidays Andrea! Xo!

    • Andrea December 6, 2017 at 1:06 pm

      Hi Jodie, I love your input! I’m with you on the extended family gifts. It often seems like a waste of resources since the gifts tend to be more generic anyway.
      I love your idea of one day of rest on the weekend. What do you guys allow yourselves to do on your day of rest?
      Happy Holidays to you too friend!

  • Cassi December 5, 2017 at 9:28 am

    Great advice for trying to stay sane this month. My family is flying across the country to spend the holidays with extended family. Once we get there I’m hoping for lots of relaxation but we need to make it through one big hurdle first: 8 hours of travel with two kids under two…yikes!

    I love the idea of avoiding stores and doing the bulk of shopping online, but something I’ve been really thinking about is the environmental impact of shipping. We’re lucky to have so many wonderful ethical brands that use sustainable practices but do we negate that when we rely on online shopping? It’s getting hard for me to reconcile…

    Anyway, hoping your month is slow and intentional ☺

    • Andrea December 6, 2017 at 1:08 pm

      Totally, I hear that, especially with the ease of Amazon. So much packaging and driving, etc. to get those packages delivered. I prefer shopping in person, but it is just too darn hard for me to do very much of with with 3 little kids in tow. But you’re right, we should be increasingly mindful about the impacts of shopping online. My fav way to shop is holiday markets that feature local vendors, it’s a great way to shop a variety of small makers all at once!
      Thanks for weighing in, good luck with the flights! I hope your time with family is slow and intentional. :)

  • Beth December 5, 2017 at 9:37 am

    I love this! I don’t have kids and I’ve just moved so don’t really have many friends yet either (and therefore have less social obligations!) but family is close and there is still lots of pressure in the gift-giving and holiday celebration departments. I love anything that encourages us to slow down and step back, and live with more intentionality. Thank you!

    • Andrea December 6, 2017 at 1:10 pm

      Aw, thank you Beth! It’s funny how busyness and hustle can creep in, in all sorts of places, huh? Maybe you can draw names with the family that is close to avoid the ‘buying for everyone’ game. I hope your December is nice and slow!

  • Lo December 5, 2017 at 9:54 am

    I LOVE the idea of carving out intentional space for yourself. I’m both an introvert and prone to seasonal depression, so winter can be especially tricky emotionally. I’m usually scheduling a lot of social stuff in reaction to the seasonal depression, trying to create a sense of “hygge” and general festive-ness, but that can also be draining. I think I need to put alone time on the calendar, but with intentional activities or rituals, like watching a favorite Christmas movie or reading with a cup of tea (the luxury!). Your slow December goals are so inspiring! Thank you for sharing!

    • Andrea December 6, 2017 at 10:15 pm

      Thanks for your honesty LO! I am extroverted introvert (I think). I definitely crave down time, but it’s so easy for me to squander it doing mindless things. When I am intentional about sitting down to read, or watching a favorite show with my husband, I feel utterly relaxed. 😌 I hope this season goes well for you!

  • Marloes December 5, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Yes to this! Personally I put my time to do nothing to the top. I NEED that at the end of the year so I plan everything else around that. I can speak from experience that shopping earlier is sooo chill. And cheaper too, I realized. One other little thing I like to do for the time we spend at home is to make a list of simple and free activities we can do. This way we don’t get tempted to just stare at our screens all day.

    • Andrea December 6, 2017 at 10:17 pm

      That is SUCH a great idea!! I am definitely going to do this. You seem like you are really good at self-care Marloes.

  • Tomo December 5, 2017 at 11:41 am

    Nice thoughts! This is my first time visiting your website, I really like your simple ethical style. Beautiful picture you used for this article, by the way. I visited Portland in June was my first visit looking to see the organic city. People are very friendly, really nice there. I loved local coffee shops how they support each other and provide quality local foods or original items. I brought back a thermos mag from Stumptown coffee. My way of being intentional is to have a cup of ginger tea before going to bed. Ginger is really good for both not getting cold and after getting cold.

  • Ophelia December 5, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    Love that you brought up “white space”…I agree, it is exactly where creativity is born.

    But I DISAGREE (sorta) with #1. I would say, shop DIFFERENT this holiday–I’ve been doing much of my holiday shopping at local artisan craft fairs and at REAL local stores that feature gifts handmade from local artists and artisans….everything from leatherwork to fleece hats to art and jewelry, to handmade, 100% natural soaps…and I’ve REALLY enjoyed it. I did a little shopping online too, but local artists make such amazing things! And I got some really personal gifts that seem more meaningful than just online shopping…I did a little post on some Shopping Made in the USA Christmas Ideas (many can be found locally) if anyone needs some inspiration:

    • Ophelia December 5, 2017 at 5:35 pm

      Sorry, I meant to say “I DISAGREE for me” (sorta) with #1.

    • Andrea December 7, 2017 at 7:54 am

      Hi Ophelia, I think that is a great idea! I love shopping that way as well, and I definitely do when I can. But as for shopping for my kids, a lot of it is easier for me to buy online because that’s where the biggest marketplace for it is (harder to find toys among artisan goods) and I can do it without them by my side. But YES, always shop local and small when you can!! Thanks for weighing in! xo

  • Pippa J December 7, 2017 at 2:45 am

    Hi there, I follow you on Instagram and saw your post so clicked through to read your blog post. I had just written a post myself, on slowing down these holidays. We are about to enter into our Summer holiday over here in South Africa and it’s a busy time. I enjoyed your tips so much I added a link to them, in my blog can see it here :-) Thanks for your lovely blog x Pippa

  • s December 12, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    I love the spirit of this post but I want to make a plug for shopping locally. I own a bookstore and if we didn’t have holiday shoppers, we really couldn’t afford to be open for snowy January afternoons or sweltering summer days when people want someplace to go. If you like shopping or going to stores, the holidays are really what keeps physical stores alive. I am always on a budget and try to be mindful about what I buy, but sometimes the fastest thing is to go and see what you want and get it right then. I suggest shopping first thing in the morning on Thursday or Friday when stores have inventory ready for the busy weekends. Thanks for reading.

    • Andrea December 13, 2017 at 10:53 am

      Hi there,
      You are absolutely right. Shopping in person is often a better way to support local businesses than shopping online. I probably should have written that bullet point to the effect of Avoid the Mall when shopping. We went to a local toy store while our kids were at with a babysitter last weekend, and we had such a wonderful experience buying their Christmas gifts. The selection was far better than a Target or big box store, and it was great to be able to see them in person before we bought them. They also wrapped our gifts.
      I am so glad you weighed in your perspective, gonna amend the post now!

  • Sabrina Patricia December 14, 2017 at 5:12 am

    Lovely reminder and much needed.
    It is just so weird that the one thing we are so desperately looking forward to during holiday season, some peace, quiet and stillness, turns out to be the biggest challenge of them all.

    • Andrea December 15, 2017 at 10:52 am

      Very interesting observation. I think it’s so easy to allow ourselves to get sucked into everything else. :/