By Sunny Simon

For months I asked my husband to please clean out the garage. One day he did. I mean he really did! When I asked what happened to the Christmas tree, he smiled and proudly announced he donated it to a worthy cause. I was shocked. Yes, we are in a downsizing mode and I do walk around espousing the benefits of becoming more minimalistic, but the Christmas tree?  Grumbling I pulled out the few remaining holiday decorations left in our now clutter-free garage.

As I looked around a few hours later, it occurred to me that sometimes less is enough. Our home looked warm and cheerful with the few items I placed throughout the rooms. There is something kind of cozy about minimalist Christmas décor. Small touches like a holiday pillow here, a candle there, a fresh poinsettia and a wreath on the door conveyed a simple joyous message.

Of course you know this column is not really about my decorating prowess. No, I’m talking about eliminating holiday clutter which can take many forms and cause undue stress.     

Web MD reports the average American spends 42 hours a year on holiday activities. That number sounds low to me but what it does signify is we often cram too many events into our already busy calendars. A myriad of activities like parties, shopping, wrapping, holiday baking, concerts, plays, entertaining guests (both short and long term) although fun, can rack up an emotional toll.

One of my favorite movies, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” is a perfect example of a holiday gone bust. Our hero, Clark Griswold, tries to create the perfect holiday for his family. Caught up in the excitement of the season, Clark falls into the trap of setting unrealistic expectations. Sound familiar? Yes, sometimes we all reach too high.

If, like me, you can identify with Clark, take a step back and look at the big picture. Sort out what is a “must do” and eliminate some of the “nice to do” activities.

Need a holiday stress buster? My favorite is what I refer to as “white out.”  Select an evening and protect the white space. Commit to planning nothing other than staying in and enjoying some quiet time alone or with a loved one. Soak in the simplicity of a period free of the holiday hustle.

This year make the holidays a joyful and memorable experience by making some changes in the way you celebrate. You may find, as I did, that less really is enough.

Sunny Simon is the owner of Raise the Bar High Life and Career Coaching and the author of the blog,

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