Written by Jackie of Auburn Meadow Farm

Your decorations are magical.  The table settings could be a Williams Sonoma feature.  The food is Martha-perfect.  The kids are scrubbed and wearing their holiday best.  Even the dog is coiffed.

Sounds like Holiday success… or is it?

I admit it, I’m a recovering holiday perfectionist.  Of course, it only made me worse when I married a whirling dervish of a home-improvement disaster. I used to joke about the 12 wounds of Christmas except that it wasn’t a joke.  It was true.  I barely appreciated my husband’s enthusiasm and willingness to help because because I was too frustrated with his sloppy craftsmanship and duct-taped results.

I on the other hand drove him crazy with my procrastination, my need to do everything myself, and by making things way more complicated than they needed to be.  Instead of enjoying myself at our Christmas Eve open house, I was barely able to relax. Instead I found myself frazzled and exhausted.

Today, I take my holiday planning advice not from Martha, but Coco.

Coco?  You know, Coco Chanel.

Coco Chanel is full of pearls like, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory”,  and “Less is always more.” Of course Coco Chanel has plenty of real pearls too.

Today, I’m equipped with a less is more mentality.

Before I go crazy trying to complete a to-do list not even Santa could handle, I start by writing down everything that excites me, then remove things, one by one, until I have a manageable holiday list that I can accomplish with pleasure and joy.

Because, let’s get it straight, pleasure and joy are the things that make a holiday magical, not perfect menus and table settings.

And that Coco knows what she’s talking about. Less done with love & care is definitely more.

The same is true with including the kids in the preparations. I’m the first to say there’s nothing wrong with wanting to express yourself through decorating your home.  Mothers don’t get nearly enough opportunities to shine in their own right – it’s absolutely true.  This is also true; a perfect one-woman show is not all that fun for anybody but you.

This year instead of perfecting your Holiday events, give your family an opportunity to play a prominent part in the pageantry.

  • Holiday Cards – perfection isn’t the goal, authenticity is. Your kids write the way they write, let them sign the cards.
  • Hand Made Gifts – handmade projects can be fun if you plan ahead and allow for failures and misfires. Be sensitive to helping kids who truly are challenged in the realm of crafts – don’t force them to do something they honestly hate and makes them feel inadequate. Need some inspiration? Check out this gallery of 15 good ideas.
  • Dinner Place Settings – let the kids create the place cards. Nothing charms up an event like authentic hand written and hand illustrated kid stuff.
  • Decorating the tree – Okay, this may be a tough one for you. Accept the challenge only to the degree you are able to truly let it go.  If your beautiful tree is just too important to you, consider having the kids decorate an outdoor tree for the birds instead.
  • Decorating the House –delegate a prominent project or two, particularly when the kids express an idea they’ve thought up on their own and want to try.  I loved this post from Apartment Therapy about the tug we feel about sharing decorating duties.
  • Holiday Meal Menu – include the kids in your menu planning. Let them pick some of their favorites for the holiday meal and cookie trays.  Home-made macaroni & cheese was on the menu for our holiday open house every year. Maybe my foodie friends have seen it before, but who doesn’t like really good not-fancied-up home-made mac & cheese? I can serve the more challenging stuff on the side…
  • Gift Wrap – Can you stand it if the edges aren’t perfectly crisp, and the tape is showing? Kids love wrapping gifts… one year we even went so far as to make our own wrapping paper with newsprint and linoleum block print. Major mess, but the packages were pretty special.
  • Thank-You Cards – what a great project to do with your kids. A chance to relive the holiday, enjoy spending time together writing and sending real mail. I’m all for anything that encourages some good, old-fashioned hand written mail. Who cares if there’s a smudge or scratched out word?

This year, ditch the perfectionism.  It’s not a performance, it’s a celebration – if you’re not feeling celebratory, you’re missing out.

What changes have you made in your holiday preparations to make it more enjoyable for the whole family?

Jackie Cleary is a cook, farmer and writer eating her way around her small farm in Western Pennsylvania. Visit Jackie and her brood of old-fashioned livestock anytime at www.AuburnMeadowFarm.com.

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