The period of Thanksgiving through Christmas can be a busy, frantic season full of shopping, parties, baking, gift-wrapping, recitals, and get-togethers. While these activities can all be memorable and special, it’s important that we not lose sight of what’s most important during the holidays: giving God thanks, celebrating the birth of our Savior, and savoring the moments and memories.

Here are three ways to help you streamline your life and responsibilities so you can enjoy the holiday season more this year:

1. Pare down your gift-giving.

Evaluate your gift list: Do you really need to give a gift to your uncle’s neighbor’s dog? I’m pretty sure Fido will survive just fine without another fancy chew toy, so save your money and use it to buy gifts for those you really care about or want to bless.

Creating limits for how many gifts you buy helps to simplify things. I know some families who give their children three gifts in three different categories (such as: something to wear, something to read, and something fun).

Our family doesn’t have specific limits or categories for what we give our children, but we’ve opted to just keep it to a few really meaningful gifts for each child. This allows us to really savor each gift as it’s opened, instead of being overwhelmed by a massive pile of presents.

2. Prioritize.

If you want to have a stress-free and simple season, you aren’t going to be able to do everything. Take 15 minutes sometime in the next few days to sit down and write out what the important things are for you and your family between now and the end of the year.

Each person’s list is going to look different—and that’s perfectly okay. Maybe you love to make homemade gifts but you really couldn’t care less about sending out cards. Perhaps you want to volunteer your time to bless those who are less fortunate but you really don’t have any desire to attend a lot of parties with people you don’t know very well. Or, you really want to do fun and meaningful activities with your children but you really don’t enjoy baking at all. Know what you want to invest your time and effort into this holiday season, then say no to opportunities and invitations that aren’t in line with your priorities.

We’ve found that it’s highly beneficial and fun to create a Family Bucket List of Activities for the holidays—with each family member getting to choose a few activities they really want to do. We type this list up and then divvy up the activities throughout the season. This guarantees that we do things that everyone in the family enjoys and also helps us to be intentional about creating memories.

3. Plan ahead.

After you’ve decided upon your priorities for this holiday season, it’s time to make a game plan. Look at your calendar and commitments for the next few weeks and think of everything you can do to prepare ahead of time so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.

Make sugar cookie dough ahead of time and freeze it so it’s ready for that cookie-decorating party or to give to your neighbors. Go ahead and buy all of the necessary items to make the goody baskets for the homeless shelter. Buy or make hostess gifts to have on hand for last-minute party invitations. Check your closet to make sure you have outfits for the holiday parties you’ll be attending. Finish your shopping early and avoid the mad rush of crowds and traffic the final few days before Christmas.

The more you pare down, prioritize, and plan ahead, the more you’ll be able to relax and soak in all the memories and moments of the holidays—and focus on celebrating the reason for the season. And that’s what will really matter long after the elaborate decorations, fancy parties, and expensive gifts are forgotten.

Copyright © 2012 by Crystal Paine. All rights reserved.