How to not drive yourself crazy this holiday season

I wrote this post as part of my participation in a blog tour for The Motherhood on behalf of the makers of Children’s MOTRIN® and received compensation to thank me for taking the time to participate. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

The Makers of Children’s Motrin is asking moms across the country what makes them unstoppable. Especially at the holiday season, a time when it’s all too easy to want to lay down and give up due to stress, or go a little crazy waiting in long lines, or sit in traffic so long you get out and start running to your destination (sound like someone you know?), we can all use a few suggestions to make our seasons easier.


This month, Children’s Motrin asked me what makes me unstoppable at the holiday season. Here are 29 of my unstoppable tricks for an easier season.

29 tricks that will make you an unstoppable parent this holiday season

how not to drive yourself crazy this holiday with these holiday ideas for moms

Create holiday wishlists

We created ours on Amazon, and each of the kids’ has his own. We use these lists throughout the year, so that when someone says “oooh! Sparkles! I want that!” I can say, “that’s great. Let’s put it on our list.” Then, as we get close to the holidays and birthdays, we pull up their lists and edit.

Edit the wishlists

My kids will prompt me if I forget, but be sure to do this with each kid before Thanksgiving, and after. Sit them each down individually. Chances are, there are things on the list that they really don’t want any longer. And there are probably things on the list that are obvious and missing. Be sure to include gifts of all prices, and a good variety of things. Our lists include everything from LEGO to Under Armor.

Send the wishlists

Send the wishlists to family and friends who usually gift your kids, before Thanksgiving. My husband and I debated this for a while. At first, he was concerned that by sending the list to family members, we’d be asking for gifts. Well, we were. But it makes it far easier for the gifters to have a list so that they know what the kids are interested in. Plus, it’s much better for us to weed out the junk before it comes to our house.

Join Amazon Prime

I know so many people question its value, but if you have it over the holidays, you will SO understand. We use Amazon Prime for everything. Need a lightbulb? No problem. Tap, tap, click. It will be here in 2 days. What’s that? Joey’s birthday party is Sunday and you just found the invitation on Wednesday? Tap, tap, click. No worries. Oh no! We forgot Great Aunt Luanna’s holiday present! That’s okay! It’ll be at her doorstep on Christmas Eve. (Amazon Prime also makes a great holiday gift.)

Host a playroom overhaul day

On the first rainy Saturday (or Sunday, or day off from school) announce to your family that you’re having a pajama day with nothing but comfort foods (grilled cheese and tomato soup!) and a bonus movie at the end of the day. (Doesn’t it sound delightful?!)  Then, grab four containers and gather in your family playroom (family room, junk room… whatever gathering spot hosts the most mess, and toys.) Give each container a title (ours are trash, charity, relocate, and miscellaneous.) Next, surprise the kids and tell them to play. No, really. Play. Your job? You observe. As you observe, take mental notes about how they play and what they’re playing with. After about 30 minutes, share what you learned about your kids and playtime, and explain that you’re going to work together to re-work the playroom and make it fit the kids’ play habits and interests. Having this discussion, and forming a room around their current interests, helps the kids to have a better understanding of what they need around them and don’t, and also helps to adjust the fit of the room. Now spend all day cleaning, taking small breaks to play with forgotten toys.

Closet cleaning time!

Clean out your kids’ dressers, drawers and closets in November, early November taking note of what you  need. Otherwise, you’ll be running around on Thanksgiving-Eve looking for cute shoes for your kids and a matching turtleneck because it’s going to be so much colder than usual. (Note to self: Little needs cute shoes.)

Create holiday cards now, but don’t buy them yet

So many people select their holiday pictures for photo-cards in the summer or early fall, and then procrastinate creating and ordering the cards. Here’s my secret: upload the photos to your favorite photo-card service (so many to choose from, including Shutterfly, Tiny Prints, Zazzle, VistaPrint, Snapfish, Minted and more). Then, wait for the emails to come in. You’ll begin receiving holiday savings codes in October. If your card is already created, you’ll be ready to just complete your checkout process and use the coupon code, which will mean no chance of missing a flash sale because you haven’t created the card yet. (Also, these companies are really good at enticing you with emails and pop-ups like “you haven’t completed your purchase yet! Don’t forget! Here’s a 10% discount just for you!” Don’t take that. Wait for a 20%, or better, code.) 

Skip the cards

Or just don’t make and mail cards at all. You’ll save time and postage. You can always email your holiday jpeg to everyone this year. (I’ll admit that I’m not skipping the cards. I love sending and receiving holiday cards in the mail each winter.)

Pay someone else to wrap your gifts

This is something else I don’t do, because I love wrapping gifts (see below.) But I know many people don’t enjoy it and find it to be a hassle and a waste of time. If that’s you, then hiring someone to do this is a great idea. Ask around on Facebook or google “local giftwrapping.” You’ll also, likely, find gift wrappers at the mall and bookstores. Of course, I never turn down offers of free giftwrap.

Host a gift-wrap get-together

I love wrapping gifts and find it therapeutic. So, I host gift-wrapping parties, inviting friends over for brunch. Everyone brings a roll of paper or two and some embellishments, we all spread out and share papers and stories as we wrap.

Indulge in yourself

It’s a busy season. Take some “me” time and get a mani/pedi, a massage, meet a friend for coffee, or browse the bookstore.


Often, we need a distraction from the busy-ness of the holidays. Reading helps to calm down and float into another world. Need a suggestion? Here’s a list of some of my recent favorite books that I’ve gotten lost in.


Make-ahead all of your cookies, cookie dough, muffins or whatever your family favorites are. Freeze them in November and take them out as you need them through the season.

Order out

Hosting a holiday meal? It’s okay to order out. I don’t order everything out, but I do order our turkey so that I have more space and time to make the sides that I actually enjoy making. Along those same lines, as the season gets busier, it’s also a great idea to order a pizza or other deliverable food on random school nights.

Find a “Kids Day Off” or “Kids Fun Night” program

You may need to ask friends for a local one to your area, but a lot of places offer kids’ programs during the holiday season, where you can sign your kids up for a few hours of fun, drop them off, and run errands (or go on a date night!) Our local gyms offer this program.

Form a baby-sitting co-op among your friends

When the  kids were little, a group of 6 moms got together once a week for the 6 weeks before the holidays and took turns watching each others’ kids. Usually, 2 moms would watch 6 toddlers for about 2-3 hours so that the other 4 moms could get things done without kids. We were able to accomplish everything from grocery shopping to doctors appointments, and split up our duties nicely.

Say “no”

Say “no.” It’s okay to not make it to every holiday party and event this year. Take a night off and relax as a family.

Plan a few family nights

I love that we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas, because it’s allowed my family to create new traditions. Among my favorite is celebrating a theme each night of Hanukkah. One night is “game night” another is “craft night.” You don’t have to be Jewish, to celebrate theme nights of Hanukkah. Just take out your calendar and schedule in some creative nights for your family around the holidays.

December 26

Schedule a family-outing for December 26. It’s so common to immediately feel the post-holiday blues, but not if you have a fun idea planned for the day after Christmas. We like to take the train into town and explore holiday windows and events around our city. Of course, we also frequent a favorite restaurant as a special treat.

Create your Meal Plan for the month

Meal plan. It’s so easy to rush rush rush all day when you’re busy and then realize that you’ve forgotten to plan for dinner. With a meal plan done for the entire month, you’ll always know what’s for dinner. (Make sure you include lots of slow-cooker recipes.)  Here’s my December Meal Plan. Check that off your not to drive yourself crazy this holiday with these holiday ideas for moms

Create a check list

Speaking of checking off lists, there is nothing as rewarding as crossing off or checking off a list. Start creating one today and keep it active. I used to keep mine on my refrigerator so that I’d add things as I thought of them, but I’ve switched to using the UpNext app.

Create a giftee list

Also start working on a list of people you plan to gift this year, and then start brainstorming ideas. I’ve learned the hard way that I’m better off brainstorming ideas before I go shopping, than wandering endlessly looking for a gift for Uncle Amos. I try to come with more than one idea for a gift, so that when I’m shopping I can still be flexible.

Shop online

Sure, I’ll go to Nordstrom this time of year, for me. But 95% of my other gifts don’t have to include the mall, or even stores. You can find anything and everything your friends and family wish for online, so save yourself hassle and shop online this year. You’ll save time, sanity, and gas money!

Buy something for you

Yes, I’m one of those people who buys something for myself, wraps it, and writes “to Julie, from Santa” on the card. Why? Because after all the work I do to get my holidays wonderful for my family, a little gift to myself to show my appreciation, is much appreciated. It’s especially convenient if it’s something you’ll need to wear after it’s open. Selfless plug for beautiful, reasonably priced jewelry from my boutique.


Ask for (and delegate) help

This can include everything from watering the Christmas tree to making sure you have cookies to place on a plate for Santa. If you assign seasonal jobs to your kids, they’re less for you to have on your plate. And when it comes to making cookies (and other treats) it’s more fun, and economical, to do it with friends.

The gift closet

Keep a year-round gift closet. This is one of those suggestions that you can start today, or anytime. With a gift closet, I can buy things that are giftable anytime I see them at a must-have price. You’ll have to be careful about what you’re buying and think ahead about classic gifts. For example, I don’t buy trendy gifts and keep them in my gift-closet, just things that I know are go-to gifts. This way, when a birthday party or housewarming or Christmas jumps up on my calendar, I can run to the closet and grab a classic gift from the gift closet.

Don’t do any more than you have to

This kind of goes along with It’s okay to say ‘no.’ Except there’s more here. Pinterest and the social media world tend to make us all trying to do extra things, perfectly. Therefore, we’re adding pressure to ourselves at one of the most stressful times of the year. Keep in mind that, after all is said and done, no one will remember all the little extra things you worked so hard to do perfectly. And, really, last year’s holiday decorations or meal or teacher gifts were loved and appreciated… and it’s been a whole year since you did it, so it’s totally okay to do it all again. And a lot less stressful than adding even more to your plate.

Use plastic

Speaking of plates: use plastics. And toss them (in the recycling) I realize I’m probably losing all my green readers here, but there are times when even the crispiest moms admit that disposable items make life a lot easier. Using disposables will win you a little extra time to get to other pressing things. Even if it’s only once in December, it’s okay to skip the dishes.


This is the most important thing. Do not forget to sleep. Don’t get so caught up in all the goings on that you leave it all to the last minute and forget to sleep. Because it is no fun to be sick and tired on a holiday. No fun at all.

What tips can you add?

The makers of Children’s Motrin also asked me my tips on quick cleaning… and I admitted to the world that I hide everything on my office chair. See the video here. This post is part of Children’s Motrin’s #UnstoppableMoms campaign and, therefore, is sponsored.

mom of 3 and wife living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Julie is a former elementary school teacher and a Public Relations manager. She is the owner/editor of Julieverse, a merchandiser with Chloe + Isabel ( and founder VlogMom and Splash Creative Media. A marketing strategist and freelance education and parenting writer by trade, Julie attempts to carve out time to enjoy playing with her kids, PTO, cooking and exercise.

© 2014, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.


  1. says

    I need to do many of these! Especially the toys – so many of them need to GO!! Thanks for the reminder….I hope to stay sane but when in doubt I will have that bottle of wine. LOL

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