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Melissa Schmalenberger, Published December 20 2013

Ms. Simplicity: Stop pursuing ‘perfect’ Christmas

’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse …

Hold on one second. I am stirring, as I forgot to wrap the gifts. Oh, and I forgot to bake the cookies. And never mind the kids all looking cute in matching outfits, and that pre-lit tree – not so much lit anymore!

We are sold a story – the story of the perfect holiday, the story of the mom who has it all put together and posts adorable pictures to Facebook. Our children sitting on Santa’s lap and whispering in his ear what they would like.

In reality, they may be terrified of that jolly old soul. My oldest had a strong dislike for sitting on Santa’s lap, even from an early age. The accompanying photo is from when he was 1. He is now 20, and I am willing to bet he still gets freaked out by the idea of sitting on Old St. Nick’s lap. Oh wait, I would, too, at 20!

What you don’t see are the people who don’t even like their family, such as my cashier at Target yesterday. Or the family who has a loved one struggling with substance abuse issues. Or the family that lost someone through death that they miss terribly.

So give up the idea of being perfect and embrace being imperfect. Keep it simple and forgive yourself. Don’t slave away at making the perfect holiday cookie, only to not enjoy them because you were baking at 3 a.m.

I have my list of things I wanted to get done this year that have yet to happen. I have hardly listened to any Christmas music. How many times have I watched “Love Actually” or “Elf” this year? Zero! I have not been home to do my baking (but I do have Oreo truffles that have been waiting to be dipped in white chocolate for three weeks).

I was going to send my son a care package in college during finals week – never happened – so I transferred money to his bank account and told him to buy some pizza.

There are just things on our list that are not going to be done this year. And I am here to tell you it is OK. My wall where I display my Christmas cards is a visual reminder of all families stressed. Maybe half of the usual amount of cards is taped to my wall. What happened to the other half? Oh yeah, they are still trying to get the perfect family photo or trying to remember to order the cards or are looking for my address or are waiting in line for stamps at the post office.

Stop and just accept the fact that you are sending Valentine’s Day cards this year instead. I blame Thanksgiving. That other family holiday was just too late this year. It threw everything off by two weeks in my world. I know I am not alone in this, either. So let’s push back the curtain of being perfect and just enjoy the holiday.

Love the family that you are with. This family may include no relatives but is a makeup of your inner circle of misfit friends, just like the Island of Misfit Toys. Don’t make a rush to buy that “perfect gift” only to find that you are spending money you don’t have.

Instead, invite a friend who is alone and make them a part of your family. Play a game or watch a movie. Volunteer serving a meal at a church. Bake a frozen pizza instead of the prime rib that you forgot to age for days in the fridge.

The best holiday meal I remember was when my mom forgot to turn on the oven and so we had fried chicken instead of ham. She was probably stressed, but I thought it was awesome.

But if you do make roll-out sugar cookies with almond flavoring, please drop some at my house, because mine are not being made this year.

Ms. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger, operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a professional organizer based out of Fargo. Email her at melissa@mssimplicity.com.