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Simplifying Christmas | 12 Tips to Turn Chaos to Wonder

Simplifying Christmas | 12 Tips to Turn Chaos to Wonder by Sarah Sundin

Simplifying Christmas
Do you break out in hives just thinking about the craziness and chaos that comes with Christmas? It doesn’t have to be that way. Inspirational authors Cara Putman, Sarah Sundin, and Tricia Goyer share about Christmas’ past in their new novella collection Where Treetops Glisten. Their three stories “White Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” will take you back to war-time 1942, 1943, and 1944. The authors have also teamed up to give tips on simplifying Christmas this year! Join us  December 1-6 on Not Quite Amish Living for the Simplifying Christmas series.

12 Tips to Turn Chaos to Wonder

by Sarah Sundin


Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year! We long to make Christmas a time of joy and wonder for our family and friends, but in the process we often find ourselves depressed, stressed, irritable, and in debt.

Over the years, I’ve mourned how December has turned from my most anticipated month to my most dreaded. Last year, two things made me re-evaluate. First, I wrote my World War II Christmas novella in Where Treetops Glisten. Christmas was simpler then. Fewer gifts, fewer decorations, simpler food—less of everything. Was Christmas less meaningful then? Absolutely not.

Then on December 14, our youngest son received a concussion in a karate tournament and needed surgery … which was performed on January 2. Those two weeks were spent nursing my son and taking him to numerous appointments. Out of necessity, Christmas had to be simplified. As a family we agreed on what absolutely had to be done and what we could live without. And you know what? It was a really nice Christmas.

So how can we rein things in and turn Christmas from chaos to wonder?

1) Focus on Jesus

In your planning, make sure Jesus gets center stage. Give priority to your personal time with the Lord so you can find the peace you crave. Read the Christmas story as a family, attend a Christmas pageant or choir performance, sing Christmas carols, or put out a nativity set. Remember why we’re celebrating in the first place.

Also make room in your schedule for charitable work. When you give to others in need, your to-do list suddenly seems petty. And doing charitable projects with kids will help them turn their focus from their gimme lists to giving to others. That alone can simplify your Christmas!

2) Evaluate

Take a deep breath, step back from the to-do list, and give it a good hard look. Why do you do each item on that list? Does it bring you joy and peace and wonder? Does it bring others joy and peace and wonder? Are you doing it due to family pressure? Peer pressure? To impress others? Guilt? Even the things we love—are we overdoing them or getting obsessed?

3) Go with Your Strengths

Do you love baking or decorating or handcrafting your own gifts? Great! Do those things and do them well! Revel in the joy you bring to others.

4) Trim Your To-Do List

After your evaluation, did you realize you do things for the wrong reasons? Look at the things you don’t like, those that bring stress, debt, pressure. Either trim them back or eliminate them. Likewise, if you love doing something, but it puts you in debt or stresses out your family, think about scaling back.

5) Family Chat

Have an honest discussion with your family. Explain which things you have issues with, and listen to their feedback. You might be surprised what matters to them and what doesn’t. Often the things we stress about aren’t that meaningful to them.

6) Teamwork

There is no law saying women need to do 100% of the work at Christmas. Enlist your family members and delegate. This might mean releasing control and battling your own perfectionism, but you’ll be less stressed and you’ll give your children a sense of accomplishment and belonging. Preschoolers can set out non-breakable decorations and help in the kitchen. Elementary schoolers can stuff envelopes and help bake and wrap presents. And teenagers can take on entire tasks as their own. Even husbands can help—I speak from experience!

7) Say No!

You can do it. I know you can. When your sweet friend insists you learn to hand-stamp your own wrapping paper, give her a sweet smile and a “No, thank you.” When your neighbor insists you come to her party, tell her you’re sorry but you have something else planned that evening (even if it’s watching The Grinch with your family). No excuses. No explanations. Just “No.”

8) Ditch the Guilt!

Remember we’re all different, with different tastes, different gifts, and different schedules. Just because your friend’s decorations, cookies, or gifts could grace a magazine cover doesn’t mean you need to follow her example. Refuse to take on guilt from others or succumb to peer pressure (or Pinterest pressure!). Likewise, be careful not to shove the things you love onto your friends, increasing their stress and guilt.

9) Plan Ahead

As a lifelong procrastinator, this is a learned trait for me. Making a reasonable to-do list and a schedule—and following it—can prevent the Christmas Eve meltdown. Also, do things in advance when possible. Pick up Christmas gifts throughout the year. Do crafts in the summer. Make cookie dough in October and freeze it.

10) Budget

Make a realistic budget and stick to it. Don’t forget to include costs for decorating, food, travel, and activities.

11) Trends vs. Traditions

Ads, store displays, and gorgeous photos online convince us that our old decorations and recipes are tired and outdated. If you love keeping up with the current trends and can afford it, go ahead and indulge. If not, remember Christmas is all about tradition. My grandparents’ decorations from the 1940s-1950s and my parents’ decorations from the 1960s-1970s bring back fuzzy warm memories. Our tree with its jumble of Sunday school crafts and vacation souvenirs and ‘80s kitsch (yes, the goose with the holly around its neck) are precious to me. Don’t be afraid to buck trends for tradition.

12) Store-bought vs. Homemade

The popularity of crafting and other domestic arts is wonderful for some of us—and a headache for others. Much of the stress women heap on ourselves comes from the pressure to handcraft our gifts, bake our cookies from scratch, and design our own cards and wrapping paper. If you love those things, great. If you don’t, hold your head high and enjoy your platter of store-bought cookies, your gift cards in store-bought gift bags, and your decorations from Target. It’s okay. No elves will die.

What do you want to do to simplify your Christmas?

Download and fill out the Turning Chaos to Wonder Worksheet to help reduce your holiday stress!



Where Treetops Glisten Gift Basket Giveaway!


Waterbrook Multnomah has created three wonderful gift baskets to give away to readers! To enter to win this basket, please fill out the Rafflecopter forms found on  Tricia Goyer’s blogSarah Sundin’s blog and Cara Putman’s Facebook page!

WTG apron book

Each basket contains:

Copy of Where Treetops Glisten
Christmas DVD – Holiday Inn Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire
Christmas CD (includes all the book title songs) – “A Jolly Christmas” Frank Sinatra
Apron made from vintage pattern
Recipe cards from each character

About Sarah Sundin


Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 4.26.02 PMSarah Sundin is the author of six historical novels, including In Perfect Time (Revell, August 2014) plus a novella in Where Treetops Glisten (WaterBrook, September 2014). Her novel On Distant Shores was a double finalist for the 2014 Golden Scroll Awards. Sarah lives in northern California with her husband and three children, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school and women’s Bible studies.

You can find her at sarahsundin.com


About Where Treetops Glisten


Where Treetops GlistenThe crunch of newly fallen snow, the weight of wartime.

Siblings forging new paths and finding love in three stories, filled with the wonder of Christmas.

Turn back the clock to a different time, listen to Bing Crosby sing of sleigh bells in the snow, as the realities of America’s involvement in the Second World War change the lives of the Turner family in Lafayette, Indiana.

In Cara Putman’s White Christmas, Abigail Turner is holding down the Home Front as a college student and a part-time employee at a one-of-a-kind candy shop. Loss of a beau to the war has Abigail skittish about romantic entanglements—until a hard-working young man with a serious problem needs her help.

Abigail’s brother Pete is a fighter pilot hero returned from the European Theater in Sarah Sundin’s I’ll Be Home for Christmas, trying to recapture the hope and peace his time at war has eroded. But when he encounters a precocious little girl in need of Pete’s friendship, can he convince her widowed mother that he’s no longer the bully she once knew?

In Tricia Goyer’s Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Meredith Turner, “Merry” to those who know her best, is using her skills as a combat nurse on the frontline in the Netherlands. Halfway around the world from home, Merry never expects to face her deepest betrayal head on, but that’s precisely what God has in mind to redeem her broken heart.

The Turner family believes in God’s providence during such a tumultuous time. Can they absorb the miracle of Christ’s birth and His plan for a future?

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Guest Contributor (80 Posts)


  1. Nice thoughts to cut back on Christmas. But for me it comes a little late for me. This week is busy every day. I don’t know when I will get my tree up or if I will. This morning my best friend and I will get together for lunch and gift exchange. Yes this early! Then tomorrow it’s out patient surgery for me. Wednesday it’s church at night . Thursday it’s the woman’s Christmas dinner. Friday it’s getting things set up for a live nativity at the church, which is being held on Saturday evening. Of coarse we are attending that and participating in it. Then Sunday it’s church. On Monday the 8th it’s our Sr. Adult Sunday School classes Christmas party and dinner party. After that who knows. Everyone , it seems said let’s get things out of the way early. But oh well it’s the things I like to do and we’re celebrating with our friends and family.
    I hope that all of you and every reader of this blog will have a very Merry Christmas.

    • I know that overwhelmed feeling! This week is too busy for me too. Praying your upcoming weeks will be restful, and praying your surgery will be successful and your recovery speedy!

  2. Sarah, these are great tips!

  3. Great reminders Sarah. And oooo, a new book. I love a good Christmas read. I’m looking forward to this one. Thanks for sharing your helpful thoughts for the season.


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