If you’re feeling overwhelmed this holiday season, it might be time to start taking things off your list. Here’s 10 ideas I’m adding to my STOP-doing list!

The holiday season is in full swing, and chances are high that you’re starting to feel the pressure.

You’re not alone.

In fact, according to a recent study, nearly two-thirds of Americans feel more stressed than usual during the holiday season, and 49% of the moms who were surveyed confessed to trying too hard to achieve the “perfect” holiday.

And even if you don’t feel like you’re trying too hard, between the gatherings and the shopping, the cards and the decorating, the baking and the jam-packed calendar, it’s pretty easy to start feeling far more frazzled than festive.

Frankly, with all those overhyped expectations we put on ourselves, it’s no wonder we’re feeling overwhelmed!

So why don’t we stop?

A few years ago, I was invited to a dinner with a group of experienced business owners, all of whom were far more successful than me. I felt lucky just to have a seat at the table, if simply for the chance to learn.

It happened to be January, and so, to get the conversation going, the host asked everyone to go around the room and share their biggest lesson or their biggest win from the previous year.

I expected to hear tales of greatness, of all the amazing things I could only wish to accomplish.

But one by one, these successful entrepreneurs each talked about how proud they were of taking things off their plate, of taking more time for the things that mattered most, of doing less but achieving more. And by the time it came to be my turn, all I could think to say was “I learned that my STOP-doing list is far more important than my to-do list.”

It’s a lesson I’ve had to continue to remind myself of a lot over the years, especially during busy seasons and times of stress.

That’s why this year, I thought it might be a good idea to put together a new stop-doing list, specifically for the holidays. Because the truth is that there are a whole lot of things I don’t need to be doing in order to make this a Merry Christmas.

And I don’t know about you, but I think I’m ready to take some of the pressure off.

Care to join me?

Your Holiday Stop-Doing List: 10 Traditions It’s Okay to Skip This Year (Plus 5 Worth Keeping)

Here’s the 10 holiday traditions I’m totally okay with letting go this year:

Sending Christmas Cards

Whether or not to send out Christmas card is a battle that’s been raging in our house for many years now. I’m totally over it, my husband Chuck is not. So far, he’s always won, but only because he’s agreed to take full responsibility for the entire fiasco—from standing in line at the post office, to maintaining our address book, addressing and stamping what always ends up being more than 200 cards.

I think he’s crazy, but more power to him!

All that to say, if he decided he didn’t want to mess with cards this year, I would be totally okay with it, and you can be too.

The Elf on the Shelf

I’m not sure what cruel sadist invented that wretched, creepy doll with its smug little face, but I’m quite certain it was someone who wanted to torture parents everywhere. It’s literally like someone said, “Hey, I have an idea—let’s find a way to make Christmas even more stressful by giving parents something to remember to do every single evening for an entire month, and if they screw up just once, they risk ruining their children’s childhoods forever.”

Can’t you just picture the evil laughter?

And don’t even get me started on the oh-so-clever idea of having “naughty” elves who create elaborate scenes of mischief every night.

Are you kidding me?


Thankfully, a few fed-up parents have finally come up with equally creative ways of “retiring” their elves, such as sending this letter from Santa or these slightly less gentle tactics.

Putting Up Outdoor Lights

Yes, they’re pretty. Yes, they’re fun to look at…on other people’s houses. But oh, my goodness, the stress and the hassle of trying to make them work and figure out where they go is just one load of pressure I’m planning to take off my plate this year (and maybe for good)!

That’s not to say we won’t make any effort to decorate outside, though. This festive light projector looks pretty amazing, we’ll definitely have a wreath and a seasonal door mat, and I might even let the kids convince me to get one of those giant inflatable snow globes just for fun.

Going to the Mall

Between having to drive around the parking lot for 20 minutes until a spot opens up and fighting the crowds inside every store, then wandering around for hours lugging increasingly heavy bags trying to find the perfect gifts for everyone, only to realize that half the things you want aren’t available in the right size or color, and that you’re going to have to order it online anyways, I am complete and totally OVER IT.

And truly I have to wonder why any of us would choose to go through this madness when we can literally find everything (plus a whole lot more) online, usually with better prices? Of course, trying to find the perfect gift online can get a little overwhelming, but with resources like these 50 Perfect Gifts Under $50 to guide you, there’s really no reason not to try!


It happens almost every year. I start the season determined to keep my budget in check, but then, as life gets busy and more things come up and more people get added to my already overwhelming list, somewhere around the middle of December I realize that I’ve completely lost track and there are still 10 days until Christmas with many things left to buy.

That’s why this year it’s all about cash envelopes, baby. I’m using a Holiday Planning Spreadsheet to determine what we can spend, then actually putting the right amount of money in each envelope. (Anything spent online then gets taken out of the envelope!)

Perhaps not the most sophisticated system, but it definitely works!

Matching Pajamas

This one might get more hate than my feelings about the Elf on the Shelf, but I’m sorry, I just can’t do it anymore.

Here’s the thing—we live in southwest Florida, where the weather will most likely be around 80 degrees on Christmas Day. Matching Christmas pajamas are a stupid idea that I’ve bought into for far too long.

Every time we put them on, we have to turn down the A/C a full 10 degrees just to make them tolerable (which is probably why the ones I bought last year still look brand new).

Maybe I should try matching Christmas swimsuits this year instead…

Too Many Presents

I never mean to go crazy, but inevitably (usually right at the last minute) I see just a few more things that I know would be perfect, or I start to worry that I haven’t done enough (which of course, I have!).

But not this year! This year we’re keeping gifts to a minimum, using the “Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read” idea.

I’m looking forward to the simplicity.

Stalking Pinterest

I made the mistake of introducing my very crafty,13-year-old daughter to all the wonders of Pinterest last year, and she’s never been the same since. And while Pinterest can be a lot of fun and the source of many wonderful ideas, it can also be a double-edged sword—the source of too many ideas and a whole lot of pressure.

And so, my goal is to avoid adding a whole bunch of new ideas this year; instead, I’m going with my tried-and-true recipes and projects and decorations. New isn’t always better.

Stocking Stuffers

Am I the only one who finds the process of filling stockings a little bit stressful? Maybe it’s that our stockings are just too big, but I used to spend more time shopping for the perfect stocking stuffers than I did for actual presents. And then, once I finally found enough items to fill each stocking, I’d have to wrap what was inevitably dozens of tiny gifts!

Then, a few years ago, we spent Christmas in a cabin at Mount Rainier with all my siblings and their kids. Because we had traveled by plane to get there, we couldn’t bring much along to fill our stockings, so I got creative and filled them with the (new) socks and underwear and mittens I had bought for the trip…and a $100 bill. My kids were THRILLED. And I realized I was making the whole process way too hard.

Now their stockings are always filled with practical items that I don’t wrap—socks, new underwear, a toothbrush, a book or two—and always a little cash stuffed down in the toe.

Putting Up ALL the Decorations

After 15 years of marriage, and many, many day-after Christmases spent scouring the sales for half-priced treasures, we have more decorations than I know what to do with. And when the boxes come out of storage, I usually feel the need to put them all out. After all, we only decorate for Christmas once a year, right?

But not this year.

Don’t get me wrong—I’ll still put up some decorations. We’ll still have a tree and plenty of festive touches around the house. Just not everything out of every box.

Sometimes less is more.

Feeling stressed, burnt out or overwhelmed? Maybe it’s time to step back and take a break!

But just in case you’re wondering here are my 5 favorite traditions that we’re totally keeping:

Bringing Cookies to the First Responders on Christmas Eve

Every year, we bake and decorate cookies, then deliver them to the local fire station and police station on Christmas Eve to say thank you for working to keep us safe while the rest of us are home with our families. They’re always so gracious and almost always insist on showing us around the station and letting the girls get their picture taken on the truck.

It is by far our family’s favorite Christmas tradition and always leaves us all feeling so happy and grateful and filled with holiday spirit.

Unwrapping & Playing New Family Games

Each year I always buy several new games then wrap them all up as “family gifts.” On Christmas Eve—which for us always starts around noon—we have an epic game day, complete with scratch-off lottery ticket prizes for the winners. We only unwrap one game at a time, and the winner gets to pick the next game to unwrap. It’s always a lot of fun, especially for my ultra-competitive crew. There’s nothing we love more than a healthy competition!

Dutch Babies on Christmas Morning

Have you tried them yet? They’re sooooooo yummy! It just wouldn’t be Christmas without Dutch Babies!

Home Alone (and ALLLLLL the Christmas Movies!)

There’s nothing that gets me more into the holiday spirit than cuddling on the couch with my girls watching all our favorite Christmas movies. Home Alone is definitely top of our list—we usually watch it at least a few times—but there are so many options to choose from that we almost never get to them all.

Special Ornaments

I can’t take any credit for this tradition—it was all my husband’s idea. Our first Christmas together, he thought it would be neat if we would always give each other special hand-blown glass ornaments to remember something significant that happened that year—a vacation, a hobby, a life event, etc. He thought it would be neat to do it for our kids as well, so that by the time they were 18, they would have a whole set of their own special ornaments to get them started.

Over the years, it’s been such a neat tradition. My kids get so excited to pull out the special ornaments every year to decorate the tree, and it usually feels like a walk down memory lane.

In the end, there’s nothing wrong with having holiday traditions. Ultimately, they’re what make the holidays special and memorable. The problem comes when we have so many traditions and expectations that instead of feeling special, they feel like a burden, like just one more thing that you have to get done.

When that happens, you know it’s probably time to cut back.

And so I ask you…what’s on YOUR stop-doing list this year?

To recap, these are the 10 traditions we think it’s okay to skip this year:

  1. Sending Christmas Cards
  2. The Elf on the Shelf
  3. Putting Up Outdoor Lights
  4. Going to the Mall
  5. Overspending
  6. Matching Pajamas
  7. Too Many Presents
  8. Stalking Pinterest
  9. Stocking Stuffers
  10. Putting Up ALL the Decorations

And these are the 5 we think are worth keeping!

  1. Bringing Cookies to the First Responders on Christmas Eve
  2. Unwrapping & Playing New Family Games
  3. Dutch Babies on Christmas Morning
  4. Home Alone (and ALLLLLL the Christmas Movies!)
  5. Special Ornaments

Want more holiday resources? Check out some of our favorites!


Between the shopping and the decorating and the jam-packed calendar, it’s pretty easy to start feeling far more frazzled than festive this time of year! But if you're feeling overwhelmed, it might be time to start taking things off your list, rather than piling more on. Here's 10 ideas I'm adding to my STOP doing list--do you agree? #christmas #stressrelief #holidays #productivity #timemanagement #selfcare #stopdoinglist

Ruth Soukup
Ruth Soukup is dedicated to helping people everywhere create a life they love by follwing their dreams and achieving their biggest goals. She is the host of the wildly popular Do It Scared podcast, as well as the founder of Living Well Spending Less® and Elite Blog Academy®. She is also the New York Times bestselling author of six books, including Do It Scared®: Finding the Courage to Face Your Fears, Overcome Obstacles, and Create a Life You Love, which was the inspiration for this book. She lives in Florida with her husband Chuck, and 2 daughters Maggie & Annie.
Ruth Soukup


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