Host a Stress-Free Holiday
Forget Martha Stewarting your house. "It's just too much time and stress!" says LaFond. "And trust me, no one misses it if you decide not to construct homemade wreaths or if you skip putting candles and fake snow in all your windows. My advice: Pick one area to doll up, and let the rest go. The only real decorations we do aside from the Christmas tree are the outdoor ones. We've made putting up the inflatable snowman and stringing the lights a tradition. Our 5-year-old son, Aidan, loves to help." Think about it: Filling the house with happiness and holiday spirit is much more important than filling it with knickknacks.
Spend hours cooking a turkey? Uh-uh. LaFond forgoes the bird for Christmas dinner. "I'll make lasagna that I can put together in advance or London broil that I can throw on the grill, served with mashed potatoes and veggies," she says. "And for dessert I just put out the cookies that my son and I baked. Easy, but still festive and really yummy."
Skip the big, elaborate dinner all together. "We have everyone over for brunch," Clow says. "I buy bagels and cream cheese and put together an egg casserole, and my husband makes bacon and sausage. It's easy cooking, and everyone loves breakfast food! It makes for a nice, relaxed meal together."
Repeat these words: The house does not need to be spotless. "I remind myself that my parents love me and won't judge me if the house is a mess," Glackin says. "It's the holidays! There are bound to be wineglasses, wrapping paper, and toys everywhere. I try to look at it this way: A messy house is a clear sign that people are having a good time."
Can't not clean the house? At least have someone else do it. "After my daughter, Reese, arrived and the holidays came around, my mom pals insisted I hire a service to clean before the party we have each year for our friends and neighbors," says Elizabeth Davies, a mom of one from Boulder, Colorado. "It seemed like a splurge, but honestly, it was worth every sanity-saving penny! And if you don't have overnight guests, you can just have the downstairs done, which costs a lot less."
Have a preholiday cookie-baking party. "It's a great way to kill two birds with one stone: We invite our friends' kids over to bake and have the dough ready to go," Fitzgerald says. "The children have a blast, and you get lots of eager decorators to help you. We always make lots of extras to send home with them. It's great to have extras on hand for last-minute presents."