Simplify Your Holidays with One Thing

Pointing at a holiday list

There is so much for a parent to juggle during the holidays.

I have a new way that I have been keeping things simple: focusing on One Thing. That doesn’t sound so new or original, does it? It isn’t, but it’s very hard for me to do, and keeping that focus is helping me feel more calm and get more done.

I have a friend who beats herself up when she does three great things with her daughter because she plans 10 and falls so short. They made cookies last week and she was worried because that’s all they did all day. It took them 8 hours to make and decorate cookies. What a great day for a very young child to spend chatting and working with her mother, decorating and planning their celebrations. I encouraged her to focus on what she’s done, but I think that is a switch each of us needs to flip on our own.

I decided I needed a way to flip my own switch and enjoy the moment by focusing more clearly.

A few weeks ago, I read an article about goal setting, pointing out that reaching a goal isn’t a matter of making a list and doing first things first but making the first thing the only thing that matters until it is done. Lightbulb! That idea has really helped me move through lists more easily lately. Instead of thinking about what I’m not doing, thinking ahead on my list, I (am working to) ignore everything that isn’t first on my list. It does work. My busy life has seemed less chaotic, and I find I’m not so easily distracted by stray asks. I’m getting done what I want to get done rather than just listening to the loudest request.

I’ve implemented my One Thing plan for a simpler holiday season.
Rather than making a huge list of holiday goals, falling short, and focusing on the shortfall, I have put everything into categories, the most prominent being gifts, decorations, and food. There are many ideas and activities in each category, but I’m not worrying about the second or third or tenth items. I have One Thing I’m focusing on in each. To make sure that the whole family is pulling together, everyone knows what the One Thing is at the moment, and everyone helps decide what the next One Thing will be.

2 Cloaks. Both of my children play a version of Dungeons & Dragons, and they have requested cloaks for their characters. Until I dye then sew these simple, organic cotton cloaks, there is no other gift that matters.

12 Family Photo Ornaments. When we inherited all of my mother’s and my grandmother’s glass ornaments, we already had plenty. We’re inundated with ornaments. In order to make the old a bit new again, we’ve decided to put family photo decals on old glass balls. My children are in charge of going through family photos to choose twelve. They have decided to focus on baby photos going as far back as they can. It does seem to me that they are focusing a bit too much on the dog’s baby photo, but I put the choice in their hands. Once they choose, we print and decal. If we finish this project in enough time, we work on more decorations. If not, that’s OK. We’ll have one really cool new decoration to be happy about.

200 Cookies. I am in the middle of making homemade mint wafer cookies (like thin mint Girl Scout cookies). We made a list of half a dozen cookie recipes we want to make. Despite just having experimented with holiday mint chocolate, we put the mint wafer recipe first because we had all of the ingredients on hand. (Another example of our effort to keep things simple.) Now, we have about 200 tiny mint chocolate wafers that just need to be coated in chocolate this afternoon. We will keep a few, but most of these will be given to our neighbors, who always show up with bags of oranges, banana bread, and plates of cookies. Once these are finished, we may think about family recipes or more Girl Scout cook-alikes (like Left-behinds, which I’m voting for).

I suspect that the One Thing approach will help me as the new year comes and I think about assessing where things are and what I want for the next year. But, that’s not on the list, yet, so that isn’t my current focus.

Image © Varlyte |

Save Green: Is It a Habit?

Green ChecklistToday is day #21 of my new Save Green Habit: run the stairs every day.

For me, is running up and down stairs a habit? Well, yes, but I’m going to put this one into the second round again. I thought I would be running 30 minutes a day by now. HA! Habit and strength are not the same thing. The habit is well in place but I want to push harder. Maybe I will keep this one as my focus until I reach my 30-minute goal.

For my husband, is turning off the computer a habit? Not yet. He thinks about it and talks about it, but he’s not doing it every day yet. He has said that he would like to put this one in for the second round again. He wants to make it work.

For my daughter, is knitting a habit? Definitely. She isn’t obsessing about amount of time spent, but she’s spending well over 30 minutes a day knitting. She has been knitting squares that she will sew into a pillow. I asked if she wants to add another habit for the second round. No, she’s happy and just wants to keep knitting.

For my son, is studying Chinese a habit?
No. He hasn’t been as interested in the language lessons as he has in practicing Kung Fu forms. THAT seems to be a habit now. He does it every weekday, and he always remembers to mark our calendar. For the second round, he has said he would like to focus on just Mandarin Chinese language lessons. I think that if I help him a bit in the beginning, that will help him to get in the groove.

Does 21 Days Make a Habit?

Habits ChecklistWhether 21 days makes a habit seems to depend on whether the person is really ready to make the habit. Having cheerleaders to check in on us and help us stay accountable only creates an external habit. We have to flip an internal switch to make a lasting change.

Isn’t that true of all change?

My family has enjoyed checking in with one another about our progress, so we are going to make checking in about habits, goals, and changes our new family habit.