Christmas is just around the corner! Do you have a Christmas plan in place or are you overwhelmed thinking about it already? Have no fear! In this episode, Kathi and Tonya Kubo, illustrious leader of the Clutter Free Academy Facebook Group, will help you create a Christmas plan to have your most joyful, meaningful, merry holiday season yet.

Kathi and Tonya will give you a glimpse into some of their favorite Christmas traditions and others that didn’t work for them. Their experiences will help you discover:

  • Three things that can make Christmas feel overwhelming and how to address them.
  • Important questions to ask when crafting a Christmas plan.
  • How to share the giving season and get others involved in your Christmas plan.

Kathi and Tonya are right. You really can get anything on Amazon! Most importantly, you can pre-order your copy of The Christmas Project Planner and get your Christmas plan rolling today.

Join the Christmas planning fun in the Christmas Project Planner Facebook Group.

If you’re interested in trying raclette, click here to learn more.

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Clutter Free Academy Podcast #375 Transcript


Kathi – Well, hey friends. Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small, do-able steps to live everyday with less clutter and more life. All I want to say right now is, “JINGLE BELLS! JINGLE BELLS! JINGLE ALL THE WAY!!” Am I killing you, Tonya? I’m talking to my guest, Tonya Kubo, who is the fearless leader over at Clutter Free Academy, the Facebook group.  If you’re not a part of that, go join it. If you’re not a part of that, what are we even doing? What are we even doing here?

Tonya – I don’t even know. Where are you? If you’re not there, where are you?

Kathi – Do you not love love? Do you not love support? Do you not love the kindest corner of the internet? I mean, what are we even doing? Well, Tonya, the reason I said I’m killing you, is because you are a self-admitted Grinch. I wouldn’t call you a Grinch. I know you call yourself a Grinch, but can we just say – and, by the way, we’re rerecording this because Kathi may have had a couple of technical difficulties the last time we recorded this – and we didn’t talk about this then, but I want to talk about it now. You maybe didn’t have the easiest growing up. 

Tonya – No, I didn’t have the easiest growing up. I would agree with you. I view Grinches as people who want to ruin Christmas for other people, but I think I’m happy for you to have the most amazing Christmas ever, I just don’t need to be a part of it. 

Kathi – My theory is: If you want to be miserable, you go right ahead. And you’re saying: If you want to be happy, you go right ahead. Here’s the thing: because you have kids, and because I love your kids, I want them to have some semblance of a Christmas that they will look back on fondly, with lots of love. I do feel like I need to get you up to a Christmas level every year, because you help me with The Christmas Challenge. Every year, you get a little more Christmas-y. 

Tonya – That is true. I will say, last year, as we were preparing for The Christmas Project Planner to come out, even Brian commented that I was the most Christmas-y he had ever known me to be. 

Kathi – Here’s the thing. I think you have mental issues when it comes to matching outfits. 

Tonya – I definitely have mental issues when it comes to matching outfits! Oh, my gosh!

Kathi – I think that there is some childhood trauma there. Every time I talk about, “What is your problem with Christmas?” matching outfits comes up. 

Tonya – Okay, so you know that I have a MOPS background, and our annual fundraiser at our local MOPS group is what they call Santa House. One of our members lives in an old mansion. She does it all out for Christmas. We have Santa there. For one price, you can take your Christmas picture, Christmas craft, some hot cocoa, some cookies. You get your picture print that day, and you go out the door. So, for years, I see that parade of families that walk in, and the whole family is done up in these coordinating outfits. I have to tell you, the first year, I was like, “These are thoughts that have never crossed my mind.” The idea that we all might own outfits that coordinate is not a Kubo family tradition. Second, the idea that you would all wear those coordinating outfits on this one day, like you would pre-plan that? Mind-blowing! 

Kathi – Can I just tell you, my husband loves me deeply and would do almost anything for me, but the thought of asking him to get into a coordinating outfit? It never even occurred to me. We did do, because he loves his daughter deeply, and she wanted to go to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Hallowe’en Party, and she wanted to go as Joy from UP!. Not UP! Excuse me. Inside Out. I get the two confused because they almost had an Up themed wedding. So, Roger went as Anger and I went as Disgust. 

Tonya – Yes! And Lily was very impressed with your Disgust. 

Kathi – I loved my Disgust. This has nothing to do with Christmas, but let me just say this: As a mom who raised kids in the ’90s and the aughts, the double zeros, pulling together a costume in 2019 is an order of magnitude easier than it was when my kids were little. You can get anything on Amazon. 

Tonya – Right?! The perfect wig and all the things.

Kathi – Right! I got everything on Amazon. It was amazing. Okay, sorry. The struggle is real. Okay, but we’re talking about Christmas and I believe that so many people are overwhelmed by Christmas for three reasons. Let me just go over them really quickly. Loneliness, and I’ll explain what I mean by that, A Lack of a Plan, and Others’ Expectations. So, let’s go into these. You and I have talked about this and you agree with these three.

Tonya – Oh, totally.

Kathi – Okay, so, Loneliness.  I believe that overwhelm often stems from the feeling “I’m in this all by myself.” Feeling alone in something. So, when I say Loneliness, it’s not that you don’t have friends. That’s not what we’re talking about. It’s feeling like it’s all up to you and you don’t have the help.  I think, I’m switching these around, because I think that stems from Number Three: Others’ Expectations. People feel like, “Well, everybody who’s a good mom has matching outfits”, “Everybody who’s a good mom xyz.” To not process those expectations, and just accept them? Here’s the thing that we need to understand: Expectations don’t affect us until with accept the expectations. There were lots of things people did for Christmas that I couldn’t have cared less about. We never dressed anybody in matching outfits. That was not our thing. We never went caroling. We had a group of friends who did that, and I’m like, “That sounds terrible. I don’t want to do that.” There are some people who love that, though. You have to figure out what works for you, in your situation, and you, in your family. What are some of the things that bring you joy when it comes to Christmas, Tonya?

Tonya – Peppermint Mochas and Gingerbread Lattes. 

Kathi – Yes! Those are good things. Very, very good things. Some people get angry that they only come out seasonally. I love that they only come out seasonally. 

Tonya – Well, you actually can get the Peppermint Mocha all year ’round.

Kathi – This is true, because Roger does it every day. The Gingerbread Lattes and things like that, though? Even the Pumpkin Spiced Latte? That’s a treat. 

Tonya – Right, and I think there is this thing, going back to your point about Amazon. You can get anything, at any time, pretty much, nowadays, right? So, it’s easy to feel like nothing is special, but the one thing I do like about Christmas, and the holiday season, is that it is an opportunity to make things special.

Kathi – That goes into our point of Number Two: Have a Plan. All of these tie in together. The loneliness, feeling like you have to do it all by yourself, others’ expectations. One of the things I feel is very important, whoever the stakeholders are in your Christmas, for you, that would be Brian and your two girls. For me, it is my husband, my adult kids, my adult step-kids, my mom, and to a certain extent, my brother and his family. So, if we want to have the Christmas we want to have, I’m going to put in as much effort, probably more, than most people in my family, but I’m not going to put in all the effort. Here’s what I’ve come to understand: I kill myself to make a great Christmas, but it’s not the Christmas that other people wanted, and then I’m disappointed with people’s reaction. That’s ridiculous. I stopped that around ten years ago. That’s not what’s happening anymore. So, to sit down and say, “What do we want this Christmas to look like?” And really get specific. I remember one time, I made at least fifteen dishes on the table, for Christmas dinner, and people weren’t eating anything. I couldn’t figure it out, and I was really frustrated. I came to find out all my kids care about were the appetizers. They don’t care about the turkey. They don’t care about any of that stuff. So say, “Could we do a Christmas where it’s just appetizers and dessert?” Can I just tell you? That was our favourite Christmas ever. We’ve done other things like that. Last year we did raclette. Everybody had a great time and it was super-easy. If you don’t know, it’s a Swedish fondue. You can look it up, or, we’ll put a link in the show notes. 

Tonya – You need to put a link in the show notes, ’cause I think that’s what my husband wants for Christmas.  I’m just saying.

Kathi – It’s super-super fun. We’ve one pizza fondue, we’ve done raclette. Get the stakeholders into it, so it’s not all up to you, so you’re not alone. You can have a plan. You can have this meeting early on. So, what would your girls say is important to them for Christmas?

Tonya – So, it’s funny that you bring that up. You’re right, going back to the plan. You have to ask. I remember, what was it, three years ago that you introduced me to this idea of asking? I asked Brian, and I thought Brian would talk about, ’cause guys are really about food, right? Dinner. All Brian cares about is for Christmas, which has been transcended to my daughters, candy for breakfast. 

Kathi – So, you do one morning of candy for breakfast on Christmas?

Tonya – Christmas morning. So, I was spending all this time planning the perfect Christmas breakfast, “‘Cause you know, it’s a sugar high, and so I want them to have protein and the overnight casserole and the whatever.” Brian just wants to be able to eat candy for breakfast. He wants to eat nothing but candy until lunchtime. That is Christmas to him.

Kathi – Okay, that sounds horrific, but if it makes them happy.

Tonya – So, then, all I have to worry about is having the Christmas breakfast that I want to have. 

Kathi – Right. So, what do you eat instead of candy? Or do you eat the candy?

Tonya – No, I eat quiche. Quiche makes me happy.

Kathi – Quiche. Okay, you and I, carbs. Yes please. So, I love that. You’ve figured out what everybody else’s expectations or desires are, and you have a plan. 

Tonya – Right. It’s funny, because Abby will ask to eat a lollipop, last Saturday, and I just look at her and say, “Is it Christmas?” and she’ll say, “No.” “When do we eat candy for breakfast?” She knows she gets candy for breakfast on Christmas and on Easter and that’s it.

Kathi – That’s so cute. I love that. It makes it so super-special to them. It’s something they’ll remember. It’s something they’ll probably do with their own kids.  So, what we’re going to do to not be overwhelmed this Christmas? We’re going to understand other people’s expectations, and we’re going to accept or reject what works for us and our family. It doesn’t matter what the other mom at school is doing and what her expectations are. The only expectations that matter are those of your kids, your family, your friends, the ones that are celebrating with you. So, we’re going to do that. Then we’re going to have a plan. We’re going to have a plan on how to execute the Christmas that you want. Here’s what happens. When you are hustling to meet everybody’s expectations, the things that are important to you get shoved out. I’ll never forget the year that I felt I was too busy, getting ready for Christmas, to go to church. How screwed up are my priorities that I’m not going to church to celebrate the baby Jesus, but I’ll make sure that the cheese rolls are on point?

Tonya – But I do that!

Kathi – We all do it!

Tonya – I would be totally happy just wearing plain clothes, going to church and coming home. But it’s like, “Oh no. There’s no time for that.” ’cause I’m decking the halls. 

Kathi – Right! And if you’re going do matching clothes? Make them matching pajamas. Make sure it’s comfy. Then, we’re going to ask other people to participate. There is something, a matriarchal complex, I’m not really sure what it is, where we feel like we want to put on the Christmas feast all by ourselves. Can I tell you? Dinner is better when you assign it to other people. 

Tonya – We were raised by women who didn’t ask for help. That is my belief. We were raised by women who didn’t ask for help. We’re surrounded by friends we don’t see ask for help and therefore we assume asking for help is a bad thing.

Kathi – Asking for help means that other people get to give in the giving celebration and that’s what we want.  Okay guys, if this all sounds like, “Well, that’s all great, but I don’t think I can pull it off.” We have a whole group dedicated to pulling this off. We can make this the best Christmas ever for you. The one where you get to celebrate how you want, in the ways that you want. We want to make that happen for you, so we have a group, and I’m going to put in there, it’s The Christmas Project Planner Group. We want you to be a part of it, because we want this Christmas to be different from any other Christmas. Tonya’s in there leading it. You guys are having so much fun.

Tonya – We are! It’s kind of like Christmas exploded. Even I’m having a blast, because I totally feed off other people’s enthusiasm, and I had no idea that Facebook had such a library of hilarious Christmas .gifs.

Kathi – The .gifs are the best.

Tonya – Come for the gifs, I’m telling you. 

Kathi – Come for the gifs. Not the GIFTS. I love it. I’m going to put links in the show notes to buy the book. This is a book you’ll be able to use for the rest of your life. You can photocopy it. You can use Post-It notes, you can put all the lists in there. This will become your, I don’t want to say Christmas Bible, because we have a real Bible about Christmas, so it’s a little blasphemous. This is your Christmas Command Central. 

Tonya – I like that.

Kathi – You’ll be able to use it every year and it will be amazing. Okay, guys. Tonya, thanks so much. Thanks for being so open about your Christmas-y, Grinch-y tendencies.

Tonya – Thanks for loving me through it.

Kathi – I do. I do, friend. I hear ya. And guys, thank you for being here. You’ve been listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go create the clutter-free Christmas you were always intended to celebrate.


*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items

Meet Our Guest

Tonya Kubo is the fearless leader of Kathi Lipp’s Clutter Free Academy Facebook group. A speaker and writer, Tonya makes her home in the heart of California with her husband, Brian, their two spirited daughters and one very tolerant cat. Visit her at or

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