Ready or not, Christmas is on its way! The holidays come every year and yet we always seem caught off guard by their arrival. What if we could make some important decisions today to make our lives easier in December? What if we could plan ahead and have the best Christmas ever this year?

This week, Kathi and Tonya Kubo, fearless leader of the Clutter Free Academy Facebook Group, discuss three decisions you can make today to have the best Christmas ever. Their insights will help you move from dreading the holidays to actually enjoying them.

In this episode, you’ll learn how taking care of your future self by making decisions early will help you to have the best Christmas ever. You’ll also learn how to:

  • Get started on your Christmas cards today
  • Arrange your calendar early to include all the things (even Christmas cheer!)
  • Avoid the January sticker shock from your holiday spending

Get a handle on the holidays by ordering your own gorgeous copy of The Christmas Project Planner. Click here to order on Amazon.

If you’re looking for more ideas, support, and awesome .gifs, join the Christmas Project Planner Facebook Group.


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Transcript for Clutter Free Academy Podcast #376

Read along with the podcast!

Clutter Free Academy Podcast # 376

Three Decisions to Make Today to Have the Best Christmas Ever.

<<intro music>>

Kathi – Well, hey friends! Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small, do-able steps to live every day with less clutter and more life.  We are back with the Christmas Countdown. Things are happening, friends. Christmas is coming, like it or not. I hope you like it.

Tonya – Like it or not, December 25th comes every year.

Kathi – It really does. You were talking about how people say, “Did Christmas just sneak up on you this year?” and you’re like, “No. I knew that Christmas was on December 25th.” 

Tonya – I just keep forgetting the days are ticking by. 

Kathi – You have to do something about it. Yeah, that’s a little frustrating. Well, here’s what I want us to do. I want us to make some decisions early, and these decisions can help you manage your Christmas in a better way. So, I am here with Tonya Kubo, who is our fearless leader, over at Clutter Free Academy on Facebook. If you have not joined Clutter Free Academy on Facebook, you didn’t listen to our last episode, because we pretty much shamed you into doing it. Here’s the thing: We love to talk about taking care of your future self. So, Tonya, why don’t you explain to people what taking care of your future self is.

Tonya – Well, it’s understanding that the later version of yourself never has more time, or more energy for anything. So, why not just do something right now that makes later a little bit easier? 

Kathi – That’s all we want you to do. Yes, you’re doing it for your family. Yes, you’re doing it for your friends, but really? It’s okay to do it for yourself, to be a more peaceful version of who you are. So, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to pre-decide a few things, to decide if you’re doing them this year. If you’re not, mark it off and go with God, and don’t worry about it anymore, but, we want you to decide on a few things that are going to make the rest of your season so much easier. So, Number One: Are You Going to Do Christmas Cards? So, Tonya, are you going to do Christmas cards?

Tonya – I’m doing Christmas cards.

Kathi – You are?! 

Tonya – I am!

Kathi – Okay, tell me about it. First of all, I’m so proud of you for making that decision months in advance. 

Tonya – Especially since, the first time we recorded this episode, I was like, “Ah! I don’t know!” Pressure!

Kathi – Okay, so what made you decide that this is the year?

Tonya – Well, part of it is because I have a plan. I have a plan. I understand that it’s not such a big thing. There are just about little ten steps to get me from here to Christmas cards in the mail. And I can do those steps. I’ve realized that I have to buy stamps. I know how to buy stamps. And I can buy stamps at any time. I don’t have to buy stamps three days before Christmas.

Kathi – Right! You can order them online. 

Tonya – Right! I can buy stamps. I’ve decided I want a picture. I don’t have to have a picture. I have a friend who just buys her cards from the Dollar Store and hand writes every card. That’s not who I am. But I can get a picture, and we happen to have a long-time sitter. She’s been with us since Abby was born, and she’s really handy with a camera and a camera phone. So, I’m just going to have her take our picture. I already asked her. I said, “Do you think you could just snap a picture of us?” and she’s like, “Sure! Not a problem!” So, I’ve got that down. I just need to pick a date.

Kathi – Beautiful! I’m so proud of you! The Lipps, who haven’t sent Christmas cards for a few years, have also decided that this is the year. 

Tonya – Do we get to see Moo?

Kathi – Moo will be a part of it. So, if you guys don’t know, we have a new baby puggle. Her name is Moose, but we call her Moo, little Moo, Moo-Moo, Moose-on-the-Loose. She has many, many names. So, we are going to take a picture with her, probably at The Red House, but you know what? If it just happens to be just our two faces and little Moo?  Now, we cannot get Moo and Ashley the Cat in the same photograph, because, right now, everybody loves Moo, except for one. 

Tonya – Yeah, but you never know. Christmas miracles, they can happen at any time.

Kathi – Wouldn’t that be nice? I had little pictures of them snuggling together, and right now, I’m just praying they don’t kill each other. We’re working on it.  We’re working on training Moose, so she’s a little bit chill-er – let’s put it that way – and doesn’t bark quite as much. So, anyway, we look at sending Christmas cards as if it should be easy, and it actually is easy. It does require a lot of steps, though, and so, having the addresses. That’s the part that always kills me. Trying to get all those addresses together. So, that’s my first step. That’s the step that I need to do in advance. Print off those labels. I’m not your calligraphy kind of gal. I just want to print off the labels and be done with it. We can have a mass production. The other thing that I am doing? I am putting on my calendar, a night to invite people over to do their Christmas cards. 

Tonya – How fun!

Kathi – Right? If you lived closer, I’d invite you over. Sadly, you are several hours away.

Tonya – I don’t know. I might come over anyway.

Kathi – You might come over. I love it. 

Tonya – It depends on what we’re eating. Is there cheese? If there’s cheese involved, I might go.

Kathi – There will be cheese. There is always cheese. So, we’ll put on the Christmas music, and we’ll just go for it. It gives me a target for when I need the cards back in order to do all the things. I’m super-excited about it. So, let’s talk to the person who’s not going to do Christmas cards. You just saved yourself twelve hours.

Tonya – I was going to say, we just gave them a day and a half!

Kathi – I don’t send Christmas cards every year. We’ll send them this year, because we have a new, cute little face in the house, and I love to share the Moose-love, but we probably won’t send them next year, and that’s okay.  Nothing inside of me says, “I need to send them every year.”  Especially, when you have kids that are older, they change so slowly at that point. Now, when they’re little, and you have a new baby, yeah, do the cards. Of course, I’m saying that to new moms. You know what? Just put a picture of your kid up on the Interwebs. That’s all you need to do. So, if you’re not going to do Christmas cards, you get a free pass. That’s amazing. Good for you. But, if you’re going to do Christmas cards, start doing those little steps into motion. Get the picture taken, if you’re going to do that. Gather your addresses. Create an Excel spread sheet. Order the stamps. Are you doing it on Shutterfly? Figure all that out, and do it early. Number Two: Decide On Your Calendar. So, in The Christmas Project Planner, we have your December calendar and your November Calendar, and I want you to put in there, on little Post-It Notes, what nights or days you are going to be busy, so that you cannot worry about that. For somebody like me, it’s not that big of a deal, because Roger is going to be busy with church and everything like that, because he’s on the production team, but I don’t have little kids in the house. I’m not going to a million winter carnival/festival/thing-a-majigs. But you have Abby and Lily. You need to get those things on there early. So, tell me what your November and December looks like.

Tonya – Well, you know, they’re crazy. They always are. But I think one thing that I have realized this year that I don’t think I realized last year, is I don’t have to be a slave to other people’s communication schedules. I have the power to contact the school, contact the teachers and say, “Hey, when is the Christmas Program? When is this? When are conferences?” I don’t have to sit here and say, “Oh, well, I know my kids are going to have a Christmas Program, but the teacher hasn’t informed me yet.” No! They have to reserve the auditorium at some point, so I am totally capable of finding out when that reservation is. 

Kathi – Nice. I like that a lot. I really, really do. So, get your calendar together. Decide when you’re going to do things. Then decide when you’re going to put in the Christmas cheer. I said, I’m going to have a night where I’m inviting people over to work on their Christmas cards, or if they’re crafters, they can bring those kinds of things. Whatever they want to do. I’m inviting them over and we can do this all together. I’m also going to have a night when I get to The Red House, of wreath-making. We have thirty two acres of trees that are waiting to be turned into wreaths.  

Tonya – I don’t even know how that happens, but I look forward to hearing your story.

Kathi – I’m super-excited. I’ve got the ring. I’ve already ordered the supplies I need. I cannot wait. So, put in times of intentional joy and rest on your calendar. That’s what I want for you. I want you to have some days where you’re going to go do something fun. Both your family and my family have a tradition, where we load up the car, we drive through Starbucks, we get hot chocolates or the coffees or whatever, and we go look at Christmas lights.

Tonya – I love it, because I don’t actually put up Christmas lights. I can look at other peoples.

Kathi – Roger does. It’s not my thing, but it’s his thing. I love that we both do that. You get to go and appreciate somebody else’s work without having to do any of your own. Then, finally, I want you to Decide on Your Budget. One of the things that was really helpful for me last year was, I just shoved all the receipts into my Christmas book, so I could kind of see what I spent last year. Every family has some unusual expenses. I know you have some unusual expenses because of your husband’s job.

Tonya – Yes. My husband is a special education teacher at a low income school, so he spends a fair amount of money on his students, but also, his co-workers actually like each other and get together. A lot. 

Kathi – That’s amazing. Since we talked about it, it makes me think, we had a couple of teachers at the last Red House Writer’s Retreat. We were talking about what is covered by the school district and what isn’t. What was so interesting was: paper was covered, pencils are not. So, Roger was working in San Jose, and I had him go buy three hundred pencils to just give to them, so they could have them in their classrooms. I think, as parents, could we give the teachers twenty dollars and say, “Hey, I know you’ve got some expenses coming up this Christmas season.” Unless it’s one of those bah-humbug teachers. But Brian’s not one of those.

Tonya – You know what’s beautiful? Going back – and this is not sponsored by Amazon at all – but gift cards. I have the teacher’s email addresses, and Amazon gift cards. 

Kathi – It’s a beautiful thing. People were so gracious to us when we had evacuees at The Red House. People sent us games for the kids. They sent us books for the kids. Then they sent us Amazon gift cards, and it made such a difference in all the things we were doing. Finally, just knowing what your budget is, so you’re not surprised in January. If you’re going to buy all the things in December and complain about it in January, how is that honoring anybody? How is that honoring your family? How is that honoring your spouse? How is that honoring you? How is that honoring God? So, make these decisions early. If this all feels overwhelming to you, I’m going to have Tonya tell you a little bit about The Christmas Project Planner Facebook group, because we would love you to be a part of that. 

Tonya – Yes! First of all, it’s not like The Christmas Project Planner Facebook group lives twelve months out of the year. We’re just here for a short period of time and we’re going to have a lot of fun. Right now, there’s a lot of people in there that cannot get enough of Christmas, but as we get closer to Christmas, there are going to be people in there who are just desperate to survive Christmas. The great thing about The Christmas Project Planner group is, we’re in there and we’re just focused on practicality. Somebody posted in there the other day that they were raised by somebody who did Christmas like a pro, but didn’t really pass on how to do Christmas like a pro, so it’s been a big mystery to them. They are just in there, like, “How do you get through, day by day.” It’s beautiful because The Christmas Project Planner is twenty-one super-simple steps to get you from here to actually loving Christmas.

Kathi – Right. First of all, this book is beautiful. They’ve done such an amazing job. It’s really gorgeous. So, if this is something you want to do with a friend, if you gave them this book as a gift, it would be a gorgeous gift. If you order one, order two, and you can talk other people into doing this. I promise you. We would love for you to join the group. We would love for you to be a part of it. It’s not too late. We can help you simplify the Christmas that you want to have. Tonya, thank you so much for being on Clutter Free Academy. 

Tonya – Thank you for having me.

Kathi – Of course! And friends, thank you for joining us. 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

Tonya Kubo

Tonya Kubo is the illustrious, 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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