The Secret Sauce to a Sane and Merry Christmas

The Secret Sauce to a Sane and Merry Christmas

Can I talk to you for a second?” My husband peeked into my sewing room. Fifteen projects in various stages of production covered every flat surface.

I looked up from the ironing board for a second. “Hey! Yeah, sure.”

A pause. “On the couch?”

“No, no…we have to talk in here. I have to keep working or I won’t get this done in time. It’s only fifteen days until Christmas.”

He looked at me like I’d sprouted elf ears. Clearly, he didn’t understand what a magical Christmas genie I was. All I needed was time to focus.

“Please. Just for a few minutes.”

I sighed. Maybe I could do with a break.

In the living room, my husband spent the better part of twenty minutes trying to talk me out of my crazy idea.

I sat listening, glancing at the sewing room door every three seconds. Nodded and smiled. Bounced my knee.

Meanwhile, time was wasting.

He cleared his throat, a sure sign that I needed to focus back on what he was saying. “I just don’t want you to spend three days in bed after Christmas is over.”

I popped up from the couch. “Don’t worry, I won’t. Back to work.” I gave him a quick peck on the cheek and scurried back into the sewing room. I thought I heard him mumble something about “manic,” but I didn’t have time to ask him to repeat himself.

I could get this done. Would get this done. And it would be an epic Christmas.

I wish I could say I took my husband’s wise advice that December 10. But I didn’t.

After raising a family, I felt like I’d pulled off enough Christmases to know what I was doing. I didn’t need help! Certainly not in the form of my husband’s counsel. Besides, isn’t everyone crazy-busy around Christmas?

True to form, I exhausted myself so much that I was sick in bed from December 26 until January 2. All for one day of celebration.

Skip forward to last year, when I discovered Kathi’s Christmas Project Planner. Not only was I able to have a joyful Christmas without driving my husband crazy, but I could record notes and thoughts about my Christmas plan for this year. (I already know I don’t need to buy wrapping paper and that I’m going to feature the blue and silver decorations I bought on clearance last December 27. It was fun to go shopping instead of recovering in bed!)

Each day, I tackled that day’s project without worrying about missing something or over stressing the details. My December went from frantic to peaceful and pleasant.

One of the most impactful pieces of advice Kathi gives is to find out what Christmas traditions and foods are most important to those you’ll be celebrating with. I was able to plan for the things my family thinks are important (homemade pumpkin pie with real whipped cream) and leave out what isn’t. Who knew that once they became adults, Christmas eve pajamas wouldn’t be cool anymore?

Through the process, I learned that the Christmas season is more than one day. Life can be joyful throughout the month of December with a little planning and setting of expectations.

The other positive change was scheduling everything I needed or wanted to do. That way I could have a realistic view of when things would get done and how much I could reasonably do. (My husband was very grateful that I didn’t take on a massive December sewing project last year.) We saved a ton of money on shipping alone. Instead of last-minute priority mail, we could send packages media mail with confidence they’d get there in plenty of time for Christmas.

This year, I’m already excited to plan for Christmas. I just received this year’s planner in the mail and it’s beautiful! I love that it has a place to write lists, menus, and notes inside. That way, when we’re shopping for gifts we don’t have to try to remember if we got our daughter a toaster already — it’s written down in the book. There are even pockets designed to tuck away recipes and receipts.

Since two of our kids are flying from the West coast to visit over Christmas, we’re delighted to have a houseful. But that will take some planning and preparation. We’ve already started having conversations about what traditions, activities, and food are the most important. Like last year, everything we expect to do will be on the calendar.

I’m glad I took notes about decorations, menus, and gifts last year because I wouldn’t have remembered any of those details. That saves me work.

Speaking of memories, I’m smiling as I begin this year’s Christmas planning. This morning it dawned on me that, for the first time, all of my planning and preparations last year freed me up to focus on what’s important. I don’t remember a hectic season of frantic work, or all of the details it took to pull off a wonderful Christmas.

The memories I do have are special family times and a sacred worship service.  It turns out that it would be our last candlelight communion led by a well-loved young pastor. He passed away from cancer a couple months later, leaving a wife and three beautiful daughters. I wouldn’t trade that precious time for anything, and I’m glad I wasn’t distracted by a chaotic schedule and Christmas stress.

Want to get in on the fun and join a book study for the Christmas Project Planner? There’s a group on Facebook and we’d love to have you.

Click here to join!

Lyneta Smith is a writer and editor who lives near Nashville, TN with her husband and an opinionated tortoiseshell cat. They enjoy holidays and family nights with their adult daughters more than ever. Lyneta is the author of Curtain Call: A Memoir, and has been published in numerous national magazines and newspapers.


5 Reasons You Need the Christmas Project Planner

5 Reasons You Need the Christmas Project Planner

If you’ve ever found yourself wrapping presents on Christmas Eve at 1:00 a.m. or attending a cookie exchange you dread every year, then this blog post is for you.

Here I give you five reasons why the Christmas Project Planner is the book you need for a clutter-free Christmas.


The planner has 21 projects broken down day by day to help you accomplish everything you want to get done for the holidays. Everything from making your meal plan to getting your Christmas cards out. The good news? You get to decide which projects you want to do and which ones you are going to skip this year. (For instance, most years we don’t send out Christmas cards. But this year, we have a cute puppy, so there WILL be cards.)

Breaking down the projects not only keeps you from being overwhelmed, it keeps you focused on the kind of holiday you really want to celebrate.

Planning Pages

 There are tons of pages for you to be able to plan out everything you want to get done this year, including:

  • Your Holiday Mission Statement
  • Christmas Card Checklist
  • Gift Ideas
  • Budgeting Sheets
  • Mailable Gifts
  • Elf Supplies
  • Wrapping Hints
  • Fun and Simple Recipes
  • How to Have a Clutter Free Christmas
  • Prep Your Kitchen Checklist
  • Christmas Eve Meals
  • Christmas Day Meals
  • 40 stocking stuffer ideas
  • Ideas to Refresh Yourself During the Holidays
  • The Best Places to Shop Online
  • Create a December Meal Plan
  • Food Planning and Shopping List

Post-it Notes

This? Is my favorite thing about the planner. You don’t have to write in the book! If you want to, you can copy the pages. (Yes, if you own the book and use the copies for your own personal use, it is totally fine to make copies of the book.) Or you can use Post-its throughout the book!

Perpetual Calendar

 On Project #5: Even Santa has a Strategy, I ask you to sit down and really think through your schedule for the holiday season. I want you to put in the important dates and events early, so you have enough time to do everything you need to do, but more importantly, everything you want to do.

I want you to take all the calendars in your family into consideration (including both you and your husband’s work schedules, your kid’s school calendar, your church’s calendar, etc.) and put major events onto your holiday calendar. And then, I want you to block off space for the things you really want to do: maybe you love to cut down the tree as a family, or bake a certain kind of cookie with your sister. All of that needs to go onto your calendar so you can make room for the things that matter.


 A planner? With pockets? This is everything my heart loves. As I’m running around town, checking things off of my Christmas to-do list, and want to bring list, save receipts and make notes to myself, I can just put everything into the planner to save for later. Everything in one place. Oh my heart. It is bursting with organized love!

Join us!

If you’ve found yourself nodding along and thinking, “I’ve got to tell my friends and family about this planner!” then I have the Facebook group for you.

Click here to join the Christmas Project Planner VIP Launch Team and help us spread the Christmas love!

Kathi Lipp is the author of 17 books including Overwhelmed, Clutter Free, The Get Yourself Organized Project, The Husband Project, Happy Habits for Every Couple, and I Need Some Help Here – Hope for When Your Kids Don’t Go According to Plan. She is the host of the Clutter Free Academy Podcast with Michele Cushatt and speaks at conferences across the US.

She and her husband Roger are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, CA. When she’s not dating her husband or hanging out with new puppy, Moose, Kathi is speaking at retreats, conferences and women’s events across the US.


A Meaningful Christmas — It’s All In the Planning

A Meaningful Christmas — It’s All In the Planning

It was the Christmas meltdown of all Christmas meltdowns.

That December I was going to make it the most magical Christmas ever for my family. Like a general going into battle, I laid out a list of decorating goals that would make Joanna Gaines dizzy. My repertoire of holiday dishes I wanted to cook would make the Pioneer Woman curl up in a corner and eat peanut butter straight from the jar.

But we were a new family. Roger and I had each brought two kids into the marriage and let’s just say we were all out of chill at this point. Everyone was grumpy and dreading the holidays. It was all up to me to make sure that we had the best Christmas ever so that this family could finally start getting along. (I know, you are already shaking your head. But as the newly minted mom of this blended family of six, I was desperate to make something, anything, work.)

So while I revved up all my best elf skills and practically killed myself to provide the Christmas I thought everyone wanted, the only person’s attitude that changed was mine. I started to resent everything the holiday stood for. Instead of joy and peace I was into full-blown bitter and anxiety. Not exactly the Christmas look I was going for.

I’m sure you’ve been smarter than I have in Yuletide past, but it may be a year of financial, time, or relational stress, and I want you to be realistic about what you can — and should — do during the season.

One of the best ways to get out from the overwhelm of Christmas is to decide early exactly what you are — and are not — going to do.  (And can I just tell you, deciding what not to do is the most freeing thing you can do to enjoy your Christmas.)

Think through all the things that you would like to do, and then figure out exactly how much time, energy, and money it will take to make those happen. And then you can decide which ones are actually going to contribute to you and your people’s joy this season.

And here’s the trick: the earlier you decide on all of this, the less strain it will be on your calendar, pocketbook and psyche.

When you plan ahead, you get to do the things you’ve always wanted to do, not just the things you’re expected to do.

If I wait to give my leftover time, money and energy to the places that are important to me (church, charities I care about, friends and family and neighbors in need) it will never happen. But if all of that can be part of my Christmas planning stage, I’m so much more likely to make it happen and have a holiday that actually represents my values.

Make a list of your priorities.

Some decisions can be made by you and you alone. If your family leaves Christmas up to you, then you get the most say in what happens or doesn’t happen. Some things to consider — will you:

  • Take a family photo (Do you need to buy new clothes or hire a photographer?)
  • Send Christmas cards (Will you have them printed? Do you have all the mailing addresses you need?)
  • Visit family and friends (What will be the cost of flights and hotels or Airbnbs?)
  • Exchange gifts with extended family (Be sure to include mailing costs, etc.)
  • Bake cookies
  • Go out with friends (Or could you host a “no-host” dinner at your house and have everyone bring something?)
  • Buy gifts for coworkers (Or, could you suggest everyone just go out to dinner together instead?)

Think through the activities that you actually want to do, and then think through the cost (time, money, energy) and decide which ones are worth it to you.

Talk to the stakeholders in your holiday.

What if you’ve decided you don’t get enough joy from making Christmas cookies, so you want to mark that off your list, but your 14-year-old son says it’s not Christmas without peppermint meringue cookies?

Then this is the year to start teaching your son how to make those cookies. Start to pass down the traditions that are important to each of your family members so they can fully participate in the holidays.

Want more tips for planning a peaceful Christmas?

With the Christmas Project Planner, we ask all of these questions and more, so you can have the intentional holiday that celebrates the things that are important to you. Each of the 21 projects is designed to help you create a meaningful, peaceful Christmas for you and your loved ones.

Today is the perfect time to order your planner and get started planning to avoid those Christmastime meltdowns and disappointments.

#376: Three Decisions to Make Today to Have the Best Christmas Ever

#376: Three Decisions to Make Today to Have the Best Christmas Ever

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

Kathi’s Secret To A Simple, Peaceful Christmas

Kathi’s Secret To A Simple, Peaceful Christmas


How to Have a Simple, Peaceful Christmas

Let me guess — your Christmas is… complicated.

I started off as a young bride with a complicated Christmas. Both my parents and my husband’s parents traditionally celebrated on Christmas Eve. Every year schedules were difficult to juggle. As a young twenty-something, I didn’t have the wisdom to say, “Hey, we’re trading off every year…” and instead disappointed everyone, all the time.

After my divorce, and remarriage, let’s just say the complication leveled up, by like 100.

Now my kids were not only splitting their time between their grandparents, but their parents as well.

And now we were dealing with my new husband’s family and his traditions. Oh, and his ex-wife.

Throw in a new son-in-law, and his side of the family, and let’s just say, it’s still complicated.

And let me guess? Your family is not feeling the same stress that you are. Somehow, the entire Christmas burden has been dropped squarely at your feet.

Do you ever feel that way? You love the idea of Christmas, but thinking of actually doing all the things starts to give you hives? Does the thought of jam-packed malls, maxed-out credit cards, overcrowded supermarkets, and endless to-do lists give you the feeling that maybe Scrooge was on to something?

Ready or Not, Christmas Is Coming

Christmas — whether you really love it, secretly dread it, or fall somewhere in between — shows up the same time every year, as unavoidable as your aunt’s fruitcake.

And here’s the thing: I really wanted to love Christmas again. But I think that requires a new approach to the holiday.

  1. Stop doing Christmas alone. When it comes to Christmas, it can feel like the loneliest time of the year. While the emphasis is on friends and family, often it can end up that you are putting on a show for everyone who gathers instead. But what if you spent the run-up to Christmas with others who are working toward not only a great gathering, but also a peaceful season?
  2. Have a plan, and then have fun. Yes, if you are trying to pull off Christmas there are a lot of to-dos. But amidst all those plans, I want you to plan for a little something extra – fun. Put in your calendar some time with friends to either get things done or just watch a Christmas movie. Have a few things to look forward to before the big day so that not all your Christmas spirit is dependent on one day of the month.
  3. Don’t push out the peace. You don’t have to do all the things – in fact, I don’t think you should. If you love Christmas cooking, but hate sending out Christmas cards, skip the cards and double down on making Christmas meals for everyone you love.

In my new book, The Christmas Project Planner, I’m going to provide you with easy-to-follow steps to reduce the stress of the holiday season, including tactics for how to

  • put together a holiday “command center” you’ll use year after year
  • determine a budget that won’t break the bank
  • gather your elf supplies
  • get your gift list together (including ideas for various ages and relationships)
  • collect your recipes and prep your kitchen

By putting into practice the tricks and tips that I’ve used over the years (and have learned from many of you!) you’ll finally be able to fully enjoy this most wonderful time of the year. Learn more about The Christmas Project Planner.


#375: A Christmas Plan For Those Who Are Overwhelmed By Christmas

#375: A Christmas Plan For Those Who Are Overwhelmed By Christmas

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