This post is sponsored by Airwick’s V.I.Poo

The holidays are in full swing, and while it’s supposed to be the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, sometimes it can also be the most stressful. I’ve had to actively work at making sure the holidays are festive and joyful instead of harried and tense. Here are some of my best tips for keeping the merriment alive.

Keep it simple
Let go of the social pressure to “do it all” and practice simplicity this holiday season. Opt out of traditions or decorating obligations that make you feel frazzled instead of joyful. It seems like Christmas is the time that every organization and acquaintance you know wants to get together. Prioritize the people that are important to you, but give yourself permission to say no. Even the best of us can get exhausted from three parties in a row. Schedule in down time, and opt out if things feel too squeezed.

Start early

Procrastination can make the week leading up to Christmas very stressful. Start early, and try to make deadlines for yourself. Set on a time to complete your holiday cards (if you are doing them), and a time to wrap gifts. Put your obligations on a timeline and try to stick to it so you aren’t backlogged with tasks on Christmas Eve. Get the kids involved in helping, too. Let them try their hand at baking, or addressing Christmas cards. In addition to setting up our own tree, we let the kids decorate the “kids tree.” They have a lot of fun with this – we let them decorate it exactly how they want, and it includes all of the ornaments they’ve made over the years. I also enlist the kids in helping me wrap gifts for their siblings. It may not be perfect, but it makes them feel important and it saves me time.

Come prepared for holiday parties

For most of us, the holidays mean spending more time out of our own home and in the homes of friends and families. Be prepared for those get-togethers in advance. Buy a couple of bottles of wine to have on-hand as a hostess gift. Grab some adult coloring books or art sets to take along for when the kids get bored. And don’t forget your secret weapon for when nature calls while you are out and about . . . Air Wick’s V.I.Poo can be stashed in your purse and is the perfect foul-odor neutralizer. Just a few sprays in the toilet before you go and you can help avoid the embarrassment of a smelly bathroom at someone else’s house. Incidentally, V.I.Poo is the perfect stocking stuffer for just about anyone in your life, because, as you know, everybody poops. It’s sure to bring a laugh or two when everyone is gathered around the tree.

Prioritize quality family time over gifts and perfection
Try to cultivate a holiday season that is less about spending and more about making memories and giving presence. Give your kids Christmas traditions to remember that aren’t necessarily based on spending money or getting presents. Let go of the pressure to do everything perfectly. Your Christmas tree doesn’t have to look like a magazine. You don’t need to change your pillows or plates for the season. It’s okay if you skip the mailed cards. It’s okay to bring pre-made food to the class party. It’s fine to have a slacker potluck with friends instead of a perfectly plated meal. Focus on togetherness and let yourself off the hook for having a Pinterest-perfect Christmas.

Clean out before opening presents

It never fails – Christmas afternoon is spent figuring out where to store all the new stuff. Try clearing out a space before Christmas day. Ask your children to find 10 toys to donate, and do an audit of their closets. Get rid of the unused to make room for the new.