Home Life Style Episode #160: Christmas Crafts + Homemade Decorations

Episode #160: Christmas Crafts + Homemade Decorations



This week, we’re chatting about Christmas crafts, planning holiday decorations, and our best ideas for making the holidays more enjoyable (and less stressful!).

We’re also sharing a few budget-saving renovation tips.

You can find the podcast posts archive here.

A big thank you to our sponsors! Check out the offers from BetterHelp, Shopify, Everylywell, and How to Buy a Home Podcast. And, if you’re looking for a specific code you heard on the podcast, you can see a full list on this page!

Show Notes:

Best decoration you made in the past that you still love:

Emma – White yarn wreath (check out our Holiday Special for instructions).

Elsie – Heirloom Advent Calendar

Epic craft you want to start:

Emma – Birdhouse Christmas village

Elsie – Ceramic Christmas village

Most nostalgic craft to do with kids: 

Emma – Cookie decorating and coloring templates from Childhood Magic.

Elsie – Paper snowflakes, paper chains, and a baking marathon.

Best movie/wine craft to do AFTER the kids go to bed:

Emma – Garland and jewelry making.

Elsie – Stained glass cookies, homemade gifts, and wrapping gifts.

Decor you want to make: 

Emma – Creating a space in her home to host a craft night party

Elsie – A ceramic Christmas village

Ways to make the holidays LESS stressful:

  • Your happiness and joy are the only things that matter
  • Make a small to-do list
  • Spending quality time is more important than the details
  • Have low expectations
  • Make a holiday playlist
  • Do everything you can as early as possible
  • Book an extra therapy session
  • Create boundaries

Voicemail question: What are your top tips to save money on renovations?

  • Try to book some of the main elements separately yourself instead of using a contractor.
  • Focus your room design around one stunning element that you love.
  • Shop sales for the really impactful things.

Listen to Episode #43: How To Be Your Own General Contractor

Listener Question from IG: Describe the perfect mom/daughter/son date in 20 years:

Emma – Go to a NASCAR race

Elsie – Go to lunch, a bookstore, and get a pastry

Miss an Episode? Get Caught Up!

Episode 160 Transcript:

Emma: You’re listening to the A Beautiful Mess podcast, your cozy comfort listen. This week, we’re chatting about Christmas crafts, planning holiday decorations, and our best ideas for making the holidays more enjoyable and less stressful. We’re also sharing a few budget-saving renovation tips.

Elsie: All right. Also, I wanted to shout out that this week is voting week. So if you haven’t yet, please vote. We should all get out there and vote, right?

Emma: Yeah, if you’re in the US, it’s time. Yeah. So as we have listeners, they’re like why did you take off? They’re in Australia and they don’t know what Memorial Day is. You know what I mean? I’ve always been like, oh, yeah, I’m sorry we forgot about you. We love you too. Anyway, every one of us vote this week.

Elsie: It’s a big one. It’s an important one. Okay, so this week, we’re talking about best of Christmas crafting. I love this subject. So now that Halloween has ended, I feel like there’s two schools of thought. There are the people who feel that you should preserve fall at all cost until after Thanksgiving, which I respect. However, I just think our Thanksgiving is too close to Christmas for that to be feasible for me to feel like I got enough out of my Christmas trees. So I’m in the second school of thought, where the day after Halloween, it is on. It is Christmas season. This morning, I started singing Christmas carols in my car and our seven year old started screaming it out right as soon as I started. It’s on. Yeah, it is definitely on. So that’s the direction that we are coming from or the perspective that we’re coming from. If you’re someone who likes to wait until after Thanksgiving, we love that for you and you can just save these ideas for a couple more weeks.

Emma: I mean, here’s another way to look at it. I think, think about nature. She doesn’t have hard starts and stops. She eases her way from fall into winter and we can too with our indoor decor. So why not? It’s just a long transition. There’s no point in having these hard dates. That’s not necessary. Follow Mother Nature. 

Elsie: That’s true. I will say even though I decorate for Christmas, the day after Halloween, I still can do like a dining room that’s all Thanksgiving for Thanksgiving. So it won’t be like Christmas in every room. Thanksgiving will still have its place and we will have the greatest pie making marathon of all time. So we’re not skipping over it. I don’t think. I love Thanksgiving. I actually enjoy it more now than I used to when I was younger. 

Emma: I love Thanksgiving but to me, it’s a lot about the food, which I’m not saying it’s not about the decor. It certainly is. But I am Bob in Bob’s Burgers. That is an exciting day for me because it’s just all about cooking and eating and I love it.

Elsie: Explain what Bob from Bob’s Burger’s is like because I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Emma: Well, in Bob’s Burgers every year when they do a Thanksgiving episode because they’ll do a holiday episode for each of the holidays. Bob just like, if you’re not familiar with the show, he runs a burger restaurant called Bob’s Burgers and the whole family works there. Anyway, so Bob loves cooking. Yeah, so he loves cooking. So Thanksgiving is understandably kind of his jam. So every year he gets a little nuts with thanksgiving. It’s kind of like a running theme in the show that sometimes the kids are like Dad you’re taking this too serious. Thanksgivings not fun. You’re just so militant about the cooking. There’s one year he’s trying to do a special turkey and it keeps going wrong. He’s kind of losing his mind because he’s so excited about the turkey. I don’t know, I feel like that’s one of my favorite TV shows. I feel like I oscillate between being all of the characters. But in the Thanksgiving episode, I am Bob because I am so excited about cooking.

Elsie: That’s true. One of the angriest times I ever saw you is when we did a Friendsgiving when I had just moved into my first house in Nashville and I didn’t really have a proper kitchen setup kitchen. She was losing her sh*t. 

Emma: It’s like you don’t have a spatula. Why don’t you have a spatula? What kind of kitchen is this?

Elsie: It’s a cute kitchen. That looks good.

Emma: I was like it’s a stage prop. I need an actual kitchen.

Elsie: Yes, actually, every time Emma visits my house, she gives me at least one or two or three notes about how I can improve my kitchen. Through the years I do have a very improved kitchen from taking those notes. So yes.

Emma: I was making a list for you the last time I visited as we were doing all our Christmas cookies because I was like she didn’t have enough cooling racks. It’s good. It’s all good.

Elsie: Okay, so before we jump into talking about all of our decorating. Let’s talk a little bit about planning holiday decor, like planning a collection of decor that you can use year after year. I think that in the blogger world, we have our very capitalist agenda. I’m just kidding. Sometimes, because of working with sponsors and things like that, it makes it seem like we buy all new stuff every year. That’s definitely not actually true. Also, it’s not a thing that anyone would do who wasn’t a blogger working with a new sponsor every Christmas. So, yeah, let’s talk a little bit about building up a dream collection. So I have my Christmas closet, as I hope everyone knows. It’s like the main thing about me that you need to know is that I have a Christmas closet and a whole Halloween closet. It’s my pride and joy. It’s like my thing to do if I feel sad is opening the doors and just look at all my organized decorations. So I’ve been building this up now for 15 years. Every year, I buy one or two things that are really special and beautiful. That hopefully I’ll keep till I die. That’s my idea of like building up a Christmas archive or whatever. So yeah, tell us a little bit about yours.

Emma: Yeah, I also have a Christmas decoration area. Also, I just moved into my new house. So this is like the first time we’ve recorded since I’ve moved. We’ve now slept in the house three nights. Anyway, I already have an area for all my holiday decor. So Christmas has its own area in this giant utility closet that’s kind of near a kitchen. It’s better than it sounds. Then Halloween has its own spot, too. They’re in different areas. They used to all be together in the murder basement but now they’ve got their own areas and it’s not as scary. It’s really nice. So I have one of those industrial metal shelves and a whole bunch of giant Tupperware that has all my Christmas stuff in it. Then of course, boxes of Christmas trees. So yeah, and I have, how many Christmas trees do I have? I think I just have two now but I used to have three. I honestly don’t know what happened to my white tree so I think I’m gonna have to get another one this year. I don’t know. We’ve moved too much recently. This year, I’m kind of feeling like, okay, now’s the time to start buying things and reusing things too, of course.

Elsie: Building a collection, especially for the house.

Emma: Yes, because I’m hoping that we stay here a long, long time. You never know the future so who knows. But I’m very tired of moving as anyone is who just did it. So I’m like, okay, this is it for forever. So now, hopefully. So like, okay, we can I can really think through. But whenever we looked at this house the first time, I knew immediately where I wanted my main Christmas tree because there’s a perfect spot for it. One of the first things I said, and it was like the middle of, it wasn’t even summer yet and Trey was just like, okay, you’re already thinking about where the Christmas tree would go.

Elsie: I always think about that when I’m house shopping. I think that that’s a very important detail to have like a Christmas tree window.

Emma: It’s a bummer when your house doesn’t have a clear spot. I think obviously, if you have space, you should have more than one Christmas tree, of course. In a way, they’re just really cozy lighting for a solid two or three months, however long you have them up. So anyway, I’m excited to kind of think of this house as a more permanent part of my life, hopefully, because I haven’t had that for some time now. 

Elsie: Yeah, that makes so much sense. I think that building a collection where there’s certain things that you use in certain rooms every year,  things like garlands. You shouldn’t have to buy those things more than once, get them perfect for the room, and then use them every year. Then you can switch up, like if you want to change up your colors. You can do that with smaller things. For the main stuff I keep all of my main stuff is neutral and my seven year old thinks it’s too much white. That’s what she said when we were shopping the other day for garland. It’s a lot of white. I mean, I’m not gonna lie, but I love it. I feel like it’s very easy to find lots of different ways to use it. So yeah, I’ve kind of gone the neutral route for my collection. But yeah, I think that it is so much fun to build up a collection through the years. We also have a tradition of getting a special ornament every year and they’re pretty random. A lot of times we get them from Anthropology because they have really cute quirky ornaments and also World Market has really cute ones. So anyway, each year we add at least one special meaningful ornament to our tree. We have some that we got in China. We have one that’s a replica of the Madonna Inn Hotel, things like that. Just things we’ve done through the years and I think it’s really special.

Emma: Oh yeah, I love getting a special ornament every year. My mother-in-law gives us one every year and it’s like a Hallmark. Of course, she started when Oscar was born too. So we have a whole tree that’s just full of Trey’s ornaments from childhood, ones that are mine since I joined the family, and then now we’re starting to get little ones for Oscar too. It’s a very full tree already, which is very cute.

Elsie: So sweet. Okay, so let’s jump in. The first thing we have is best decoration you made in the past but you still love it and use it every year. So yeah, this episode is all about crafting and homemade decorations. So a lot of the stuff we’re going to talk about in this episode are things you can make. So mine is the advent calendar. It’s called an heirloom advent calendar, maybe. It’s on A Beautiful Mess. We will link to all of this in the show notes at abeautifulmess.com/podcast this week. The heirloom advent calendar is a high commitment project. I would say it takes about a week. It is a lot of work but it’s gorgeous. I love pulling it out every year. Mine is little stockings. So there’s 24 little stockings. I love doing it every year. The last few years, we did little small toys and small candies and things like that. But this year, we were talking about it and we decided to actually do a different method. We decided to do a song of the day every day because we just feel the kids aren’t really getting much out of the little small things, the little treats. They get a lot of stuff like that at school and daycare and things like that. It’s just not like at this point meaningful to us. So we thought to do a Christmas song everyday will be so fun because we have those Google Home players. You can just request any song anytime and our kids love it. So I’m excited for that. I think it’ll be a really fun tradition.

Emma: So in the advent calendar, you’re planning to put pieces of paper that say a different song each day. 

Elsie: Yes. 

Emma: Then it’s like they opened it and can listen to it while they’re eating breakfast or whatever. Like that’s the idea. 

Elsie: Song of the day. Christmas song of the day because my kids have certain songs certain soundtracks, like the Christmas classics, like the Burl Ives, that type of stuff that they really know. Well, so I think in the calendar, I’m gonna put more obscure and slash maybe sort of like lighthearted stuff like the Jonas Brothers Christmas. Stuff like that, that like we wouldn’t normally listen to I think would be fun.

Emma: I love it. Yeah, trying to think too maybe you could put some from musical. 

Elsie: That’s a good idea.

Emma: That sounds so fun. I love that.

Elsie: Have you made anything in the past that you still use every year?

Emma: Yes. So one thing that I get out every year, I feel like I’ve made it maybe three or four years ago, quite a while is this white yarn wreath. We actually taught how to make it in the holiday special last year if anyone remembers that. Depending on what kind of yarn you use, the wreath can turn out really different but it’s just a very simple classic craft. It’s just really fun. I just pull it out every year and I always find a place to put it because I made it very simple and neutral. It’s just white fluffy yarn and then it has a red bow. So I’ve had it on doors before, on the inside because if it got rained on it would not be great. I’ve put it above a mantle. I’ve put it all over before so I’m excited to pull her out this year and put her somewhere and so that. Then also last year, I started making ornaments with Oscar so I have like a little stocking that has his footprint on it. Because you know, babies can’t paint gotta use your feet. So that’s from last year so we’ll do something this year too. I made one for me and one for the grandmas too. So we’ll do something like that this year as well.

Elsie: Cute. I love to do that. We are definitely having some homemade ornaments on our website childhoodmagic.com this season. They’re so much fun to make. I started pulling my stuff out just today and it is magical to see the little handprint ornaments every year. 

Emma: Then, what about any epic crafts that you want to start this year? 

Elsie: So I have a vision. I’ve been thinking about this for several years now and I haven’t taken the leap to start it so maybe this year will be the year so I really want to make a ceramic Christmas Village. So something that is classically inspired like the type, our grandma has one. Most people’s grandmas have one. The village with the music and it has different shops and different houses and you can put fake snow on the ground under it and put trees around it. A lot of times it goes in a window or along a bench, things like that. So I just did a quick search on Etsy for ceramic houses blank and there are so many options. So I think that this is a great thing to start. For me, it’s going to be like a me project. This is not a kid’s project, like the thing with the birdhouses that we do for Halloween, where they’re mostly really little kid looking. I think this will be more like a me project because this is like the dollhouse, like the adult dollhouse part of my brain, where I can make it really detailed and really perfect in a color scheme and all of that. Moms deserve some crafts of their own. If you’re a mom, you still deserve some crafts of your own that aren’t all crafts where your kids are at the center of it, even though obviously most of them are going to be that way.

Emma: Yeah, I didn’t stop loving crafting for myself, just because I became a mom.

Elsie: It’s true, but for me, I’m gonna have to hide it from my kids because I can’t just like go out and put all the supplies out and make it look all fun. No way. They would not handle that. So if I have to do it out in the open, then I might have to get them some birdhouses or something but we’ll see.

Emma: Maybe you could make one with your pottery and kiln skills. Obviously, you should buy them from Etsy, like the cool ones that you’re looking at but maybe you could make one too. That would be kind of fun. If it doesn’t break.

Elsie: Yeah, my pottery skills are very rustic right now. So I don’t know. 

Emma: You want some elaborate?

Elsie: Yeah, I want something very detailed. 

Emma: I get that. Well, what we’re starting this year is the birdhouse Christmas Village. So we started a Halloween one this year. So Oscar loves stickers as most one and a half year olds probably do. So he loves stickers. So we made a Halloween birdhouse this year for the spooky village. I painted it orange and then he put stickers all over it, pumpkin stickers. So I thought we would do a similar one for Christmas so we can have a Christmas Village too. So we’re going to start that this year. So I’ll probably paint it white or red or something and then I can put stickers all over it as that’s his skill level. It was cute too because he loved doing it. I was so excited. I was like, yes, we’re crafting, it’s happening. Then once we were done, the next day he wanted it back and he wanted to take all the stickers off.

Elsie: That’s funny.

Emma: So like all month, I just kept gluing the pumpkins back on and he would want to pry them off. There were some days I didn’t let him have it but then I was like, you know, I’ll just let him peel them off. That’s funny. So I kind of just let him partially destroy it. I feel like that was part of it this year. Oh, well.

Elsie: That’s sweet. I love that

Emma: Most nostalgic craft to do with kids? So this is all about kids crafting.

Elsie: Yes. For us, the number one craft that we love to do is paper snowflakes. So for the past few years, the back of our house is kind of like a fishbowl. It’s windows, windows, windows, windows. it is nothing but windows. So for the past few years, we’ve covered all of those with snowflakes, which takes about a week to just get them all up and enjoy them. We usually leave them up through January. I leave them up pretty far past when I take down the trees and everything, just because honestly it is so much work. The other thing is that once you get used to the feeling like it makes it feel like you’re living in a snow globe, it’s kind of hard to take them down. It feels kind of sad. Our seven year old, she started when she was five, she loves making the snowflakes. You can really tell a lot of them are like made by a little kid but it’s adorable. It’s perfect. It’s magical so we love that. The other thing that we love to make, that also our four year old can help with a lot, is paper chains. So paper chains, I love. I just think they’re so cute. It just shows that it’s a house with little kids decorated for Christmas like and they’re helping. So I think it’s really really fun to make those. You can spend some time on it. We did some earlier this summer for our daughter’s birthday party. It’s just really cute and fun. Then my last thing, the nostalgic thing is the baking marathon. So I take my baking marathon very seriously. I will admit that there are many of the elebroate projects where I want to do it my own way, like my own focused way without the kids like decorating cookies and stuff. But the thing that’s cool about it is that you can always just save all the supplies and then let them go to town with you’re done. So that’s how I do it. I do my own special perfect looking cookies and then I let my kids do their cookies afterward. It’s like the best of both worlds. It’s so magical. Yeah, they love it every single time and their cookies do turn out so adorable.

Emma: Yeah, we made cupcakes last time I was there with you guys. They went wild. I’m sure they were crunchy.

Elsie: The baking tin full of sprinkles, where you fill every hole with different sprinkles, that you can keep out for weeks and keep using it. That’s definitely a pro tip, I think.

Emma: You just gotta keep an eye out because they just start eat the sprinkles when you’re not looking. You gotta be like, hey, take one handful of sprinkles. So we have a couple of things for Oscar’s age we’re going to do this year. So one I recently bought and I need to still put it together. It’s one of those, I think it’s called a Learning Tower. It’s basically the little kind of stepstool thing that he can climb up but it’s kind of got a tower around it. So essentially, he can be more at the kitchen counter and be a part of whatever is happening. So I was gonna let him also do some cookie decorating this year, which I fully expect will go pretty poorly but he will love it. He loves colors and all that so I’ll make little royal icing things and let him kind of squirt it and it’ll get everywhere. But it’ll be really cute. He just is very interested in cooking stuff. That’s kind of what I’m planning for his Christmas present is little toy pots and pans and things. He has a little kitchen and it’s in his bedroom right now but we’re thinking about putting it out in the kitchen at some point. We just kind of want to paint it the same color as our kitchen cabinet. So it’s like we have a kitchen and you have your own kitchen, anyway. So I was gonna get him his own little pots and pans and different things like that because he likes to play with all that stuff. So I’m excited to get this Learning Tower set up so that he can be more a part of cooking and watching us do things on the countertop because he’s very interested. So I think you’ll enjoy that. So that and then the other thing is, and this is so simple, but he likes painting with the like, I don’t know. I think of it as like the bingo stampers, where you just kind of stamp with it. I don’t know the name of it but he loves to paint with those at his daycare. So he’s gonna get some of those. Also let them use crowns and just color in some templates from childhoodmagic.com, holiday templates we have. Then I will cut them out and those will just be little decorations to put like on our refrigerator or around the house. So it’s like he made his own little Christmas tree garland or whatever but all he has to do is stamp it or color or whatever. So that kind of thing.

Elsie: I did the samples for the Christmas tree template and it was so fun. They’re really cute templates. Everyone should download them. They’re free. If you want to do some fun kids’ crafts and then my kids did fingerprint ornaments on them with just like paint on just one finger. It was fun.

Emma: So our next one is best movie or wine crafts. So things you can do after your kids go to bed or if you don’t have kids, and you can do them anytime. Things that are more for adults.

Elsie: Yeah, so I already mentioned my complicated baking projects. A couple of years ago, I made the stained glass cookies for the first time I definitely want to do those again. Things like that are so much fun. I love making homemade gifts. I only make a couple each year, like a couple of like scrapbooks or things like that, I think are really meaningful but they do take a lot of time. For me it takes probably three to five sittings to finish a project like that. Then the other thing that I love to do, just for myself with a glass of wine with some Christmas music is wrapping gifts. I love putting time and energy into wrapping gifts and making everything match and make everything cute. I love the yarn pom poms and all of that sort of thing. That’s my fun things that I like to do without the kids. I definitely think it’s fun to let the kids do some wrapping too. The thing I like to do with them is to wrap a present in just plain craft paper and then let them paint a little bit on the outside of it. That’s pretty cute.

Emma: That is cute.

Elsie: Yes. Do you have any favorites for yourself?

Emma: Yeah, so as far as a holiday craft, I’m definitely going to make some kind of garland this year. I was thinking something with basically like candy cane foam or forms and it gets wrapped in yarn. I feel like I’m always doing some kind of weird yarn craft while I’m watching movies at night, just like something to do with your hands if that makes any sense. So I’m going to do that for holiday and then a craft that’s not necessarily a holiday I’ve just kind of been wanting to get into it lately is I wanted to do a little bit more jewelry making. I haven’t done that in a couple of years. I’ve been seeing all these necklaces that are basically like the shell necklaces. I feel like it was a very like Abercrombie and Fitch look when we were in high school but now everyone’s doing it very colorful. I have a couple of kits in my Amazon cart but I may also just buy something locally or whatever. But yeah, for me, that’s definitely something that I will only do when Oscar is not around because it’s just a bunch of tiny things that he’ll want to put in his mouth. So that is a mommy only craft. It’s also just like something that you can set out on a coffee table so it’s easy to do while you’re watching TV or just hanging out.

Elsie: That’s the same thing in our household, jewelry making kits are probably the one thing that I won’t do with the kids right now. Hide it at all cost because they just always get spilled everywhere. They’re just not at the motor skills level yet where they can make a completed bracelet without actually spilling the whole thing. So it’s just like a very frustrating project for them. But yeah, I know in a couple of years, it will be super fun and I love making them. But yeah, we’ve had a couple of premature experiences with jewelry making that were a big mistake.

Emma: That’s always fun when you get out all the crafts stuff and you realize pretty quickly like, ooh, this was not for their level. 

Elsie: It happens. Yeah, that’s all good. Just a little encouragement slash pep talk for anyone who’s a mom or an aunt who’s crafting with kids the season, whenever you feel discouraged because it’s like 10 minutes or maybe 20 minutes of them having fun and like an hour of you cleaning up and setting it up and all of that, that is normal. That is how it always is. It’s kind of supposed to be that way. Just know that you’re doing your part. I remember basically every single craft that my parents set up for me, my aunts, my uncles, my grandparents, whenever I was a kid, those are very memorable experiences and they’re definitely worth the extra effort. But give yourself a little treat because they are effort.

Emma: They really are. It’s fun and it’s cute but it’s a lot of just like chores.

Elsie: Yes. It’s a lot of sweeping. Okay, Emma now that you’re moved into your new house for your first year, is there any decor that you want to make like anything custom, anything special that you could use year after year?

Emma: Yeah, so like I mentioned, I really want to do some kind of garland because essentially we have a kind of curved stairs. That sounds really grand and it is grand but it’s kind of, I don’t know. I’ll show it in a photo at some point probably. But at any rate, it’s the perfect rail or banister to put a garland on so I’m excited to have a perfect spot for that. Then also one thing about moving into a house and feeling like you’re finally set up is I’m really excited to hopefully have some kind of craft night party for the holidays with friends or maybe we’ll do cookie decorating or maybe we’ll do both. I don’t know but I’m just excited to have friends over and feel like I have my own space and just like enough space that people can come and hang out and make stuff and chat.

Elsie: You should have a party for sure. Christen your new space. 

Emma: Make some mulled wine, you know, something like that.

Elsie: Magical. Yeah, for me, I think the thing I want to do is focus on little things that I can use year after year. This year, I don’t have a big idea. So I think the village is the right thing for me. Maybe I’ll do like one or two. I don’t know. I kind of feel like I have to start with three. Am I being too much? If I just make one ceramic village piece that’s not enough is it? Is three the bare minimum?

Emma: I will say that was kind of my saying when I started those spooky village with Oscar and as we are going to start the Christmas Village, it’s like one isn’t really a village. It’s just like one random little thing. So it’s almost like you could feel yourself wanting to make two more just to go beside it because something about three feels like okay, now it’s a village. It’s not just like a random thing sitting on a shelf. It’s a little collection. So I get it. 

Elsie: I better order those today. But yeah, I think that for this year, I think that’s my thing that I know I could use year after year. 

Emma: I love it. 

Elsie: Okay, so we had a question on Instagram, it was can you share some ways to make the holidays more fun and less stressful? I thought that this was such a good question. I mean, obviously, it’s magical. We know the real reason for the season is spending time with family and things like that. But it is so easy to get kind of in a stress cycle. When I feel really overwhelmed with too much to do, I kind of can’t be in a good mood. So I’ve written down a couple of tips for how I have sort of like, a lot of it is mental, like mindset exercises. But here’s some things that have worked for me because I think that preserving your peace and your joy during the holidays is what you should do at all costs. Okay, so the first one is, so this is actually the same exact advice that I give for people going to Disney World with toddlers is experiencing your Christmas with toddlers. It’s the same thing. Your happiness and your joy is the only thing that matters. Being in a good mood for your kid is really important. So don’t give yourself a to-do list that is going to cause you stress. Give yourself a small easy to do list where if you don’t get it all done, it doesn’t matter. You realize that the only thing that really matters is the quality time that you’re having and the things that you’re able to enjoy together. So I kind of think just don’t bite off more than you can handle and the details don’t really matter. So if you buy supplies for ten crafts and you only make six of them, put the rest of them in the closet for next year. Next year, you’ll enjoy them at some point. I have two gingerbread houses in my closet right now from last year that we will still make this year. It doesn’t really matter because we don’t eat them anyway like I think it’s fine. So the low expectations is absolutely key. My second tip is to make a playlist. So for better or for worse, my family’s Christmas playlist is the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas album. I’m not gonna lie, it can be so annoying but also it is peak joy for my kids. They do all the voices. They love it. It’s their ultimate thing that they love. So it’s what we do in the car when we’re driving, especially like if there’s anything like looking at Christmas lights, things like that. If we just need to like fix the mood in the day, that is really helpful. So find yourself a playlist or even just a couple songs that are your go to that you go to over and over. Then my last one is to do everything you can as early as possible. So for me, it’s November 1st and I already have two Christmas trees up in my house. I’ll probably have all my decorations up in the next two days because I enjoy that. I want to just be able to enjoy them. Also, I have already started Christmas shopping and I’ll probably be done, I’ll definitely be done way before Black Friday, probably by like November 10th or so. That’s really early for some people but I realized about myself years ago, that if I still have a long to-do list the week or two before Christmas, it’s really gonna kind of mess up how much I’m able to be present and enjoy the little things that we want to do at the last minute like the family gatherings, the baking marathon, all of that. I hope that’s helpful. I really think the mindset of kind of nothing matters except for just having a good vibe and enjoying it is a golden ticket. 

Emma: I agree. Yeah, the only thing I would add is, I think part of holidays, like a stressful thing can be having to do with expectations with others, whether that’s your family or even just a friend group or possibly an employer. Just stuff that’s it’s kind of hard to balance everything. So number one, if you don’t know therapy is awesome. So maybe book an extra session or whatever you need and talk through some things that you might be worried about with holidays. Maybe you always have a weird conversation with your brother-in-law and you’re worried about that or whatever. It can be weird random small things that kind of stress us out or get us down. So don’t feel like that stuff doesn’t matter and you taking care of yourself in the season is celebrating the season. So definitely do that, therapy is awesome. Then also boundaries are really important throughout the year, including the holidays. If there’s anything that is really important to you or something that’s really important to another family member, it can be really good to like talk through expectations and boundaries and how schedules are going to play out or who’s hosting what or whatever. It can be really good to try to do that early so that you can navigate any hurt feelings or changing expectations that might need to happen so that everyone can have a happy holiday season. Because you having a happy holiday as well as your family and whoever else you might be celebrating with is really important. For me, I often kind of forget about myself and focus on everyone else. So if you’re like that too, then don’t do that because you don’t need to. No one’s asking you to be a Christmas martyr. So you can have a good holiday too.

Elsie: That is A plus. Very, very good advice.

Emma: We’ll see if I do it.

Elsie: To find those things that make the schedule work and stick to them because I do think that we can push ourselves too hard. Because we feel like we have to, and maybe we don’t have to.

Emma: Yeah, and I think just trying to navigate that with other people is sometimes hard. You feel nervous to bring up, oh, we’re not going to do Christmas Day at your house. We want to do a different thing because it doesn’t fit in the schedule but we still love you and we want to do something. So let’s make a plan for that. Things like that are hard. They really are but they’re important. I think if you get a jumpstart on it that helps because then people don’t start planning and getting their hopes up too much. I think working through that is important for most people because I think that’s one thing that makes holidays hard is they’re so special for family and loved ones. Also getting along with others is sometimes hard because we’re all different. We have different ideas, and different expectations. So I think that really thinking that through along with what cookies you’re gonna make and what garland you’re gonna hang can be really helpful.

Elsie: I love you, Em. That’s a good one. Okay, so we also have a voicemail question. So let’s go ahead and play that real quick.

Voicemail: Hi, Elsie and Emma. I am a longtime reader of the blog, probably close to start. It’s been a long time. But I am about to start my first major home renovation, adding a master bathroom and redoing my kitchen, and adding a second entrance. I mean, my biggest dream model ever. I would just love to hear your number one favorite budget-saving tips, like time of year to shop or surprising ways to save money on your renovation when it’s big like this. It’s going to be next summer so I have a lot of lean time so I really want to be smart about this. I would love to hear your advice. Thank you.

Elsie: Okay, I have two tips that can be big wins to help you save money during a renovation and also stress. First of all, I think doing a renovation is just inherently stressful and painful. There will be moments and I think to leave a little bit more capacity in your life for just dealing with it is really smart. Okay, so a couple of things that have helped me, one is a money saving thing. Instead of getting one contractor to do everything, try to book some of the main elements separately yourself. For example, booking your own painter, booking your own plumber, or booking your own kitchen counter install, things that can save 1000s or 10s of 1000s of dollars off the top of your budget. They’re not that much more difficult. You can still have a contractor who handles many of the elements but I think that some of them, it’s almost the same amount of work to book them yourself and just have a couple more people that you’re communicating with. You can save a lot of the markup there. Also, if you’re really interested in this subject, episode 43 is all about how to be your own general contractor. So I’ve done that before a bunch of times. That episode we did with our friend Ting who he always does his own general contractor work as well. Then my second tip, this is a design tip and also a budget tip is to focus your room design around one stunning element that you just love. I think that if you do that, first of all, you know what the highlight of your room is going to be. So you already have a better design than someone who’s just trying to make a nice room or a good room or a better room. You have something, a place for your eye to focus kind of like the star of the show. Then also it can help you focus your budget. I guess the star element doesn’t have to be an expensive thing but if it is, you know that the rest of the items in your room and the rest of the elements of your room you can try to not always choose the more expensive option on some of them. Choose the less expensive options just because they’re not the star and it’s not their play or whatever.

Emma: Yeah, they’re the quirky best friend in this romcom so they can just be what they are.

Elsie: Okay, do you have any tips because I know Emma, you are just like fresh out of, or maybe not even out of it yet a big renovation?

Emma: Yeah, I mean, I think the tips you gave are great. The only other one, I would add that I feel like it’s kind of obvious, but I have some things around it, is shop sales for really impactful things. It can be overwhelming to feel like you have to get everything on sale. That’s too overwhelming, at least it is for me. If it is your full-time job to do this renovation, maybe you can do that because you have the time to do all that special shopping. But I think of it as like, let’s just focus on the big wins here. An example from our renovation is we needed to buy all new appliances. The house didn’t really come with very many appliances and the ones that did were extremely old. So I waited for a memorial day sale and bought all of our appliances during that sale. It saved us 1000s and 1000s of dollars. The only thing that we had to plan for was I knew that all that stuff was going to go into our empty garage so I wouldn’t have to pay for a storage unit. So if you didn’t have an option like that, it may not work for you, you have to think through like where are you going to store it until it gets installed, how’s that going to work. Some sales are obvious like this coming season, there probably be some big things for Black Friday. So if you’re shopping for certain things, that might be a good time to hit that up. Also, if you just have a certain supply that you love, like a really a special tile, and you know you’re gonna need quite a bit of it to redo your shower room or whatever. Call the company. Call them up or the store that you’re going to buy it at and say hey, I’m looking to buy a whole lot of this product, do you have any sales that are coming up in the next month or two because I’m not in a rush. They’ll tell you. It could be in two months, they’re going to have a big sale that’s like their anniversary sale, you never know. Then if you’re able to have this longer timeline, then you can potentially buy during that sale. You can also by the way, just sometimes ask like, would it be possible for me to get that sale price now, it never hurts to ask. Especially smaller companies, if they know you’re going to be spending a lot with them, they may do it. So it’s never hurtful or bad to ask a question like that, especially for big wins, like I’m buying all of my flooring or all of my whatever, then I think it’s worth it to make those kinds of phone calls or research when a sale will be and wait for it.

Elsie: Nice. That’s a great tip. So we had a listener question come through on Instagram. I think this is probably one of the sweetest questions we’ve ever had. It is describe your perfect mom-daughter or mom-son date, 20 years from now. 

Emma: 20 years from now a date I would go on with Oscar. 

Elsie: Yes. 

Emma: Something you do with your girls? That’s cute.

Elsie: I thought it was so sweet. I actually have spent a lot of time imagining my kids as adults and imagining our relationship. I would love to travel with them. There’s so many things I would love to do when they’re older, that we’re just not ready for yet. But yeah, for my perfect date, I just put go to lunch, go to a bookstore, get a couple new books, and then maybe a pastry or something like that. I mean, I don’t know, I guess I don’t have anything. It’s just so fun to imagine though. Being friends with them as an adult is probably one of my greatest goals slash things I’m looking forward to in the future.

Emma: Me too. I love hanging out with our mom and our parents so the idea of doing that one day. I think that a perfect day so obviously, my son’s only 16 months. So his tastes and interests are going to change a lot in the next 20 years, I would imagine. But let’s assume that some of the things he’s into now he’s into then. Currently, Oscar is very into cars. So we could go to a NASCAR race or something that would be fun. See like some kind of car race or something. I’ve never even done that so I think it’d be fun to do.

Elsie: Yeah, I haven’t either. I would be scared. I don’t wanna see a car going fast ever. 

Emma: No, no, I get it. I think it’s pretty loud. Like I said, I’ve never been to one so I don’t know. My impression is it can be pretty loud so there’s that element. But I do like to go to things with people when they’re excited for it so that you can watch their excitement. That’s the most fun when someone’s way into a certain musical artist and you’ve never heard of them and all of a sudden you’re at a concert. I don’t know. It’s just fun to watch someone else’s excitement over something. So anyway, I don’t even know if he’ll like cars in 20 years but currently he does.

Elsie: I love it. All right. Thank you so much for listening. Don’t forget that you can find our show notes each week at abeautifulmess.com as well as thousands of recipes craft projects and decor ideas to put you in the festive mood. We’ll be back next week.


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