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4 Radically Easy Ways to Simplify Your Advent This Year
Week 3: The To-Do List Edit

The scene was set. I’d scouted out the perfect location for our annual family Christmas picture (beneath the flawlessly frosted evergreen trees in the park behind our house), and chosen the theme of our perfectly harmonized outfits: plaid. During the day while the older kids were at school and the baby slept, I had laid out coordinating outfits for the entire family, choosing from their wardrobes clothes in greens and burgundies, and then adding just the right amount of plaid in the form of hats and scarves Christmas sweaters. The entire production revolved around the perfect pair of pants that I’d recently bought for myself – cream with a subtle green and red plaid pattern; when I had spotted them in the store, they became the immediate inspiration for my vision of this year’s plaid-themed family Christmas card.

As soon as the kids returned home from school, I immediately set to work getting them prepped in plaid for the picture. When my husband finally arrived home from work and reluctantly put on the green and navy argyle vest I’d sourced for him, we only had a few minutes before we’d lose the light and our little northern city would sink into evening darkness. All I had left to do was change into my plaid pants.

Here is where the pants cannot be found anywhere. And here is where I throw a full-sized adult tantrum, embarrassingly emptying the contents of both my dresser and my closet onto the floor of my bedroom in search of the pants. And here is where my husband picks me up off the now clothes-covered floor (where I am sulking and sobbing) and asks me “What if we didn’t take a color-coordinated family picture this year?”

“If we don’t take it today, it won’t get printed in time to send out to everybody!” I cry in response.

“And what would happen if we didn’t send out a Christmas card this year?”

I wanted to answer that it simply wouldn’t be the same, that Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the card, or the picture, or the coordinated family wardrobe all centered around on the perfect pair of plaid pants. But of course, it would be the same and, as I dried my tears and put away the plaid, I realized that Christmas might even be better, calmer, less stressful, if I could let things like the perfectly coordinated family picture matter less.

Week 3: The To-Do List Edit

“Let us be aware of wordly sentiments, for often by the pretext of zeal or the glory of God they cause us to adopt plans which never proceeded from Him and will not be prospered by His Divine Majesty.” – St. Vincent de Paul

Ever since the Plaid Pants Crisis of 2012, I have tried to be less attached to the items on my Christmas to-do list, those elements that at one time seemed absolutely necessary in order for Christmas to be Christmas. I ask myself the same question that my husband asked me as he picked me up off floor: “what if?” What if, this year, I spent less time decorating, focusing less on making my house look festive, and more on making my heart more welcoming? What if, this year, I didn’t do the obligatory Christmas baking (gasp!), and instead spent those evenings going for walk in the neighborhood, or a snowshoe in the park, with my family. What if, this year, I delete one thing from my endless to-do list that causes me stress, and replace it with something – with prayer, spiritual reading, family time, silence – that instead makes space for me to better enter in to the season of Advent? What if…?


Written by
Holly Gustafson

Holly lives with her husband, James, and their five children in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. She received her Masters in Linguistics at the University of Manitoba and now pursues her love of language through art, writing, public speaking, and unsolicited grammatical advice. Her favorite show is always the one she’s currently watching, and her favorite saint is always the one she’s currently reading. The best advice she ever received was from her spiritual friend, St. Faustina, who told her that when in doubt, “Always ask Love. It advises best.”

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Written by Holly Gustafson