Simplify your holidays – and the ultimate no-stuff gift guide

simplify your holidays no stuff gift guide

By Helena Zachariassen, Home & Lifestyle Editor

In the past weeks, I’ve picked up from so many people that they are feeling overwhelmed with the upcoming holidays, and I also fell into this trap myself for a while, before it dawned on me. It doesn’t have to be this way!

The very first steps in simplifying your holidays (and this actually goes for simplifying anything really) are the following:

1. set your goal

2. set the intention
3. stick to it

I’m inviting you to join a super easy pre-holiday challenge with me. Ask yourself these following 5 questions, no matter if the overwhelm is about getting your home organised to host holiday guests, travelling during a pandemic, family relations, traditions, food, presents, or anything else:

Do you really want this and does it serve you in the best possible way?

Is it helpful or stressful?

Do you do it out of obligation or joy?

Does it feel draining when you think about it?

Is it worth the time and energy you put into it?

Once you ask yourself the questions out loud, you know the answer. Trust your intuition and how the question makes you feel in your body. Notice if it makes you shiver, feeling cold/sweaty, anxious, tense, nervous, undecided? Or does it make you smile, feel warm, excited, and at peace? Listen to those feelings, they speak from your heart.

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Helena Zachariassen / Pic by Annalisa Cosentino

Permission to let go

First of all, I allow you to let go of any guilt you’re feeling right now. If you don’t want to do something, you don’t have to. It’s not selfish to say no if it makes you feel exhausted, stressed, and drained. Your family prefers you to be happy rather than having you work your a** off for so-called perfect circumstances. And for the record, perfect doesn’t exist.

It’s ok to be sad after making the right decision.


If it doesn’t make you skip of joy – skip it

Even if your family has had traditions for years, they can be changed. You change too, your traditions may as well follow you. If you don’t feel like doing the same things year after year, then don’t. Let go of all expectations you believe your family and friends have on you and be honest with yourself first and foremost, and also ask your family what their preferences are. Or maybe you and your family just need to skip one tradition this year and take a breather? Whatever this means for you, focus on only you and your own family this time.

It’s also easy to go down the comparison route and believe all you see on social media. It’s not real. You and your family are. And how the situation makes you feel. Life is never a constant, simply let your traditions evolve with you.

Stick to one or two things that means the world to you and your family

Whether your chosen thing is staying in pajamas all day on Boxing day or baking gingerbread cookies before Christmas it’s your tradition to stick to! Try to choose max two things because trying to do it all will again make you feel exhausted.

For my family, we have 2 traditions that we stick to. We decorate the tree together before the first of Advent listening to Christmas music and we bake gingerbread cookies and a house with extended family. We do not compromise on these 2, they always take place. Miraculously it’s not even difficult to schedule or stick to them, because we love it and want them to happen! If we manage to squeeze in some other fun Christmas activity too, well, that’s simply a bonus!

What would your Christmas time look like if you only did things that you actually love doing?


Have you thought about the fact that every material thing you buy needs maintenance or management in some form or shape? Do you feel you have to own things to enjoy them? Does a sale price tag mean you need several of the items?

Imagine you would rewire your thinking and play with the thought of only giving non-material gifts this year. It could look something like this:


You and your precious time is The.Best.Gift.Ever. Period.

Service voucher

Support a local small business and really think about what you could offer that would really help and support that special person in your life.

For example, no busy mum would ever say no to a:

Cleaning help
Delicious meal, cooked by someone else
Style consultation with a stylist
Babysitter for a date night
Home organising session
Flower subscription
Health coaching session
Outdoor workout session
Gift card for a sleepover party for your kids or an adult picnic party
Fruit & veggie subscription
Audio book app subscription

Making memories

When was the last time you did something cool and fun with the family or your partner – something out of the ordinary other than watching a movie at home? Get tickets for a:

Sports event
Movie pass
Zoo pass
Ski pass
Your kid/kids pick what to do day
Trampoline park
Amusement park
Water park
Mini golf

Money to invest

This can be tricky, but when done in the right way, you can be on to something very cool, for example with older teens.

A workshop

Personal development
Making chocolate

Accountability buddy

Gift your regular support to help someone else achieve their goals! Offer to be an accountability buddy for anyone in your close circle of family or friends who might need some encouragement and help to move forward with an important project.


You might know of a cause close to your heart or close to a family member’s heart. Support a charitable cause in honour of a loved one.

Family activity fund

When family members don’t know what to gift you or your kids, ask them to support your next family activity or use your fund to save up for a holiday trip.

Create your own magic

Your turn to get creative. Gift an experience of a lifetime, or a regular habit for a special loved one, or simply for your family.

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Remember to stop, breathe and enjoy this special time leading up to the holidays, regardless of whether you’re planning celebrations or not.

However, there is nothing more important than being present, in all we do.
It’s the little things that matter most.

What is Christmas?
It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present,
hope for the future.

Agnes m. Pharo

Have you downloaded our free ebook – 21 Hidden Gems of Switzerland? If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to download it while planning your next Swiss Getaway.

To read posts from October, click here

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