Author Kathi Lipp offers practical suggestions for planning your family's Christmas celebration so that it can be budget-friendly, stress-free and Christ-centered.
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Mrs. Kathi Lipp: I would like us to come out of Christmas better than we entered. And so, this is what I'm saying. Oftentimes, if we are not purposeful about what we want to do about Christmas, then we're gonna let others dictate what it's going to look like.
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John Fuller: That's Kathy Lipp and she's with us today on "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller. You're gonna hear today how to get organized for Christmas.
Jim Daly: All right, John, I was tellin' Jean about the program. She couldn't be with us this time, but she was in awe of thinking about planning, actually planning for Christmas, which isn't what many of us do. We typically, the last few days are going--
John: We say, "Yikes!"
Jim: --"Oh, no!"
John: "What happened?" (Laughter) Yeah.
Jim: And it will be a good thing to talk about how to take some of that pressure off at Christmastime, by thinking it through a bit and we have what is now I think, our No. 1 guest back with us. She's been on the program, I think now, 14 times, which is terrific and she has a book called, Get Yourself Organized for Christmas and that's Kathy Lipp. Kathi, welcome back to the program.
Kathi: I'm so glad to be with you guys. I always have so much fun.
Jim: All right, John, how organized are you and Dena?
John: Oh, well, which one of us? (Laughter) I can't say that.
Kathi: Starting up some trouble.
John: Dena tends to get in the Christmas spirit very early and so, she maps out what's gonna happen. It's kind of a team effort.
Jim: Well, Jean loves and I do, too, but Jean really loves Christmas. I think everything nice is there, you know. And so, she likes to set up the Nativity scene and the Christmas lights right after Thanksgiving, so thankfully, that's all done. The tree is set up and she just loves creating that atmosphere. It's meaningful to her and very important to her spiritually. Kathi, is that how we should look at it, to set the tone for the season?
Kathi: Well, I think that it's so important what you were just saying there. Jean approaches it with love and a desire to set the tone and I think so often, we get kind of overwhelmed with the checklist of all the things that have to be done, because if it was just us in our home and our, you know, immediate family, that's pretty manageable. But when you think about work commitments and out-of-town relatives or even extended families, all that, it can get overwhelming.
So, my desire is that we can stay in that place where one, we can really recognize Who the season is about, but also, that we can really enjoy it. You know, I believe that this is a gift that God has given us and so, it's to be enjoyed, but for so many people, it's not like that.
Jim: In reading your book, this is another conversation I had with Jean. It was so funny, 'cause you talked about before learning some of the concepts that we're about to talk about, you were stressed out, tryin' to get everything done.
Jim: Up at midnight, makin' cookies, Christmas cookies and then wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve and you ran out of Scotch tape. And Jean went, "Oh, no!"
Kathi: I think (Laughter)—
Jim: I mean, I think—
Kathi: --thank you. I—
Jim: --everybody … (Laughter)
Kathi: --appreciate that she understands. (Laughter)
John: You're not the only one.
Jim: I can't imagine the night before Christmas and you run out of Scotch tape.
Jim: It's like everybody's out of tape.
Kathi: And when you duct tape your presents, it (Laughter) just loses a little bit of the magic.
Jim: Well, if you—
Kathi: It really does.
Jim: --have sons, that could be kinda cool actually.
Kathi: Well, yes. Moms are not thinking that way. I'll (Laughter) just be honest with you. We're feelin' like we failed.
Jim: Well, how do you, as the queen of organization (Laughter), I mean, how do you always have this down so perfectly? It's good to start off with how you learned and what—
Jim: --environment you were in, but what prompted you to kinda get organized for Christmas?
Kathi: Well, because I was not enjoying it.
Jim: Okay, so it was dreaded.
Kathi: It was dreaded, because I think that so many times and maybe this is true for some guys, but I think it's mostly true for women. We're kind of in charge of makin' everything happen.
Jim: Everyone's looking to you.
Kathi: Everyone's looking to you. Now I will say that my husband is the decorator.
Jim: Oh, that's good.
Kathi: Yes, he loves that and so, that brings him a lot of joy and excitement. But anything that he doesn't really enjoy is not something he's probably gonna pick up the mantle of and so, that kind of is left to me. Now I can ask him to help me with stuff, but really, I'm the bottom line when it comes to Christmas. And I know that for a long time, I felt like I was runnin' around like a crazy woman, trying to make this happy for everybody else and oh, just watch yourself, if you were not overly pleased with everything I had done for you. (Laughter) Martyr mommy to the extreme, you know, if my kids were not falling all over themselves to say thank you for what I had done.
Jim: You had a little resentment.
Kathi: Oh, yeah, a little, that's very kind of you, Jim. Now I appreciate that. I would be working so hard to make all of this happen and if I didn't feel like I was being properly appreciated, I would be angry and upset and I just realized that there was something terribly off.
And yet, it was very sweet of you to call me the queen of organization, but I think you guys know me well enough to know that, that's not a natural thing for me. I am organized now, because I've lived the other life and the clutter and the craziness. And it's not someplace I want to stay for very long, because it builds up resentment and anger and frustration and that's not what I want, especially when we're celebrating Jesus' birthday.
Jim: Well, that's the point and you've done a great job putting these thoughts together in a little book called Get Yourself Organized for Christmas. It's a fast read—
Jim: --but it just gives everybody tools and particularly moms, tools to concentrate on the right part of the season. Let me talk about that perfect thing, 'cause I think for Jean, that's an area where she can fall into, 'cause she wants it to be just right.
Jim: And that can create a lot of pain, especially if I'm the one doing the outside Christmas lights. (Chuckling)
Jim: And I'm running out of, you know, lights and I'm running out of electrical cord, but she wanted them in this tree, not in that tree.
Kathi: It sounds like you have some personal experience with this.
Jim: Yeah, just hypothetically.
Kathi: Just hypothetically.
John: We have a counseling (Laughter) line, Jim, here at Focus on the Family.
Jim: Yeah, get ready, but that idea of perfection versus happiness and joy, talk about that distinction.
Kathi: Well, it is so easy. I think that as women, we have to block out these voices that are telling us what Christmas is supposed to look like, because if you look at the magazines, if you look at HGTV, God bless 'em, but the standard is so high. And if this is something you struggle with, may I suggest maybe Pinterest is not the place for you to hang out until maybe January 2nd.
Jim: Right, well, to get your examples. (Laughing)
Kathi: Right, because one, it's never gonna look like it does on TV or on Pinterest, and so, that builds up frustration. And then, also I think that sometimes we're doing these things to impress the wrong people. We want everybody else to think that we are that picture postcard Christmas family. And we know the inner turmoil that's going on. We know that not everybody is always happy, but we want to put up that wall to the world that says, no, we've got it all going on. No, we've got it all together.
And I think that, that limits relationships within your family and with your friends, because if they really do believe that you've got Martha Stewart locked in a closet and you know, she's (Laughter) just makin' all this happen for you and you're just that kind of person, it's hard to connect with somebody like that. But when you can say, you know what? We're keeping it simple this year, because we've got a lot of other things going on. And so, I think the idea of perfect and a lot of people don't give themselves grace, even when they're in a tough situation.
Maybe you don't have the finances to make the Christmas that you've always made. Maybe you don't have the energy or the space--you've downsized--or the time, to really recognize that and say, you know what? The first gift I'm gonna give this season is grace to myself.
Jim: That's a good gift.
Kathi: Yeah, it really is and it's a rare one.
Jim: Yeah, it is. You talk about the four steps to kick off your Christmas in the right way. Touch on those.
Kathi: Okay, the very first thing is to find out what's important to your family.
Kathi: Well, okay, so I think that sometimes we're so stuck in tradition—
Kathi: --that we're carrying on traditions that really are not meaningful anymore. I remember we had this beautiful Advent calendar and every year, had these 24 pockets in it and I would wrap up these little tiny ornaments that my kids were then to hang on the tree. And so, every day Justin would open the odd ones. Kimberly would open the even ones and they loved it. They would rush downstairs. It was so much fun and we'd talk about what we're anticipating for Christmas. Well, one year I think Justin was probably 9. I said, "Justin, you're the first one to open the Advent present." And he said, "Wait, is there money in there?" (Laughter) And I said, "No."
Jim: Tide had turned.
Kathi: The tide had turned and I probably kept goin' on that Advent calendar for another couple of years, because it was important to me, but it was no longer important to the people that it was intended for. So, we rolled it up and I waited till my brother had a child and she got to do the Advent. But sometimes we're carrying on traditions that have no meaning to our kids or to other family members. So, find out what's important.
When I asked my family what was important, you know, we would have this huge menu every single year. And any time somebody said that they liked something that I made, that went on the menu. When I finally said, "Okay, what's important to you guys for us to have on that menu?" Roger makes a cranberry and pumpkin no-bake cheesecake. He makes two. One's cranberry; one's pumpkin. That was the only the thing my kids could come up with that was important for them. (Laughter)
Kathi: So, why am I killing myself with all of these different desserts, the appetizer. I could do turkey, stuffing and cranberry cheesecake and be done and everybody would be perfectly happy. But we keep up with this stuff, because we've done it before and we're wearing ourselves out. So, ask your family what's important to them.
The second one is to figure out what's important to you and maybe it's the church service that you want to make sure that you go to. Maybe it's driving around and looking at Christmas lights with—
Jim: Oh, Jean loves that one.
Kathi: --your kids. Yeah, every year what we do, we have a very old minivan and it seats seven of us and so, what we do, we rarely use this car except when we go look at Christmas lights. We drive through Starbucks. We get our coffee or hot chocolate or whatever and then one of our kids has mapped out the best Christmas lights—
Jim: Oh, wow.
Kathi: --in our area and we just make a whole night of it. It is so much fun. And then third, it's gathering your Christmas stash. We all have stuff that maybe you've bought throughout the year or maybe it's leftover from last year. In fact, every year on my calendar or at least the last two years, let me say that, around September 1st, I put on my calendar, "Don't buy Christmas wrap. You have plenty." (Laughter) Because you forget from year to year what you have and so, what I do is, I gather all that stuff. I kinda take an inventory and say, "What do I really [need]? Are there things like Scotch tape? I need Scotch tape. I'm not gonna run out again this year. Do I need bows? What kind of things do I need? So, I gather all that together so that I'm not buying extra things that—
Jim: We put all that—
Kathi: --I don't need.
Jim: --in plastic tubs.
Kathi: Oh, yeah.
Jim: So, I'm grateful—
John: Are you organized.
Jim: --to Jean. Yes, we are a little organized that way.
Kathi: And that's exactly it, is do you have a place for that kind of stuff? And we talk about that in the book. And then fourth and I think this is the key, especially for us moms who do too much, is make a list of how other people can help you.
And so, if your husband loves to do the Christmas lights, put that on the list. If one of your kids decides that they want to be a junior master chef, then they are assigned to a couple of food items. And make a—
Jim: That could be a disaster. (Laughter)
Kathi: --well, it could, but you know what? It's gonna be one of those family stories you tell for years—
Jim: That's true.
Kathi: --to come.
John: There you go, making memories.
Kathi: But also, if you have people coming over to your house for dinner and people are saying, "What can I bring?" and you're saying, "Oh, nothing," you're setting yourself up for failure. Let other people help you, so make a list of how other people can help you.
John: Well, we're getting some great ideas about getting ready. It's early in the season, but not too early to be organized for Christmas. Kathi's book can help you do that and we've got it at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. And we also have a CD or a download of this conversation. If you missed any part of it, get the download or listen on the mobile app and find out those previous tips that she shared. That's at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Kathi, for guys, I mean, we are so guilty of waiting far too long. It's always Christmas Eve and we're goin', "Oh, my goodness. We gotta get some shopping done." (Laughter) And you know, it's even a joke in the culture how late mostly guys wait.
Kathi: You know, I used to work on commission as a salesperson. I loved you guys coming in at the—
Jim: Yeah, that's—
Kathi: --last minute.
Jim: --the night, yeah.
Kathi: That made my year.
Jim: I mean, we can get it done pretty fast, but—
Jim: --that's not ideal.
Jim: And you talk in the book about that planning. When is it good to start planning for these things? The first of December, just after Thanksgiving?
Kathi: You know, I'm really kind of a November girl. I want to enjoy December. I really do and I think there are so many organizations and so many people around me who really work to make Christmas special. And so, I'm trying to get some of that done in advance. And just for the guys out there, start listening to what your wife is saying. She's probably dropping some well-placed hints of some things that she would like. (Laughter) And go and take care of it early, because you don't want to be down to, well, I got you an umbrella, 'cause that's the only thing that they had--
John: Unless she needs an umbrella.
Kathi: Well, okay.
John: What's wrong? Come on, now.
Kathi: Let's just say—
Jim: --there's somethin' wrong slippers?
Kathi: --no woman needs an umbrella for Christmas from the man she loves. (Laughter) Let's just put it out there.
Jim: It's better than a blender.
Kathi: Yeah, it is better than a blender unless she's asked for a blender. You are—
Kathi: --absolutely right. And some of those old things about, you know, I used to tell my husband, "Don't ever buy me anything that plugs in," well, that's just wrong, because you know, he's bought me so many things that I really, really enjoy, but he listened. He knows that he's not a natural gift giver, so he listens to the hints and even the things I've just said, "Oh, this would make my life so much easier," it really is good to start listening. Or ask her friends. You can probably catch up with them on Facebook. "Can you be listening for something for my wife for Christmas?"
Jim: Now is he listening better or are you just dropping better hints?
Kathi: Oh, it's a combination (Laughter) of the both. It's a good marriage enhancing tip.
Jim: There we go; I like that. You talk also about creating a holiday mission statement. Now—
Jim: --that one I kinda went, what?
Kathi: I know.
John: That's the mission statement.
Kathi: I would like us to come out of Christmas better than we entered. And so, this is what I'm saying. Oftentimes, if we are not purposeful about what we want to do about Christmas, then we're gonna let others dictate what it's going to look like.
Jim: Well, what does that statement look like?
Kathi: Well, you know, there have been times where my statement has been one word. You know, I want to increase the joy in my life and that means that I am probably spending more time in my quiet time. Or maybe it's saying, hey, our family's going through some transition. In fact, this year, that's what's happening for us. We, for the first time, have a son-in-law this year and so, that's a different dynamic.
And so, we love him, by the way. We're crazy about this guy. We've prayed for him for a long time. He's a perfect match for our daughter. But it also means that we're sharing with more people this holiday.
And so, one of the things we've had to say is, that we want this Christmas to be the most relaxed Christmas of our lives. And so, what we're saying is, hey, if we don't celebrate on the 25th, we're okay with that. What's important to us is that the people we love are there. So, we want it to be relaxed.
So, one of the things we're planning on doing and people cannot believe that we're doing this, for our big family gathering, we have the best pizza place in the world right next to us. We're ordering pizza for that night.
Jim: Now some people just went, "What! How could you do that?"
Kathi: I know and we're still going to have a turkey another time, but the big family meal, we want to enjoy the people who are going to be there. And we're inviting his family to come over. We're celebrating on a different day. It's gonna look very different this year, but we just got done putting on a wedding. Like all of our fancy is used up at this point. (Laughter)
Jim: You only have a tank of so much fancy.
Kathi: Exactly and so (Laughter), we are going to go for relaxed and connected this year.
Jim: I think that'll create a far better environment actually. See, I like that--
Kathi: And you know, another year when I want to do the fancy, we'll bring it back out.
John: Okay, so how does a husband help his wife pull back from all those projections and—
Jim: John, really?
John: --all that desire?
Jim: You don't. (Laughter)
John: I have a friend.
Jim: You go with the flow.
John: I have a friend.
Kathi: I have a friend. I would say, have a conversation early and find out what's important to your wife. That's the thing. Maybe she's doing all the fancy because she's trying to impress people and I'm not saying that it's anybody in this room. I'm just saying, that sometimes we're trying to impress imaginary people or we're trying to get the right picture for Facebook, something like that. We've got this agenda in the back of our head that really is kind of meaningless.
But if your spouse, if your wife gets delight, if she has that gift of hospitality, where she can really entertain and it's lovely and it doesn't stress her out, it brings her so much joy, invite us over to your house please. (Laughter) But lots of people are not set up that way and we need to have room for both kinds.
Jim: One in a million. (Laughter)
Kathi: Yeah, exactly.
Jim: Kathi, you share a story in your book about saving your babysitting money, I think when you were in seventh grade to buy trapper keepers.
Jim: What are those?
Kathi: Okay, they're organizational little folders and anybody who was in junior high in the '80's, remembers Trapper Keepers. And so, you'd have different colors for each subject and it just made you feel like the most organized person on the planet.
Jim: And how do you use that at Christmas?
Kathi: Well, I have a Christmas binder, which sounds so 1982. I really—
Jim: So, you have a Christmas statement and now you've got a Christmas binder. (Chuckling)
Kathi: --I do; I know and you guys are laughing at me, but if you think about it, when you think about like what retailers are spending on this holiday to lure us in. When you think about the cash that is spent by families during this time and then we're not just talking about presents. We're talking about food. We're talking about new clothes. We're talking about travel.
This is a significant portion of what families are organizing around for their year. So, while it sounds maybe like over the top to have a Christmas binder, I tell you, hundreds if not thousands of women have done this Christmas binder.
Jim: What do you put in it?
Kathi: Okay, so, one of the things that you can put in that is, sizes for your kids, sizes for people that you're buying for. You have to update that every year. A menu, you know, this is what we're going to cook this year. For me, it's very easy. It's a phone number. I get that. But there will be other things that we're adding to that.
I keep all of our holiday favorite recipes in there, instead of having to go and look for them each and every year. I keep our extra tags and things and so, when it comes time for Christmas, all my stuff is in one place. I'm not having to recreate it every single year. And so, having all that stuff in one place, I feel like gives me a head start every single year to the season.
Jim: You're talking to the heart of the most Type A person, I think and I just want to bring that out. What about that Type B mom, who maybe doesn't feel this organized and it sounds more daunting to do that than to do all the Christmas stuff?
Kathi: I am doing this for the Type B woman. The Type A woman, she already—
Jim: She's got it.
Kathi: --has the binder, yes. What I'm trying to say is, you don't have to do this from scratch every year. Every year you can replicate some of the stuff that you've done before, because we're all having to put on Christmas. And so, if you don't have to spend hours searching for the recipes every year, let me say this. The Type B person who finds the recipes on the first try in her binder, that's gonna mean so much more to her than the Type A woman. There's gonna be a joy there she's never experienced before.
Jim: You know, the organized person that you've learned, you've—
Jim: --self-described as maybe unorganized, but learned it over time--
Jim: --you're also known for frugalness.
Jim: So, when you look at the Christmas list and you got a family of three, four, five—
Kathi: Right, which we do.
Jim: --plus extended family members—
Jim: --how do you do that in a way that doesn't break the bank?
Kathi: Well, one of the things that we did early is, we do three Christmas gifts for each kid and—
Kathi: --people think that sounds like Scrooge personified. But I remember before we instituted that rule, every time I saw a gift I thought my kids would like, I thought, oh, I have to get that for them. I have to get it for 'em.
But now we are being very, very intentional with our gifts. And I've been able to say, I want to buy something significant for my kids, instead of something that they're gonna use once and throw away. So, what we kinda do is, we put it into three categories.
We do something fun for them. We do some clothes for them and then, we do something that is going to, how do I want to say this, enhance them. Maybe it's spiritually or educationally and so, maybe we'll pay for a course that they want to do.
I know that my mom for my little niece, she buys her a dance class or a roller skating class every year. But we're very intentional about those things. And I try to think of these things way in advance. Last year, three of our four kids love to bake and something I really, really wanted to do for them was buy them a KitchenAid mixer, which is crazy. They're super expensive. I didn't know this. That's Kohl's No. 1 item that they sell at Christmas time, is a KitchenAid mixer.
Kathi: But there are so many sites out there, between Saving with Shelley or Money-Saving Mom or places like that, that will tell you how to get the coupons, work the deals and the rebates. We got each of those standing mixers for half price, because we followed all of those directions. And so, my suggestion is, if you want to do something like that, sign up for one of those money-saving newsletters, so that you can understand how to work the deals in the system.
John: It's kinda hard to do gift giving when you have several children—
John: --and they get older.
John: So, I mean, you're talkin' some big-ticket items there.
Kathi: Right, but I would say, we bought them one big-ticket item each and then much smaller things. Like for one of my daughters, her clothing gift was a purple scarf, 'cause I knew she would love that. She loves purple and it has some sparkles in it. Her favorite color is purple sparkle. She's my 27-year-old (Laughing). But so, they got one big gift.
So, it depends on your family and your situation, but Roger and I don't tend to do really big gifts for each other and I knew that this is something, I have a son who's a professional baker. I knew that he would love this. I have a daughter who was getting married. I knew that this would be special to her. I have another daughter who gets together with friends and they have cooking parties and none of them had this. I knew that this gift would make a big impact, so I did the work to save the money and we save up for our Christmas.
We put a little bit aside each month all year long, so this isn't a big hit. Because you don't want to come out with credit cards that are maxed out. You don't want to come out, you know, being resentful of what other people, you know, what your spouse has bought for your kids. You want to come into this being intentional and in agreement.
Jim: Well, it's wise to set a budget. That's—
Jim: --for sure and so often people don't do that.
Kathi: Yeah, absolutely.
Jim: And that's part of the challenge.
Kathi: And talking to friends. They know. They can point you in the right directly.
Jim: Kathi, let me ask you this right at the end. Encourage the mom who feels overwhelmed, that she thinks she has to make the holidays perfect.
Jim: And she feels that pressure.
Jim: Speak to her right now about what she should do this Christmas.
Kathi: I would go back to a couple of those things we said at the top. Find out what's important to your family. Talk to your husband. Talk to your kids. I'll never forget the woman who said, she stayed up till 2 in the morning for a week, baking all the cookies for her husband and two boys. And then when she walked away from the table, her mom said, "I'm really worried about her." Her kids are 2 and 4 1/2.
Jim: (Laughing) Oh, my, that's a lot of cookies.
Kathi: And it's a lot of pressure, right? And so, when we can step back and say what's truly important? Let's spend some time with our families. Let's spend some time worshiping the One Who the season is created around. And then find some time to really connect with those that you love. If it's your husband, if it's your kid, whoever it is, your extended family, find those times.
And whether it's by Skype or in person, but do the things that are important to you. And it's not about the picture you're gonna put on Facebook. You know, can I just tell you, I flip past those perfect pictures. I love the pictures where families are being silly, when maybe things haven't gone according to plan, but there's love. And that's what we need to aiming for at this season.
Jim: And it really is remember what the season is about.
Jim: Kathi Lipp, author of the book, Get Yourself Organized for Christmas, these have been terrific tips and I hope people will get a copy of the book and put them into play, because it'll make the Christmas so much more about the season.
Kathi: Yeah, we want a sane and sacred Christmas and this hopefully, will get you there.
Jim: Thanks for bein' here.
John: I really like that sane and sacred. It's attainable and Kathi's book can help you get there with stories, tips, recipes and lots of good perspective keepers. Look for that and Kathi's stocking stuffer ideas, as well. We'll have that list and the book at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us for your copy, 800-232-6459.
And when you contribute to the ongoing work here of Focus on the Family today, we'd like to say thank you by sending Kathi's book to you. It'll be our way of helping you get to that sane and sacred space for Christmas and perhaps you can pass it along to somebody that could use some of that wisdom that Kathi has shared. Again, that's when you contribute generously to Focus on the Family today.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly, I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow. In honor of Veterans' Day, we'll hear a gripping story of a Vietnam veteran. His life was altered when a grenade blew up in his hand and you'll hear how God used that near-death experience for good. That's tomorrow, as we once again, help you and your family thrive.
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Kathi LippView Bio
Kathi Lipp is a popular public speaker and the author of 16 books including Clutter Free, Hot Mama: 12 Secrets to a Sizzling Hot Marriage, The Get Yourself Organized Project, The Husband Project and The Cure for the Perfect Life. She is a frequent guest on radio and TV, and host of the podcast Clutter Free Academy. Kathi and her husband, Roger, are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, Calif. Learn more about Kathi by visiting her website, www.kathilipp.com.