How to reduce Christmas stress – expert tips for a calmer home this festive season

Plan and simplify for a happier Christmas at home this year

christmas tree in dark green living room
(Image credit: Bobbi Beck)

The rush towards the festive season can feel overwhelming – there's so much to do as you prepare for guests, travel around the country to see family and friends, do the meal planning and gift buying, and decorate your home so that it sparkles with Christmas colour and joy.

But there are ways to take the stress and overwhelm out of your Christmas prep. We spoke to wellbeing experts to find simple tips to help you plan what you want, get ahead with preparations, and find some me-time amid all the celebrations, so you don't collapse with exhaustion while everyone else enjoys the festive season. 

Here's your happy home Christmas countdown

Do a pre-Christmas declutter

Green front door of country home with Christmas wreath and decorations.

(Image credit: Future)

Okay, so ticking off a decluttering checklist may not be the first thing you think of when you're trying to reduce Christmas stress, but having some physical, mental and emotional clarity can really help you feel calmer and more in control.

'My advice is to reduce, simplify and plan,' explains psychotherapist, interior designer and declutter expert, Helen Sanderson MSc, author of Secret Life of Clutter. 'Remember, the less stuff you have, the less stuff you have to manage, and the simpler your life will be over the Christmas period.'

Helen suggests making time to clear out the clutter that has accumulated over the year and getting your home organised as part of your pre-Christmas preparation.

'A cluttered home is a cluttered mind, but keep your plans simple,' she says. 'Like plants, beautiful things need space to breathe and grow – so do you and so does your home.'

Inventory your kitchen

kitchen decorated for christmas

(Image credit: Layered Lounge)

Once you've cleared unnecessary items out of your home, take a look at what you do need and might be missing.

'Now is a good time to do an inventory of your kitchen to see if there's anything you might need for hosting – a new pan, or some plates, or whatever,' says Beth Kempton, wellbeing author and creator of the award-winning The Calm Christmas podcast. 'Make a list ready for the Black Friday and pre-Christmas sales, so you can find a deal.'

Decide the kind of Christmas you really want

A decorated Christmas tree with presents at the bottom of a staircase

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

There's a lot of pressure to do Christmas a certain way, but letting go of that and instead celebrating in a way that you and your loved ones will truly enjoy, can take a lot of stress out of the festive season.

'Establishing the type of Christmas you want to create and doing it in collaboration with others is key,' says psychologist and interior designer, Helen Sanderson. 'Sit down with the family, have a conversation and agree who will do what. Explain what support you will need to be able to enjoy the festivities yourself. The conversation will manage the expectations of others. If others aren’t willing or able to help, explain that you will need to scale things down so they are manageable.'

You can even create a festive ritual so that everyone can share their aspirations for the season.

'Together with your family, find 12 words that describe what would make this Christmas most meaningful,' suggests Helen. 'Write the words onto cards and tie them to your Christmas tree. Take one off each day and talk about how you can incorporate that quality into your day.'

Work out your spending budget

wrapped presents under a tree

(Image credit: Future PLC)

The cost of living automatically climbs at Christmas, and that financial stress can take the shine off your celebrations. One way to reduce the strain when looking at budget Christmas ideas is to plan your spending, so you're less prone to last-minute splurges, panic buying and magical thinking about how much money is actually leaving your bank account.

Beth Kempton suggests getting clear on how much you're willing to spend on Christmas this year (and that includes the days around Christmas, not just the big day itself). Factor in every extra expense – presents, cards and wrap; going out; festive food and drinks; and travel and accommodation. Once you've added all that up, does the figure match your ideal Christmas spend? If not, Beth's free downloadable Christmas planner suggests ways to cut down the expense, including reducing the number of people you buy for, spending less on each person, buying joint presents, making your own cards, scaling back on hosting, and making some gifts and crafty decorations yourself.

'Think about your budget for Christmas spending; it's the first step towards more mindful gifting. Pick a figure that you would be happy to spend,' she says in The Calm Christmas podcast. 'For many of us, giving gifts to those we love at Christmas is a huge part of the celebration but it comes from the same pot as everything else we have to fund, so it's really worth that when you buy anything, you are aware of what spending the money will stop you doing in other areas, as well as the joy your gifts can bring.'

Plan in self-care moments

Victoria Eggs Christmas candle

(Image credit: Victoria Eggs)

Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year but it's also one of the busiest, so make sure you factor in time to relax and recover amid all the festive hustle and bustle.

'Make a commitment to yourself that you will take a certain number of rest times, and identify exactly what you will do and when they will be,' says Helen Sanderson. 'That may mean getting up earlier in the quiet hours to take a gentle walk, sitting on your yoga mat before bed, or going to a Pilates class. 

'Set alarms on your phone to remind you to take breaks, and book in a few relaxing activities that will get you out of the house. Only you can prioritise your needs, no one will do it for you.'

Let go of perfection

paper star decorations in living room

(Image credit: Layered Lounge)

If your quest for the 'perfect' Christmas means you're too stressed to enjoy the festivities, then it's time to take the pressure off.

'The best mantra to combat perfectionism is “Good enough, is enough”. Tell friends and family that the priority this Christmas is for quality time, games and conversations, rather than a perfect-looking table and spread,' says psychologist Helen Sanderson. 'Remind yourself that you are an adult now, and that you decide what is good enough.'

Here's to a calm and relaxed Christmas and a blissful New Year…

Andrea Childs

Andrea began her journalism career at Ideal Home and is currently Editor of our sister title, Country Homes & Interiors, which celebrates modern country style. Andrea is passionate about colour and how it can transform both our homes and our sense of wellbeing, and has completed The Power of Colour course with the prestigious KLC School of Design. Andrea's career spans interiors magazines, women's lifestyle titles and newspapers. After her first job at Ideal Home, she moved on to women's magazines, Options and Frank. From there it was on to the launch of Red magazine, where she stayed for 10 years and became Assistant Editor. She then shifted into freelancing, and spent 14 years writing for everyone from The Telegraph to The Sunday Times, Livingetc, Stylist and Woman & Home. She was then offered the job as Editor of Country Homes & Interiors, and now combines that role with writing for