The Christmas Pledge 2018

Look, I don’t want to think about it either, but the truth is the time has come for The Christmas Pledge.  So think about it now and get it done, or think about it later and become so stressed you spend the holidays drooling in your psychiatrist’s office.  Your choice.


Think of me as your personal Christmas Elf. For those of you who don’t know, at the start of every November I introduce the yearly Christmas Pledge. A calendar that forces you to get all the Christmas crap done and finished by December 1st so you have that hectic month to relaxxxxx.  It’s a polarizing topic here on The Art of Doing Stuff.

Even I don’t want to do The Christmas Pledge this year.  Here’s why.

A week ago I got a text from a friend of mine saying she had a ton of writing deadlines to get done over the next month or so but once they were finished and things had settled down with work, she and her family were going to pack their bags and sit on a beach like they do every holiday season.

She’s Jewish so it isn’t a completely fair comparison. She doesn’t have a tree to decorate.

While she’s lighting her menorah candles, eating exotic food on the beach and deciding which frothy concoction served in a coconut shell to drink next, I’ll be here digging sparkles out of my scalp and drowning my sorrows in a partially crystallized bottle of Creme de Menthe.

After thinking about her simple holidays and my over the top holidays I said to my cat:

Do you know what?  Suck it.  I’M SIMPLIFYING CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR.

And my cat looked at me, turned around, swished her tail and ignored me.  I’d half thought about simpifying Christmas around a month ago, but I’m feeling particularly burned out this year and would like to have the least amount of work possible for once in my life.


No, I know, I don’t believe me either.  But I’m going to try.

Scottish portrait christmas

I’m still going to do every single thing I normally do over Christmas – the cards, the presents, the decorating, the cookie baking – I’m just going to do it simpler. Instead of custom Christmas cards, I’ll use regular store bought. Instead of going over the top with decorating I’m going to keep it to garland, lights and candles.

Because I know me, I know that I have to plan for this. Otherwise I’ll start out with my goal of a simple, pioneer Christmas but by day 3 I’ll slowly slide into my natural state of Christmas excess with a vision of 32 different Christmas Eve appetizers all delivered to guests via a vintage train set that runs throughout the entire house.

omg 😲I *just* came up with that idea and it is the BEST idea ever!!!  A vintage train that runs from the kitchen, through the foyer and then into the living room with little plates of individual appetizers on top!!!

See? This is the level of creative compulsion I’m dealing with.  I have to fight it. 3 appetizers served on a regular platter will be fine.  The only problem I have with the simplified 3 appetizer scenario is that only a real asshead wouldn’t make at least 14 appetizers on Christmas Eve. Served on at least some sort of vintage toy.

I very much want to be that asshead.

Join me now in taking the Christmas Pledge.

If you want to give it a shot (there are plenty of people who can vouch for it’s effectiveness) you can print the entire downloadable Christmas Pledge Checklist here with 30 days of Christmas planning.  By the end of the checklist you’ll be at November 30th and EVERY single thing you need to do before Christmas will be done.

If you’re looking for inspiration and motivation join the Christmas Pledge Facebook group.

Leaving the entire month of December for winery tours, Christmas movies and family fights.




  1. Katy says:

    Woohoo! Excited to be a little more on top of things this year and YES to simplifying!!! Thank you!

  2. Robert says:

    I see your vintage train set serving canapés and raise you a sterling silver train with 2 decanters and a video recorder to film throughout the whole ting (WARNING : 2011 Pre-woke content at the link)
    How can it be time for the Christmas pledge already when the year has just started?! 😨

  3. Nicole says:

    Yay! I love the Pledge. December is busy enough that preparation in November is great. Plus, last year someone in the group told me about IKEA Gingerbread which is the best thing ever. The Pledge itself is about simplifying things! Can’t wait to get going!

    • Cussot says:

      Ikea gingerbread dough – check. Thanks, Nicole.

      • Miriam MC Nally says:

        Ikea Gingerbread house is also great!
        I bought one last year, put it “away” in a press till it would be time to decorate it. Found it in February, it was still in date, and delicious!

  4. Marianne says:

    I only got as far as the Jameson bottle. 🙂 Give yourself a gift and try the Jameson Black Barrel whiskey. I thought I was drinking the good stuff before, but Black Barrel makes regular Jameson taste positively regular.
    …back to reading Christmas Pledge…

  5. Shelagh says:

    If I have a Christmas Eve pot luck dinner, do I need to specify what kind of pot?

  6. MrsChrisSA says:

    For the first time in = I can’t remember how many years – we are away for Christmas.
    There will be no decorations in my home and I will find whatever I need in the bush where we are going for decor.

    I won’t be cooking the traditional Christmas meal by myself for what feels like 150 people in the sweltering South African heat either – it will be shared amongst all who will be there.

    I cannot wait!!!

  7. Kim says:

    Real talk: are you me from a different timeline, who is actually blonde, and lives on the other side of Canada? Because some time it legit feels like that.

    You know how you’re like: if I was so and so I would do it ALL SO DIFFERENTLY? That’s me. With everyone. But with you I’m like: if I was Karen, I would do exactly what Karen is doing.

    But I’m not. I’m Kim with three kids and I’m just dreaming of doing all the things you’re doing.

    But I really am down with the get it all done by December 1st. Totally plan to do that every year (& succeed every second year). But I think I failed last year. So it looks like this year is winner. And definitely so now that I am printing out your checklist!!!

  8. judy says:

    Nothing happens at our house for Christmas,nobody wants to go up in the attic-life threatening,whoever designed it- you ascend the ladder to 5 inches of space with raised box for lights on your left and entire furnace system on your right. Husband installed rope in front of your nose but that makes the whole experience of holding on while stepping over light box into contact with hot water heater dubious but onto the search for Xmas! now buried under all the new crap that has been added to “absolutely must save this.” The vote for saving is heated. 2 hoarders v 2 throw it all out@#$%&!!
    so a nice store bought turkey dinner and the TV fireplace with carols. Very nice and relaxed and now I’m going to throw in some black barrel whiskey and a new government and life
    could not be better!

    • Mary W says:

      Your last celebratory happiness mentioned? That’s my first wish for Christmas and I do believe in Santa – at least this year. Can’t wait till next Wednesday.

      • whitequeen96 says:

        From your mouth to God’s ear! Until Wednesday, I’m a nervous wreck! But my whole mood will change if things change and it will be a very Happy Thanksgiving.

  9. Sachi says:

    I guess this is the sign I’ve been looking for!

  10. Sabina says:

    I’m in! All inside Halloween decorations are put away. I need an ark and a commercial size drying fan for the outside decorations since it hasn’t stopped raining since Tuesday. No Christmas decorating until after Thanksgiving though, I refuse before that. I’ll let you in on a little secret though, my lights stay out year round. I just go out on a mild day and switch the plugs around from Halloween to Christmas and replace as needed 😉 Looking like that will be Sunday!

  11. Suzanne says:

    One way I’ve helped simplify my Christmas is that we (I mean “I” the rest of my family seems to think Christmas just happens) don’t do Christmas cards anymore. I do Happy New Year cards. It’s just 1 thing I can do in January. It seems to work for my sanity and people enjoy the surprise of getting something in January! 😀

  12. Courtney says:

    I did this last year with Christmas presents. Every single one was bought by December 1st! And I was surprised when I did not feel any more relaxed or ‘in the Christmas Spirit’! So this year I’ll just have most of it done. I must need some stress to feel like it’s a happy Christmas season 😅

  13. Lynn says:

    YES to simplify! My mother is in her 70s and stresses out over what to get for her children every year. I told her that we should just stop exchanging gifts, as neither of us needs anything. She jumped on it and was so relieved. Don’t be afraid to bring this up, most people want to stop to, but someone has to make the first move. Christmas is for kids- free yourselves from the tyranny of gift giving to adults. IMHO. Love the train idea though…

    • Karen says:

      Nope, nope, nope. I do not believe that Christmas is for kids. Christmas and Christmas decorating makes most people feel happier and kinder. It’s a psychological thing. And I happen to love getting and giving presents so I’ll never stop doing that even if everyone else in my family does. I love all Christmas traditions actually, I just want to make them all a tiny bit simpler this year. Except for the train of course. 😉 ~ karen!

      • Miriam Mc Nally says:

        Love, love, love the train idea!
        Gift giving is, to me, an integral part of Christmas.
        A few years ago, my family decided to run with an idea of giving each other books, not necessarily new, with a note as to why one though this book would interest the recipient. It was good fun, involved everyone, based on a Kris Kindle thing. I loved the books I got, especially the thought that went into it. Just a thought.
        Thanks Karen for the Christmas Pledge, it keeps us motivated and committed, also the Facebook group (international!) is great for ideas and support.

  14. p says:

    Commenting only partially through the post to say SQUEE about the train :D!! and say
    how ’bout a “flight” of appetizers 😀 Drone those babies to each person.

  15. Jenny says:

    I support your Christmas pledge but personally I just use the spirit of it instead of the checklist since I try to keep things as simple as possible. 😉
    Lights and decor go up after Thanksgiving, but I definitely try and do shopping and cards in November so that they’re done in plenty of time! This year I’m ahead of the game with wrapping paper thanks to those nice children with big pleading eyes who come knocking on your door with magazines of junk to sell for sports fundraisers. (Their eyes say, “please buy this crap so I can meet my quota and can stop wandering the neighborhood begging people to buy shit they don’t need.”)

  16. Mary W says:

    You make a positively believable and cute elf – perfect! I should make prints to tape up right over everything I want to be doing instead of getting ready. At least I would smile each time you appeared. I still love your scene packaging and each year try to do a version. Everyone enjoyed that idea so much.

  17. Tracey Durrett says:

    Whaaaatttt?! No stress Holidays??!! Welcome to “HalloThanksMas” (aka “The big money grab”). Halloween candy and Halloween greeting cards – yes, Halloween GREETING CARDS – in stores in mid-September, pumpkin spice flavored EVERYTHING and stores already having “Black Friday” sales… Gonna go print my Christmas Pledge now. Thank you, Karen!

  18. Margaret says:

    Gee whiz,
    My sister and I were “purging” Christmas yesterday. Success measured by number of bags and boxes which leave the house.
    We came to these beautiful dried leaves (see Jameson ad). We mused and muttered about their usefulness. Into the garbage, and DARN! There they are looking svelte and exotic in Jameson ad garland.
    Too late…garbage guy just grabbed the bags.

  19. shoshana leeder says:

    I read your contemplate Judaism idea. I would love to tell you about the Jewish year if you are orthodox. Because I could sure use some simplifying help here. Over the year we have a total of 7 holidays which involve huge amounts of food, decorating (Succos), guests and all around chaos. You are the most creative person ever and I think you would be the person to ask. I’ll start with Rosh Hashana. 2 day holiday. This involves lots of praying (services last about 5 hrs and 4 Thanksgiving like meals. Frequently with guests. No decorating, presents or cards. Every few days expect an explanation of the other 6. I’m counting on you!!! This holiday is usually sometime in Sept

  20. Jody says:

    I love this! I do a version of the Pledge every year and pretty well have everything done by the end of November. Come December I’m busy planning my garden for next year. But I don’t really tell people I’m done ‘guz they give me the Holiday stink eye.

  21. Jennifer Kirksey says:

    LOVE this Karen!!!!!

    Super Thanks and you always crack me up!!!

    Xo, your friend from Texas that you don’t know yet 🤣

  22. Anne says:

    No problem here. I have the creativity of a turnip…I mostly send online greetings…I rarely subject my friends to anything I bake…and the nieces and nephews get money…life is good.

  23. Erin says:

    Don’t mention trains… my husband adores his trains, and if he sees this, his already over-the-top Christmas train will become a monstrosity, tamed only by the need to actually walk around our house. He’s already in a competition with his buddy down the street to see who can have the most epic holiday train layout.

    … oh who am I kidding… I’m going to tell him about this, and then sigh when I see the appetizer train make it’s way through our dining room while our kids shriek with joy.

  24. Hot crap! How is it November already????

  25. Mary Michelle says:

    I’ve always wanted to do the elf on the shelf thing, do you hire out??? Simplifying Christmas is a goal that all of us should strive for instead of being made to think that everything has to to be “pinterest” perfect.

    • Karen says:

      Don’t get me wrong, I love Pinterest perfect. I’m just taking a small, small step into simplicity this year. 🙂 ~ karen!

  26. Renee Ryz says:

    I am hoping to try this for this year. I lost my Mom in June, and I don’t really want to do anything. She loved all things holiday, so if I am structured, then I maybe will do some of it. I always write my cards out the day after Thanksgiving. I think I will try earlier this year. Once I run out of them, I plan to stop sending them, but I have so many stockpiled, it will be at least 8 years…I do already know what I am getting my kids. They are each getting a Le Creuset dutch oven. Hubby & I don’t exchange – we buy what we want through the year. The hardest is for the significant others….thanks Karen – you will keep me in the right direction. I know my Mom would approve.

  27. Kimberly says:

    This is really tempting. I want to host a little party in December. I want to call it a “cookies, cocoa, and cocktails” party. An informal, drop in open house thingy. All of the holidays in my family have been claimed by the people with children, so this is how I’m 45 years old and have never thrown a holiday themed party. I don’t think I should go from zero party to a mini train full of appetizers though.

    So, if I don’t chicken out, I want to — complexify Christmas?

  28. Jen Topp says:

    I am never as happy to be Jewish as when the holidays come around!

  29. Lisa G. says:

    NO one made a crystal menthe joke?!

  30. Meg says:

    *singing* It’s the most wonderful time of the year! *hums the rest of the song merrily*

    I had the most dreadful last two Christmases. My boyfriend’s Mom died Xmas Eve, 2016. Xmas 2017, we had moved back in with his Dad to help him out. This year we have our own apartment in the area because it was too small a house for all of us. So! I won’t have to tiptoe around!

    Last year’s pledge to-do items helped me get through that all, for sure – even though some of the tasks dragged out, e.g. “when boyfriend can handle signing cards.” This year I am so excited, I may not be able to have a simpler Christmas. Hahaha!! ALL THE DECORATIONS!!! ALL THE CHRISTMAS SONGS!!! But I’ll definitely try to hit the rest of the goals of the 2018 pledge! Thanks again, Karen!

  31. Karen says:

    I rarely meet another Christmas fan so “Hi Karen. I’m Karen. So nice to meet you” (awkward wave).
    It seems like hating Christmas is a perpetual cool kids thing so for all of you needing an additional push to rid yourself of the holiday hatred I have a gift for you: I bestow on you the ability to say……no.
    You don’t have to buy expensive gifts or attend 2 zillion Christmas parties if you don’t want to. You’re a grow up who can have cocoa puffs for dinner if you danm well please.
    I gave you the ability. I didn’t say it would be easy. Be prepared for disapproving looks and comments because they are a certainty when you do things differently but know most stem from envy and a wish that they themselves had the nerve to tell their mother-in-law that she will be staying in a hotel instead of their master bedroom this year.

    I know a big issue is the gifts. I only give gifts to people I like and all are inexpensive because for me they are a token of appreciation also I don’t have a lot of money. I make most of them myself (I’m good at stuff) which stretches my budget although I don’t think I would spend more if actually had money because the making is part of my Christmas joy. Although the rule is if it’s not done by Dec 10th then it’s not this years gift to avoid last minute stress.
    Then there’s the store bought ones. Most of them can’t be returned because they have been bought as early as april. I shop sales so I can afford a more expensive gift than I would otherwise. This is a bit of a skill because recieving a bad gift sucks and it does exclude some categories of stuff but it’s actually not that hard to avoid.

    You just have to listen: What do they talk about throughout the year?

    Also write it down because no you won’t be able to remember it later. If you think about how often you hear someone say something like “this kitchen knife sucks I wish I had a better one”. It’s not an official wishlist item but if you could make their day just a little bit better by removing their annoyance when prepping dinner – that’s a note for you list right there.
    I went on holiday with a friend and she wanted to buy a natural sponge but couldn’t find one. 2 years later I found one while shopping for othe..ok me, bought it and gave it to her a couple of months later. Of course I had descreetly checked that she hadn’t already bought one herself and even so it’s a sponge. It gets replaced from time to time. The point is she loved the gift because 1: I remembered something she had talked about a long time ago and 2: she genuinely wanted a sponge.
    If all else fails force them to join Pinterest and install a pin button on their browser bar. Now there’s absolutely no excuse not to provide a wishlist. Drooling or stuttering abolished.

  32. Denise Ann Windle says:

    This isn’t just about your Christmas Pledge list (it’s great by the way), but about what joy it gives me reading your emails each day! Great ideas, advice and ALWAYS some humor. We all need laughter in our lives. Thanks for puttting a smile on my face each day!

    • Karen says:

      Well thanks for saying that Denise. 🙂 That’s my goal with every post. A little bit of learning a little bit of laughing. ~ karen!

  33. Katherine says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, This is perfect! My husband and I both work for a ski resort, needless to say our family christmases for the past 8 years have been a bit stressful, given our busiest work lives are during the holidays and we both have worked on Christmas Day. (Yes, the lifts run on Christmas Day, yes you can still take a ski lesson if it snows, no I’m sorry I can’t tell you if it will snow Dec 24th in October). I used to love Christmas, the decorating, the food, the presents, I pledge in 2018 I will again. Let the check offs begin!

  34. carol arcus says:

    Hey there, new to your blog. Love the Pledge, and have already adapted it… But where the h…* is the shopping time? I see I make lists, but when do I buy the crap?

  35. Heather says:

    I am in! Already behind on the list but I will catch up. Thanks yet again for the motivation. You are awesome.

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