10 Messy Christmas Tips (Courtesy of Clark Griswold)

Clark GriswoldThis post is a Tuesday Tip related to: We Wish You a Messy Christmas!

Clark Griswold can teach us something about how to live this holiday season.

Because most of us have a little bit of Clark in us, don’t we? It’s why we laugh so hard when he stands in the doorway and lets fly a string of expletives while his brother-in-law is kidnapping his boss. If we’re honest with ourselves, we can relate to the feeling.

Clark lurks inside of us—the ultimate parent, seeking to perfect every family moment. The bigger the moment, the more intense the desire for perfection. And Christmas can feel like a pretty big moment.

But the more we try to perfect it, the more stressful the season becomes. Because the world doesn’t magically snap into order during Christmas and life doesn’t suddenly become easy. It’s messy, so Christmas is going to be messy, too.

I think Clark can teach us a thing or two (or ten) about how to live messy and joyfully this season:

  1. Cut down your own tree. Quit being efficient. Stop looking for the perfectly symmetrical tree. Go cut down your own imperfect tree. Just remember to bring a saw. Digging it out by the roots would be bad for your back.
  2. Be playful with angry motorists. People are tense this time of year. You don’t have to be. When someone cuts you off or yells silently at you behind their windshield, be playful. Throw them a wave (but keep all five fingers up).
  3. Go shopping and make a jerk of yourself. The stores are a zoo this time of year. People are rushed and rude. But you don’t have to be. Make a jerk of yourself in an entirely different kind of way. Take a good book and choose the longest lines. Play hide and seek amidst the clothing racks. Sit down and try out the toys in the kids’ section.
  4. Decorate slowly and make mistakes. Take your time. No one will remember what your lights looked like. But your family will remember the way you did it. Set aside a day for it and get everyone involved. When the first ornament breaks, cheer and celebrate with a glass of eggnog.
  5. Don’t buy a pool. Stop stretching yourself financially this holiday season and notice a ton of the stress instantly evaporate. Downgrade the gifts. Buy fewer, spend less. Half of it will be broken or forgotten by February anyway. Maybe even wrap up your Jello mold and give it away.
  6. Tell your neighbors what you really think. No, not like Clark did. Identify a neighbor or friend you have appreciated this year. Find a way to express this to them. Be vulnerable. Don’t worry about how they will react. Give them the gift of your sincere affirmation.
  7. Invite your in-laws to town. Enough said.
  8. Spill food everywhere. Don’t wait for the dog to get into the trash or for the kids to spill the first orange soda on the white carpet. Have an official “spilling ceremony.” Get it out of the way and quit worrying about the furniture.
  9. Break something in the house. Afraid something will break with all the kids running around and family coming and going? End the suspense now. Break something. Maybe right after the spilling ceremony. Just don’t use a chain saw.
  10. Kidnap your boss. Okay, don’t do this. That kind of stuff only happens in the movies.

Still not ready to take Christmas a little less seriously. Go watch the movie. I’m sure Clark has a few other lessons I’ve forgotten. And may your Christmas be messy and merry.

QUESTIONS: What holiday traditions do you have that celebrate the messiness of the season? Any ideas to add to this list? Share in the comments!

DEAR READER, My new eBook is ready! I’m so thankful for your readership and want to express that gratitude by giving the book to you for free. On December 11, the Tuesday Tip post will be replaced by a post about the eBook. And if you are a subscriber and receive the posts by e-mail, your e-mail that day will contain a link to the download of the eBook. I hope you enjoy! Also, if your e-mail inbox looks anything like mine, you are receiving plenty of e-mails this month (Cyber deals galore!). So, the December 11 email will be the last Tuesday Tip until January. Let’s all make some extra space in our inboxes and our lives this holiday season…

TUESDAY TIP DISCLAIMER: The Tuesday Tip is not professional advice. It should be read as you would read a “self-help” book. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor, who can become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. Counselors can be located through your insurance network or through your state psychological association website.

Kelly is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of Artisan Clinical Associates in Naperville, IL. He is also a writer and blogs regularly about the redemption of our personal, relational, and communal lives. Kelly is married, has three children, and enjoys learning from them how to be a kid again. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Jill Richardson

    I’m already pretty good at a couple of these, but the spilling ceremony sounds intriguing. This year, in honor of the fact that we’re taking a mission trip over Christmas, we’re limiting ourselves to gifts we make for one another. That will be a huge change, and a good one.

    • drkellyflanagan

      Blessings to you on your trip, Jill!

  • Harriet Owino Scott

    Cut down your own tree.

    I bought a tree and it is tilted…wouldn’t stand straight and I am so upset. I have been feeling like I wasted too much money for a tilted tree!

    • drkellyflanagan

      Harriet, That would be so frustrating! At the same time, a tilted tree would be a great symbol for Messy Christmas 2012. Anyone with graphic design skills out there? Would love to see a Tilted Tree logo for Messy Christmas 2012…

  • Jen Poulson

    Thank You! I love your writing – it speaks to my soul.
    Jen Poulson

    • drkellyflanagan

      Thanks, Jen!

  • kris

    Ah, the messy Christmas. We take ours from a slightly different Christmas movie: A Christmas Story. We let the kids run amok, leave the paper strewn everywhere, order Chinese food (I dare not take my three-under-age-five kids to a restaurant; that’s a whole different kid of mess!), stay in pajamas, etc. One year, one of us (ahem) even received an outfit from their MIL that was more suitable for someone…oh, say…not quite their age. It was hilarious!

    • drkellyflanagan

      That is hilarious, Kris! Another great Christmas movie.