This fall season passed with all the subtly and speed of a runaway train. I can’t believe that we are staring the holiday season in the face. I recently found myself thinking about all of the things I have—and haven’t—accomplished in the last two months. Then it occurred to me: Thanksgiving hasn’t even passed and I’ve already put myself behind for Christmas! That sounds like a recipe for disappointment.

At what point has the joyful season become a checklist? When did it become more important to me to get stuff done than enjoy doing it? It all has to do with my expectations. Expectations of myself, my house, my kids, and the world in general.

So this season, I’m making myself a few promises.

1. I will say yes to the things that will truly bring me joy and no to the things that I’m doing out of guilt or to meet other peoples’ expectations.

With so many parties, class projects, and events coming up, it’s tempting to try to please everyone in your life. This year, I want to give myself permission to say no in order to leave space in my life and my head for enjoyment. It can be hard to say no to a friend but if they are a true friend, they will understand.

2. I will make a few home-made gifts, but not attempt to create every gift for everyone—from family to the kids’ teachers.

I can already tell you this one will be tough. I love crafting, and gifting a completed creation to someone special just adds to the pleasure. But the enjoyment drains when I find myself staying up late and rushing through projects because there’s simply not enough time to do it all.

3. I will let go of the picture in my head and embrace the real life happening around me.

I think this is the most crucial part of my commitment to enjoy the holidays this year. Much of my stress and dissatisfaction comes from comparing my life to others, or worse, to photos in glossy magazines. For example,  I want my house to be spotless and beautifully decorated like a Hallmark Christmas movie. It’s time to give that up in favor of real life. The Christmas tree is just going to have to coexist with a pile of laundry or a Lego collection strewn over the carpet. Life happens in our tiny house, and so does a lot of fun and plenty of joy—even if it’s not picture perfect.

If you are like me, letting go of exaggerated expectations will help you enjoy the upcoming holidays a lot more. Take some time to identify what your triggers are, and how to avoid them. Let go of expectations and busy-makers in order to find joy in the family moments.