My sons’ birthdays are four days apart. Last year, I made them three birthday cakes each. That’s six cakes in four days. Total insanity. I needed a lesson in how to simplify life.

Truth be told, I love to bake, but this was over the top even for me.

It all started very logically, as it so often does. I wanted them to have a cake for their “friend party” on the weekend. Then they needed something to take to school. And you can’t possibly have your “family party” at home without birthday cake, right?

It turns out you can.

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By the time their actual birthday rolled around, neither of them took even one bite of their carefully decorated birthday cake. They were just so over it.

It was a real wake-up call for me.

My family does not need me to exhaust myself doing more and more for them in order for them to be happy. Translation: I do not have to do all the things.

So this year I toned it down. One cake per kid on the actual day of their birthday.

Plus, they got to choose if I made the cake or we ordered it. One chose for me to make their cake, the other chose the Dairy Queen cake. God bless America, I think my blood pressure went down twelve points.

Simplify life!

For possibly the first time ever, birthday week did not stress me out. I could actually enjoy it.

And my extra joy in no way impeded on my kids’ joy. They still had just as much fun and were just as excited and satisfied without all the cake.

The holidays are coming up, and I think the dreaded “cake year of 2018” can be a good reminder for all of us.

Do the traditions that are really special to you. But if it’s something you’ve always just done and it stresses you out or steals your joy, please, for the love of cake, let it go!

Here are three surefire steps to simplify life:

  1. Ask your loved ones what the most important, special traditions are for them. (Hint: what they say will probably surprise you.)
  2. Spend some time thinking about which traditions are especially meaningful to you.
  3. Make those special traditions happen and let the rest go. I promise it will change your life!

Change is hard, but even taking these small steps toward simplicity is progress. As the years go by, pay attention. If you notice you start to add more of the hectic back in (so tempting, if you’re anything like me!) just repeat these steps to get back on track and simplify life.

Because, whether it’s birthdays, holidays or your everyday life, when you simplify, it’s an open invitation for joy.

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