04/04/2013 06:54 pm ET Updated Jun 04, 2013

Less Fuss, More Fun

This post is part of Stress-Less Parenting Club's second workshop. Asha Dornfest and Christine Koh, co-authors of Minimalist Parenting, are sharing their best advice on simplifying family life. Here, Christine discusses a less fuss, more fun approach to family celebrations.

As a designer, I love pretty aesthetics. But the picture-perfect party imagery readily available in print and online can fuel parental anxiety. (I'm supposed to learn how to make a world piñata for Earth Day, bake endangered animal-themed cupcakes, and craft party favors from recyclable materials? Aggggh!) It's one thing if party planning is a source of a joy for you, but if it's not a priority, foregoing fancy party trappings does not mean that you don't love your child enough or don't care enough about celebrating the moment.

A cornerstone philosophy of Minimalist Parenting -- make room for remarkable -- sums up our approach to celebrations. We believe that one of the most important gifts you can give your family is a mental album full of happy memories. And that less fuss = more fun. In Minimalist Parenting we provide lots of practical tips (regarding, for example, guest lists, favors, décor, food, etc.) for reducing busywork, but here I wanted to share bigger picture shifts that will help set you on the path for less fuss and more fun when it comes to family events.

Pay attention to joy, not comparison.

When you're planning an event, it can be hard to tune out comparisons. But you will be happier (as will the people around you) if you focus on what brings you and your family joy; you are steering the party bus! Other parents will have their reasons for structuring parties the way they do and your choices don't have to be the same. You are not a bad parent if you, for example, opt to buy instead of make cake or invite a few friends to the party instead of the entire class.

Tune in to your child's temperament.

I will admit that for my daughter Laurel's first few birthday parties, I planned in a way that was more about me than her. I never had friend parties as a child and I really love baking. So while the parties weren't elaborate theme-wise, they were large (around 30+ people) and I expended a lot of energy preparing for them. Most importantly, these events did not fit Laurel's temperament at all. By Laurel's fourth birthday I came to terms with my overcompensation issues and tuned in to her temperament. We started hosting smaller parties and everyone was happier.

Prioritize and edit your to-do list.

Asha and I are big fans of to-do lists; not only do they save you the mental drain of trying to juggle tasks by memory, but when you see the list fully written out, you can see more clearly what definitely needs to be done and what can be edited off the list. Last year, when my second daughter Violet turned 1, I took cues from my experience with Laurel's birthdays and we planned a much simpler party. Laurel also had ideas on how to celebrate her baby sister. Yet despite our plans for simplicity, a couple of days before the party, Laurel said, "I'm getting stressed about all of the things I want to do!" I suggested we sit down and create a to-do list together, prioritizing items in order of most to least fun... and letting items at the bottom of the list go. It ended up being a fun and illuminating exercise. We realized that baking was top on the list for both of us and we struck several items off the bottom of the list -- it felt fantastic.

Try these approaches to less fuss, more fun when you're planning your next family event. Violet turned 2 last month and despite several (loud and clear) external nudges questioning our decision to forego a bigger party, we stayed true to Violet's temperament and celebrated in the way we felt would be most fun for Violet and us: a party with our little family plus my mother with a few small gifts and cupcakes that Laurel and I made. It was stress-free and perfectly celebratory.

Want to put Christine's advice into practice? Check out our workshop and participate in this week's challenge. If you haven't signed up for Stress-Less Parenting yet, go to the purple box on the right side of this page to receive our weekly newsletter.