Every holiday season we are bombarded with stress, responsibilities, obligations and material advertising. It’s so easy to lose sight of why we choose to celebrate these holidays in the first place! For many people, there is a profound spiritual meaning to the holiday season. For others, the holidays are simply an opportunity to spend quality time with loved ones and feel grateful. Regardless of your reason for celebrating the holidays, I think we can all agree on one thing: The holiday season is just too darn stressful!How can we make this holiday season different? How can we prioritize the real reasons we celebrate this time of year and downgrade all of the annoying or distressing things that have latched on to our celebrations like a piece of lint that just won’t come off our favorite holiday sweater?

This year, I recommend following two simple rules: 1.) Ask, “why?” and 2.) Say, “no!” By asking why you really need to do the usual things that invade your holiday routine and being ready to say a resounding “NO!” to them, you will discover for yourself the difference between what really matters to you and what deserves to be on the holiday chopping block.

For example, you might be the kind of person who is a compulsive gift-giver. If someone is even remotely close to you, you feel the need to buy him or her a gift, even if this means buying dozens of thoughtless, unrequested gifts for people. This absorbs a huge part of your time and money every holiday season. Let’s apply my no-nonsense rules to this common holiday affliction.

Step 1: Ask, “Why?”

Why are you doing this? What is the actual purpose of buying so many gifts for so many people? Maybe you legitimately want to express your love toward these people with some thoughtful gifts. Or, even more likely, you are giving these gifts to avoid feelings of awkwardness and guilt.If the former is the case, feel free to give gifts as long as they are truly thoughtful and meaningful. If the latter is the case, why are you allowing yourself to be motivated by feelings of pressure and obligation? How do you even know these people actually want a halfhearted gift from you? Sounds like you need to proceed to step two.

Step 2: Say, “No!”

Although it may feel uncomfortable, stop this pointless holiday ritual! You are perpetuating something that completely misses the point of celebrating this time of year. If you really want to make a nice gesture to someone, maybe a short personal note would be more appropriate than a gift card or yet another cinnamon-scented candle.If you get an uneasy vibe from this person, consider what that means. If her reaction is something like this—What, no gift this year?! How dare she?—then you can be certain that you shouldn’t exchange gifts with this person. This relationship obviously has too much of a material basis and wouldn’t have lasted through any substantial hardship anyway, so celebrate the end of wasted purchases!Forgive me if I seem harsh, but this is a serious matter. Your holiday season should be determined by the love you have for others, not your superficial obligations to them. A true friend would understand and not think twice about putting a stop to a meaningless cycle of spending.By asking why and saying no, you can carve out a more meaningful holiday experience than you’ve ever had before. Indeed, sometimes less really is more.

QUIZ: Are You More Stressed Than Celebratory?

This Holiday Season, Please Be Kind to Retail Employees