Simplifying Christmas

Simple decoration

Simple decoration

Whoo Boy! For those of us in the cultural extravaganza of December in the United States, there is an overwhelming mish-mash of marketing, family sentimentality, religious holiday, social obligations, marketing, career obligations, style points, cultural obligations and oh, yeah…marketing.

Whatever stories you are telling yourself right this minute, this second day of December….I just want to point out that you can’t do it all. Not only can you not do it all….it is not desirable to even try.

If your family or work culture mandates that you celebrate with them, you have options beyond a vacation in a non-Christian country during the last month of the Roman year.

Here is your mandate: spend a quiet afternoon all by yourself (coffee shops and book stores count, when you need to get away from obligations) and reflect on what, if any, part of the holiday/cultural extravaganza you value. Write it down. This is the only part you have to participate in. Really!

Over the years, I have valued and opted out of different parts of the celebration.

  1. I have attended Christmas church services with my family.  This year I will work for hospice.
  2. I have spent $$ and time creating the perfect Christmas tree, visible from my living room and the street, via a window. I do not now.
  3. I did Secret Santa with my co-workers. I do not now.
  4. Travel through blizzard conditions for four hours to be with biological family who insulted my life choices. Won’t do that again. Ever.
  5. Purchased, addressed, mailed Christmas cards to 300+ friends and relatives when I had 2 children under the age of 2 and was so sleep deprived, that 5 of the cards came back with wrong/insufficient addresses.

Here is h0w I celebrate now:

1) Often, I work Christmas day. This allows my co-workers with small children to spend this precious time with their families.

2)  My one and only Christmas decoration this year is this wreath on my front door. $18.00 and compostable after the holiday.

3) I do love to shower my children with gifts. But I buy one generic paper wrap (any/all occasion–not birthday, not Christmas, not Valentine’s Day) and I use it till it is gone, then I buy another generic wrap. Other years, I have used the comic section of the newspaper as wrap and also, the paper grocery sacks from the store. When they had logos printed on the outside, I turned them inside out.

4) I shop all year long/ And I re-gift. If I find something that I think would be a great gift for a loved one in February or July…I nab it and put it into my secret storage site. I keep track of how much I spend on each child because….

5) I set a dollar amount that I will spend on each person that I plan to give a gift to. When the kids were very young, it was not a dollar amount, but number of gifts. That was how they counted back then, and I did not want anyone to feel slighted or less loved because of the presents. Now they are older, and a bit more sophisticated. So I set a dollar limit for each person and when I have spent that amount, I stop buying gifts for that person. Sometimes a small re-gift will fall into my lap. I do not tend to count them in the dollar amount. I might if it was something spectacular.

So what do you do to manage the excess of the season?


11 responses to “Simplifying Christmas

  1. Hello! I’ve been a longtime follower of your blog since you posted on Miss Minimalist. Everytime I get an email showing that you posted (BEFORE I even read it) it really brightens up my day. I always look back at your ‘100 count’ posts and use it as a gauge to see how much more I can minimally live. Thank You so much for writing and posting pictures. You have no idea how much it means to me ( the pictures of your belongings provide such motivation and joy to me) They push me and put me in a better space mentally and physically (cause I have more space now). You have become my ‘Virtual Minimalist Big Sister’ – someone at a level of simple living I aspire me to become

    If you’d like, I’d love to send you some of the pics (and work in progress) I have attained thanks to your posts (trying to live with minimal kitchen items, cosmetic items and even my wallet etc…that have all been inspired by your posts)

    Sending you much love and joy from Chicago (and Florida my new minimalist tiny home)


  2. I’m 75, so some of this comes from a ‘feeling’ of being unable to any longer — but it’s more of a feeling than a real physical limitation. So, I send Xmas e-cards from Jacque Lawson — one card with one message to 20-30 people in one fell swoop (what does that mean?). I send checks to 2 grown grandchildren and 3 adult children. The temptation is very strong to support a couple of baby elephant orphans in Kenya instead, as does a friend. She’s even visited the orphanage — lots of videos, info, online — find site via google.
    I have a small single sleigh bell on a red ribbon, which came in a mail order package years ago, that I generally hang on a push pin, and declare decorating my house (or office space) complete. In recent years I did succumb, however, in a thrift store, to a small, table-top size, crocheted Xmas tree, obviously made an old lady (I forget I’M an old lady…), stuffed with cotton. It was so sweet, and kitchy, that it was adorable. I temporarily gifted it to an office mate with the provision she give it back, and she forgot and threw it out. (You can’t trust anyone.)
    Quakers believe every day is sacred, and no single day is more important than any other, so, thankfully, Xmas and Easter are barely acknowledged. I find the commercialization of Xmas generally APPALLING.
    My family have been far away for 20+ years. This year one of my sons has moved from Fairbanks, AK to this area, after 30 years up there. So I will have actually have a family member to hug on Xmas day — that’s the best gift I could have.

  3. I have bought some gifts this year, but I have also knitted quite a few throughout the year. I enjoy knitting, so as long as I start early enough and don’t end up frantically knitting during December in order to finish, it’s fun and quite relaxing. My school friends and I are turning 30 this year, so we are not buying Christmas or birthday gifts and are going on holiday instead- we all have everything we need. I don’t give presents to many people at all.

    I’m wrapping most presents in cloth, which I used last year and plan to reuse. Some will be wrapped in brown paper decorated with stamps (to a greater or lesser extent depending on time!)

    I like decorating the house- mum and I made wreaths- I have a little one with a candle in the middle as a tanks decoration. I don’t put excessive effort into making the decorations ‘perfect’ though- I like glittery tinsel and fairy lights…spending too long putting stuff up makes it a chore rather than fun.

    Who knows though, in the future I may decide that some of these things have become more chore than fun and stop doing them too.

  4. Hand knit gifts are THE BEST! I agree that what is fun this year, may not always be. It is good to know when it is OK to let go of traditions.

  5. Thank you for this post. I needed it today! I have a 5 year old and 18 month old and am coming off a year and a half of anxiety, panic attacks and depression (thank you hormones and postpartum issues!). I am finally in a good place! We travel a lot at Christmas because family is spread out, and I decided that I wanted to simplify greatly to help maintain my much healthier state of mind. This year I am not sending out Christmas cards, I got a small tabletop Christmas tree (instead of the large, live one that my husband prefers), I have not set out my Christmas coffee cups, we are not putting lights on the house, and I am not taking my kids to see Santa. They cry and scream when they see him anyway, so who needs the headache!?! I did all my shopping online from Amazon, and the gifts are tucked away waiting to be wrapped. I cleaned out my Christmas box and gave away some Santa plates, a table cloth and some other little trinkets. I’ve already cleaned out my girls’ toys and clothes in preparation for all the STUFF they are going to receive from relatives. This may be the last year I participate in adult gift exchanges. I don’t like them and would much rather save or donate the money to a good cause. I am leaning heavily on God and the tool of minimalism to help me get through the craziness of the season with my sanity intact! (Sorry for the long post. End of rant!)

  6. I have a few handmade decorations from my great nephews that I get out and a wreath on the door and call it done! Gifts of homemade applesauce and roasted nuts from a church sale for dad and family, local hometown newspaper subscription for niece, nephews, brother and father. Wine for friends. No clutter, consumable gifts.
    I too, love your 100 possessions posts. It always helps me realize how much I can live without.

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