I couldn’t think of a better person to guest blog for us in December than our friend, Brenda Covert. Read on and you’ll see why!
You may have just completed your holiday decorating, from the train circling your tree to your outside lights and life-size dancing elf. Don’t panic about what I might be about to share. As a lover of all things Christmas and author of a blog called Christmas All Year Long, I wouldn’t dream of telling you to reduce your décor. More is more fun! Personally, I have eight—count ‘em, EIGHT—Christmas trees, from one foot mini-trees up to six-and-a-half-foot pre-lit, rotating trees, that are spread throughout my house. (I have a small room in my basement devoted to holiday storage.)
I would be the last person to tell you to pitch your ornaments and embrace minimalism. Rather, my Christmas declutter plan focuses on tightly-held notions of what activities are required for the perfect holiday season. THAT is where much of the stress of the holidays is located. Not in the stores, but in our minds. Cluttered expectations turn our goodwill and joy into grief and general mayhem. So let’s see what we can do to trim our expectations for optimal Christmas cheer.
Possible activities of the month include:
- Live tree chopping/shopping
- Decorating the house and/or yard
- Doing arts & crafts
- Seeing holiday light and tree displays
- Doing holiday-related community service
- Posing for Christmas photos for cards (if you waited till the last minute …)
- Watching Christmas movies in a theater, on TV, or on DVD
- Visiting the mall Santa
- Attending parties
- Visiting family
- Attending live nativities/Walk through Bethlehem events
- Attending or participating in church choir, pageant, cantata, Christmas Eve and/or Day service
The obvious reduction should be to activities that no one in your family enjoys but that are done out of a sense of obligation or tradition. If no one enjoys the trip to a tree farm to choose a tree, then that activity is cluttering your Christmas. In my family, the only one who enjoys arts & crafts is me! After several years of insisting that my son and daughter sit and make ornaments with me, I realized that the memories we were creating weren’t happy ones. My options were to give up an activity I enjoy, continue to do such projects on my own, join a group of adults who enjoy crafting together, or lead an ornament crafting workshop for children who are interested in arts & crafts! I did have to give up my expectation of family crafting fun around the table, but I didn’t have to give up my personal enjoyment of an activity I love. Decluttering my expectations kept me from becoming bitter about my children’s inability to enjoy crafts while still allowing me to continue being my creative self.
Don’t be selfish; when choosing which activities to remove from the to-do list, make sure you aren’t dismissing activities that you dislike but that are important to other family members. Hard feelings won’t create warm memories!
Do what you can to compromise. For instance, family gatherings may be the tradition on one (or both) sides of your family. Frustration and bitterness may develop if every Christmas is spent with the same group. In my past, I had the tug of large, happy family gatherings on my side and my then-husband’s tug toward his parents, who were never very fond of me. We lived 500 miles away from both families, and there was a seven-hour drive between them. The long drive was hard, but we loved our families and spent odd years with my family and even years with his, which was a decent compromise. Until about ten years into that marriage, when we had small children, that is. We finally convinced his parents to come to our house for Christmas. (Before then, my mother-in-law insisted that we had to come to her house, which to be honest was upsetting to me, as I was anxious to begin our own family traditions. My parents were willing to come to us, but it was the draw of extended family that delayed our spending the odd years in our own home for Christmas. Extended family traditions can be a complicated issue!) Sometimes you’ll need to keep the peace, and sometimes you’ll need to make your wishes clear and hope for understanding.
If some of you are happy-at-home introverts and others are crowd-loving extroverts, decide how much of the opposite each of you can handle. Maybe each activity or event doesn’t require full family participation. Declutter those all-or-nothing thoughts. Maybe the introvert can attend one of the three parties that the extrovert eagerly anticipates. Maybe the extrovert can agree to a few quiet evenings at home with the introvert, watching TV and enjoying hot cocoa by the fire. Maybe a friend can take your children to an event that thrills neither you nor your spouse.
Using the above list and a calendar, decide which activities mean the most to you and your family members and which are needless December clutter. Plan out your month and mark your calendar. Organization is a key component to a merry Christmas for all!
If you follow my blog at http://christmaswithbrenda.blogspot.com and prepare for Christmas a little each month all year long, you’ll find you have more time for the fun and meaningful activities of the Christmas season!
Thank you Brenda! Readers, let Brenda know which of her suggestions resonated with you the most, or share one of your own. Together, let’s make this the most joyful, decluttered Christmas yet!