It’s not that I dislike Christmas or New Years. It was the pressure to create the perfect Christmas morning for my kids that put me over the edge. For too many years, we blew through our holiday budgets, bought more toys than our kids could play with, and ended up with few happy memories of time with family.
I remember spending an entire Christmas day putting together toys and sorting through the recycling for many, many hours. It wasn’t fun or magical, just another chore.
But the holiday season doesn’t need to be stressful or commercialized. If you're ready to redefine the way your family celebrates Christmas, here’re a few tips that may help you get started.
Start with your priorities
The idea behind minimalism isn’t to get rid of everything in your life. It’s not learning to live without, but learning to live with less. And my flavor of minimalism doesn’t have to match yours. The idea isn’t to turn your home into a blank space with zero personality. It’s to turn it into a space that doesn’t swallow you with stuff that doesn’t matter to you.
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To define the best path towards a simpler and happier holiday season, start with listing what’s truly the most important parts of the season for you. For me, that meant putting faith activities over shopping trips. It meant cutting back on the number of gifts we bought and choosing activities over stuff we didn’t need. This is where you get to choose what’s important to you and let go of all the things that you do because “it’s the way we’ve always done it”.
Choose Sentimentality Over Quantity
We can’t forget that the holiday season is about creating a certain kind of atmosphere. We all know families who go bananas trying to create a Pinterest Christmas. And if that’s your thing, go for it. But if you want a simpler kind of holiday season with the same kind of magic, try choosing sentimental items over buckets of decorations you don’t care about.
“There were a couple of things that I did to help me overcome the ‘gift guilt’. For one, keep at least one item (the thing you love the most) from that person; that way, you still have something that they gave you. If it’s something you will still wear/use, then keep it with other similar items; if it’s not something you will still wear/use and you’re keeping it for purely sentimental reasons, then put it aside in a designated keepsake box somewhere.”
The same thing can be applied to holiday decorating. Keep what’s really important to you in a special place. Display it during the holidays and store it in a keepsake box the rest of the year. Keep the items that you care about the most and get rid of everything else.
Learn Your Triggers
I really don’t need more things. Yet, I get excited when I see Black Friday flyers. Here’s how it goes in my head: “Wow! A toaster for $5! That’s a great deal! I definitely need that!”.
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First, I don’t need a toaster because we already have one. Second, I don’t like toast. But my mind still screams: “Buy it now! It’s a good deal!!!!!”
That is my trap so I stay away from all Black Friday flyers. Maybe your trap includes going to craft fairs and buying more nicknacks that you don’t need. Or maybe it’s going out to lunch at the local mall and walking around the stores. You know you’re going to end up buying stuff you don’t need because you have no self-control when surrounded by a million other shoppers. Learn to identify your triggers and substitute them with activities that match your priorities.
Celebrate Your Way
The holidays can seem overwhelming when you see it as a competition and not as a celebration. In fact, lots of people are recreating the holiday season. The United Methodist Church started a campaign called the “Hundred Dollar Holiday” and urges parishioners “not to spend more than $100 per family on presents, to rely instead on simple homemade gifts and on presents of services — a back rub, stacking a cord of firewood.”
There is no law that says you have to celebrate Christmas (or any holiday) by commercialized standards. You get to celebrate any way you want and by any standards your family desires. For me, that was adopting a minimalistic mindset and that freed me in ways I can’t even explain.