It's the most wonderful time of the year, folks! I hope you're enjoying your holiday festivities so far.
Christmas is awesome for so many reasons, but in the past couple of years as I've really started embracing minimalism, there have certainly been challenges around this time of year. I've tried to figure out how to do Christmas as a minimalist, but I'll admit it's been a struggle. I have high hopes for this year, though. I think I've finally figured it out, or at least I'm getting pretty close.
Part of that has to do with the passage of time: most of my friends and family have now gotten used to not giving me things. And part of it has to do with really focusing my philosophy of minimalism in the past year: what minimalism means to me, how I practice it, and how much more I enjoy giving things away than getting them.
But first, a look at Christmases past. As a child I remember loving Christmas. I loved the anticipation, wondering what Santa would bring. I loved decorating the tree and laying underneath it, looking up at the lights. I loved the music and the treats and spending time with my family.
But I will confess, I didn't always love my actual gifts. I'd pretend to like them because I knew that people who loved me had spent a lot of time picking things out for me and had spent money they didn't always have to make my Christmas special. I always felt so guilty when I didn't genuinely like a gift. It felt like a burden to have this thing that I didn't want, didn't know what to do with, and had to keep because I couldn't bear the thought of offending the person who'd given it to me.
After ten years or so of this, I started to realize what was happening. Before then, I wasn't sure how to process the feelings of post-Christmas let-down. It soon became clear that I'd have to make Christmas about more than the presents or I'd continue to be disappointed. Luckily, this realization coincided with me starting to enjoy singing in choirs. Suddenly there was a new reason to love Christmas—all the caroling and choir practices with friends helped me look forward to the season. That got me through to college, when Christmas became all about the joy of traveling home to California, spending time with my family and enjoying the comparatively warm weather and the break from school between semesters.
Yet still there was that nagging guilt of not liking all my presents and of feeling frustrated by the consumerism, the busy-ness, and the burnout that often come along with the Christmas season. Christmas is a hard time to say no to things. You want to make the most of it and keeping adding more and more to your traditional celebrating. It seems like the right thing to do.
Simplifying can seem Scrooge-y. You're supposed to want more presents and you're supposed to enjoy picking out the perfect thing for each of your beloved friends and family members. You're not supposed to think about the money gifts will cost you and the fact that so many of these decorations end up in the trash or wasting away in the garage for the other 11 months of the year.
Christmas is supposed to be about more, not less.
But it doesn't have to be that way. As I've discovered in the past couple of years, Christmas can be about experiences instead of things and spending precious time with family and friends. Even at Christmastime, less can be more. A lot more, in fact.
It's all in how you approach the holiday. If you're like me and your childhood Christmases were focused on physical presents, it's going to take a little adjusting to get into the minimalist mindset. Instead of making a list of things you want to receive or keeping your eyes out for that perfect gift for someone on your list, think about all the time you could save not shopping and how that time could be spent creating memories with your family. Maybe you could try making a list of fun things you want to do with the people you love in the coming weeks or months.
Another important part of a minimalist Christmas is learning to say no to invitations to do more. It's going to take some work and conscious effort, but you really don't have to participate in that cookie exchange or attend your coworker's brother's holiday bash, even if you've been doing these things for years. Instead, focus on creating quiet moments to reflect on the beauty of the season. And do say yes to the invitations you really care about. Just remember that burnout is real and it's very important to know your own limits.
One idea that can be really fun is deciding not to spend any money on holiday decorations. I did this a couple of years ago, and it was super fun. I used paper and craft supplies that I already had around my house, plus some used lights and a mini-Christmas tree that were re-gifted from a family member. I made snowflakes and paper chains to hang up in my windows. Then when Christmas was over, I was able to throw most of my decorations away and not have to store anything for next year. I like all-white Christmas lights because you can use them all year, not just at Christmastime. When you have a tiny house, it's hard to justify storing things you only use 1/12th of the time, so stuff like that is important.
I'm not saying that it's bad to buy presents or that you should deprive yourself of the joys that come with this time of year. I just want to point out that there are other ways to celebrate Christmas. I used to get a lot of joy out of giving physical gifts to my friends and family. These days, I get a lot of joy out of giving them experiences and spending time with them. Instead of feeling entitled to boxes of presents, I've found myself feeling excited about donating to causes I care about.
Before you get the wrong idea, I want to point out that I'm not some sort of Christmas saint. I'm not perfect at this stuff. I still feel the pull to do and buy and be more, but I know that in the end, I'm happier with less. Minimalism is not the only way to focus yourself on the true spirit of Christmas, but it's working really well for me.
Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope your holidays are completely magical whether you go minimalist or maximalist this year. Here's to a wonderful Christmas season and a brand new year to come!
Oh, and speaking of a new year, if you're looking for help with Primary this coming year, I've got a few extra copies of this book that I'd be happy to give you. Just leave me a comment here or on Facebook and I'll see what I can do!