Minimalist Christmas

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Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Doesn’t that sound depressing? A minimalist Christmas.  I picture a Christmas tree under which there are no presents, a house sparsely decorated and no joy.

But minimalism is not about getting rid of things for the sake of getting rid of things.  It’s about getting rid of the extra, the not really valuable, to make space and time for what is.

A minimalist Christmas will look different for different people.  For one family it might mean minimizing decorations, keeping only those they truly love (creating space).  For another family it might mean paring down the invitations they accept to parties (creating time).  For another it might mean a complete re-prioritization of the season – this might take the form of a bigger tree and more intentional traditions (creating value).  Of course it could be a combination of all these things.

For us, minimizing Christmas does not mean getting rid of things.  Besides the broken ornaments and a few items that have no value for us, we are not getting rid of much this season.  In fact, we bought some decorations.

Neither is over-commitment a problem for us during the holiday season.  We are working on establishing valuable traditions for our family, which sometimes means putting items onto our calendar.

But what about presents?! Of course this will be different for each family, as well.  Some families give no presents (which really does sound depressing).  Some probably keep it to one gift each or three each or something along those lines.

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Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

We decide on an amount of money to spend on each child instead of a number of gifts.  It is not a huge amount, but it allows us to get each of our children several nice gifts that (hopefully) they will truly value.

So there will be presents under our tree.  We do have some decorations.  But my greatest hope for us this season is moments of real, deep joy…especially that miraculous kind found in a drafty, dirty stable a really long time ago.

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

 

Toys We Keep

 

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Among people who call themselves minimalists there is a broad spectrum of how much stuff people keep. Some minimalist parents keep only a few toys for their kids and it works out well.

While we did get rid of a lot of toys and will continue to purge as needed, there are a fair amount of toys that we kept. Children like toys. I liked toys when I was young. We have long winters where we live, and going outside can be impossible for long stretches of time. Toys are a good thing for us – especially those toys that encourage creativity.

Here are some of the toys that we keep:

  • Legos & Duplos
  • K’Nex
  • Hotwheels cars & tracks
  • Wooden & foam blocks
  • Trains & tracks (we have Thomas Take ‘n Play & wooden sets from Ikea)
  • Mega Bloks
  • Games & puzzles (that have their pieces)
  • Balls
  • Nerf guns
  • Trio blocks
  • Play kitchen set
  • Transformers
  • Stuffed animals (only the well-loved ones)
  • Toy musical instruments (like these)

Some people would probably disqualify us from the minimalism category after looking at this list, but in reality it is a good amount for us. We live in a very small space, but unless multiple items are out at once, this amount is easily manageable. These are the toys that get played with over and over.

Becoming Minimalist

Space. Peace. Breath. Order. Calm.  This is what minimalism has brought to our house.  But it took us an awfully long time to figure it out.   

I’ve thought for years that if I became more organized and worked out a good schedule, I would be able to run our lives smoothly.  The house would be tidy and clean, the laundry would get done (even put away!), dinner would happen every day, and I would have time to be with my children and husband.  

I read books about achieving that dream.  I knew that some women reach that goal, so I assumed I could, too, with enough discipline.  

But I never did.  

Nearly nine years into marriage and six years into motherhood proved to me that this “running a household” thing was an untamable dragon, at least for me.

I was drowning in stuff.  

There were toys…everywhere.  On a good night the toys would be corralled into their homes, their “organized” places, and things would feel better.  And then the first 30 minutes of morning with children would happen and the better feeling would be gone.  

There were so many clothes in a constant cycle of washing and drying and sitting in laundry baskets and (eventually) being folded, maybe put away and worn again.  

There was clutter: the evident clutter on shelves and counters and the hidden clutter behind cupboard doors and in closets…whispering to us that all was not right with the world.  Of course there were also the low moans of the “deeper cleaning” jobs that never happened.  Scrub the kitchen floor?  When, exactly?

The discouraging cycle continued day after day.  I was barely keeping my head above water, doing what was absolutely necessary for a very low standard of cleanliness and health.  I knew I needed to be better at this housekeeping thing, but it felt impossible.

And then we discovered minimalism.

The catalyst was a documentary by The Minimalists on Netflix that we saw in Januay of this year.  Around the same time I saw a video on YouTube called The Ten-Item Wardrobe.  These people were serious about getting rid of stuff and living a better life with less.

I was ready.

Clothing was the first category I tackled.  I discovered that I had been keeping clothing items for all of us that I didn’t need and didn’t like.  I had also kept lots of little boy’s old baby clothes for baby, and many of the items I’d kept I didn’t like and didn’t need.  Out the door to be donated or into the trash (stained or damaged items) went a LOT of clothing.  

Next came the toys, which we sorted and donated and threw out.  We kept everything our children love: Legos, Duplos, train tracks (both wooden and Thomas Take ‘n Play), Hot Wheels tracks & cars, a marble maze, etc. and got rid of everything that didn’t get played with or was damaged.       

We made a good start.  We had lots more room in our closets and drawers.  I could see that minimalism worked.  But there was still a piece of the puzzle missing.  

And then I stumbled across this article by Allie Casazza.  Almost instantly the puzzle piece settled into place…that piece connecting minimalism with motherhood.  All of a sudden I was given permission to get rid of things (MOST things), not for my sake or sanity alone, but also for my children.  The concept that less is more for them was a rush of fresh air against my overwhelmed face.  

With this new inspiration came a whole new wave of purging stuff, and this time it was even more serious.  I (slowly) went through much of the kitchen, the front closet, my closet, all the shelves, the cabinets in the living and dining rooms, the bathroom closet.  This time I got rid of things I liked but did not use – a beautiful large quilted pillow sham that I have been carting around for years because it’s SO pretty, the french press coffee maker, the Europress coffee maker, the hand grinder and pour-over coffee making system (sheesh, we had a lot of ways to make coffee).  

Simply put, I got rid of a ton of STUFF and we felt it.  Our 800-and-some-square-feet duplex began to feel honestly livable for five people.  

I started to have peaceful feelings when I walked in the door or looked at a bookshelf.  Even when toys got out of control, it took five minutes or less to get back to a peaceful living room.  

The bottom line was that I had killed the mess dragon!  

It turns out that I am not doomed to have a cluttered house.  I didn’t even have to get more organized or disciplined to achieve a level of tidiness I’d never known before.  I just had to get rid of a lot of stuff.  It’s so ridiculously simple.

And not only did physical space open up, but time began to open up.  Without the mental clutter of seeing stuff everywhere and knowing I needed to clean it, minutes started to be given back to me.    

So…are YOU ready?!  

If so, I’d say that the first big step is MINDSET.  You really have to want it because it’s a lot of work up front.  But if you’ve HAD IT with being overwhelmed and living in a mess no matter how much you pick up, then you are ready.  

Minimalism is not a gimmick.  Nobody makes any money if you decide to go minimalist.  It’s a very simple idea: if you have less, there’s less to manage (clean, maintain, move, put away, etc.) and more space and time left over.  It works.  You just have to do it.

If you’re really ready to dive in, go over to www.alliecasazza.com and get super inspired by her.  She even offers a course to help people go through their entire homes.  She was SO very helpful and inspiring to me.  

Then START.  

Start with your clothes, or your children’s toys, or the kitchen counter, or whatever is driving you crazy right now.  

Watch the space begin to open up and relish the freedom.  

Then watch out because minimalism is addicting.  You’ll start seeing all sorts of places to minimize (the top of the refrigerator!) and you will want to hit every single one.  It won’t happen in a day or even a week, but gradually it WILL happen.  

Then come back here and leave a comment so I can share your joy!