I wish you a merry decluttered holiday season

I received this message from one of my readers this week and wondered if anyone could help with this request.

I just got rid of about half a dozen strands of greenery and three wreaths and some other Christmas odds and ends. It would be helpful to have a conversation soon about decorating for Christmas and seeing some photos from other people on how they decorate. I keep Googling ‘minimal Christmas decorating’ or words to that effect, but not coming up with any good results.


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  • Owning your life skill ~ By Doodle One of our long time regular readers Doodle has kindly agreed to help out here at 365 by writing a blog post for me every other Wednesday. Today is her first regular post although not the […]
  • Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ Count the Mintues Cindy's Weekly Wisdom Last week, I wrote a post praising the wonderful feeling of getting old to-dos done. As I suspected, I was not alone in 1) having pletny of old to-dos that needed […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.

Comments

  1. We decorate our christmas tree with mandarines, nuts, cookies and chocolate. Just eat it.
    Candles are burning down. Branches are compostable.

    But I have some clutter also ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Sarah-Mae @ Eat, Run, Knit :

    One of the most helpful Christmas/decorating tips I have found for a minimalist is to use nature and consumables to decorate your house. We use real holly for a wreath, pinecones and candy canes to decorate alongside popcorn and cranberry strings; twigs, rocks, leaves; oh and my favorite: putting out seasonal GOODIES! Nothing screams Halloween more than a little dish of treats, caramel apples and a pumpkin or two around; valentines day gets a little dish of cinnamon hearts and love notes written on the mirrors and windows with a dry erase marker; or Easter with decorated eggs ๐Ÿ™‚

    Get creative with things you can promptly get rid of once the season is over – put a little twist on the holiday theme every year and it’s like you’re a high fashion decorator, never using the same measly old wreath or decoration twice :p

    • That sounds like good advice to me Sarah-Mae. I used to love looking at all the natural Christmas decorations at the tree sales but always though it was expensive to replace every year. That was before I starting decluttering in earnest. Now it does sound good. Too bad they aren’t available in Australia, but there is nothing wrong with decorating with Aussie wild flowers and gum leaves and particularly Aussie Candy.

      • I suppose this is the joy of being a Canadian! Holly and pinecones are found in abundance throughout the winter ๐Ÿ˜›

        • Hi Sarah-Mae,
          it is probably time Australia found their own Christmas identity anyway. We are really still very British here. Not that there is anything wrong with that but decorating with Australian flora would make a whole lot more sense. This is why I felt like I had experience my ever real Christmas when I moved to the USA because all out lives we associate it with the winter images we have always seen in books and cards, reindeer, snowmen, snow, santa in a warm fluffy suit, pinecones etc.

  3. If you are wanting ridiculously minimalist, head over to http://zerowastehome.blogspot.com/2009/12/zero-waste-christmas-or-almost.html
    There’s a posting on how they celebrate Christmas with little to no waste. It is pretty extreme, but fascinating.

    • Hi Elizabeth and welcome to 365 Less Things, thank you for your contribution to todays post. The Zero Waste Home is a great blog and that topiary tree looked fabulous. I am inspired.

  4. This year is my first of doing the decorations ‘minimally’ i sorted the decorations we had and gave what was obviously not going to be used to my son’s school. My plan is to put the tree up in the front living room and decorate it with just red and gold. My back living room/dining room will have the fireplace decorated with some holly and my plump santa clause sat on it. I will also buy a posinetta for the dining table. I don’t really like cards, but i will have a select few on display. Previous years i have spent a whole weekend decorating the house, hopefully this year it will be 1/2 a day . I will post photos of my deccies, if coleen doesn’t mind? BUT i will not be putting them up untill the 1st of December.

    Really interested in how other people approach christmas, including present buying/gift giving/decorations/food etc.

    Sharron x

    • Hi Sharron,
      I look forward to those photos. Cindy and I are planning a week of Christmas posts soon. I think we should request more readers send us their minimalist Christmas photos to share for next year as well.

  5. Try having a “destination” holiday. My family has long since abandoned the hectic “buy-a-gift-for-someone-who-won’t-appreciate-it-or-could-buy-it-themselves” rush. This works especially well for families who don’t have many young children.

    We each buy ourselves a ticket on a cruise ship or some other travel destination. Then, our “presents” to each other are our collective “presence” on the trip. We end up ultimately saving loads of money because we get groups discounts and typically go over the holidays so we don’t bother putting up a ton of decorations, etc. We spend our holidays in warm, sunny places with good friends and family, save some green, and have significantly decluttered both our holiday oriented clutter and our previously stressful holiday schedules.

    Also, buying trips instead of gifts mean we don’t have to worry about re-gifting horrid pine-cone foxes or fuzzy slippers. Win-Win!

    • Hello Victoria and welcome to 365 Less Things and thank you so much for sending in your suggestions for this post. Now all I have to do is try to figure out who sent me the question in the first place. I didn’t actually mean for this to post this today but I am glad I did. I love your destination holiday idea. I can just imagine going on a cruise over the Christmas period with no need to decorate of cook, everything is laid on for you. Now that is win win.

  6. We don’t decorate much for Christmas, but here are a few things we’ve done before that worked well. 1. Put Christmas lights (no decorations) on an indoor potted tree that we already owned. The lights were cheery. 2. Put lights and a few nonbreakable ornaments on an outdoor evergreen tree that we can see from our windows. No need for an indoor tree at all. 3. Decorate a potted live tree and plant it in the spring. You just can’t keep it indoors too long if you want to keep it alive. 4. Fill a few clear glass vases or jars with shiny ornaments, garland, and tinsel. Use different sized vases or jars and group them together.

    • Hi Anita,
      I like all those ideas. I have a friend who had a huge glass bowl (like a fish bowl) and she changes the decoration in it often (often organic). It would look lovely with the shiny ornaments and tinsel as you describe.

  7. My mom and I used to collect ornaments so I do have several that are beautiful and sentimental and I love to see them each year. But since the kids are gone and the cats can be a pain we don’t do a tree anymore. Also I live in a beautiful rainforest with 60′ spruce trees outside so why would I want a poor replica indoors? Anyway, I like to find quality satin ribbon and hang them around the edge of the room. I also put a strand of white lights all around the ceiling but because it is dark here we do leave those up all winter for a cheery glow.

    This year’s minimalism consists of planning our vacation around my school break and not being here for the holidays. That’s about as simple as it gets!

    I’d also be interested in how people handle gifting. Seems the older we get the less we and the other persons in our lives need.

    • Hi Delores,
      you live in the perfect location for a winter Christmas, it sounds lovely. Just not having a tree saves a lot of bother and space especially in the garage for the other 11 months for the year. I live in more the beach and BBQ kind of Christmas climate but I have had seven winter Christmases and I like them much more. That chance of snow adds that element of excitement.

      If you want some alternate gift ideas check out my Uncluttered Gift Ideas Guide.

  8. My christmas decorations include: real branches, real candles, cinnamon, cloves, dried oranges, christmas sweets etc. Most of it gets composted after christmas or is used further (e.g. the candles burn down and if they don’t until christmas they do without the other decorations in January or February).
    I’ve got a few durable decoration pieces, but not many. They’re surrounded with holly or else to make more of it.
    I don’t have special christmas-tablecloths or such, I have an orange one I use in autumn (with leaves, chestnuts and such) and spring (with easter eggs etc.) and a white one which I use for birthdays (with flowers) and christmas (with red candles, holly etc).
    So, yes I do decorate, but most of the items I decorate with are rather versatile (like the table cloth) or don’t last forever (like the things from nature, candles in different colors and such).

  9. This might sound crazy but last year we did a full size painted tree on our living room mirror. The kids had so much fun painting it that we decided to make it a tradition. No stuff to store, unpack, or repack, and no worries about the kitties – it was great!

    • Martha, that sounds perfect and let’s face it, it is the kids we want to make the happiest at Christmas and if they think it is great you are on a winner.

  10. This is a wonderful topic for this time of year!

    I’m 55, and my husband is 64, so some of our minimalism coincides with getting older and having no children at home.

    First we decided that doing a large, real Christmas tree was more hassle than we cared for, so we stopped putting one up. (I bought a tiny artificial tabletop tree last year and decorated it, only because the grandchildren were coming for the holidays.)

    I’ve passed on to my daughter and grandchildren lots of the ornaments that we used to put on the tree. I still have a few left, but will probably pass the rest of them on too, the next time I do a decluttering pass through the basement.

    Over the last several years, I’ve simplified more and more, so that holidays are enjoyable, rather than having them feel like a long list of must-do obligations.

    For me, a fresh wreath to hang in the kitchen, a live poinsettia for the living room, and a dish of Christmas-wrapped candy on the hutch is just about the right amount of decorating. Festive, but not too much.

    We’ve reduced the amount of Christmas cards we mail too, instead of sending them to everyone we know.

    No more struggling to get a big, usually snow-covered tree into the house, get the end trimmed off and fit into the stand. No more hauling heavy boxes of decorations up and down the stairs. No more sweeping up of tree needles for two months after Christmas. No more trying to drag the now-dry tree out the door, down the slippery steps, and over to the tree recycling section of the landfill (usually in a snowstorm, where we live).

    Oh, and no more struggling to find a place for loads of gifts because we’ve simplified that too. In our family we give a gift to our parents, our adult children, and our grandchildren only now. No gift giving among the adult siblings, or extended family. Usually now, since the grandchildren are getting older, it’s all gift cards or money gifts. I can’t tell you how many years it’s been since I’ve set foot in a mall, and I like it that way.

    For a long time, many things about the holidays felt like they had become obligations, and I no longer enjoyed them.

    Once I started simplifying them, and keeping only the parts that I *wanted* to do, peace returned and the enjoyment started coming back.

  11. When we built this house we neglected to leave room for a Christmas tree without moving furniture out. A very fortunate oversight. Our decorations: An antique coffee urn on a small table, stuffed with branches which we decorated with small ornaments. A branch laid on the mantelpiece which we decorated with bird ornaments (some antique, some newer). Two dead trees which are screwed to our deck. In winter we hang suet and bird seed, in summer hummingbird feeders and in fall sunflower heads (if we get to them before the deer do). Our community club gets together about a week before Christmas and we make fresh floral arrangements for ourselves and an extra batch which we distribute to shut-ins. Most years we return the bowls, bows and candles for someone else to use next time.

    This year we are hitching up our trailer and heading for Texas. Other than two red placemats and a candle, I don’t plan on decorating at all.

    • Wendy B, I love it. Isn’t it great when unplanned circumstance change our habits for the better. I am getting inspired by all these example of decorating branches instead of trees, I really like that idea. Have a great time in Texas. I am going there myself for the first time next year, I can hardly wait.

  12. Christmas is a love-hate relationship for me. I love seeing the pretty, sparkly, happy, traditional stuff in other people’s homes, but other than the actual act of decorating the tree with the family, I find the extra volume of things suffocating especially if it lasts longer than 2 weeks (which is why we stick to the real tree to have the excuse to take it down — fire hazard)

    There must be a compromise between good festive cheer and my maximum density of stuff comfort level…. I will be exploring that in more detail this season.

    • Exploring your comfort level sounds like a good place to start to me. Everybody is an individual when it comes to this and we should not be swayed by other peoples opinions. All the great ideas shared here today has given me plenty of food for thought and like you I will explore the possibilities as the season progresses.

  13. Rebecca B. A. R. :

    I only put up a 3 foot tree with a snowman topper and ornaments with my husband and our pets names on it, and lights. We put up a small one piece nativity, our 2 stockings, a small stuffed penguin, a small stuffed snowman, a 3 foot tall girl elf. With the tree I could even leave the tree decorated all year and just put a bag over it.

  14. Several years ago, we picked only our favorite ornaments and decorations for Christmas and put them all in one bin. Everything else was donated. We only wanted to have the ones that were special and beautiful in our eyes; so we had a very sparsely decorated Christmas that year! I really liked it because I wasn’t in a hurry to put it all away since I didn’t get tired or feel it was in the way. We have been making and choosing a few small additions because we felt like we wanted a little bit more, but doing it this way is so much more fun-being able to add rather than wondering what to box up again. There are a couple things in the bin we didn’t use last year; so they will be donated now finally too. Any sentimental items you want to get rid of can be offered to family. The rest you can happily donate or trash. You might try decorating with a few of your favorites, and when it feels like it’s enough without being too much, you’ll know which ones to keep or you may find you want to start all over.

    • Hi Angela,
      I did much the same as you, decluttered all the ornaments that meant nothing to me. That was last year but I wasn’t here to decorate so this year we shall see. I dare say I will minimise even further. The is too big, this I know without even thinking about it.

  15. I’d like to say that one of the reasons we decluttered our ornaments was that we had small children, and the fragile ornaments were breaking. They were mostly not sentimental; so it was easy to get rid of those. Now most of our ornaments are less fragile. We love the ones we’ve made of felt and stuffed. So we will actually enjoy them longer without worrying about them or cut fingers!

  16. I just read the other replies and love the idea for using *real* things for decor. We make a wreath from our tree, and you can often get free pieces from a tree farm or anywhere that sells trees – ask if you can take some of the clippings away. Right now my fall decor is a simle wreath and pumpkins of various sizes and a vase of golden flowers.

  17. A little backstory first:

    We had 3 artificial Christmas tree’s. A 9 foot giant spruce for the den, a 7 foot pencil pine tree for the living room & a 4 foot pre-lit tree for the kitchen. Yes 3 tree’s. Three tree’s & enough ornaments to cover them all & of course, extra ornaments “just in case”. Not to mention outdoor yard displays, 4 or 5 wreaths, dinner & tableware, table-top displays, mailbox, garden & house holiday flags, garlands, figurines, Hallmark collectables, childhood holiday “stuff”, lighted reindeer displays, mini 1 ft tree’s for the guest baths & office, etc, etc, etc.

    Then 3 years ago I was working some very long & very miserable hours & my husband was flying back ‘n forth in & out of Iraq on a regular basis. Then along came the holiday season & the thought of having to spend hours AND hours AND hours putting up all those decorations (& then having to take them back down) on top of our daily work obligations all of a sudden became too much. I asked my husband if he minded if we didn’t go all out that holiday & he couldn’t get the words out quick enough in agreement.

    So instead, we only put out our Christmas stockings, a lighted wreath on the front door & set out the little 4 ft pre-lit tree with just a few of our favorite ornaments & we called it Christmas & it worked! Christmas still happened!

    I only sent Christmas cards to our parents & no one else. I didn’t bake a single thing….turns out pastry chefs & bakeries know what they are doing. I opted out of the Secret-Santa thing at work & avoided the awkwardness that goes with that & didn’t go to the mall not even once.

    After realizing that Christmas still will occur even if we didn’t put out every single decoration that we own, we decided to sell off most of our holiday decor. Which we did. Since then, Christmas is still Christmas – but it’s no longer such a burden. Let someone else carry that self-imposed load…we’ll just drive by their house slowly & admire their holiday lawn displays!

    Anyways, we kept a lighted wreath for the front door, garden flag (my weakness), our monogrammed Pottery Barn Christmas stockings & the small 4ft pre-light artificial tree & kept only enough ornaments to comfortable fit on that little tree. Everything else we sold.

    In fact, we sold off enough Christmas stuff that we ended up using that money to take a Christmas vacation to Key West Florida the following year.

    • Wow Jane that was a sudden turnaround that’s for sure. I suppose you just got to breaking point and instead of all or nothing you went for the less is more approach and it worked. We feel so obliged to follow tradition and outdo it sometimes. That beautiful decorated look comes with a cost and not only in dollars. You must feel so much more relaxed now with that load off your shoulders at Christmas. Good for you. And I be you enjoyed that vacation to Key West as well.

  18. My favorite part of Christmas is music performances and church celebrations, so I finally got smart and realized that I don’t HAVE to decorate. For the past few years we have put up only a tree and a wreath on the door. (Lest you think I’m really perfect, though, I do have 6 boxes of decorations in the attic that I would love to get rid of, but my husband and daughters are not ready to let them go. I figure I can deal with them in the attic as long as I don’t have to haul them up and down the stairs every year.)

  19. Reading through this post and its comments is assuring. Iยดm relieved Iยดm not the only person in the world who does not by a whole set of new christmas decorations every year! Christmas seems to have become subject to trends and last years decorations are a total no go according to some. My mother in law asked me what christmas color I was going to use this year……….. And she was really disappointed that I like the mismash of stuff I carefully collected and considered over the years. Every year when I unpack my one christmas box I purge the stuff I donยดt like any more. And I never by new christmas ornaments, when you can find them in abundance at thrift shops. Also I make sure all the ornaments fit in one small box (half size of a normal moving box) including the tiny christmas tree that is 22 years old! christmas to me is more about atmosphere: good food, good company, music, snuggeling up inside (ok, so I decluttered the fireplace too, so no more of that) when the weather is awful outside, etc.

    • Hi hunter_xs,
      As if fashion trends aren’t fickle enough, now they have Christmas trends as well. Will companies stop at nothing to make a buck. I wonder what state the environment has to get in to before people start to realise that we just can’t keep producing all this potential landfill. I am determined this year to narrow my decorations down to one small box too. I think the tree is about to be sold or Freecycled, it is far too big. I will have to document the procedure of Christmas decluttering as I bring down those boxes and ruthlessly cull.

  20. For gifts, we draw names and so we buy only one gift among the parents and adult kids. The one grandchild gets a total of three presents (per mom’s request) We hang stockings and everyone contributes a little something like a small coffee gift card or bar of chocolate. We’ve been planning/talking about a destination Christmas with NO gifts in the next couple of years.
    I too decluttered all but one box of ornaments. A second box holds lights and other decorations. But it may be time to finally say, “No more tall Christmas tree.” I like the idea of branches in a vase!
    For Advent, I purchase five pillar candles, reuse pink and purple ribbons each year and enjoy lighting the candles each evening.

    • That sounds lovely Willow. Such a wonderful decluttered, de-stressed, de-consumerised Christmas.

      • I love Advent. We refresh our Advent wreath every year as a church activity, and we light it almsot every evening with special prayers or readings. I love that tradition possibly more than any other because it takes some time to do and slows everyone down.

  21. We stopped having a Christmas tree as there are no small children in our family at this time. I am now only decorating the mantel with a swag of fake greenery and small lights with decorations nestled in. Sometimes I put out our village scene on the coffee table but have to rethink that now that we have a very curious dog – perhaps a cluster of candle instead. I was hanging a fake wreath on the front door but it has seen better days and will not be replace. Our favorite holiday related activity is to spend an evening driving around enjoying other people’s outdoor decorations. We are happy they do it and happy we don’t!

  22. Hi, I rushed over from Northmoonยดs blog, so I am a new one on your blog.
    Oh, and am I into decluttering, doing it all the time. Your post today, gave me an idea for a post of my own.
    But as a comment, I will confess, that I have gotten rid of ” the xmas box “, thrown out all the decorations I donยดt like ( a lot ) from the past years, and now have all my seasonal decorations in one single box of a drawer near the place of the of the xmas tree. We have even had one or two xmasses without the tree, and – we survived ; )

    • Hi Metscan and welcome to 365 Less Things. It is nice of Northmoon to mention my blog and of you to drop by to leave a comment. I see you have those decorations well and truly under control. I pulled mine out earlier this year to do an initial cull but am waiting for Christmas to assess the situation properly. I haven’t actually used them for two years because we haven’t been at home for Christmas for that long. i dare say there will be more space on the garage shelves buy the time this Christmas is done and dusted.

  23. We seem to be going slighty against trend here. I have never had any Christmas decs or trees all my adult life and don’t send Christmas cards. I think I always felt with no kids around what is the point and my (now) DH didn’t seem interested either when he joined me 9 years ago. However, last Christmas, I felt a yearning for a tree, tentatively mentioned it to DH and to my astonishment he was very up for the idea. So yes, we bought our first tree, at 45+ lol. It’s a real one, about 2ft high, in a pot. And we loved it and can’t wait to get it indoors again this year.Very proud we have kept it alive all year. We just put white lights on it and a few simple decs.It’s not allowed in until Sunday the 18th Dec though.
    As for cards – my DH said to me last week “now we are married do we have to start being respectable and send Christmas cards?” My answer was a firm “no”. We will continue to happily not buy each other presents. I just buy for my two god children (generally books) and small gifts for family we see on Christmas Day itself – this year I am thinking of doing homemade chutneys.
    We get together with family on Christmas and Boxing Day and all contribute to the cooking/bringing food, fortunately this only means an hours travel and I do enjoy that very much.

    • Katharine,
      your Christmas sounds perfect. Do it your way I say and why change now that you are married. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I like the idea of chutney as a gift, ummmm now I feel like curry. ๐Ÿ˜†

  24. Hhhm, Christmas …
    this has been a sort of love-hate relationship throughout my adult life and so has decorating been. On the one hand I love the cozy atmosphere decoration can create, on the other hand it’s extra clutter, extra expense, extra stress in a season that unfortunately has turned stressful enough. I usually start out with nothing and but when the holidays are approaching and some christmas feeling is setting in I add some candles here, a bowl of oranges there and hang some ornaments from the ceiling lamps.
    However if kids were involved or I spent more time at home to actually enjoy decoration I think I’d go for more. In addition to the mentioned naturals (branches, nuts, oranges with cloves …) and candles paper would be my choice. folded transparent paper stars taped to the windows need little place to store throughout the year neither do they clutter surfaces but have a huge impact.
    I also fancy the idea I have once seen in a magazine to change the lamp over the table for a white “herrnhuter stern” for the season. Not minimalist, but simple, chic and so stunning that I think with such a big and beautiful piece the need for much more decoration would pretty much vanish.

    • Ideealistin, you are right decorations do create a cozy atmosphere and for some people the more the merrier and that is fine for them. But I am with you, a little of this and a little of that and after that it enough. I still love the sight of a beautifully decorated home and I don’t even mind the effort to make the house look festive. It is the taking down of them when all the excitement is over and the storing them of 11 months in my garage.
      I had to google “herrnhuter stern” to find out what you were talking about. It did look lovely I must admit.

      • I had to google it, also. The store is near the Dresden. I’d love to visit, but that is a long drive from my current location (over 5 hours). Maybe I can find their goods at a local Christmas Market this season (just to see them up close and personal!). They are beautiful in the web site photos.

        For those who don’t know what Herrnhuter Stern are, here is a link: http://www.herrnhuter-sterne.de/. Ideealistin, are you also in DE?

        • As a side note, the web site is in German or English. Just click on the flag for the language feature (near upper right side corner).

          • Ok, so earlier this year we sold or gave away ALL of our holiday decorations. I don’t miss them one bit. I don’t miss having them stored (taking up precious real estate); I don’t miss having to stress out over putting them up this year or take them down (like the holiday season is not stressful enough!!!); I don’t miss having to go shopping for more stuff, etc.

            I love what most folks have posted on this blog entry – (basically that they like to look at everyone elses decor and return home to their simplicity). AMEN to that! So I enjoyed the Herrnhunter Star web site, and the pretty photos, and then I enjoyed logging off the site and knowing how simple our holiday will be! ๐Ÿ™‚ (w/o purchasing anything…).

            I’m gonna go w/ the ‘natural’ decor as mentioned several times in comments. THANK YOU everyone for your great input and excellent ideas! I love reading all of it. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m also so happy that I’m not alone in my love/hate relationship w/ the upcoming holidays.

        • I believe those Christmas markets are something else. My hubby went to one in Berlin one year.

  25. I still own far too many Christmas decorations, but have pretty much narrowed it down to our collection of nativity scenes. We have about 12-15 and they only come out at Christmas. We thought since Christmas was really about the birth of Jesus we would try to keep our focus on that. However, living near DC we happen to have the complete collection of White House ornaments that I started collecting when I first moved here and worked on Capitol Hill – but that’s pretty much it. It has greatly simplified our decorating and each nativity has a story or meaning based on the giver or country where it came from.

    • Hi Kelly,
      decluttering is about getting rid of the stuff you don’t want, that limit is very much a personal thing. You collection of Christmas decorations sounds well within your limits and much less than you used to have, so good for you. I have a beautiful nativity scene too that my mother bought for me. I have been toying with the idea of decluttering it because it takes up so much room in and out of the box but like you say ~ the birth of Jesus is what Christmas is meant to be all about. So maybe I will declutter most everything else and keep my beautiful nativity scene.

  26. Hi everyone,
    I’LL PROBABLY BE LAUGHED AT HERE AS I AM SOOOOO IN THE WRONG PLACE FOR MINIMAL CHRISTMAS!!!!! You’ll probably run me out of town or beat me with your minimalist stick and then de-clutter it hahaha. Then I shall call you GRINCH!!! No only joking, I so get where you are all coming from though and soon I may head that way myself as the kids grow older and people leave the forefront etc etc, BUT!! right now I AM CHRISTMAS WITH A HUGE TREE 8ft and it is decorated with a colour choice and lights and all my sentimental ornaments and I will not change a thing!!! My hubby only has to hang lights and he whinges every now and again whilst he’s doing it but I know he loves the finished product! I keep all of my decorations in hand and they are stored beautifully, I have the room so none of them become a space robber and no-one can fall over them or have to move them to find something else. Some have naturally de-cluttered themselves via the floor but hey thats life, I also purge along the way but I must admit I like to colour theme my Christmas so that means I do purchase the odd bit & bob. I also found over the years that I really loved getting creative with my Christmas, being English I love the Winter goodies, (Just love Snowmen) but because I live in Australia I have an abundance of goodies right outside my door and I love making eucalyptus branch swags with bottlebrush blooms, gumnuts, New Zealand Christmas Tree blossoms and Australian orchids for the floral display. My wreath is usually full of blossoms too and it can be a bit of ‘bugger’ bee wise but hey the Banksias look beautiful!

    As far as gifts go as a family we decided to only buy for the one who’s name we pull out of the hat, the kids get something they need or want, they are the only exception and they usually ask for books, music and clothes. As for the adult gift I only give an actual gift if it is required (toaster blew up or need a kettle or towels whatever) I refuse to add to clutter so it is either really needed or a gift card is purchased for a day out or meal or whatever they really want. I always ask for a ‘Dusk’ gift card so I treat myself to lovely candles & melts. I save a set amount each week, all through the year and that is what I use for Christmas, nothing on credit!

    Finally I love to give fruit, the beauty of this is it’s fresh, you eat it, it doesn’t clutter and everyone enjoys getting a compostable box filled with yummy goodies, I usually go for pineapple, bananas, mangoes, strawberries, kiwis and the 3 melons, honey, rock & water. It also doubles as a decoration for the table and it doesn’t have to be stored for too long! I also switch it about with vege packs too, it is relatively inexpensive to put together a box of goodies that I know will be used up and really appreciated and enjoyed! Oh & chocolate & wine is always well received. This year I may add a small pack of ‘Panadol’ too for those wine moments hahaha.

    My best friend and I exchange our ‘Boomerang Gift’ it’s a beautiful, functional jar that gets filled with M&M’s or lollies or whatever we choose goodie wise, whoever got it one year fills it and gives it back the next Christmas. We have made it a tradition and have done it for years. Whoever has the jar for the year uses it for storing food. It doesn’t take up too much room and it is functional and it’s fun to fill it come Christmas.

    We always donate to Charities and my son loves to do the World Vision ‘feed a village’ donation where you donate money and it enables a poor village somewhere in the world to have seeds, and livestock purchased etc so they can farm and feed themselves.

    I do love the Season and I make time for it, I don’t let it stress me out and I like to reflect that it shouldn’t be about the Consumerism and I do manage to rub off on people that the true ‘Christmas Spirit’ will never be found wrapped up in a store bought thing!
    I wish you all well in your plans for the Season and hope that you enjoy it in whatever way you see fit.
    Early Christmas Wishes for a delightful decluttered Season
    Dizzy ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hi Dizzy,
      first of all I appreciate your honesty, you love to decorate and you don’t mind saying so. Each to his own and you stick with it if you love it. I love your idea of the boomerang gift, what a great tradition. My kids get a mango in their stockings. It is a tradition from my husbands family.

  27. The Other Lynn :

    I was hoping for a few more people with little kids to chime in! With a 5 and 2 year old, we are still making our traditions. My four nativities (purged from many, many more) are important to us, but I struggle with the tree. I can’t imagine not having a Christmas tree, yet hate getting one each year. I have seen a felt tree, put on the wall with felt ornaments for the kids to move and play with, but not sure that will get the spirit across. I’m looking forward to your week of Christmas posts, Colleen, and hoping I get some great inspiration before the season is upon us.

    • The Other Lynn,
      We are a family of four, kids are now 7 & 8. Yet I keep it the holiday as simple as feasible. I, too, don’t like the ‘tree’, but we do it anyway. This year we will pop popcorn and string it and hang it on the tree and add a few red bows (hand made from red ribbon; as earlier in 2011 we sold or gave away all of our holiday decor). I refuse to hang lights. They are my biggest nightmare. We use our ski socks as our ‘stockings’ (good things come in small packages!); kids get three items (like the Three Kings brought for Jesus, I got that idea from somewhere on this blog).

      We bake cookies and go around to some neighbors and sing songs, give cookies. We are active in church and enjoy seeing those decorations.

      Our kids are extremely active. Earlier on (years past) their little hands and their HUGE curiosity pretty much resulted in so many broken holiday things…so then I didn’t use most of our (fragile) decor, which in the end we didn’t miss and sold this year (as mentioned). I think one holiday our little boy even tried to climb ‘Mt. Tree’ (hee hee hee), which is a story of sheer laughter within itself, but did result in an easy declutter due to the crashing of ‘Mt. Tree’ onto hard wood floor (ahh, gotta love the broom and dust pan!). He was not hurt, he begged me to put the tree up and let him try it again!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh give me more red wine!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hi Lynn,
      was it you that posed this question to me in the first place? I actually didn’t mean to publish this question yesterday. I had set it aside to add more to but must have accidentally scheduled it. It got the responses I was looking for without actually having to make any effort. It has been a good way to collect information before Cindy and I write up our Christmas week.
      Did you read the comment where one of our readers, along with her kids draw a tree on their living room mirror. The kids love it which just goes to show that everyone can make their own traditions however unorthodox in order to celebrate Christmas. There is nothing wrong with having a tree, they are very traditional. Why not just keep it small say 3 feet. I never had a large tree when I was a child and I never felt like I was missing out on anything. In fact we never had a big tree in our home until our kids were about 11 & 9 when we got all carried away with the hype while living in America.

      • The Other Lynn :

        nope, wasn’t me who asked the question, but I appreciate the conversation! We do have a small tree that we’ve used before, but it seems dinky in our vaulted-ceiling living room! We’ll have to see what ends up happening this year.

      • Hi Colleen,
        It was I who asked you the question. I am so encouraged by the great ideas that it generated. I’ve always loved Christmas, especially when it’s a white one, but I have grown weary of storing half a dozen large plastic boxes of decorations in the basement, lugging them up the stairs, tripping over them for a few days while I’m decorating, lugging them back to the basement and back up again in a few weeks when it’s time to take down the decorations and then back to the basement until next Christmas. I have already parted with two boxes last month and plan to reduce the rest to one smaller box. Last year I hung a wreath by the door, put up the nativity set, and bought a gorgeous huge poinsettia for the price of a tree. It was a good investment, since the poinsettia has thrived and grown new green leaves and still has some of the colored bracts in shades of coral, pale yellow, and light green, and here we are almost in the new Christmas season! I do have a green thumb, but all I did is give it bright indirect light and water it a couple of times a week. What I love most about Christmas, besides the snow, are the scents of Christmas such as pine & balsam which is why we have always bought a real tree. I like the idea of using natural items like evergreen branches in a vase and using oranges studded with cloves. I also love candles, so I always burn white candles or pine, balsam or Christmas-scented candles, and sometimes put electric candelabras in the windows of our Victorian house. Very simple and elegant. No one in the family seemed to miss the tree last year, so I think we will skip it this year as well. I did appreciate the beauty and simplicity of Herrnhuter Stern once I Googled images. Thanks to your faithful readers, Colleen, for so many helpful responses.

        • Hi Di,
          firstly I am sorry I forgot that it was you who posted to question. I went back to try to find the original copy but failed. Thank you for asking it in the first place because it sure generated some great responses. I was inspired by them and I am glad you found them helpful too. I love the idea mostly of the natural look. Next week I am going to decorate early and record my efforts to share with you all the week after which is when Cindy and I have decided to have the Christmas week. I am looking forward to decluttering some more items from my decoration stash and I hope our readers will send us some photos of their decorating efforts.

  28. Hi Annabelle,
    yep, Germany. I learned the proper name for these stars that I’ve seen through peoples windows for years through some American blogs though, so apparently their fame has spread a little. I’m sure one day I’ll splurge on one (though they are actually not that expensive. More … expansive. I assume that once assembled you can’t take them fully apart again. But I am not sure about that) So this year: Candles in the three silvery candleholders that I did not declutter (and get out too seldomly anyway so I’ll be merry to see them), fruit, some straw stars (I guess another German thing … ) from one of the ceiling lights and, probably the most im important, the smell of self baked Lebkuchen ๐Ÿ˜‰

  29. Oh, fresh baked Lebkuchen! The smell, the taste, just right out of the oven!!! Hot and fresh. AMEN to that!!!! Our neighbor made it for us the first year we moved here and we just about melted from the heavenly smell, and then the taste!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ We’ve been hooked ever since!

    • That sounds delicious, I want some. I am looking forward to our Christmas pudding. It’s about time I made it and set it hanging to mature before the big day arrives.

  30. My aspect of keeping Christmas simple is time related: We decorate on Christmas Eve, and take everything down on New Year’s Day. The one exception is our outdoor roof lights, which go up the day after Thanksgiving (American-end of November). Our decorations are a special treat, which are not up long enough to get used to or stressed by.
    We have different decorations- tree things, wall items, little villages, outdoor items, but each year we only put up what we feel like that year. No pressure of ‘it is tradition, we’ve got to do it ALL’).
    We have also turned the putting up of decorations into activity traditions: We go out as a family on Christmas Eve morning, and do our tree hunt, then decorate it together while enjoying cocoa. When we set up the village, the kids design little communities, complete with stories. Putting up the lights is a father-son tradition, followed by PIE for all. Even the taking down is done while watching parades and bowl games on tv, and having special snacks.
    As long as it is fun, the decorating will stay. Once it is a chore- that’s when it becomes clutter, and OUT IT GOES!
    Since we have the space in our attic, these are possessions that, though somewhat excessive, I do not view as clutter because they serve their purpose and our needs: we own them, they don’t own us!

    • Hi Sabine,
      that sounds like a lot of fun. You have made it a delight for the whole family to participate in and I think that is key for it not to become a dreaded task. When one person gets left to deal with the whole thing because no one else cares enough to cooperate then you know it is time to give it away. Until then you just keep enjoying doing what you do, it sounds lovely.

  31. Hi the other Lynn,
    I don’t have kids and as a kid I loved the the tree (especially as there always were some edible decoration on it that we would sneak off the tree after Christmas bit by bit). What I did not like: cutting down a tree for the sole purpose of having it inside for a couple of days. Probably my mum read me Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale of the little christmas tree once too often but I always wanted my parents to buy a living one in a pot. They have to be small, otherwise they would get much too heavy, so we placed it on a little table wrapped in a tablecloth. Later the tree got planted in the garden. I know it is not a solution for everyone.
    But thinking of how christmas trees (cut ones) really made me sad instead of happy when I was little I think it is up to every family to find out what their christmas tradition is. Maybe your kids are not as set in THE tradition as you think and it might be great fun to explore the ideas they come up with. Also as a kid I always preferred decorations we made ourselves over store bought ones because it made me proud and happy to have things I made on display for a whole month (since the place was small there was no way my parents put up every picture I drew on a regular basis). Another tradition we had when we kids were little was baking a gingerbread house and decorate it together (of course candy was sneaked off during the task ;-)). The gingerbread house got “robbed” and eaten after christmas. And then of course the advent wreath with it’s four candles and lighting one (or two, or three, or four according to the week) together in the late afternoon and having some cookies, apples, nuts and tea or cocoa, accompagnied by a story … There are so many beautiful things to do with kids around christmas and many of them don’t involve clutter.

    • What wonderful reminiscing and wonderful advice Ideealistin. Reading what you wrote got me thinking about what I remember about my Christmases and one of the things that stands out is enjoying unpacking all the familiar decorations that got used year in year out. That familiarity of “old friends”, the candle snowmen, the little plastic nativity scene, the tree angel, the same old tree… was all part of what Christmas was all about. Which also got me thinking that reminiscing for me mostly involves really familiar traditions and long loved, well used items. All the fleeting stuff is just that, fleeting which reinforces the idea to choosing wisely in the first place and you will have something worth cherishing for time to come. I think the advice for Lynn to consult the children on what is important to them for Christmas may well give her some great insight as to what will work for her family.

  32. I have been having a minimal Christmas for several years now. I asked my three children to please stop buying gifts for me and my partner. My daughters do not buy us anything and my son usually gives me a new picture of himself and his wife ( they do not have children yet). I give them in return useful items like warm gloves and smart wool socks. I give my two daughters money for my grandchildren and ask them to put it in the children’s bank accounts for when they need clothes or something special that they ask for. I can remember getting all kinds of useless stuff that the kids didn’t really care for or toys that would break after a short period of time. I felt like I had to just buy something with the money because it was Christmas and my parents expected me to spend the money immediately. In the summer me and one of my daughters go to yard sales and find nice brand name toys for far less money than they would cost in the store.

    As far as decorating goes sometimes I string one string of clear light around a large house plant and put 2-3 special decorations from my childhood on the plant or hang it from the lock on the window. These are the same lights I use when I go camping so they have more than one use. My few decorations fit in an old baby wipe box! I thought about making a wreath from hemlock and red berries for the front door then composting it when it dries out. I was not enjoying Christmas as it was becoming so commercial, so this is solution to not going shopping. Now during the year I just buy something for my own children if I see something that I think they want. If you didn’t want to be so extremely minimalistic you could always draw names at a party and have everyone bring a plate of food. You could register for a wish list on a website like Amazon and buy something for a loved one that they really want.

    • Hi Kathy,
      I remember many a time having to declutter the gifts my children received from their grandparents (unused). Giving money is a far better idea I think. I remember my grandmother always sent us money for birthdays and Christmas if we weren’t together and I really looked forward to that. Quite a lot of the people commenting on this post make good use of organic items so as not to have clutter left when Christmas is done. I really like this idea.

  33. Our daughter is three years old. Last year we had our first tree and she was delighted. The year before that we just hung some lights and ornaments on a n empty curtain rod at the window.
    The memories I cherish from my own childhood include the live tree, decorated with the same ornaments every year, some very old family “heirlooms”. We had a nativity scene that my sister has now. Other than that it was just some flowers and a wreath at door that mom made. When she had grandkids mom started to make a small winter scene with elves in a cupboard.

    So, for us we will have the tree, decorated with our small box of ornaments. I like a rustic, old fashioned, hand made style. DD has a knit stocking that we hung last year for the first time. We also bought a string of snowball paper lights, but there were no lights at the tree. That’s it. We will burn a candle at dinner time throughout the winter. I imagine as she gets older there will be some of her crafts displayed ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Cat’sMeow, that sounds simple yet lovely. I bet the candle lighting a dinner will become a family tradition that gets handed down through the generations.