Simple Saturday ~ A little creativity & all jokes aside a little stark reality

Today for Simple Saturday I want to share two things with you.

Firstly I have been creative and come up with my new Christmas tree design. I thought I would run it past you to see what you think. It is minimal, inexpensive (I picked it up off the side of the road) and fits better in my home than the the big 6½ ft fake pine tree. If I decide I will continue with this tree tradition I will throw away the branches at the end of the season and pick up some new ones the next year. That way I don’t have to store it and each year it will be that little bit different to the last.

I could put this tree up for the forth of July, it is so American. There is a Starbucks decoration, two Seattle Mariner ones, a Seattle bauble, an American flag bauble, an Uncle Sam looking figure and another baseball character among the selection. Oh well they are all fond memories for us so why not. Perhaps I need to acquire at least one Australia themed decoration to even things out a bit. 😆

The second thing I want to share with you is a video from an Australian comedy show called Gruen Planet. Each week they set a new challenge for two advertising companies to come up with an add campaign to sell the unsellable. This week’s campaign brief was this ~ Christmas has become the holy day of consumerism, a day in which our rampant spending contributes to the rape of the planet. We need a campaign to stop this orgy of expense, to give Christmas the flick.

Both companies did an admirable job and even though it is meant to be all in good humour there is a whole lot of stark reality in both campaigns.

WARNING: Please do not play this video while children are present.

Link to video

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About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. Hi Colleen.
    I would call your tree a “Charley Brown” Christmas tree. It’s pitiful. But it’s cute. Just like Charley Brown. (He’s a cartoon character with a dog named Snoopy. I don’t know if they have Charley Brown in Australia.) I’ve had various Charley Brown Christmas trees over the years. One year it was my shefflera (big house plant). Now it’s a 4-foot fake one.


    • Hi Janet W, Oh, I know only too well of Charley Brown and particularly Snoopy. It has taken me two years to finally sell off most of my son’s Snoopy collection on eBay. I was determined to make some money for him out of it and I have succeeded. I sent some items to the thrift store as well, gave one lot away on Freecycle and there is just one jar of tiny figures left which I will give one more go on eBay before being finished with Snoopy for good. Some of the items will be appearing in my declutter items for next week.

      As for my “tree” I was actually thinking of doing a palm tree next year in keeping with the climate we have for Christmas in Australia. When I am done with it I can plant it in my garden.

  2. I like your tree! Right now I just decorate our mantle and I may not even do that this year. I recently gave away our tree stand.

    One year we were out of town until Christmas Eve yet hosting a family Christmas. We decorated a tall wrought iron plant stand and boy were our guests disappointed not to see a tree. We had just been to Yosemite and had quite enough of trees and snow however – LOL.

    • Hi Juhli,
      I am not sure what to do with out Christmas stocking now the we no longer have a mantle to hang them from or a tree to put them under. right now they are back in the decoration box in the shed.

      Disappointing your guests by not having a tree might get you off hosting Christmas again in the future. Perhaps they might think you are too boring and contrive to having it at other family member’s homes instead. Ha Ha! Win win!

  3. I really like your “tree.” I like your idea of throwing out the branch each year too.

    The commercial contest was good. I did like Danielle’s best. I liked the way she used something we know to get the point across.

    • Hi Deb,
      glad you liked my tree.

      I like Danielle’s ad best too. Although I did like Santa coming out of the dirty polluting chimney in the last one as well. That really got the message across. That is why I said don’t watch it with children around.

  4. Love the tree – It’s simple and charming. I enjoyed when I did “the christmas twig” also. So easy. I threw the branch out each year. I enjoyed searching the woods for the “right branch”

    • Thanks Jessiejack,
      I didn’t have to go out of my way to find the branch. I saw a pile of prunings on the side of the street on my way home from the thrift store and” hey presto”.

  5. My favourite part of the tree is the decorations, so I LOVE your tree idea as a display of the pretty bits. For putting presents under it may be a bit sad looking… naaah, never mind, I like it.

    The selling anything idea reminds me of a Monty Python skit “String”

    • Hi Creative me,
      there won’t be that many presents so it shouldn’t be a problem. I must admit I don’t know where to put the stockings though. With the minimal gift buying we do the stocking would never get filled anyway so maybe they will be decluttered one the season is over if they don’t get used.

  6. Love the smplicity of your branch. And it suits hot weather better!
    I thought the ad contest was superb. I prefered Danielle’s as the clips and rhymes togther had more of a wow factor. I don’t think either were exaggerating.

  7. I like your branches too, I like the idea that you just collect the already broken branches instead of cutting a whole tree.
    I would go for the other clip, it was the santa and the chimney that made me LOL. although the other one was in rhymes. ha. both were great in the meaning.

  8. The branch is a good decoration throughout advent time, allowing some sentimental items out that usually are hidden – and if you feel inclined, you can still break out the tree on actual christmas, can’t you? Well, maybe as in Germany we put the tree up on Christmas Eve and don’t have it around for a whole month I am not so sentimental about not having a tree in the room right now (or the next six weeks).
    Really great link to the video. Never heard of that show before but actually Greenpeace and other organizations should air these clips to wake people up.

    I took a day off from work today to finally get some dreary decluttering tasks done and had ups and down by the hour. I know, I know, one thing a day keeps the overwhelmedness away … but sometimes I feel SO stuck, I SO want things to happen (and yes, I know, there is no such word as overwhelmedness – but the feeling exists for sure). I am glad that I know a place where there’s always some motivation to keep chipping away 😉
    Keep your fingers crossed for me that the day was after all a bigger step on the long long road and that 4 chairs I want to sell get picked up tonight (I only believe they are gone when they are gone …).

    • Hi Ideealistin,
      I won’t be putting the big tree back up because it will be off to the thrift store next week. I have minimised Christmas and it is staying that way.

      I am sorry you are still feeling overwhelmed at times. Are you thinking too much about the finish line or just feeling cramped by your clutter. I must say I don’t usually let it bother me so long as I am slowly moving forward I am content. Think of every little thing that leaves as a victory and focus on the positive of the situation and not the negative side, the effort the complications involved in disposing of items etc. I consider the effort exercise and the disposing method as a fun challenge. But perhaps I am just a little strange. The point comes up often about me being strange, there must surely be an element of truth to that.

      • Hi Ideealistin,
        I think ‘overwhelmedness’ is a perfect word to describe the feeling that overtakes us all from time to time, even if you did make it up yourself! The good news is that you really do feel it less often as you get control of your life and your stuff. Keep at it. We share the journey with you.

  9. I had watched the Gruen Plant giving Christmas the flick ads earlier this week and had already compared it to the intent behind 365 less things. Even as late as last night I was talking about these ads with friends and your web site. There is too much consumerism about Christmas.

    Love the Christmas tree branch – not sure what we are doing for a tree this year, haven’t even discussed it with the family yet.
    I am already trying to get the extended family to come on board with less presents this year though.

    • Hi Wendy,
      I would like to have been a fly in the wall during your conversation with your friends. Did you friends agree with your thoughts about the consumerism around Christmas or did they think you were just being Bah Humbug?

      Making the effort to get the family on board with less gifts is more important than the tree issue so stay focused on that I would say.

      • Hi Colleen

        Yes my friends did agree that there was too much consumerism at Christmas

        • Good for them and good for you encouraging such a conversation. Hopefully they will all act on it and start doing things differently. The world will be a better place for it.

  10. As Ideealistin said, in Germany it’s not common to have the christmas tree around for the whole month (did I mention yet that I’m from Germany, too? Well, now I did.)
    My granny has a branch like yours hanging from the ceiling as decoration both in advent and around Easter time. (at Easter, it’s decorated with eggs instead of snowmen)
    However, putting it in a vase reminded me of another custom over here which my other granny used to follow: cutting branches of cherry or apple trees on December 4th (St. Barbara’s Day). The branches are put in a vase and placed in the warm living room, so they will come to bloom until Christmas. This is also considered a sign of hope in the midst of winter (just like candle light and evergreens).
    Of course that won’t work in Australia, as you’re celebrating Christmas in summer…

    • Hi Sanna,
      I have lots of readers from Germany it seems. I look forward to visiting there again some time in the future. My husband would love to base us in Berlin for about three months and travel around. I am looking forward to that. A trip back to America next year is planned and then Brittan is next on the list, hopefully in 2013.

      I love the sound of your grannies branch tradition and I especially love the idea of the cherry and apple tree branches blooming in the living room. i used to love the cherry trees in blossom when we living in Seattle.

      • if you make it to germany, please make sure to come to frankfurt am main. I will give you a tour around the city 🙂

        I totally forgot about the branches on st. barbaras day. that would be also a nice thing in the living room in my flat… thats the next on the christmas list 😉 reading here turns me into a christmas sentimental, haha.

        • Hi Lena,
          I haven’t been to Frankfurt yet so that would be a very good idea.

          I have to laugh that Christmas sentimentality has arisen in a few of my readers as we discuss minimising Christmas. Which just goes to prove a minimised Christmas can still be beautiful and enjoyable.

      • 3 months based in Berlin sure sound lovely.
        I love such trips where you actually have some time to not only drop by the tourist places but can spend a few more days in the places that really speak to you.
        When you do come over, I’m sure you will have enough readers happy to show you around… (including me, if I happen to be home and not travelling as well… )

        • Thanks Sanna, that would be lovely. If only I was one of those gifted people who spoke several languages, travelling would be even better. We could interact with the locals more. We are just lucky so many people speak English quite fluently in Europe. I remember being so proud of myself for being able to convey to a lady (who didn’t speak English) in a café at the railway station in Amiens in France that I would like a little milk for my coffee. I even understood when she asked if I wanted it hot or cold. She seemed just as pleased as me that we managed to complete the request so successfully. I don’t think I will ever forget that day.

  11. I LOVE your tree! But then as you know I have the same kind of tree 🙂 I usually watch Gruen but I was flicking stations this past week and missed The Pitch. Unfortunately my computer is a bit slow so will have to catch up on it next week in the office.

  12. Rebecca B. A. R.

    I really like your “tree”! It does look at lot like a Charlie Brown tree! I would definitely keep doing that each year, and find a new home for the big tree.

    @Sanna–What a lovely St. Barbara’s Day tradition, I had never heard of it!

  13. Great tree 🙂
    And AWESOME videos from Gruen Planet. I’ll definitely be sharing those around this holiday season. Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Josh,
      I loved those videos when I saw them aired on thursday and couldn’t wait to share them with my readers. I must put them on my personal Facebook page as well.

  14. I think the ‘tree’ is lovely. Suits your house. Suits your style. Suits your climate. I sense more enthusiasm for this one than for the green artificial you stuck in a corner. I feel the good vibes coming from it, maybe because the theme reminds you of happy Christmases spent State-side.

    • Hi Wendy B,
      thanks for giving me the idea in the first place. You are right it does remind me of happy Christmases spent State-side. My daughter loved it and her first comment was “It’s so American!” I love that the decorations are so prominent.

  15. If anyone out there kept her (or his) fingers crossed for me: it worked! Now I got to go … and dance on the two square meters I just got back from the clutter.
    And as a bonus the chairs won’t be clutter to the guy who bought them but actually will be appreciated and used. So after all: A very good day – even if it did not feel good all the time. Decluttering can really be an emotional rollercoaster but in the end always seems worth the ride 🙂

    • Hi Ideealistin,
      all these things happen while I am peacefully sleeping. I am glad thought that all worked out so well in the end. Now just stay focused on that good feeling and the effort involved won’t seem like such a chore in future.

  16. Another fan of your tree here! We used broken furniture before we had kids & I bought a mangy tree from a garage sale to have Christmas. We also have their crafty decorations to ad to the visual feast!
    I missed gruen planet as I was really tired this week, they do a good job don’t they.

    • Hi Karen,
      you comment reminded me of out first tree perhaps I should dig up a photo and share the story of it with my readers. Oh how far I have come, environmentally that is.
      Gruen Planet really is great isn’t it. I never miss it, they really pick hole in consumerism. I love the Canadian guy (Tod Sampson) he really has a higher moral standard than Russel Howcroft. Tod is often appalled at what Russel has to contribute.

  17. Colleen, love the minimalism of your tree.

    Although it is quite American – not sure about the snowflakes in summer……

    Anyway, l hereby give one vote to add an Australian decoration.
    Of course it’s up to you……just putting my 2 cents in. 🙂

    • Hi Felicity,
      I am a bit surprised that you are the only Aussie who has made a comment on that aspect of the tree. Don’t take that the wrong way I am not offended or anything. I do love the snowflakes though they make me feel cooler just looking at them. And yes I agree at least one Aussie decoration wouldn’t go astray. I am sure my mother will have something to say about it next week when she comes to visit. 😆
      The expression of putting in my 2 cents worth is rather redundant these days considering we no longer have one and two cent pieces. Perhaps we should change it to ten cents worth since they are also talking about getting rid of the 5c as well you know. 😉

      • Haha Colleen you read my mind on both counts 🙂
        l am also surprised that l was the first to mention a vote for an Aussie decoration and yes as l was writing the 2 cents line l thought the very same thing…..There hasn’t been 2 cents in circulation for ages.
        I’m a bit sad the 5 cents might be going too – as l love the little echidna on the back of them.
        Okay that’s my 10 cents worth then…..;)

  18. Hi Colleen,
    no, I don’t think you are that strange, but I guess you started at a better point than I did. Imagine an apartment with no closets and just WAY too much stuff. Combine that with not really being naturally tidy, no car, no Goodwill store where you can easily drop things off, so donating is possible but a lot of research and effort is necessary – sometimes to just be sent home again (“Well, it says on the homepage that we take records, but we don’t. You also phoned? Well, people here don’t know everything, they are only volunteers.”) I do have the “luxury” (read: trap) of a basement and an attic but both spaces are akwardly narrow once something goes there you can only retrieve it again by moving things around. Also, I have been decluttering things faster lately than I have been getting rid of them and now literally have a pile-up.
    But I better stop whining and start doing, don’t I? once I’ll be down to a couple of boxes in the attic that need to be dealt with I’ll relax. I promise!

    • I see where you are coming from Ideealistin. I have to admit I have it pretty easy here. I have a normal house with a double garage I can store things in for months before getting rid of them if I had to. I live in a reasonable sized city where donating and selling is relatively easy and I have a car at least one day during the week to get stuff to the thrift store. The post office is just up the street for mailing ebay sales and Freecyclers come to me to take things away. I have been a bit of a tidy freak all my married life but not so much before that. I have also always been pretty thrifty so my clutter has never been really out of control. We have constantly upsized homes all through our married life until this last move from the largest house we ever had to almost the smallest. That was when we decided we had got carried away with our belongings. Hense where we are today although we easily fit into this home now it certainly wasn’t that way when we moved in. With all that I am sure that you probably own much less than I still do I just have more room to fit it in. So go easy on yourself you are probably doing much better than you give yourself credit for. You just need to get the ratio of dwelling size to possessions correct. You’ll get there mate, all in good time.

      As I write my husband has just brought in a box from the garage. I hope he is aiming to declutter it. Woo Hoo!

  19. I love your tree branch! I might do something like that–the grandchildren would enjoy it.

    How did you anchor it into the vase/stand?

    • Hi Becky,
      good question. I wondered how I was going to anchor it myself because there isn’t much left lying around this house to use for the job. In the end I stuffed around the branches with some bath towels. They worked like a charm, the banches are very stable.

  20. I love your tree idea. I’ve been contemplating how to have Christmas decorations while trying to minimize. I’m not enthused about hauling around 6 boxes of decorations/tree stuff when moving around for the next couple years. This idea will help solve that issue. Thanks

    • I am glad you like the idea and will adopt it for yourself. I just love google, I found so many good alternative tree ideas in the internet. Moving around has a great influence on how much stuff we want to own too.

  21. Hi Colleen,
    I loved/hated your gruen planet video – clever, so horribly true, but, oh dear, where was the “Christ” in “Christmess”? For some of us it is still important.
    I liked your Christmas branch, but I’m definitely not ready to part with my traditional Christmas tree with its ornaments, gathered over the last 24 years, plus one from my childhood and a couple from my husband’s. That too is part of Christmas for us.

    • Ann, those gruen planet videos just go to show that Jesus doesn’t even rate a mention when it come to the celebration of his birth for a big percentage of people these days which is most of what is wrong with the whole situation. It has just become a big gift fest and nothing else.

      I understand your love for your tree and your decorations. The decorations I have kept are all ones that have special significance too.

    • Hi Lynda,
      now that would be weird ordering an Australian Christmas decoration form America to Australia to make my American looking Christmas tree look more patriotically even. 😆

  22. I love your tree and container, Colleen. If it was up to me alone, this is the kind of tree I would have! Also, the bath towels to anchor it was very clever 🙂

    • Thanks Jo, I am pleased with it, although I did bump into it last night and one of the ornaments fell off and smashed all over the floor. My bad, I wasn’t being careful. Luckily it was one that wasn’t that meaningful to me.

      But to top it off, this morning I broke one of my son’s art works from last years university course. He couldn’t care less so I suppose that is just one less thing to dust. I suppose you could say there has been some accidental decluttering going on here in the last 24 hours.

      • my grandmother always said: if something breaks, it was meant to be. Pragmatic old lady. I also like your term “accidental decluttering”, thats just so true.

        • There are a few more things I would like to accidentally declutter around here but that is another story. 😆

          • just turn the saying: if its meant to be, it breaks… 😉

            • Hi Lena,
              I like the idea of “If it is meant to be it will…”. I used to use this theory when shopping. If I saw something I liked but just wasn’t sure I would leave it on the shelf and go home and think about it. I figured if I changed my mind later it would either still be there to buy or not. Whichever way it went that was how it was meant to be. I don’t use it so much anymore simply because I don’t recreational shop anymore.

  23. Well, my hubby got the christmas stuff down from the attic and I had 12 large plastic bins worth ( I love christmas decorating!) I did some decluttering as I put up the non-tree decorations (8 bins) I got rid of 1/2 bin of red bows that you hang on stuff (I only used 5 and kept a set of 5 backups), a doll of Santa with a coke bottle from the late 50s that I had as a kid that would be worth a fortune if it still had the coke bottle and his fingers weren’t chewed off (even I thought he looked scary this year) and a red sleigh of poinsettias that was very beat up. I think that saved a bin.Even tho I have a lot left I am happy because I love and use the rest. I will declutter some more as I put things away –just wanted to share!

    • Hi Jessiejack,
      decluttering is all about getting rid of the things you don’t use. If you love your decorations and have the place to store them then you do so.

  24. Hi Colleen, I’ve been reading your blog for a long time and really enjoying it from over here in the UK.
    I’ve always been distressed by the orgy of wastefulness which seems to be necessary to celebrate Christmas, in particular the mass tree death. What I did last year was to go alongside the cycle path and harvest some of the wonderfully-sculptural but completely dead annual weeds. I chose giant hogweed (an umbellifica) and Canadian golden rod, which is an invasive pest species in Britian. I cut a large handful of dead stems and brought them home. Into a tall coffee jar, which was itself wrapped around with gold paper recycled from food packaging. I threaded a string of plain £1 white fairy lights thru the weeds and garnished them with silver bows (re-purposed from christmas crackers) held on with sewing pins. It was very very pretty, had minimal impact on the environment and could be disassembled when I was finished with it. The lights coiled into their tiny box for another year, the weeds were taken back to the exact spot they were harvested from, the pins back in the pin cushion and the bows and gold foil paper back into my wrapping supplies. The coffee jar was washed up and is now in the kitchen holding home made pickled onions. It made me very happy. I like the branch-trees, too; so simple and elegant.

    • Hi GreyQueen,
      thank you so much for sticking with me for a long time and an extra special thanks for finally coming forward to say hello. It is nice to meet you.
      I googled your giant hogweed and wow, what a massive plant. Did you take a photo of your Christmas hogweed ( that has a certain ring to it don’t you think) that you could find and share with us. I would love to see it. Well done with all the recycled decorations as well.