For decades Christmas was a time when I would decorate almost every square inch of my house. In the kitchen there would be holiday towels, bowls filled with red and green baubles, and pine branches tucked into every nook and cranny. In the bathrooms you would find holiday scented candles with more decorative towels and Santa figurines on the sink. The living room would look like Santa’s elves had taken hold of the space and put red, green, and gold positively everywhere. Every surface had a red table runner, music boxes, snow globes, my collection of Santa dolls and assorted greenery spread over it to the point that you couldn’t see the table anymore.
It would take me a couple of days to put all this out for display. It was exhausting but I thought it was necessary for my family to be able to enjoy the holiday and get into the holiday spirit. My two sons did love all the decor, but truthfully my husband couldn’t stand it. He didn’t appreciate all the clutter that came with the holiday. Furthermore, because it took so much work to put the decor up I wanted to make sure it was worth it, so the decorating would begin the day after Thanksgiving and stay up until New Year’s Day, when we would then spend hours taking it all down and organizing it for storage until the following year.
Year after year I noticed that I always loved the way the house looked once it was all put away. The overly cluttered and busy rooms were suddenly spartan in their appearance. Tabletops were empty, bathrooms were cleared and fresh looking. The whole house had a feeling of spaciousness that would result in my breathing a sigh of relief. If Christmas was the happiest time of the year, why was I always so happy to be done with it come January?
Several years ago I really began to get into minimalism. I spent a spring and summer clearing, donating, and tossing anything and everything that wasn’t needed or useful. As the summer dwindled and fall approached I began to examine all of the holiday decor. It wasn’t just the big one, Christmas. I had Autumnal decor, Halloween decor, and Thanksgiving decor as well. I assume you’re starting to see the big picture here. I had spent a lifetime collecting more and more decor for the holidays. I had bins upon bins of the stuff.
Suddenly I was faced with a dilemma, do I put all that stuff out, or do I act like Scrooge and say “Bah humbug,” to it all. I sat down and really thought about what I truly loved most about the holidays and change of seasons. I loved the family time, I loved those magical moments like apple picking and watching Hallmark movies by a cozy fire next to the tree. I started to realize that I could celebrate the magic of the season but on a much smaller scale.
I selected areas of the main room that would get decor, but the rest of the house would continue to be free and clear. I decided that the mantle would always be decorated. I did love how the mantle looked once it was draped in pine and red berries mingled with white lights. I also would put an arrangement of some kind on the kitchen table and the buffet table.
One of the best strategies I learned was to contain the decor items to a tray or pedestal. This would limit the amount that was put out, and yet by placing all the items together as one unit it made for a very impressive display. I also made a point to focus on natural items as opposed to tons of holiday trinkets, figurines, and the like. My Santa collection gave way to pine branches, pinecones, and faux berries. The stuffed snowmen that used to be stacked next to the fireplace was replaced with stacked birch logs and more pine cones.
As much as I would have liked to decorate with real berries, I have a dog and a cat and couldn’t risk them possibly ingesting something harmful. For the same reason I use tons of battery operated candles with one or two scented candles in safe locations. Even though my natural elements weren’t all truly natural, it still made for a very serene feel.
One of the biggest changes of all was the tree. In years past the tree would have so many items on it that you couldn’t see hardly any of the pine branches. Ribbon, faux poinsettias, glass balls, and all sorts or ornaments adorned every square inch of the tree. I decided the entire tree needed a makeover. We would only use white lights to provide a cohesive look with the mantle. There would be no ribbon all over, no giant bunches of flowers, and as for ornaments, we would only use about a third of what we had. I went through the ornaments and selected the ones that had a memory attached, or that sparked joy as I held them. I found myself drawn to the red and white ornaments the most, and suddenly a color pallet for the tree had be born naturally.
In the end, the main room still looks very festive, and while the main room probably wouldn’t be described as minimal right now by die hard minimalists, it makes me incredibly happy as well as my husband. He appreciates the rest of the house being free of decor as much as I do.
After the holiday I will collect the items that we did not use this Christmas and they will make their way to a charitable donation center or get rehoused to relatives who might want them.
Hope you are having the merriest of holiday seasons.