I love the Winter Holidays!
Our family has a solid bunch of traditions that we've done for years, some have evolved with our more simple, less clutter lifestyle. And I'm interested in hearing what other simply living, decluttering families do to keep their homes clutter free and to celebrate simply.
The first couple years of our family holidays were pretty average mainstream celebrations in the sense I just bought whatever the kids had on their lists, panicked close to the end that it wasn't enough and rush around to get more, stressed about writing / taking pictures for cards to send on time, got meaningless clutter presents for everyone to not make them feel bad, etc. while telling the kids its not about the "stuff" and feeling depressed after the holidays were over because I felt like I missed something.
Then one year I worked retail for extra holiday money (one good thing...we never used credit cards for gifts, just cash) and was APPALLED at the obvious waste...whole stores full of holiday themed merchandise, just TRASHED because of legal reasons not being able to donate! I was instructed how to get people to spend more money without them realizing it. Thinking about the resources used to make all that stuff, the waste...and that was just one store in one mall...it was mind-blowing. I quit before the end of the season and I created a self imposed limit - 3 gifts for each kid (because that's how many Jesus got and that made sense to me).
As the years passed, we went to one gift for each kid. Even though we did the same things - getting the tree, baking cookies, holiday movies, etc. - I shifted the focus of Christmas Day to the Holiday Season. The things we did weren't leading up to one day anymore, they were celebrations/festivities in and of themselves.
I'll have to post a list...
For one thing we don't really decorate for Christmas. We do have our fresh pine tree each Christmas, hung with red baubles, lights and golden glitter and strings of golden pearls in the living room and we do have a Christmas star hanging in the window, and a mouse in a red rocking chair does appear in the kitchen window. But these are things that have meaning to us. They are not pointless, decorating just for the sake of decorating, things. They have a tradition in our family.
Generally, the "feeling" of Christmas is achieved through buying a few special Christmas flowers (kept well out of reach of our cats), candle arrangements in the rooms where we socialise (always white candles, never left alone) and by the fact that our home is arranged for comfortable winter living rather than summer living by that time of the year. For instance, soft woollen blankets thrown over a sofa back or sheepskin slippers in a basket all add to the feeling of a warm and comfortable home without being clutter since they are useful, as well as decorative. Heavier weight curtains, to keep drafts out, also helps as well as the fact that we have layers of electrical lightning, to add a soft glow to our home (and allow us to safely navigate from one room to the next in the winter darkness).
For gift giving, we tend to give things that we either know will truly be useful (like a pair of new clogs for my mum, since hers are broken) or things that can be eaten like a box of that persons favourite chocolates. We don't ever buy gifts just for the sake of gift giving.
I think the trick to celebrating a "clutter free" Christmas is to apply the same principle to decorating and gift giving as when you empty your wardrobe. That is "is this something I really like? That the person I am potentially buying it for would really like?" if not donate/move on.
We do our best to celebrate the whole season rather than having a huge overblown giftstravaganza on the one day.
We try to do one little thing for each day of Advent. So, we might read a winter story or bake cookies or drink hot chocolate or drive around and look at lights. I try to balance out the big events with quieter, at-home activities.
St. Nicholas visits and brings a small treat that fits in their shoes.
The girls exchange gifts (always a book) on Solstice.
On Christmas Eve they open the rest of their gifts from family. Right now the plan is for them to get a handmade doll, a pair of pajamas, and an experiential gift from their dad and me. They will get something from his parents and my mum and stepdad, but they never go overboard.
Santa Claus does visit here but he only fills stockings, likely with some craft supplies and edible goodies.
We do set up a tree each year. My grandmother (who, sadly, passed away this spring) gave me an ornament every year of my childhood, so it's pretty special to me to bring them all out and put them up. We don't have many decorations other than the tree ornaments.
Neither of us has any family in town, so the holidays are nice and quiet with just us and the girls. I love feeling like we're creating our own special traditions and memories for them!
boogiemonster | the hairy scotsman | anna the elf | lucy the sprite | wee faerie faye, born 01/02/11
Like a lot of posters, we try to focus on the traditions we have come to love...the pieces that make it feel like the 'holidays'.
Christmas season starts the first Saturday in December with the town's Christmas parade. We bundle up and sip hot chocolate and see our friends along the parade route.
The following weekend, we go the local ballet studio's production of The Nutcracker. Super fun and all local kids.
We visit our favorite Christmas tree farm and get a fresh tree.
For a treat, I order a case of Florida oranges from the Boys and Girls Club. They are delicious, healthy and make us happy.
We bake cookies once and only once. As much as I love holiday baking, the excess sugar in our diets is really destructive for my little ones.
We visit the local firehouse's miniature train set up. Our volunteer fire department does an amazing job of putting up a huge train display in the old firehouse. Lovely and super fun for the kids.
We make paper chains and collect pine cones to decorate the mantle.
We have a little candle lit ceremony to hang the stockings (nothing more than turning off the lights, lighting candles and each kid hanging their own stocking).
We hang our paper star to remind us of our winter in Sweden.
We make sure to exercise and get to bed on time. I know it sounds silly, but we are happier, healthier people when we take the time to look after ourselves and sleep well.
Really, it is all little stuff. We buy very little, decorate very little, but spend a lot of time together as a family. Christmas morning is all about our family and a nice breakfast followed by presents. We use the holidays to restock clothing, so the kids usually get pjs and a new fleece and warm socks. We get them each a book and a new toy/something fun. And we always get a family game.
I love the holidays. I love our level of commitment. It feels special without being excessive. I like to do things, rather than buy things. In my perfect world, we would end the holiday season with nothing more than happy memories.
Frugal, food growing mama to my four loves
We're expecting our first this winter and this topic has really been on our minds. We both come from really over the top, presenty families and that just doesn't mesh with our lifestyle anymore. But boy I do love the holidays. We kept the things from our families that still mean something to us and cut out the other crap.
To make it feel like the holidays we:
Bring out the hot chocolate and buy those crack them yourselves nuts.
Get a Christmas tree from a local farm, they always have trains and horse rides and things to make it a fun outing. We decorate the tree very simply with nut ornaments, wax snowflakes and such.
Frosted sugar cookies
Christmas music...this in one of my favorite holiday traditions
Watch a few Christmas classic movies
For decorating we bring out the warm, wintry blankets and throw on a holiday table cloth. I also like to get the scraps for wreaths or garlands from the Christmas tree farm to bring in more holiday smell. I also have yet to be able to go a Christmas without a bright red poinsettia.
Go out and look at the Christmas lights.
We also try to do some give back thing, angel kids, food bank, etc to get a real, authentic, warm fuzzy feeling inside =)
We decided to do present limit, we've done this for ourselves since our first Christmas got out of control. Honestly I do wrap a few empty boxes to shove under the tree because it was a little hard for us to see only a couple of presents under there when we had been used to seeing mountains. We don't do Santa so that minimizes stuff. We really wanted to focus on giving one or two nice gifts that will be really enjoyed, are useful, and are of good quality along with a couple of "use them up" gifts (mostly food items in our case). We do stocking, but those again are "use them up" gifts.
To make the holidays more peaceful, we don't try to do any over the top cooking or entertaining because that really seemed to bring out the worst in our families growing up. We do a simple Christmas eve fondue for Dh's heritage and a Christmas morning brunch. We do not spend a lot of time visiting family either since ours live very far away. Trying to fly all over the country or oversees for the holidays really didn't make the holidays enjoyable.
The holiday season for us is about snuggling in for the winter. Putting up a few decorations over a couple of weeks, getting the tree, listening to music. Simple, peaceful and not focused on gifts, but still a time that feels special.
-Us , Him and her
In our circle at least, Christmas cards have become an obligatory hassle each year. This year, we're doing Thanksgiving cards instead. switching holidays gives the perfect opportunity to do a major cull of the list to just those we really want to send wishes to, since it's not like being cut from the Christmas list- the Christmas list is gone! And I think it's more meaningful, sending a greeting of thanks, since on Christmas everyone's getting together and exchanging presents anyways, so really what purpose does the card hold then?
We happen to be going on an out of town vacation for Thanksgiving this year.. just dh and the kids, so it's the perfect year to switch and send our wishes and thanks to those we won't share the holiday with. Oh, and I just used a candid shot of the kids rolling in the leaves.. no m&m bribing photo shoots in holiday sweaters needed!
Plus, it's all done and it's only October! I hope this tradition catches on!
Katie, sahm to two wild and crazy guys (8/07) and (3/10) and their sweet new baby sister (4-1-13)
One thing we have done is set a limit to the number of gifts per person. We each get 3 gifts (max. this year DH won't be here so there won't be presents for me or him) and a stocking. That saves us from going totally overboard and getting things that have that 2 second interest then they end up in the closet.
Its the only good part of not being really close with the extended family, no one ever sends gifts to our children.
I've considered eliminating all gifts that require wrapping, with the exception of children. Our son can unwrap a little something. It might sound sad, but I just don't want the hassle of keeping giftbags or wrapping paper. We're on a huge decluttering push as we'll likely be leaving our house in the next year for a small condo, something we welcome! Mailing off presents to out of state family just doesn't seem fun and I never know what they need--it will end up being their clutter if it's not an iTunes gift card, a restaurant gift card--something they wouldn't normally spend money on themselves.
Love some of the family tradition ideas here, especially the parade with hot chocolate. Our son is at the age of remembering and I want to make the season meaningful to him and us, and not commercial.
I'm trying to orient our family more towards holiday foods and experiences. We'll still do a Christmas tree because I love them so much. But I want holiday memories to be about seasonal foods and doing stuff together as a family, not about how many presents we get. We'll be light on presents this year due to finances, and I'm hoping to be able to do experiential gifts instead of stuff.
Some activities that we like:
Sledding since snow seems to be becoming a staple around these parts.
A performance of the Nutcracker ballet, holds special meaning for me since I performed it for several years as a kid, and my daughter is very interested in ballet.
An few evening drives around the best decorated neighborhoods. I loooove to look at Christmas lights. Never have wanted to hang them up outside myself. ;)
A day trip or two to play up in the mountains once there is snow on the ground.
Spending a day decorating the Christmas tree with holiday music and cookies and hot chocolate.
Reading holiday stories.
Teaching my daughter about different holiday traditions.
Singing holiday songs together.
This is the type of Christmas I want to have, but have done very big commerical versions in the past years. We are cutting back on presents this year...5 smaller ones & 1 large (expensive) gift per child. Most are wants and not needs for gifts.
We are sponsoring 3 Christmas angels from our church and they are similar ages of our children and they will be contributing a bit of their savings towards those gifts.
We've asked my mom to purchase a family gift for us (a year pass to the local state park) instead of so many other gifts for the kids.
We do put out a Christmas tree, stockings and a handful of decorations and I LOVE twinkle lights, so those are everywhere in the house.
I do love the blessings of a simple Christmas and am working hard to change it over time.
A doula who married a cop & became a mama to 3 boys: G 12/22/00, my rainbow baby B 2/2/07 and L 2/10/10 my CBA2V baby, waiting for my little caboose late February 2013 & always remembering my two angels 2006 & 2012.
For my girls' birthday I asked my family members to write down a story from their own childhoods--instead of sending presents. Half my family actually did it! They each emailed me a story which I formatted nicely in powerpoint with some clip art and printed them out in color (a rarity for us!). I put each page in a plastic protective sleeve and then put them in a colorful binder. We call this the "Family Story Book" and they loved it!
Instead of sending a present to my niece for her birthday, I wrote another story and emailed them all to my sister. My sister actually said "thank you" in her email (she is otherwise sparse with any type of feedback) so I'm hoping that was appreciated!
With the holidays coming up, I'm hopeful my family and maybe even friends will consider sending stories instead of gifts! I think it's a great way to pass along family history, fables, and other tales while focusing on family.
For my siblings birthdays this year I dug out old photos (pre-digital days) and scanned and sent them via email. They liked that too. It seems like it takes a little more effort, but I feel much better about it all!
Love all your ideas too!
I love the story book idea, mamaupupup! Last year I did something that seemed pretty popular. I went through my moms old boxes of pictures from the last 30 years and picked out a bunch and put them into envelopes with things like "best hair" "best school picture" etc. written on them. I put a pic of each person in each envelope and we all looked at them and picked the "winner." It was hilarious sitting around the tree making fun of eachothers huge 80's fros and mullets haha :D