Minimalism

Embracing a Simpler Christmas

10.26.17

simpler-christmas-snow

It’s not that I hate Christmas, I just don’t love it. I do, however hate what it’s become. Christmas is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s portrayed as the happiest time of the year filled with gifts, cards, endless get togethers and plenty of eating and drinking. But there’s another side, endless to do lists, feeling like there’s not enough time in the day, not enough money in the bank, not enough left on the credit card limit and not enough energy to keep up with all those things you’ve said yes to. Exhausting!

The best Christmas I ever had as a child was when I was 9 years old – and gifts had nothing to do with it. It was the first year I got to stay home instead of going out for Christmas lunch. Every year my entire family went out and every year I despised it. It wasn’t the food or the fact I couldn’t play with my new toys, but it was the arguments and stress that the whole ordeal caused.

Sure there was a Christmas lunch to prepare which made more work out of that Christmas, but the truth is it could’ve be a frozen microwave meal and I wouldn’t have cared. All I cared about was the fact we were all together, I didn’t have to get dressed and my mum wasn’t nagging me about my the outfit I wanted to wear – I could relax. It was bliss. What’s interesting about my favourite Christmas story, is that it was all thanks to less.

There’s a way to tackle this aforementioned wolf – by doing and having less. I wanted to share how I embrace a simpler Christmas to make it more bearable. I’m hoping it may help you too, if you find it overwhelming and want to minimise the chaos, simplify it and slow things down. Once I embraced curating my own version of what feels good and simplified it, the true meaning of Christmas crept back in.

Being clear and upfront

I think about the Christmas I want, that being the small and meaningful kind. The wolf I mentioned earlier, that’s the Christmas I don’t want. I think about what my ideal Christmas looks like, how it makes me feel and then I do my best to create it. It can feel daunting but it’s important to share that vision with my friends and family so they know what to expect.

Tell people why you want a more minimal Christmas and be clear so they understand – an example would be, you don’t want to get into debt, you want to cherish what’s really important, you don’t want to clutter up the house.

I make it really clear to my family and friends (early!) that I don’t want to receive gifts at Christmas. Some listen and some don’t, but if they do insist on buying me something I forewarn them that I’ll give it to someone who I think would get value from it. This used to make me feel guilty but now I make it clear that the reason I don’t want them to buy me gifts is because I don’t need them and I just want to spend time with them, that that’s enough for me.

At the same time I have to respect that they find it difficult to not buy me gifts and they’re my family after all. In reality I usually find myself with a cheque to open – and that’s ok. We can’t control every little thing. You have to let life happen.

Learning to say no

We’re never under as much pressure to say yes to everything as what we are at Christmas. The meals out, the parties, the work events, the presents for everyone and their kids. We can do all this and more, but we cannot do it all at once. We can only do so much – make sure it’s what we want to do. Finally realising I had the choice to say no to those events made the world of difference. It’s ok to do Christmas your own way.

It’s easy to worry about hurting people’s feelings when we say no to them. Trust me when I say that being a people pleaser will not get you anywhere. I’ve been there, and this side of the fence is so much better. We are being unjust to ourselves by saying yes to things we don’t want to, because we aren’t saying yes wholeheartedly. If you’re saying yes to things you want to say no to, you aren’t being true to yourself. This approach cannot make us truly happy.

Feel free to borrow the advice in this post I wrote on saying no without guilt and how to do it gracefully if that’s something you struggle with. It’s still the most shared piece of content I’ve ever written.

Forgetting what other people think

We’re hardwired as humans to care what people think of us. It’s normal and you’d be a psychopath if you didn’t so don’t worry about having those worries. If you want a more minimal Christmas, think about why and then think about how important that is compared to what others think. For example, is spending more quality time with your family more important than attending that work event you really don’t want to go to because you’re worried you’ll let people down? You can only do one, make sure you’re doing the one that aligns with your values.

I stand out like a sore thumb at Christmas more than any time of the year. There are no outside lights on my house like the rest of the houses on my road, no decorations on my tree (fairy lights only please!) and when people ask what I want, I answer ‘nothing’. Weirdo is the word my family enjoy using most! It’s the hardest time to live a minimal lifestyle thanks to all the expectations we’re subject to. I used to question myself and my wants for a simpler life when judgement and questioning came my way.

FOMO (fear of missing out) has a lot to answer for. It’s become part of our culture and keeps us as busy as physically possible, constantly over scheduling and over filling our lives with things we don’t really want and definitely don’t need. Those impulse purchases we make are a perfect example. It still rears its head every now and then, but with practice it gets easier to lean away from.

Now, I’m ok with going against the grain and being different, I’m even proud of it. I’m proud of the fact I don’t want to get into debt by buying gifts I can’t afford, I’m proud of knowing myself well enough to not put myself through another painstaking Christmas party, when I’d rather be snuggled under a blanket at home watching White Christmas.

A minimalist simple Christmas

Decorations?

Last year was the first year I got serious about decluttering the decs I didn’t love and I’ve never been happier with the way the house looked. The question when it comes to decorations is, do we really need them all? No, of course not! You can have a wonderful Christmas without any decorations, if you wanted. We may as well throw in all the other stuff we’re lured into buying here too. Think Christmas themed home accessories and clothing that we’ll only ever use for a month at the most.

I love the smell and look of a real tree but the decorations never did it for me. They stressed me out so they had to go. Lashings of fairy lights on my real tree in a white washed wicker basket… perfectly good enough in my opinion.

That’s not for everyone but I can’t stand those decorations, they drive me mad. I love the smell of the tree and the warm glow of the lights so that’s what I say yes to. You don’t have to decorate your house like Santa’s grotto to make it a great Christmas. By all means, if that’s what you love, then do it, but make sure you’re decorating with intention.

I’ve got a Pinterest board stacked with minimal Christmas interior inspiration for you. I like to think of it as proof that there’s beauty and sophistication in simplicity, even at Christmas.

RE-FRAMING gift giving

Gifts aren’t necessary. That’s so important it feels worth repeating – gifts aren’t necessary. We think they are because the adverts, magazines and tv shows tell us so and then we can’t bare the thought of how guilty we might feel if we didn’t buy them. Associating gifts with love is the slipperiest of slopes.

Although the gifts aren’t necessary, that doesn’t mean they have to be avoided altogether. I’m not afraid to suggest a no gift policy with friends, most were relieved. My ‘people to buy gifts for’ list has been heavily edited over the years, but I still buy gifts for my family because they’d be hurt if I didn’t. It means something to them and the last thing I want to do is hurt their feelings on Christmas day. Unless there’s a specific request, I opt for experiences they’ll enjoy over more stuff they simply don’t need. I feel that’ll last longer and they’ll get so much more value from it.

It isn’t the gifts you’ll remember when all the wrapping paper has been thrown away, the tree comes down, the leftovers are gone and the credit card statement arrives. It’ll be the little things that didn’t cost a thing. This article by Joshua Becker on gifts your children will never forget is brilliant for parents.

Ten practical tips for a more minimal & meaningful Christmas

It’s OK to start small. I guarantee that even just one of these tips will make your Christmas less stressy and more meaningful.

1.Give to a charity instead of buying, writing and sending Christmas cards

2.The day after boxing day, take those unwanted gifts to the local Charity shop. The appreciation they have for them will wipe out any guilt you feel

3.Make sure any gifts you do give are useful and can be experienced. Think experiences over things

4.Keep your decorations simple and manageable. One Christmas tree is plenty!

5. Create a Christmas vision and write it down. Think about the kind of mood you want and how you want Christmas to make you feel. Keep coming back to this for focus

6.Agree a price limit on gifts (early on) with family and friends. Then stick to it! Constraints breed creativity

7.Don’t spend what you can’t afford. Nothing is worth that

8.Instead of catching up with friends over yet another meal out, go for a winter walk instead and spend quality time together

9.Take some time to switch off technology, it’s the easiest way to get some breathing space and stop comparing yourself to other people

10.Say no to something you really don’t want to do and use that time to do something you do

We’re groomed to want the best Christmas ever. But what does that really mean? The best gifts? Better than who’s? Our family to be the happiest we’ve ever seen them? What will that take? How long will that last and what is that worth? It’s easy to opt for instant gratification over satisfying our core values. I can assure you that new smartphone will not = happiness. Surrendering myself to less, but with more meaning, is where I found the Christmas magic really happens.

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Embracing a simpler Christmas | Minimal Christmas | Simple living | Minimalism | Slow living | Christmas ideas

20 comments on “Embracing a Simpler Christmas”

  1. So true Jessica, I have said for a few years, I can’t stand cards, they annoy me lol , so I look at them pop them in a drawer then throw them out after Christmas, so for the last two years I have made a donation to an animal charity instead of sending cards. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the craziness, why should we feel pressured? And all I like on my tree is fairy lights, and a few tree ornaments I Love, no tinsel for me, and gotta be a real tree, No hangy things from the ceiling or anywhere else for that matter! And that’s it for me, all I want Christmas morning is a family breakfast with my candles glowing and Christmas music playing, a poochie walk on the beach and a lovely Christmas dinner, and a Christmassy film to end the day. PERFECT💖🎄✨

  2. Jess, if this is my fav article ever! Christmas never has been and never will be my “thing”..they weren’t enjoyable as a child and I hate the faf..if I want to wake up on Christmas Day at 12 pm and have a grilled cheese sandwich for my Christmas lunch ( I am Chandler from Friends, yes!)who’s business is it! It’s a commercial joke that’s what I call it. It’s very hard however to make your children see things that way but I don’t want to ruin their memory of Christmas as children just because mine weren’t great! The big family lunches, getting dressed up and making small talk is my idea of a nightmare but yes, we feel pressured to which is unfortunate.
    I long to escape to a small cottage at Christmas with the kids and my husband, cosy up together around a crackling fire! THAT is my idea of a great Christmas, no presents just US.
    I am so glad you have the same vision as I thought I was odd to feel the way I do! X

    1. Your grilled cheese sandwich comment just made me LOL! My dream would be to escape to a cosy cabin the Alps (the featured photo was taken in Austria a few years ago) Crackling fire is a must, and chocolate. There must be chocolate! x

  3. The holidays are such an interesting time as a minimalist. I’m so grateful that my partner and I decided early on in our relationship to not buy each other gifts, for anything. This year, we’re takig a trip to the city for some concerts. That’s a much more meaningful experience for the both of us then some gadget or clothes item we don’t really need.

    I realized when I finished school that I didn’t have any decorations for any holiday. And I just never ended up buying any. I don’t see the point. I know it’s the holidays whether my house looks like it or not.

    Great piece Jessica!

    1. We don’t do gifts either Britt. People think we’re so odd. I know you’re not a traveller, but as you know we love it and we head off on a trip as soon after Boxing Day as possible. Experiences over things! Love the concert idea.

  4. My husband and I don’t do gifts either. We’re going to London to go out for lunch and to see a play instead in January. I find the consumerism of Christmas gross but I still feel I need to buy close family gifts but I try to buy experiences. People always think I’m strange! Great post. X

  5. I don’t usually comment on these things but this is really one of the best blog posts I have ever read. I think almost 99% of people I know would benefit from reading this. I really relate to this as I live abroad and in the past few years when I went back home for Christmas it turned into the most stressful time ever because I felt like I had to see everyone and do every possible activity in the short amount of time I was home and I wasn’t enjoying Christmas for what it was and I ended up having arguments with my family. Last Christmas was the best one I’ve had in years as I made a conscious effort to only go out or visit people when I wanted not because I felt I should and I was a million times happier.
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. So lovely to hear from you Nina and I’m so happy you enjoyed the post. Your comment really made my day. Sounds like you’ve experienced the same feelings I did when I decided to focus more on the meaning and less on all the stuff and pressures I felt under. I hope this year is just as good if not better for you!

  6. Hi Jessica,

    Hope you’re doing well. Great blog post! I love Christmas, but I love it for all the good it stands for; family, togetherness, Christmas carols, cozy days/nights in, giving back and more importantly, giving thanks. Just like you, what saddens me the most is that consumerism has taken precedence over the true meaning of Christmas. My last few Christmas celebrations have been in Goa, and they have been wonderful. They were about family, midnight mass, caroling, cooking and drinking together and all that good stuff. I don’t think it will get any better with consumerism and companies like Amazon on an all time high, but I guess people like us can hold on to the true meaning of Christmas and pass on our beliefs to future generations, in the hope that some of it sticks! Have a wonderful weekend!

    Joy
    x

  7. Wow, you outdid yourself on this article, Jessica. It should go in the Smithsonian Institute one day, that’s what I think…the day someone espoused sense about Christmas. Every January I get sick. I finally realized, Well, it’s no wonder, I about kill myself getting through the holiday season. It’s ridiculous in the extreme. Also, every single year all I want to do is have a few relaxing evenings watching some of the classic Christmas movies with a blanket and hot chocolate, like others said. Never happens. To me, Christmas should be all about celebrating Christ coming in the flesh as a child to ultimately sacrifice His life for our sins. To celebrate that, I love going to a Christmas Eve service. Having a family dinner is important, as long as it’s kept simple. I have a bunch of mismatched ornaments that I want to chuck. A tiny tree in the basket is perfect, with a few tiny matching ornaments and lights. I like the light shower outside, what could be easier, just stick it in the ground and plug in and there’s the gorgeous display. One gift per family person. Thanks for all you do to encourage us in the right direction. With love, Kathy

  8. Jessica! Love love love this post. For as long as I can remember Christmas has been a pain point for me. It’s usually about this time of the year that I start to stress out about it. There are so many people to please, because they like you to do Christmas their way and if you don’t they get upset. But that means you are running around all day going from house to house and just trying to keep everyone happy. That certainly doesn’t make me happy. So as guilty as I feel saying this, last year after moving overseas we had our first Christmas alone. And it was so nice. My husband and I gave each other one gift each, went out for lunch and then to see a musical. We also had the tiniest Christmas tree just decorated with fairy lights. I loved how easy it was to set up and put away. Not a huge one day ordeal! But after reading this post I am definitely going to rethink what Christmas really means to me this year and be more intentional about the whole thing. Not looking forward to our next Christmas back at home though….

  9. Thank you for a warm and refreshingly freshingly honest look at Christmas. ..what it has become and what it really could be. I am not a minimalists per se …but I dont like things overdone or crowded or rushed or pressured. I am going to make a few changes. ..slow down, think more about experiences to share, make home made gifts, really skip the pressure and ENJOY again! Thank you

  10. I just read my thoughts written out in your blog. I’m going to read it again and use the tips this year. Thank you.

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