Whether it’s Christmas, Hannukah, Festival of Lights, or New Year’s, the holidays evoke in many of us a chronic anxiety, like a months-long, low-grade panic attack. And no wonder—a lot of pressure goes into preparing for the holiday season. Shopping. Cooking. Decorating. Shopping. Organizing. Card-writing. Shopping.
And I have one thing to say to that: enough.
No holiday of any time of the year should be stressful to the point that we forget the values historically distilled in it. Here’s how to approach the holidays from now on, and I doubt you’ll have it any other way in the years to come.
Give away your clutter
- Donate the old stuff you know you’re just keeping out of habit. Once you start, it gets easier, and you’ll be a happy minimalist before you know it.
- Don’t try to avoid buying any more holiday decorations. You’ll just cave one day at a really cute store, and the floodgates of your pent-up holiday spirit will give way (along with your credit rating). Instead, vow to donate an old decoration for every new one you get.
- Put non-holiday decorations into the box while your holiday decorations are out to cut clutter.
Clean up the closet
- Set away an entire morning or afternoon to take a good, hard look at everything in your closet. Designate two piles for everything you pull out of there: what you’ve worn in the past 8 months and what you haven’t. Unless your grandmother knit you a sweater that you haven’t been able to wear outdoors, throw everything in the second pile into a big basket or trash bag and donate it to your local Goodwill or thrift store. Consign your nicer pieces to get a few bucks back.
- Unless you’re planning a pregnancy, toss out that “What if I regain the weight” mindset. Promise yourself a healthy weight by donating your larger items.
Don’t buy gifts—make them!
- Blogs and Pinterest are flooding with DIY holiday gift ideas. Use them.
- Make batch gifts for peripheral friends and acquaintances rather than the typical (and expensive) pre-packaged cookie tins or cheese baskets. Hint: mason jars are your friend. Try your hand at grinding spices to make barbecue rubs. Buy a bag of fair trade coffee and distribute it across several jars along with whole spices like cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon sticks to make them special. Bake your own cookies. You get the picture.)
- Never set foot out of the house for the mall without a list of specific gifts. You’ll just shop for gift “possibles” that you’ll plan on returning later if they don’t find any owner. But we all know that “later” never happens.
- Shop from local small businesses rather than chains to spread the holiday cheer. Big businesses outsourcing to China don’t need your support.
Spread the work to spread the love
- If you’re organizing a holiday gathering, have everyone bring one plate or bottle of wine.
- Calculate how much it costs to send out holiday cards. (Consider the number of people, the price of the cards and envelopes, the price of stamps, and the gas it takes to mail out the letters.) Donate the exact amount to a local homeless or pet shelter. Email your sentiments and exact calculations to everyone on your holiday mailing list along with a picture you took of that shelter. This is sure to melt more hearts than any mass-printed Hallmark card.
Any other ideas to cut the clutter and focus on the true meaning of each holiday? Let us know!