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Now that we have given due diligence to Thanksgiving, we turn our hearts and minds to the Christmas season. The temperatures have dropped, most people have trees decorated, and I had my first peppermint mocha from Starbucks today. Tis the season, friends!

After a year-long journey into minimalism, my husband and I want to carry our new focus into Christmas.  We long to teach our four children about the joy of the season and focus on Christ’s birth rather than materialism.  The world, the flesh, and the devil lure us towards all that is shiny and new rather than all that is merry and bright.

Here are some suggestions for less stuff and more joy this Christmas.

  1. Watch your calendar squares. This may be the most important thing you do to enjoy your Christmas. Opportunities to give and do good things abound in this season, but that doesn’t mean you can or should do them all. Choose your charities, your volunteering, and your parties carefully. Pick your favorites and don’t feel guilty to say “no.” As a family in the pastoral ministry, we get invited to everyone’s holiday parties. It’s wonderful to be included, but we cannot feel obligated to everyone. Do you need a weekend just to watch Christmas movies and wrap presents? It’s OK to decline some invites, especially that cookie exchange if you and your family are already sugared out.
  2. Bake less, but spend more time together. Moms, don’t wear yourself out in the kitchen. Choose your very favorite recipes (maybe three) and invite a friend over. Get your kids involved. Hire a babysitter and get in the kitchen with your husband! Share everything you are tempted to overindulge in. My favorite Christmas treat to make is Dark Chocolate Sea Salted Toffee, but I must give it away quickly, or I will eat it all!
  3. Think thrice about gifts. Don’t buy on impulse. Consider very thoughtfully if the items will add meaning and value to your home. If it is a knick-knack, a joke gift, or an obscure appliance, these things will inevitably become garage sale fodder in six months. Don’t buy clutter. Choose beautiful, functional gifts. Consider tickets to a play, services at a beauty salon, special lessons for a child, or even a movie night in a box.
  4. Clean out closets and kid rooms in preparation for new inflow. You know your kids will be receiving toys for Christmas, so this is an ideal time to give away and clean out their spaces. If you use tubs or containers, clean out the contents and have them empty and ready to receive the new presents. Get your kids involved by having conversations about what you are doing. Their anticipation of the new toys will fuel their desire to let go.
  5. Control the paper. Paper inflow is a huge source of clutter. Go ahead and prepare a way to display your Christmas cards so they don’t pile up. Throw away kids papers and mail right away if you don’t need to keep it. Have your wrapping paper stored and ready to use and clean up easily.
  6. Get your shopping done as early as possible so you can relax and enjoy the season. Buy online and let others do the driving and delivery. Be sure to stock up on batteries for kid toys. Front load your to-do list so you aren’t stressed at the very time you want to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
  7. Continue habits of gratitude throughout December. Kids need extra encouragement to be grateful in a season that can easily degenerate into greed for young people. In our family, we keep it simple: when we eat a meal around the table during the week nights, each person says one thing they are grateful for from that day. Our kids are 7, 5, 3, and 1 and it is a small way for us to redirect their focus from stuff to joy. Their understanding of the practice has grown, and the answers are a joy to hear.
  8. Consider cutting out. What are the top three sources of stress for you right now as you consider the Christmas season? Maybe you can remove one? Maybe you don’t send out cards this year or you let someone else host or you shorten the time traveling on the road. Rethink some of the stressors to see if you can make changes that will allow you worship like never before.
  9. Less gifts. Yes, this is good. We all have so much. Less time shopping, less money spent, less time wrapping, less worrying. I like the idea of three gifts: something we need, something we want, and an experience to share with the family. Gifts are nice, and they do make us think fondly of the giver, but experiences bond us together and become parts of who we are.

As we travel through our Christmas season, I am keeping a Merry Little Christmas Journal. Feel free to join the fun at Little Pieces of Ordinary.