a minimalist at christmas

tara-tree_

I like sparkly things.

The dance of gold and silver light, twinkling on a holiday tree is as mesmerizing as meditating on the flickering of candle flame. Contrast this mindful moment with the rush and expectations during the month of December. As a minimalist I practice letting go for the purpose of making room for what matters. I have very little interest in Christmas, preferring to share love and gratitude throughout the year at a comfortable pace. However, I admit I experienced a wistful feeling around decluttering our Christmas tree.

Last week my husband I downsized into an efficient unit, high in the sky. Even though I advocate for constant decluttering in life so that a move is less stressful, we still sold and donated a lot of items. One thing we knew we did not have room for was our seven foot pre-lit tree and decorations. I have already let go of most of the gift giving, visiting, partying, eating and drinking that quickly occupies this end of year month. Having a fake tree and a bunch of baubles taking up storage space for 11 months of the year certainly doesn’t fit my Rule of Three for possessions. But I am not immune to the tug of emotions that objects can elicit. As an experienced coach and minimalist however, I knew how to go about processing my feelings.

First, we discussed the pros and cons of doing without this Christmas-related experience. I did not have a tree until my husband of the past ten years reintroduced me to this tradition. Over the years we collected very special ornaments, some thoughtfully given by close friends. We would invite a few special people over to help us decorate the tree and share a few libations. But when necessity required us to move on, I was not sure how I would feel about bringing these activities to an end.

When sharing my thoughts, people said, “Why not just get a new smaller tree for your new place?” I am relieved to let go of the idea of storing something that so rarely gets used. The hesitation for me was letting go of things that reminded me of our beautiful experience. This was our first home together. It did not take long to realize that I was not giving away the memories and most importantly, that beautiful man was moving with me! Still, the decorations were so beautiful…

I laid out all the items on the dining table and we spent some time fondly remembering each one. Some were broken so I threw them out. Others were too personal to give away so we dismantled them. Of the pieces remaining, I pushed aside ten favourites and savoured them. So pretty! I love colours and textures. After dinner, Karl kindly asked what pieces did I want to keep but I expressed I was ready to let them all go.

Then a practical note; sell it, donate it or give it away? I am sure we could have got $50 for it or maybe even $100 this time of year. Many of the unique decorations might have garnered some dollars as well. Monitoring sales and trades on Kijiji and Bunz takes time and we were familiar with the joy of giving things away so that was the route we decided upon.

Something prompted me to send a picture of the tree decorated last year to some good friends of mine. Chris and Tara had joined us at our place during Christmases past, and I thought they did not have a tree so perhaps they would like it? They have a large home and love to entertain. I was thrilled when they said they would be happy to become careful stewards of the whole package! To be sure I was not burdening them, I clarified that they owned it now and they were welcome to replace anything and do what they wanted with it. Well, this past weekend they hosted a truly lovely gathering, to continue the tradition of gathering around the tree with many wonderful people.

As the picture above demonstrates, Tara laid out the decorations in such a pretty fashion, inviting those sitting around the tree to hang them. Karl and I were asked how we felt about seeing our former tree in someone else’s house! I felt no connection anymore to the objects, and I admired them in the bay window of this beautiful living room. As friends flowed in, and Tara purveyed drinks, Chris sighed, “This is what I love, our house so full of good cheer.” I completely agree.

On this very dark snowy Sunday evening in my home office, still surrounded by a few boxes left to unpack, I happily type this post in our streamlined, undecorated quarters. For me, the tree party was enough festive activity for the month. I still, however, look for ways to enjoy light and sparkle so we intend to mark the solstice on the 21st with a friend, surrounded by candles, reading winter stories.  When the 25th arrives, we will truly relax, and read, bake, or do whatever we want. It has become just another day off. I am glad for it. This year has been busy so I welcome the opportunity to pay attention to my wellbeing and slow down.

With a lighter load, we are closer to lifting off into our next stage of life, whatever that will bring. For now, I can clearly connect with the truth of who I am and how I wish to be. I do not begrudge anyone their holiday preferences; I wish for everyone that their choices bring them happiness and love.

Enjoy the rest of December everyone! Merry Merry 🙂

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4 thoughts on “a minimalist at christmas

  1. Ian Gowans says:

    Discovered this site and would like to reconnect sometime soon! Looks like as always you are re-evaluating and making a difference in people’s lives. I

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  2. Marnie says:

    I totally get this! (so refreshing to read this) But some people get upset at the idea of toning down the christmas thing. Its like I’m challenging their existence or something. I don’t mind people doing all this stuff. I get a bit irritated though when they complain about visiting family or spending too much. And then they judge me for my choice of not exchanging gifts or throwing dinners. How do you handle this?

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    • Hi Marnie,
      Well, some of my closest friends joke with me a bit about my minimalist practice but essentially they are supportive. I emphasize that looking at life via the minimalist lens is not about getting rid of everything. I refer to it as an ‘invitation to a conversation’, to check for any barriers to a satisfying life and then assess the pros and cons of letting go of them. The key is to make room for what does work. Some people may feel uncomfortable about looking too closely at their holiday habits. Or they just are not experienced with this kind of discourse and may welcome some explanation. Ultimately it is your choice to determine your threshold for managing conversations.

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