4 Benefits of Holiday Minimalism (and How to Start)

The holiday season is such a busy one. We'd all love to savor the holidays, but there just isn't time. Or energy. Or space. But what if we told you there COULD be? That you could renovate your holiday season to tailor one your family would enjoy, and that you would enjoy? It's true, and it's possible. All you need is a bit of minimalism.

socks by fire

Minimalism is a buzz word right now. Every magazine cover sports a "how-to": how-to downsize, minimize, and simplify your home, office, kitchen, calendar. Minimalism may seem like an overhauling of your junky basement or garage, can seem like the biggest of giant projects you "should" get to "someday." But minimalism is more (or less?) than that. According to Joshua Becker of the world-renowned blog Becoming Minimalist, "Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it." With that in mind, everyone has some things, physical or emotional, that spring up when we think of the holidays, some things we could do without, whether it's a giant snowman inherited from great-aunt Ruth or the expectation to bring all the eggnog to your husband's office party. Holidays come with loads of expectations, and if there's one thing that can steal your joy, in this season especially intended for joy, it's trying to live up to expectations, your own or otherwise.

Minimalism can help you clear out the parts of your holiday celebration that simply don't serve you anymore. With a little grunt work and a few firm "No's," you can reclaim your holiday for your family and for yourself.

So how do you get started removing some of the distractions? Here we go:

1. Pace Yourself

The Christmas season is notoriously crammed with parties and recitals and lists to knock off. Pull out your physical or phone calendar and see how much white space there is. How much do you want? Maybe you can close the gap a little. Could anything be left undone or skipped? Your youngest's orchestra recital, probably not; a 3-page Christmas letter, maybe yes.

2. Curate Decorations

You may want to do this without kid help, but as you begin to decorate (or as you walk around your decorated home), notice what speaks to you and what doesn't. Are there broken ornaments you hate? Oust those. Pitch 'em in the garbage and don't think twice. Sentimental ones you'd like to enjoy? Put them out and enjoy the heck out of them. (Remember: the whole point of minimalism is to increase your joy by decreasing your distraction.) Like lots of lights? String them around the tree, around the living room, in the shower (I have lights in my shower. For real.) Decorations should speak to you, give you a little perk when you look at them, enhance the season. Not bulk it up. Get rid of anything that doesn't add.

3. Give Yourself Permission to Say "No"

Let's start with the obvious: Christmas cards. They are SO fun to receive, such a drain to get done and in the mail on time. If you love them, do 'em. If you don't, LET YOURSELF SKIP (this year, for starters, if it helps you let go). No one will care. I promise. (Chances are no one will even notice, no offense.) Then go on from there: are you supposed to host the family Christmas because that's just. What. You. Do? You can actually say "no" to these obligations, familiar or otherwise. It may feel impossible to tell your mother or your mother-in-law you just can't make the 15-hour trek with the twin newborns, but you may just have to, for your own sanity. And it's okay. More than okay. Do this airing with every single one of the things you feel pushing expectation on you and see if you can create some breathing room for yourself. You will feel so much better if you do, instead of just carrying on in the same tuck-your-head-and-get-through-this fashion.

4. Add Joy!

family in the snow

This will seem contrary to a minimalist post, but adding things you love after you've subtracted the parts not serving you anymore is the fun part. Got rid of giant snowman décor for the front yard? Replace it with a simple something you love, OR leave the space blank, it that's what sets you on fire. (figuratively, of course.) And now that you've decided you don't have to drag the kids to your third cousin's Christmas party for the twelfth year in a row, you can take the kids out for peppermint mochas, because you've created a small pocket of time for yourself. Go ahead, add what you love.

This holiday season can be wonderful for you and your family (or at least less stressful and hair-pulling than it has been in the past). Employ a few minimalism strategies to make your holidays just what you want them to be, and you might just catch yourself doing a little savoring.