Barry and I have been married for over 15 years and it was only in the last few years that we decided to simplify Christmas. When we first got married, I’m not going to lie – Christmas was more than a little stressful! We felt like we needed to give gifts to everyone. We spent a ton of time shopping and wrapping – trying to find the perfect gift for each person. I don’t like to give crap that people don’t want – stuff that people just want to return.
It takes a considerable amount of time and effort to be a good gift giver.
As a result, I found myself not enjoying the Advent season (the days leading up to Christmas) as much as I should! And to top it all off – I don’t like clutter! We would come home from events and gatherings with a car load full of gifts. And as soon as we’d bring it all inside and I would be instantly overwhelmed – so overwhelmed that a lot of times the stuff we got for Christmas would just sit for days or even weeks. I just couldn’t handle all the stuff that kept coming in.
It felt like for the longest time, there was nothing I could to about it.
The thought we could do something to scale back and simplify Christmas wasn’t even on my radar. But after Barry and I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (which has been SEVERAL years ago now!), we decided that Christmas was something that we needed to “Kon-Mari” (pare down, simplify, and find the joy in).
After we completed our rounds of Kon-Mari, we got rid of SO MUCH STUFF. The thought of bringing more in at Christmastime didn’t sit well with us. Plus, we didn’t want to gift a bunch of other people with the same type of excess clutter! So we came up with the idea to simplify Christmas.
Most of you are probably already familiar with our 3 Gift Christmas. This concept of cutting back on the materialistic side of Christmas is something we’ve embraced pretty much since Annie was born. But somehow talking to our families was different. We were nervous to bring up our thoughts on how to scale back Christmas with our families.
Y’all, it was a scary thing to bring up with our families!
We started by talking to both sides of our family about our desire to enjoy Christmas, without all the craziness and piles of gifts. We wanted to be together, play games, eat lots of delicious food, and have one or two gifts, plus maybe a few more for the kids. Barry and I shared our hearts with our families, and explained our desire to simplify Christmas. We thought everyone would be like “Whoa – Hello, Grinch!” But our request wasn’t coming from a place of “Scrooge-ness” or “Grinch-hood” – it was coming from a place of love! We didn’t want to contribute to someone else’s post-Christmas madness or clutter. And we would rather our families keep their money for something they really need, instead of spending it on things we don’t.
We weren’t sure how people would react, but most were relieved!
Some were so thrilled with this idea that they jumped into it with more enthusiasm than we did. We were all doing this mad rush of shopping, wrapping, gifting, etc. and it seemed that almost everyone was just relieved to have a way to scale back Christmas. And that’s exactly what we did.
We want to cut back on the material consumer side and focus on what really matters – Advent, family time, and Jesus! It’s been a few years now, but I think everyone has become adjusted to this new way of doing Christmas.
I will say though, Barry’s mom’s love language is gifts. And if you are dealing with someone whose love language is gift-giving, you might have to work with them a bit. Because its important to appreciate and respect their heart’s desire to give gifts.
Communication is key here. Talk to your family!
Every time you assume that you just know how they are going to respond, you make an A-S-S out of U and ME. Remember that ol’ one liner? So in the case of Barry’s mom, she does still get all the adults one gift and each of the grandchildren 3 small gifts a piece. So on Barry’s side…aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, etc. do not exchange anymore and this has completely revolutionized Christmas for us!
A couple of my family members do still want to do gifts. And for that group, we do a family gift and get something small for the cousins. And at my Mom and Dad’s house, we play a White Elephant (or Dirty Santa) and then my mom gets my kids a few gifts. I come home excited that we had such a good time making memories. And love that I don’t come home feeling overwhelmed by a bunch of STUFF. As for our kids? This is “normal” for them. We don’t want them to grow up thinking Christmas is about a glut of presents or STUFF. Simplifying Christmas has really become a priority to our family.
Don’t forget to take it slow.
This didn’t happen for us all in one year. We made gradual changes, one Christmas at a time. It took us about 3 years to scale back to where we are in a good groove. So let me just encourage you to start small and scale back Christmas just a little bit at a time.
What suggestions do you have for embracing what really matters during the Christmas season?