I recently attended a monthly meeting where a couple of people stopped to ask me how my holidays were. This wasn’t casual conversation though. They were genuinely curious because they had last seen me in mid December when I shared that my family was experimenting with skipping Christmas in 2014. When I shared the results, one of my colleagues suggested I blog about it, not next October as I had planned, but now while the holidays are still fresh in everyone’s mind.
Our experiment came about because back in January 2014 my husband and I thought it might be fun to take a trip with my parents and sister’s family to one of our favorite places, Sanibel / Captiva Island, Florida. It quickly became clear the only time everyone’s schedules lined up would be Christmas week. Knowing we would be gone for the week of Christmas, my husband and I agreed we’d take advantage of the opportunity to experiment with a much simpler holiday experience. The simpler experience also seemed to tie in nicely with my experimentation with essentialism. We agreed holiday simplicity would look like the following: No tree, no decorations, no holiday baking, no outside lights, no holiday cards, and no gifts with the exception of those for the children which we limited to two gifts each. Our gift to each other would be the experience.
My husband has never been a fan of the hub bub of the holidays, so he championed this agreed upon simplicity from the beginning. While I endorsed the idea, I have to admit it felt strange not decorating or having a tree in my living room. It felt strange not creating and sending out holiday cards. It felt strange not putting up lights outside or making cookies. It didn’t take long for the strangeness to wear off though and for me to embrace this new way of experiencing the holiday season.
This new way was relaxed and not rushed. This new way was about spending time enjoying the company of those we cared about instead of spending time decorating the house. This new way was about giving two meaningful gifts (a book and an experience) to each of our children instead of dealing with the madness of holiday shopping. This new way was about a different kind of holiday experience and we discovered we really liked it.
The benefits of this new way became especially clear when I was working with my clients who were each in their own way struggling with the overwhelm the holidays brings on. I shared my experiment with a few of them. One client, who experimented with scaling back her Christmas decorating, discovered benefits of doing less, especially spending less time unpacking and packing back up decorations. I had to agree with her – the best holiday gift I received this year was the gift of time. Time created by letting go of the holiday hub-bub.
Will we be radically downsizing our holidays every year? I’m not sure, but I do know that my 14-year-old nephew told me he wished our trip to the beach would become our new family tradition for the holidays. No matter where we are for the holidays, I know I will be scaling back, focusing on what is most important and what will make for a less stressful and more expansive holiday season.
Am I suggesting a radical holiday downsizing is right for everyone? No, but I am asking you to consider what’s most important to you during the holidays and to put that front and center for you. If it is the look and feel of a fully decorated home, by all means decorate away. If it is making hundreds of Christmas cookies, don’t let me suggest you do otherwise. But if it is about spending time with those you care about consider what you might do in December 2015 to create more of that time. I’d love to hear your thoughts.