When I downsized all of my belongings at the beginning of this year to move into a tiny house, I didn't go through my "holiday stuff." I actually couldn't go through my holiday stuff. I was living with a roommate at the time (in her home) and she had already put away all of her Christmas stuff (which was a LOT), effectively blocking mine into the very corner of the attic crawlspace.
It was no big deal, we figured. I would just go through it the following Christmas and downsize it then. Well, then is now. So I finally have downsized my Christmas... clutter. (I almost called it something else that starts with a "c" but that wouldn't be very festive, now would it?)
But once I ventured into the corner of the attic, I realized I had a lot more than just Christmas clutter. I had Easter clutter, 4th of July clutter, Halloween clutter, baby shower clutter... you get the point.
Apparently, I felt the need to buy decorations for every holiday known to man and some that I'm sure I made up. In fact, you would think by going through the SIX Rubbermaid bins labeled "Holiday/Party Stuff," that I surely ran some sort of top-notch event planning business.
Nope. I just REALLY liked to decorate my front door.
So before I could even begin to touch the Christmas stuff, I had to go through everything else first. There were the little gift bags that I hand-stamped with a picture of a stork for my friend's baby shower. The multitude of different hats and glasses that I bought for a photo booth at my friend's birthday party. The football-shaped chip and dip trays and cake pan that I bought for a Superbowl party years ago. It all brought back memories and most of it still sparked the ol' "I can use this again!" alarm to go off in my head.
But when it comes to downsizing, it's not about the word can. Sure, I can hold on to those gift bags or chip trays in case I need them again. Just like I can walk across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope.
Doesn't mean it's a good idea.
I seriously doubt I will need the football trays or the Village People hats again. And if another friend has a baby and I throw the shower, whose to say she'll even want the same colors. It's not worth holding onto everything just in case.
That's how you end up with six Rubbermaid bins of "Holiday/Party Stuff."
So now that that's out of the way... on to Christmas.
The first thing I realized is that I had held on to pretty much every thing Christmas that was my mother's. This was because we had gone through her things right after she passed in September 2013, so I wanted to keep everything I could that reminded me of her. Now that two years have passed, it's a little easier to look at these items objectively and realize I don't have to hold on to them, to hold on to her.
So, the first rule of Christmas downsizing is:
1. Don't Over-Sentimentalize
Of course, we all probably have Christmas decorations or trinkets that have special memories attached to them or have been passed down through the family. And by all means, we should hold on to those items. But it doesn't mean we have to hold on to something just because it's old or belonged to a loved one that's passed. (We had a giant styrofoam Santa Claus face that used to hang on the wall every year when I was a child, but you don't see me fighting my sister to keep that, do you?) Keep a few pieces that are truly special to you and let go of the rest. It doesn't mean you're forgetting the past or your loved one. It just means you don't want a styrofoam Santa face hanging in your living room.
Next, I came across the clunky little candle holder from when I sold Avon in like 2005, the Santa made out of a wicker basket that I bought from a coworker in like 2002, and the red and green garlands that I SWEAR hung in my college apartment.
Which brings me to...
2. Get out of the Christmas rut!
Seriously. How in the world had I held on to these things for so long? The only thing I can figure is Christmas is so much about tradition and routines, that I must've literally just gone blind at some point to what I was putting out every year and just thought, "Well, it's December... time to put this stuff out again!" without even really looking at what I was doing!
(That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)
Point being... PAY ATTENTION. Don't just put stuff out for the sake of putting stuff out. If something is old, worn down, not your style anymore or just plain ugly, get rid of it. I did and I can assure you, I don't miss the garland with the 20-year-old scotch tape stuck in it one bit.
Next came the things to hang on the front door. Except apparently I have like five front doors, because I had like five things to put on it. Unless I am going out there every day of the week and rotating decorations, why do I need five different things?
Third rule of Christmas downsizing...
3. Get rid of duplicates (and triplicates and quadruplicates...)
You only have one front door and one top to a Christmas tree, so why do you need five different wreath-type decorations and three different tree toppers? Pick your favorite, use it every year and get rid of the rest. Period.
Then I came to my bin of Christmas ornaments. Technically, there were two bins. One was for my big tree and one was for the smaller tree that I usually put up in my bedroom. Since I DID get rid of my big (7') Christmas tree when I downsized for the tiny house, I no longer even needed the box of ornaments and tree skirt for it. So that was easy peasy.
But then I opened the other box of ornaments. Now, the ornaments themselves weren't really a problem. I had kept those pretty up to date, they were in good shape and I still like all of them. Plus, I plan to keep putting up the small tree (it's like 2'), so I still need them.
The problem was at the bottom of the bin.
Why oh why, do we all keep the half broken balls, random little topper thingys and about 1,200 loose hooks that are always hanging out in the bottom of the bin?
4. Clean out the trash.
If something is broken, trash it. If something is faded, stained or cracked, trash it. Or donate it. But get rid of it. Clean out all the random hooks and either put them in a useful place if you really need extra hooks. Or if you don't, put them in a Ziploc baggie and donate them to someone who does.
Once I had made it this far, I was pretty proud of myself. I had gotten rid of all the random other holiday decorations, gone through my mother's Christmas things, gotten rid of a bunch of door hangings, candles and wreaths, and cleaned out all the trash.
Only one thing left to go through...
My gift wrap container.
One of these years, I will learn to stop buying wrap and bows. Every year, I seem to get temporary amnesia when I excitedly go to pick out my wrap, tissue paper and bows, only to return home and find that I still have 80% of it from the previous year.
Honestly. You can go through my gift wrap container like it was an old yearbook... "Oh yea! Do you remember 2004? That was a good year!"
So my fifth and final Christmas downsizing tip is this...
5. Use up your old wrap and bows.
I promise, you'll be okay. No one is going to break out in tears on Christmas morning and scream, "How could you?? It's the same wrap as last year! You don't love me!"
Save some trees and some storage space in your attic. Use up all of your old wrap, tissue and bows before you buy anything new. It's not like it goes bad or expires. Candy canes, snowmen and Santa Claus will always be festive, so if it was good enough for last year, it's good enough for this year.
Then when you finally catch up and use everything, just buy enough to get you through that season and if you still end up with extra, repeat the process above!
Whether you live in a tiny house or a mansion, you don't have to let Christmas clutter take over your home. Just be practical, be honest and be brave as you downsize... and remember, Christmas isn't about the stuff anyway.
Good luck and have a very Merry Christmas!