Monday, December 28, 2015

Simplifying Next Christmas


Rereading my last entry, on ways to "treat yourself" for the holiday, I realize that I was failing to take into account the chaos and disruption in routine that generally accompanies Christmas. If you're traveling or wrangling kids, you're not going to have time to just take a bath and unwind. Before Christmas, it's easy to imagine all kinds of fantastical ways you're going to make this the Best Christmas Ever, but sometimes those ideas don't work in reality.


The best time to come up with practical ideas for improving and simplifying the holidays is now--right after the holidays, when the previous holiday is fresh in your mind. Here are my thoughts for things I can do now to simplify next Christmas.

Put away all Christmas stuff in one place

It made it really easy this year that 90% of our Christmas stuff was in one box, and this year I'd like to get it to 100%. We use a plastic tote, and I wrote "XMAS" on the outside with a chalkboard pen. That fits our tree stand, our stockings, a few strings of tree lights, a box of ornaments, a box of cookie cutters, our nutcracker, and all our specifically Christmas-themed wrapping supplies.

Stock up in post-Christmas sales

After Christmas is a great time to get discounted Christmas stuff for next year. Personally, I don't buy a lot of Christmas stuff--we make a game of finding ways to wrap presents without buying wrapping paper, using newspaper, reused gift bags, tote bags, and cloth scarves. And our tree and wreath are real, so we can't get them ahead of time. But I'd like to get a few more strings of LED tree lights, since we get a bigger tree each year, it seems. It might also be nice to get some ribbon. A nice red ribbon really jazzes up a newspaper-wrapped gift. Once I get these items, I need to remember to put them directly into my Christmas box.

Make a list of little things to remember for next year

This could be things that went right that I want to do again, or things that could be improved on with specific ideas for how to improve them. 

I felt like this year went really well in a lot of ways, and there are a lot of little details that I'd like to remember. For example, modular packing with nylon packing cubes worked really well, especially when it came to keeping my clothes and personal items separate from gifts and stocking stuffers. No stocking stuffers were lost in the bottom of my suitcase this year.


Taking a walk in the middle of the day on Christmas was great, too. I usually am too lazy to do so, after a sluggish, self-indulgent morning of presents and candy, but it's amazing how refreshing it is to get out and use your legs and get some fresh air. (Of course, it helped that it was sixty degree this year!)


One thing I wish I'd done was to let my niece take it slower opening presents. I found myself saying "Why don't you open this one?" when she was busy playing with another gift. I was just excited for her to open my presents and see her reaction. But if she's happily playing, there's no need to interrupt her. It doesn't matter if it takes her a long time to open all the gifts. It's Christmas, we've got noplace else to be. I think adults have this sense that you need to complete one activity before starting another, and maybe when you're getting hungry or tired, you feel like, "Let's just get this over with so we can have lunch and take a nap." But "let's get this over with" is a terrible attitude about a nice time that comes only once a year, and if there are a ton of presents, there's no shame in taking a break to eat and play and coming back to the rest later.


Another small regret is forgetting to use the "to"/"from" tags my sister-in-law sends us in our Christmas card each year. I know, I'll put those in my Christmas box right now! (The Christmas box is also the ideal home for your List of Things to Remember, once you've made it!)

Bonus Idea: The Neverending Stocking

I had kind of a cool frugal/zero waste idea for Christmas stockings. Each year, I find we give each other a lot of similar things that are fun on Christmas morning, but that we don't really use or play with the rest of the year. For example, wind-up toys. It's super fun to get wind-up toys in your stocking, but I feel like I always give them away a few days later--it's not like I keep a display of wind-up toys, and if I did, I'd rarely play with them outside of Christmas morning.


I was thinking that it might be just as fun if we kept a bin of small toys in our Christmas box and we just randomly distributed them in each stocking on Christmas eve. The next morning, everyone would get to play with new-to-them things, or things that maybe another person played with the previous year, but it would feel fresh enough for the purpose, which would be to enjoy on Christmas morning. Then it would get packed away in the Christmas box for next year. Each year you could add a few things to the stocking-stuffer box, maybe rotate a few things out, but in general you'd be reusing instead of giving each person a totally new stocking each time.

I think this could work really well for things like wind-up toys, puzzle games (e.g. ball mazes, Rubik's cubes), maybe even books. (Of course you couldn't do it with consumable things, like candy and oranges and lip balm and crosswords.) However, it's something that would work best in a closed family environment with several people who had an agreement that that's how it would work. I don't think I can go rogue and do it on my own, as it might feel insulting if I just kept some things from my stocking and regifted them to the people who gave them to me next year! And it might be kind of boring if just my wife and I did it, since there's only two of us, so there's not many ways things can be distributed. So, I probably won't end up doing it myself, at least not now, but it's something to keep in mind if I'm ever the matriarch of a family.

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