Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy, but all too often we clutter up the season with unnecessary burdens and stress. Here’s how to simplify and refocus your holiday using the popular KonMari Method!
By Elsie Callender, Contributing Writer
Marie Kondo’s “KonMari Method” of decluttering has inspired thousands of people to discover the joy of living with less. As a simple living enthusiast myself, I can attest to the benefits of decluttering! Simplifying has changed the way I spend, made me a better homemaker (like this), and inspired me to write this book to help other people bring breathing room to their homes.
One of the things about Marie Kondo’s method that has captured people’s attention is the question she has you ask to determine whether or not to keep an item. With each thing you own, you must ask yourself: “Does this item spark joy?” If it does, keep it. And if it doesn’t spark joy in some way, let it go.
What if we applied this same question to the way we prepare for and celebrate Christmas? What if we could identify what truly makes us joyful during the season, and purge the things that don’t? Unfortunately, for many of us there’s a lot about Christmas that doesn’t spark joy.
Why adults are scared of Christmas
I suspected it as a child, but the older I got the more I realized: Adults are scared of Christmas. In fact, I’m convinced that some of them don’t even like it!
Christmas is stressful, and adults hate stress. (Well, children don’t like stress, either, but they don’t associate Christmas with stress the way we do!)
It’s stressful to meet everyone’s expectations at Christmastime, to plan for and prepare meals, to host guests, to budget properly, to navigate delicate family dynamics, to keep children from turning into greedy monsters, to decorate, to shop in thick crowds, and to try to remember the real reason for the season in the midst of all that.
Yeah, Christmas is stressful!
You can see this stress reflected in the advice columns in magazines, in articles posted on social media, in commercials. We’re desperate for ways to be less busy, less stressed, less overwhelmed by the holidays.
And maybe all we need to ask ourselves is one question: Does it spark joy?
Rediscovering joy at Christmastime
What if this year you applied the KonMari question to every Christmas activity and tradition that you normally take for granted? Here’s what that might look like this. Does:
- baking four different batches of cookies spark joy?
- the process of decorating the outside of the house with lights spark joy?
- attending this holiday party spark joy?
- organizing a White Elephant gift exchange spark joy?
You might want to take a minute to write down all of the Christmas traditions you normally participate in. Include the big stuff, like preparing a certain kind of holiday meal, and the little stuff, like sitting by the tree on Christmas Eve with a cup of hot cocoa.
Some of your Christmas traditions will give you the warm fuzzies just thinking about them, others will fill you with dread.
Take a good hard look at the dread-inducing, joy-leeching traditions and decide if they’re really worth including this year. The fact that you could squeeze it into your schedule is not a good reason to keep it. And just because other families embrace this tradition doesn’t mean yours has to!
As you say goodbye to activities and traditions that don’t spark joy, you’ll begin to appreciate the things that are truly important to you all the more. A simple Christmas is not a barren Christmas, it’s an intentional one.
Your definition of “joy” isn’t the only one that counts
So here’s the caveat to your Christmas purge. Even if you’re the matron of the family and the chief organizer and director of Christmas tradition, you’ve got to keep your family’s preferences in mind.
You might have a strong aversion to wading through mall shoppers to get to Santa’s throne, but for your children, this could be one of the highlights of December.
Know what sparks joy for your family, and prioritize the traditions they value most. It’s easy–just ask them what are the top things they look forward to about Christmas!
Christmas traditions that spark joy for us
I’ve found that my most-loved Christmas traditions are small, simple things (although I do love helping with and eating lavish feasts, like our Christmas dinner or the Hanukkah meal we enjoy with my husband’s family).
Here are a few of the traditions I love:
- Attending a “Lessons and Carols” service at our church on Christmas Eve
- Driving around just to look at Christmas lights
- Choosing and giving Christmas gifts (here’s why I’ll NEVER give up on presents!)
- Making and eating Russian teacakes (also known as Mexican wedding cookies)
- Listening to Bing Crosby and Il Divo Christmas albums
- Drinking eggnog with breakfast on Christmas morning (here’s my homemade version)
- Reading The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) on my own
- Watching Christmas movies like The Muppet Christmas Carol, White Christmas, and A Christmas Story
Growing up, some of my favorite Christmas traditions were listening to my Dad’s annual reading of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and going to see a blockbuster in the theaters like The Lord of the Rings (or more recently, The Hobbit).
When I got married, my husband and I found ways to celebrate Christmas without kids, and now that we have a baby son, I’m sure we’ll be making new traditions for our growing family!
What to do with all that Christmas joy
Identifying what brings you joy at Christmastime will bring peace into your own heart and into your home. Turn that peaceful, joy-filled heart toward Christ and revel in the celebration of his birth!
What Christmas traditions spark joy for you? And which ones will you consider purging this year?
Here are other posts you might enjoy on simplifying and enjoying the holidays:
7 Ways to Choose Joy at Christmas
How to Have a Stress-Free Holiday
How to Keep Gift Giving Simple
Preparing for Holiday Busyness
And be sure to check out The Humbled Homemaker’s complete index of Christmas posts HERE!
Thank you SO MUCH Elsie for writing this. As adults and parents, we tend to do all the things we do because we think we’re supposed, or we think they make our families happy. But when we approach it all with a careful eye and REALLY evaluate the reason, we might find ourselves surprised with the answer.
Like you, I find joy in seeing Christmas lights, and I truly love all the different cookies (both baking and eating!)! I also enjoy advent calendars (the process of one by one is soothing to my type-A soul), Christmas music (the classics are best) and curling up next to a fire with a great mystery novel and a mug of hot cocoa. Thank you Elsie for this trip down memory lane, and the self-evaluation of bringing joy at Christmas!
Jean | DelightfulRepast.com
Erin, I still haven’t read the KonMari book — must do that in a month or two. I think people get caught up in a bunch of joyless, stress-inducing stuff because they are going along with the crowd (and Hallmark!) –“What will people think if I don’t … ?”
I highly recommend the book, Jean! It will make my top 10 books list of 2015! That said, there are some “woo woo” (for lack of a better word) parts in it that you have to look past. I really loved it, overall, though!