You might be thinking we are using the British holiday greeting. The Brits say “Happy Christmas” rather than “Merry Christmas”, as we do here. But this is about something different than how we greet each other at the holidays. This is a story about making choices. About a month ago, my husband and I decided it was time to replace the carpet in our family room, and wanted to have it done before Christmas and New Years when we would be hosting a number of family members and friends. We chose the carpet samples and brought them home to decide which was best. As we were looking at them with our daughters, the question came up as to why we had never painted the pine paneling in our family room. My husband, who is very easy to please and always goes along with pretty much anything I want to do in terms of decorating in our home, has, over the nearly 32 years we have lived in our home, only made one request about decorating. He liked the natural wood paneling and wanted to leave it unpainted. I explained to my daughters that I had mentioned painting the room about 31 times over the 32 years we have lived in our home and always the response was the same. But my oldest daughter decided it was worth asking her father for his approval to paint just one more time before the carpet was laid. To my shock and delight, this time he said “yes”! It seems he was ready for a change and since we were changing the carpet, he was ready to let me have the room painted as well.
Seems simple enough you might think, but this decision set off a chain reaction that took us in a much more complicated direction than I had ever anticipated I would be going just before the holidays. What started out as some new carpet in one room, turned into also carpeting the main stairway, and painting a room that was FILLED to the brim with 32 years worth of books and videos and magazines and memorabilia and just general stuff, some of which hadn’t seen the light of day in over 20 years. At any rated it all had to be emptied and sorted through so the room could be painted and have the things we decided to keep, returned to the shelves that line the room.
Additionally, as long as the painter was here we decided to take care of some other maintenance that needed to be tended to as well. This resulted in painting the trim on the outside of the house as well as the kitchen, laundry room, dining room, our master bath and dressing room, and small bedroom that our grandchildren use as their playroom. Painting these rooms necessitated removing everything from those rooms as they were prepped and painted. It was in essence a little like briefly moving out and then needing to quickly move back in again. But the longer you live in a house, the more stuff you intentionally or unintentionally collect. I discovered in this process that I am a budding hoarder. The long and short of it is we had stuff EVERYWHERE, except where it should be, while things were being painted.
Normally I would have our Christmas tree up the first weekend in December and have our home fully decorated as well. I have more than 30 large bins of Christmas tree and home Christmas decorations. I love my Christmas decorations and thoroughly enjoy the process of decorating our home at the holidays. Those beautiful decorations are treasures I have collected over the nearly 42 years we have been married. They are like old friends I visit with once a year when i take them out of their storage boxes and take a sweet walk down memory lane. But bringing them all up from the basement and unwrapping each ornament and decoration in those 30+ bins creates a mess of its own and as a rule it takes me 3 days to decorate the tree and the house and then pack those bins away again until time to bring them out to put everything away until the following year.
With the mess from painting, still not completely put away, the thought of bringing out more stuff and creating more mess was quite honestly, overwhelming. So while standing in a 99 Cent Only store to pick up some disposable food containers, I was confronted with a small still voice that said “Simplify”. So I did what I was shocked I was doing. I filled my shopping cart with some “cheap and cheerful” tree decorations and gift bags and printed gift boxes and tissue. Rather than haul out all my beloved decorations, I would just use the cheap new ones in shopping bags and do what I have now come to call “Instant Christmas”. I bought the ornaments and decorations, and had the tree, living room mantle and the dining room all decorated in about 3 hours one evening as opposed to the normal 3 day procedure. I did bring up my collection of nutcrackers to use in my decorating as they are my grandchildren’s favorites, but virtually everything else was new.
This post though, is not a post about decorating, either for the holidays or any other time. It is however, a post about simplifying. As I stood in the 99 Cent store the thought came to me that I could do things differently this year, more simply, and be “pleasant and present” with my family Christmas Day. Instead of being half asleep and grumpy from the fatigue of trying to make it all perfectly decorated in a Martha Stewart kind of way, while wrapping with coordinated gift wrap that keeps to the theme of our home decorations as well. I love to do all that in a normal year, but this just isn’t a normal year, and making the perfect scene to look at isn’t as important as getting some sleep between now and Christmas, and being able to enjoy my family and friends.
Your decorating is no doubt done by now, but there will be other areas where choosing “simple” could well be the best gift you give your family and yourself this holiday season. My encouragement to you our chums, is to choose wisely and make it a Happy Christmas after all.
On behalf of my dear chum Jackie and myself, we want to wish you and yours a holiday season filled to the brim with love, joy and abundant living. Happy Christmas dear chums!