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How to have a Minimalist Christmas that isn’t Depressing

It’s coming! Can you feel it? The hustle and bustle of the holidays is almost here. But do you really want a Christmas full of chaos, stress, clutter and debt? Keep reading to discover practical tips for a more minimalist Christmas that is still full of magic and joy.

minimalist Christmas wreath and presents

Christmas Before Minimalism

I will never forget how I felt after my first Christmas as a new mom with young kids.

It wasn’t at all what I had expected.

I had spent months:

  • Carefully choosing expensive Christmas decorations for our new home
  • Planning our holiday menu
  • Buying extravagant gifts with money we didn’t have
  • All with the goal to amaze my children on Christmas morning!

But as I sat in our home that Christmas morning, my heart was not filled with wonder and joy.

Instead, I felt the weight and impact of what an over-the-top Christmas had created.

In the following days, as my children gleefully played with the cardboard boxes and ignored the expensive toys I began to ponder the:

  • Debt from all the gifts and non-essential items we really couldn’t afford
  • Clutter from all of the toys – all but a few were quickly forgotten
  • The need to store all the Christmas decorations we didn’t have room for
  • A sinking feeling that all of this wasn’t what the holidays were all about

I decided that next year would be different.

Our First Minimalist Christmas

So, what does any well-intentioned mom do when she feels like she screwed up the first time?

Go totally overboard in the opposite direction- of course!

When the holidays rolled around the next year we went whole-hog minimalist:

  • No tree – we used a miniature cardboard tree from Ikea
  • We followed the four gifts rule
  • Limited gifts to immediate family only
  • Cut way back on holiday events and outings

And guess what?

It was a huge depressing disappointment!

Honestly, it didn’t even feel like Christmas at all!!!

In that moment, I knew there had to be something better, something more balanced.

I knew that moving forward we wanted to keep Christmas simple, but we needed to find a happy medium.

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How to Create a Minimalist Christmas that is Still Magical

Ok, by this point we are two years into celebrating the holidays with our young family and we had totally messed things up twice.

Not good!

But they always say the third time’s the charm…

This time around I had a great perspective. We had experienced both ends of the spectrum as maximalists and minimalists and had learned a lot.

Now, instead of trying to create what I “thought would be” a magical Christmas, I asked my children what their favorite parts of the holidays were and decided to create simple traditions based on their answers.

The result?

The next Christmas was a truly magical Christmas!

  • We celebrated with family
  • Enjoyed giving and making meaningful gifts
  • Had fun with simple DIY Christmas decor
  • Made lasting memories
  • And avoided the stress and debt that so many people associate with the holidays.

Finally! Success!

Please, please, please learn from my mistakes and keep reading to see how to create your own minimalist Christmas that is still fun and meaningful, but simple and intentional.

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Practical Ideas for a More Minimalist Christmas

Step 1 in this process should begin as soon as you decide you want to try to simplify Christmas.

This is when you sit down with your family and discuss what your top priorities are when it comes to the holidays.

Some topics for discussion should be:

  • Gifts
  • Budget
  • Experiences
  • Events
  • Decorations
  • Food

One thing that discourages a lot of people from embracing a minimalist lifestyle is the idea that there are rules that you have to follow.

I am here to tell you, there are no minimalist rules – you get to create your own!

So let’s say that your family decides that gifts are a top priority when it comes to Christmas – that is totally OK! 

“You get to decide the what, who and how much when it comes to what defines minimalism for you.”

Lauren @ simplywellbalanced

Minimalism is a journey and we all start somewhere.

Decide where you want to simplify and move forward from there.

I have included some helpful tips below!

Give with Intention; Minimalist Christmas Gift Ideas

A simply wrapped minimalist gift

Giving is at the heart of what Christmas is all about.

And guess what?

Gifts are FUN!

Part of why our first minimalist Christmas was a total flop was because we had practically no gifts.

From that experience I learned that you can still exchange gifts while still keeping Christmas simple.

The key to keeping the spirit of Christmas alive while simplifying the holidays is to keep the intention of your gifts at the center of your Christmas list.

Remember the entire point of gift-giving is to show someone that they are special to you.

You certainly don’t do this by mindlessly grabbing a crappy, plastic gift set off the shelf at CVS.

There are numerous ways to give intentionally without:

  • Mountains of debt
  • Stressful last-minute shopping
  • Meaningless gifts that will break and be forgotten

Since the average American family spends 58 months paying off holiday debt,  I am a firm believer that you should never go into debt to show someone how much they mean to you. 

That message is better sent through our words and actions.

At the same time, gift giving fun and is even a love language for some.

I have found that very few minimalist families are comfortable forgoing gifts altogether. Instead, the focus is placed on careful selecting clutter-free, thoughtful and useful gifts.

Some popular minimalist gift giving suggestions include:

Fewer Gifts

This one is a no-brainer. By limiting the number of gifts you give to your children and to others you also minimize the following:

  • the stress of shopping
  • the stress of spending too much money
  • the stress of dealing with too much clutter afterward

Giving fewer gifts allows you to be able to carefully select gifts that are going to be valued and appreciated by the recipient.

Experience Gifts

This is one of our family’s favorite alternative gift ideas. It’s a gift that can get broken or grown out of.

Many popular ideas include trips, lessons, tickets and outdoor activities.

The best part is the memories will last forever and there’s no storage required. You can even still provide an actual gift to open by placing a brochure, tickets or passes in a box or envelope.

Consumable Gifts

To put it simply, consumables are gifts that go away 😉

As a new mom I was elated when I discovered consumable gift ideas and they have been at the top of my Christmas shopping list ever since.

I love that I can give a gift to my child that they will enjoy, but I will not be picking up for years to come.

Common consumable gift ideas include food, art and craft supplies, toiletries and personal care products.

As a general rule, we do buy gifts for our kids – we just choose to focus on experiences, outdoor toys and consumable art, craft and building supplies.

Minimalist Christmas Decorations

Toddler touching minimalist Christmas decorations

Holiday decorations pop up in stores before your Jack-o-Lanterns have time to mold.

The lights, inflatables and knick-knacks are adorable and admittedly tempting.

But guess what – you don’t need to spend your money on that to make Christmas meaningful.

Skip the holiday door mats, t-shirts and hand towels and focus on what truly matters.

It doesn’t take much to evoke the spirit of Christmas with a few carefully selected items.

We have found that the following items are enough to create a cozy and festive feeling in our home:

  • White Christmas Lights
  • A Holiday Banner or Bunting
  • Holiday Crafts the kids bring home from school
  • Touches of green from a wreath or garland
  • A simply decorated tree

That’s it!

And you know what? I love that all of our Christmas Decor fits into one storage bin.

By simplifying and minimizing your holiday decor you will save yourself a ton of money, time and storage space.

Minimalist Christmas Traditions

A popular mantra of most minimalist families is “experiences over things”, and the holidays are the perfect time to put our words into actions.

I was so surprised when my kids shared with me that many of their favorite Christmas memories had nothing to do with their presents and instead they mentioned the simple activities we did together like:

  • Making cookies
  • Watching our small-town Christmas Parade
  • Crafting and making DIY gifts for others

In fact, when I asked them, “What was your favorite Christmas gift last year?”, neither of them could even remember what they had received.

Wow…who knew?

So instead of stressing over the “perfect gift” to give your child this Christmas start adding some easy family activities that everyone will enjoy.

Simplify the Holiday Meal

Many moms find the pressure of cooking and over the top traditional Christmas dinner to be overwhelming (I know I did).

But guess what, Christmas dinner doesn’t have to be difficult. Whether you decide to cook a turkey or go with something less traditional there are many ways you can make life easier on yourself.

From prepping ahead, to purchasing pre-made sides from your local deli, I promise that the time and energy you save will be well worth it.

There you have it mama! That is what has worked for our family on our journey to a more minimalist Christmas.

How to have a Minimalist Christmas with Kids in 2020

How to have a minimalist Christmas that is still magical

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