Minimalism, Clutter, Fire Life, and The Holiday Season

The long weekend was not long enough, that's for sure.  Anyone else feeling that way?  I mean, I got a lot of relaxing time in, which was nice.  I was able to declutter and clean up the house, and of course, put up our Christmas decor.  And my parents' decor.  I was also able to blog, which is fun for me - I like to write when I have downtime.  I had some thoughts swirling around in my head about balance and the holidays, but nothing concrete enough that I wanted to make into their own separate posts, so here we are.  Brain dump.


The holidays bring so much clutter, it drives me sort of batty.  And it's really just Christmas that does.  Maybe that's why I prefer Halloween?  Halloween has the decor, but Christmas has the decor plus the gifts coming in and out and the wrapping supplies and the cards and the baking supplies and the lack of time to keep any of it organized.

Let's talk gifts most of all though, because people say they don't know what to get me.  Well, good, because I don't want you to get me anything but also, candles and booze, I'm actually pretty easy when you think about it.  If you have a hater of clutter/minimalist in your life that you're trying to shop for, the rules are simple: consumables, or specifically ask them what they want.  They will tell you, particularly if you tell them that you're going to get them something anyway, might as well be what they want/will use.  If you're the clutter-free one, then be the first to suggest an alternative.  Maybe no gifts at all, or just a nice dinner out somewhere.  Or a donation in your name to your favorite animal shelter.

If you live with someone who isn't a minimalist, it's a whole different ballgame.  Because they will have a hefty influx of items to find a home for come December 26.  I highly recommend starting a decluttering process now, so you have plenty of space freed up to home the new things.  I'm already starting this with John's things, because I guarantee you he will come home with approximately 72 new shirts and sweatpants, all with some form of the Blackhawks logo on them.  Seriously.

As for cards, I don't send them.  The ones we receive I enjoy thoroughly for 2 minutes after I open them... and then promptly recycle them.  Sorry to burst your bubbles - save yourself the postage and text me a photo of the card instead.  Sometimes Steph's pugs and Hawkeye's long distance boyfriend Seamus hang out for a few days though, because it's too f-ing cute not to enjoy.  But if you're a card hoarder, digitize that shit.  Scan it using the CamScanner app on your phone and save it wherever you like, but don't feel like you have to hold onto physical cards for years.  I think holidays cards are more about the sender than the recipient anyway, so don't feel guilty recycling those bad boys.


I get asked a lot about how I remain a minimalist during the holidays.  But I think that question comes from not really understanding what minimalism is.  Really, it's about not keeping around anything that doesn't serve you or that you don't love, so you can make room in your life for the stuff you care about.  People forget that second half.  You can still have a Christmas tree with 50 ornaments on it and be a minimalist!  We have some decor but nothing over the top.  The tree, tree skirt, ornaments, stockings, John's beloved leg lamp a la A Christmas Story, and a couple of gold deer that remind me of my childhood (my mom got them at a craft fair when I was young and they were always in front of our fireplace.  The fact that I rescued them from the donation pile when she was decluttering is a testament to what they meant to me as a kid, clearly, so I keep them around and display them proudly.)

I think you can be a minimalist even if you have more or less than we do.  It's not about numbers, it's about what matters to you.  I like to tell people that it's about the stress level, rather than whatever the trendy terms are at the moment ('sparks joy,' 'death cleaning,' 'hygge,' etc.)  If an item and the care and placement of that item are more stress to you than anything else, it's time to go.  And everyone has different acceptable stress levels, and they can change over the years.  My mom, for example, decluttered massive amounts of ornaments.  It was something fun we did together when I was kid - when she was a stay at home mom and I was off of school for weeks, sure decorating the tree from top to bottom was a super fun activity.  Now that we're both working full time?  More stress and a sense of duty than anything else.  Definitely not the same level of fun.  So out all the ornaments went except for the few favorites.  Some people have a very high tolerance for stressful items as it relates to Christmas, enjoying the cookie baking, party hosting, and light hanging more than the stress that comes with doing those things.  Some people want a Charlie Brown tree and to light a fire on Christmas Eve while they watch Home Alone and call the holiday a success.  Both are fine options, whatever works for you.

Speaking of party hosting though, I'm definitely a minimalist when it comes to my time.  I try to schedule as few as possible holiday related activities because I just don't enjoy most of them.  I really like looking at Christmas lights, so going to Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo is always fun (and free.)  I don't enjoy parties I have to dress up for at all, so I don't accept invites to them.  Ugly sweater parties are okay, but I don't go to to many of those either because there are other things I'd rather do with my limited time off of work, things that are more relaxing as opposed to those focused on socializing (I have no idea why Myers-Briggs test say I'm an extrovert, I really don't like people very much.)  I don't host parties during this season.  I'm open to hosting New Year's Eve again, but Christmas-related gatherings are a no-go for me, for the foreseeable future.

Fire Life

This is our first real holiday season with John as a firefighter with the firefighter schedule, since last year at this time he was still in the academy.  And naturally, he's working on Christmas and New Year's Eve.  He would have worked Thanksgiving but he was on furlough (that's the 17th paid days off in a row, three times a year.)  How's that for a first season?!  We're okay with it though because (a) yes, he does get extra holiday pay and in fact guys often request trades for those days because they want that pay and (b) we've always split up most holidays anyway.  I mean, we live together so we get a few hours, but we always go to our respective parents' houses.  But he'll have to leave for work at 5:30 on Christmas morning (earlier if he's kind enough to relieve a guy who needs to get home to his kids), and he won't be there at all on New Year's Eve.  I got Hawkeye and/or Megan to kiss at midnight though so we're all good!  

I don't think either of us are tied to doing certain traditions on certain days though, which is good when you have a job/schedule like this.  We won't be together to watch news anchor Mark Giangreco get progressively more drunk on live TV until the point he slobbers on his co-host, but we can always record it to watch later.  And who says our Christmas gift exchanging has to be on the 25th?  The 24th or 26th work just as well for us.  We just have to make our own traditions, ones that don't depend on a date.  I suppose this is why fire/police life is hard on families with kids, because Christmas for a kid is December 25th at 7 a.m. and that's that.  I guess it's nice that John will always be able to help a brother in need who wants to be home for baby's first Christmas!  (Or 10th, whatever.)

I will be stopping by the firehouse on actual Christmas though, because they do host the families on holidays.  The guys pay for meals every day they're on shift, and some of that money is put aside for holidays so they can buy tons of food for the families on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I think that's nice, so I'll be making some sort of appetizer and/or dessert and heading over there at some point.  I'll probably make my parents and Ida come with, because we don't really do anything for Christmas but lounge around the house in pjs and drink anyway.  My favorite tradition, naturally.

Well that was long-winded.  But that's what's been on my mind lately, and to be honest, I'm looking forward to the slow down that is January - it's one of my favorite months.  How are you balancing the holiday season in your home?

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