The holiday season is upon us. Thanksgiving approaches in just under two weeks. Christmas candy, decorations, and shopping sales are already lining store aisles. But your season does not have to be a rushed, crammed-full, overloaded affair — and it’s easier than you may think!
Christmas is my favorite time of year, so I’m not always great at keeping life enjoyable. I want to participate in and experience it all. Every year. That can lead to an overwhelming number of things in my home to keep clean, an overloaded schedule to maintain, and long days of too many activities and too many sweets. Thankfully, my friends at Action Plan Ministries have a plan to keep me (and YOU) sane this Christmas! Let’s catch up with Sherry Gareis, co-author of Declutter Now! Uncovering the Hidden Joy and Freedom in Your Life.
Me: Sherry, you’ve taken the core concepts you discuss in Declutter Now! and applied them specifically to Christmas. What steps do you recommend, and why?
Sherry: Thanksgiving and Christmas are a lively, eventful time of year which unfortunately, often quickly segues into the chaotic holiday rush. Several years ago, I realized it was all too much. I wanted to take the chaos out and replace it with joy and peace and relaxation. And I’ve learned that’s not unrealistic!
First, adjust your attitude before Thanksgiving starts.
Step l – Attitude Adjustment. Typically, fall isn’t when we consider decluttering. Spring cleaning is called just that – because it’s in the spring! This time of year, however, often provides the opposite scenario. We’re gathering and collecting everything from decorations, gifts and material for crafts to greeting cards and ingredients for yummy traditional dishes. Decluttering isn’t about discarding these festive holiday pleasures, but intentionally preparing so you can enjoy them more fully. Attack this holiday with a new and improved mindset. BEFORE things get geared up, commit to making adjustments in preparation for what’s coming. Think ‘organize space’ and ‘storage solutions’ for these goodies, and discipline yourself by keeping priorities in mind. It’s time for a strategic, intentional, and proactive approach.
Step 2 – Prepare the Way. November provides an ideal opportunity to donate. There are endless charities, all in need of gently used clothes, toys and household items, who are especially grateful for assistance before the holidays. Warm clothes are in high demand and a recycled gift may be the only present a little one receives. Get rid of your excess, not only to benefit others, but to make room for what may be coming. If you have young children, you can relate to the feeling of exasperation when you look at the mound of Christmas gifts they’ve received and dread the work trying to fit them in already stuffed closets and overflowing drawers. Instead of encountering this frustration, try a preemptive, organizational approach and breathe easier when the time comes!
Me: Yes! This is something I began practicing with my kids when they were little. Before the first Christmas decoration came out of the storage boxes, they each had to do a thorough clean out of their rooms. I required a pile of trash to include broken toys or toys with missing pieces that made them unusable and a pile of toys that were still in good shape but they no longer played with. This practice definitely made Christmas better.
Sherry: Exactly! The next step can require a little more thought, but the end result will be worth it.
To really declutter Christmas, you must take a ‘No Regrets’ approach
Step 3 – Ditch the Drama. There are more jokes about the family drama which can ensue during the holidays than ornaments on a Christmas tree. Sitcoms have a field day mocking the insanity that goes on and movies make millions playing off the turmoil that many experience. This is the year for a welcome change of pace! Think about holidays past, paying particular attention to the highlights you cherish and moments you’d rather not remember. What changes can make to ensure more of the good and less of the bad? Of course, there’s the unavoidable that no amount of planning and preparation can prevent, but intentionally setting the stage for a season of fond memories and joyful moments will set you up for the best chance of success. Don’t accept invitations out of obligation and don’t extend them out of guilt either. Intentionally choose with whom you spend your time and where. Festive means cheerful, joyful, and merry. It isn’t festive if you’re feeling uncomfortable, anxious, or downright miserable. Decluttering this area of the holidays may be one of the more difficult to address, but generally proves to be the most rewarding. Be true to yourself and take a no regrets approach.
Step 4 – Declutter Debt! Overspending during the holiday seems to be the way of it. Any other time of year, frivolous or extravagant spending is shunned, but at Christmas, a different set of rules seem to apply and all bets are off. I beg to differ. While I agree this time of year is about giving, that doesn’t necessitate running up a mountain of debt that’ll take you until next Christmas, if you’re lucky, to pay off. Is that really the ‘Reason for the Season’? Hardly! Make your giving count by giving within your means and from your heart. Thoughtful trumps excessive any day, and if the recipient doesn’t agree, they don’t deserve your gift anyway. Harsh but true. Tap into your creative side and craft a homemade present. Offer free childcare for parents that don’t often get a break. Perhaps plan a simple date to spend time with a special friend. There are many ways to show you care without breaking the piggy bank. Don’t allow debt to eat up your holiday spirit.
Step 5 – Balance! Remember, it’s okay to say ‘NO’! The holidays can easily be overshadowed by a zillion to-do’s and commitments. Don’t get caught in the clutches of the Christmas chaos. It’s better to attend two functions, with the time and energy to genuinely enjoy them both, than to squeeze in four or five and miss the joy of each occasion because you’re a rushed, exhausted, overwhelmed mess. Do yourself and your family a favor – prioritize first and then declutter the least important activities.
Me: I imagine that the bigger your family, the harder this is. I know as our kids got older, they were individually invited to different things, which automatically added things to my calendar as their driver.
Sherry: Absolutely. Something you need to consider in your priorities is who should attend which functions and how long those attending should stay. Not every invitation requires the attendance of the whole family, and not every event necessitates you stay for the full time. Although a family member may have a function they need to attend for work or some other reason, make sure to balance this with Step 3 where you decide not to attend something only out of obligation.
Step 6 – Keep ‘Christ’ in Christmas! During Christmas, it seems every other person has a ”Jesus is the reason for the season” pin or shirt on. Yes, I love that saying as much as the next guy (or gal!), but do we take it to heart? While the food and gifts are fun, they don’t make a difference in eternity. Enjoy them without guilt, but keep Christ in the center of your joyous celebrations. Thank God for sending his son, celebrate Jesus’ birth, and share the gift of salvation with those around you.
Me: So, are you ready to declutter your Christmas? If all of this seems too overwhelming, just try one step this Christmas — and make it a priority to follow-through! Which step will you try?
About My Guest
Lindon & Sherry Gareis, founders of Action Plan Ministries, are Christian Life Coaches from sunny Arizona who have a passion for helping people declutter their lives. Utilizing their combined personal and professional experience, they equip, encourage and inspire others through purposeful advice and practical application. The Gareises, AKA Grammy & Grampy, enjoy writing, boating, hiking or smoking a mean rack of ribs with family and friends. They love spending time together and are committed to a lifelong honeymoon.
To read more about the Gareis’s, click here.
If you’d like to read my review of their book, please click here.
If you’d like to read my review of the study based on their book, please click here.