This is that special week of the year that parents of the world look around their house and wonder what the hell happened to their living space. It’s funny how a box of candy canes or shortbread cookies are so inviting and festive at the beginning of December, but by month’s end the mere site of them makes you feel hungover, sad, and wonder where the closest place to rent a dumpster is.
When my kids were young, I tasted the aftermath of the holidays at every turn. My pantry had random pieces of brittle and candy from friends, family, and neighbors peppered about. The fridge was full of cookies, mystery meats, and half opened bottles of sparkly alcohol.
I’d find bows by the toilet and wonder how I could stuff another toy in a chest or toy box so I couldn’t feel bubbling overwhelm every time I looked, well, anywhere in my house.
And the glitter. There was always glitter everywhere even if I didn’t bring any glitter into my home.
I’d slipped on a holiday card one too many times about ten years ago and it sent me spiraling into to at bad place. I lost it in my son’s bedroom while trying to stuff toys under his bed in order to create walking path. It was then I realized something had to give.
I had three little kids and lots of people who loved them, which I was thankful for. But you can be grateful for all the blessings you have in your life and still want to scream at the next person to come by the house, arms loaded with high fructose corn syrup and plastic. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.
I decided in order to keep my mental health in tact, the holiday clutter had to kept to a bearable minimum and this is what I started doing:
Before Christmas my kids fill up a bag of toys and clothes to donate.
This is something they started doing with me when they were about four. I explained that in order to make room for new stuff, they’d enjoy it a lot more if they parted with things they didn’t wear or play with.
It wasn’t long before it became a tradition of sorts. They knew they day they saw me pass out a garbage bag to them, that Christmas was that much closer. Putting their gifts away didn’t feel like I was trying to wade my way through quicksand with a calf cramp. It was actually a joy and it went so much faster.
If we aren’t going to eat it, it goes in the trash.
Throwing food away is not my favorite thing to do. I appreciate baked goods from friends and neighbors and will never give up my annual cookie swap even though I’m the one who’s left with all of the extras.
Somehow, a Hickory Farms package always makes its way into my kitchen, along with a tower of nuts and more boxes of chocolate than I can eat in a year. That’s really saying something because I’m the biggest choco-addict you’ll ever meet.
If there are leftovers that doesn’t get eaten up within a few days of entering my house, they get tossed. I don’t feel the need to freeze all the things in hopes to preserve them. I no longer keep the cookie crumbs if a box gets dropped thinking I’ll swirl them into ice cream. And I don’t care how much I love smoked cheeses and sausages, after the New Year, they are as dead to me as my skinny jeans.
I don’t buy as much as I used to.
I used to show my kids I love them by loading up underneath the tree. Those days are gone forever. I now get them about five things I know they will absolutely love and use and I don’t feel the need to throw in extra items they will only like just to make our living room look like Santa’s wonderland. This has made the biggest difference. Our kids don’t need that much and we don’t need to break our backs or our check books.
I say no.
When my mom asks if we want the leftover cranberry sauce and stuffing, I say no unless it’s a tiny portion that will get eaten. If someone asks what my kids need for Christmas I tell them to take them out for an ice cream instead. If I see a bedazzled tree or a twenty-pound bag of my favorite candy on sale for 70% the day after Christmas, I tell myself to put it down and slowly back away.
Post-holiday clutter is a stress-inducer for sure. Why else do you think every store has big plastic tubs and organizers on display as soon as you walk in.
There’s nothing like swimming in a sea of chaos and wrapping paper to make you want to burn your house down, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m a new woman during and after the holidays since I’ve made these few changes.
Oh, and a side note: I spend the extra money (and energy) I save on myself. Thank you very much.