Well, no one can say that it has not been an eventful year. Right?
Only when it’s time to consider gift giving, do we suddenly realize COVID’s impact on Christmas itself. Beyond just safety, much has changed.
Half the country is desperately nostalgic that things stay the same and will, no doubt, be lining up outside of retail doors for shopping therapy.
Then there’s the rest of us whose therapy has come in the conscious act of reinventing, down-sizing, and purging the old life, which no longer applies, in order to make room for greater quality of life.
Over the past weeks, my mailbox started filling with folks asking (in one form or another), two questions.
The first: “What do you give half the county that’s already getting rid of half their stuff?”
Suddenly the obligatory baubles that covered our asses at Christmas time, seem a bit too hollow and perhaps even politically inappropriate now too. In any case, they seemed unintentional at a time when folks are looking to live far more intentionally.
The second: “How do I now decorate for holidays in half the square footage?”
So, after a bit of research (for a radio gig I did last weekend) I thought I’d share what we learned about the new trends plus ideas from experts and callers.
Holiday décor for so many, used to be the yearly pilgrimage to the attic, basement or garage for the 15-plus mega tubs. You know…the ginormous stack of plastic bins crammed with every decoration we were ever given or bought? ---that we only only see once a year?
Now, however, with millions of folks moving into more manageable, smaller spaces within their means, gone are not only the hidden stash places, but the visible set up spaces too.
Kids are under foot more now. Many adults are trying harder to figure out new ways to work from home too so, “display” areas (especially for a big tree) have all but vanished. Now, every square foot is being taxed to the limit.
But here’s the good news. Smaller spaces require less decoration to get the same impact. You don’t need to do the whole “Santa’s village,” thing to still capture the holiday spirit. Plus, the color scheme remains the same.
If you’re like me, you’ve already purged your holiday boxes. Yes, it was hard. Holliday stuff are emotional triggers that tug at the heart. Our trees are often like giant scrapbooks filled with every tradition we ever made for ourselves and generations past.
I discovered, however, that out of the bazillion pretty things I had, only about ten percent of them were actually irreplicable. After I got rid of the 20 boxes of lights, the mashed garlands, the broken candy canes, the crumpled ribbon bows and the stock “filler” ornaments, I discovered that the true and absolute keepsakes I could not live without all fit nicely in one long thin covered container that now lives under my bed. I call it my Christmas kit. Everything else went to goodwill and hopefully will be an extremely affordable part of a new family’s tradition.
In the process, I had to also decide emotionally to let go of the old idea of what “tradition” once meant when space, money, time and safety were not an issue. I stopped focusing on having “enough,” stuff to fill a 7-foot tree and a big house. I had to remind myself that my home was not a department store where customers expected “opulent over-the-top festooning.”
I also decided that I’d focus instead on the embellishment of things I use all year round.
Like…My white plates only need a solid red or green napkin and maybe a pinecone attached with string of raffia. So, the holiday dishes went to a consignment store.
Knowing that I didn’t need a floor to ceiling tree, I went to the live parking lot tree stand (which I adore) and bought up the lower branches that they usually trim off the bottom of the tree (where the tree stand goes). I got a huge mound of greens for well,…practically nothing since they were headed for the chipper anyway.
Once home, I got out a long glass (three foot tall) cylinder (which, I use year-round). I filled it with apples, walnuts, a few (waterproof) keepsake-ornaments (facing out) and filled the container with water. I then took the pine branches and tucked them into the new base. When finished, the arrangement measured about 4 feet square-ish over and above the vase. Then, on went the fairy lights, a few strands of popcorn and cranberry, a few dried citrus slices and a cinnamon stick or two. I placed in on a chest in the living room area and piled real Christmas presents underneath. Done!
It makes a major holiday impact, smells amazing and come January first, the apples and nuts will go into a pie, the branches will get composted, the cylinder will go back into my closet til spring flowers bloom, and the ornaments will go back under the bed. Yay!
My keepsake Christmas stockings were places below the big screen TV on the console and during the holidays, I have the 10-hour fireplace videos (from YouTube) playing 24/7. One of them has just the natural crackle of the fireplace and yet another has that plus soft holiday music too. Santa will have to use the French doors this year. --Better on the poor guys back anyway!
I did another (almost identical) smaller arrangement for the kitchen island and yet another for a side table in the den with more gifts, underneath. All together they collectively screamed, “ho-ho-ho”, without taking up any valuable square feet. What’s key is when in doubt always go bigger (taller) and be sure to disperse the ho-ho-ho-ness evenly throughout your spaces since the eye will always go to things that are the same in both color and theme.
Speaking of gifts, here’s what’s trending:
No surprise…Meditation inducing gifts have shot through the roof.
Tabletop water fountains.
Those faux candles with remote controls (so you can put multiples of them in hard-to-reach spots).
Sound machines that play everything from ocean waves to jungle noises.
Luminaries. --Meaning, glowing parchment paper lamps, modern string lights etc. In fact, anything that helps give off an atmosphere of “calm and tranquility.”
Pots of live herbs---HUGE! During COVID (and now winter) many have rediscovered the joy of cooking and are now hooked! So, fresh herbs and food prep-related items are selling off the charts.
A gift basket of baking parchment paper, cupcake liners, that perfect off-set spatula, pastry bags and the like, are all welcome to the newly indoctrinated armature chefs.
Experiential gifts are now preferred over physical “stuff.” Things like:
An online subscription to a Master Class, where folks can learn from those who are teaching subjects of personal interest.
The same goes for Online Zoom consultations where people can interact one-on-one. (in fact, I’m getting ready to offer them too perhaps in spring).
Tech related gifts that make the online experience more three-dimensional are also a great gift.
Bluetooth ear buds. Who doesn’t need those? Or an extra pair?
Small compact speakers that can plug into any devise and be left in multiple rooms.
Web cams that are easier to use with better quality and support software, since so much is now being done online.
New charging stations, since cord management has and will continue to be an ongoing issue.
Gift cards: I know, I know, in years past I thought they were a pain in the ass. Partly because they were complicated to use. But now, with so much transaction online, they are getting smarter. Who doesn’t need one from Amazon? Or even better, Visa offers a credit card which can be used just about anywhere, and the card is immediately activated at check-out. Target, Walmart and the like carry them now.
It’s a nice idea if you present them in a lovely gift box too. That way the receiver still gets to open something a bit more special than an envelope and, you never have to worry about returns. Haha (or should I say Hoho)!
So, there you have but a few simple ideas my courageous elves!
If you haven’t started the Christmas purge yet, do it this year before you just cram everything back in their boxes. Really take a look at what you’ve collected and ask yourself if ALL those things you only use once a year are truly worth the vital square feet which they take up all year long.
In closing, I what to thank each and every one of you for your wonderful comments, your smart and thoughtful questions plus all the terrific well wishes you’ve sent my way over this past year. I hope I’ve, in some way, returned that gift with a bit of inspiration to help you re-think your own quality of life. Oh, and...More new videos are on their way at christopherlowellhome.com
May God bless you all with the courage of faith, light and most of all, clarity. You and only you are the ultimate masters of your own happiness. So let’s give up shame or blame and together…let’s pray for each other’s right to explore one’s own new path. Let’s offer each other the respect, tolerance, kindness and support that it takes to truly allow our individual spirits to experience the remarkably simple joy of just being human.
An ordinary and authentic life it to be prized and praised above all things. Live in heavenly peace, my dear friends!