‘Tis the season! And marketers are following our every move online and perfectly positioning holiday decor and “the perfect gift” in sponsored posts around every digital corner. Grocery stores are overflowing with holiday “must-haves” before we even need to break out the first sweater. Social media influencers are posting perfectly staged doorscapes and urging us to try complicated DIYs and to browse their mile-long “Gift Guides.”
That said, the crispness in the air and the first change of leaves has given me that childlike excitement I get every year in anticipation for all of the loveliness that also comes with the winter holidays. I love traditions–from the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree to the same three holiday albums on repeat and a mug of hot cocoa filled with too many marshmallows.
I also love decorating.
…this can prove to be a challenging thing when you’re a practicing minimalist!
So how does one decorate when you’re a minimalist? The answer is not one-size-fits-all.
Minimalism is a lifestyle, a philosophy and a mindset. It includes paring down your belongings to the essential and the most-beloved. This amount varies widely for everyone. You cannot count one minimalist’s belongings and compare them to another and declare someone “not a minimalist” simply because they own more! They have chosen their belongings with intentionality and continue to do so each day. They are careful about bringing new items into their life without first giving careful consideration. One thing that “sparks joy” for one person may be completely useless to another.
The same can be said about anyone’s holiday decor. Personally, I have decluttered and reduced my own holiday decor drastically. In the past few years, I’ve gotten rid of twelve (!!!) large boxes of decor. I now have three. I know other minimalists who have just one…or none! My three boxes-worth of items were chosen with intentionality…and I can continue to whittle it down as I strengthen my “decluttering muscles” and continue to evaluate my belongings after each holiday season.
So before you read any further, understand that intentionality with your decor is what really matters. Not a certain amount; not a certain trendy aesthetic.
Here are the various ways people “decorate like a minimalist”:
- They don’t.
Harsh, eh? Well, there are ample minimalists who find it incredibly freeing to simply stop decorating for the holiday. To each his/her own! You have permission to pave your own way to simplicity and this is as simple as it gets!
No, this does not make you a Scrooge. Focus instead on traditions rather than decor.
2. They continue to decorate as they did with ornaments they collected pre-minimalism, but with more intentionality.
This is what I described above for my personal approach. Please, do not feel compelled to rush out and buy new decor to fit a minimalist aesthetic. There is enough consumerism and waste as it is. I fear you may find yourself decluttering an “old trend” in just a few years and feeling the pain of all that wasted money, time and space.
Go through the holiday decor collection you already have and locate the items that are getting worn out and toss them. Discern what items are ho-hum to you and donate them (charity thrift shops, Buy Nothing Groups) or sell them (Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, consignment shops). Keep the items that bring you a swell of joy to your heart with happy memories. Keep the items that give you immense pride and delight when they are displayed.
Minimalism is ultimately about curating your life for more happiness. If it makes you happy, then keep it! Who cares if you have six boxes of holiday decor that bring you joy? As long as you toss the other twenty boxes and you know that everything that remains was chosen with careful consideration, then you can still be a minimalist with a decorated home.
3. They use only nature, or supplement with nature.
This is what helped me declutter so much of the stuff that was taking up all of my storage. I let go of the faux garlands and the faux tree. I let go of the “meh” ornaments and the worn-out vignettes. Instead, I’ve opted to bring in a lot more nature indoors! I also enjoy the foraging process as well as the creativity and slowness required for the DIY-ing aspects.
The point of holiday decor is to invoke that magical feeling of the winter season, and what better way to do so than to bring the outdoors inside (minus the cold!). Snip some cedar and evergreen branches and arrange them on the mantel or stuff them in your stockings. Use gardening wire to tie branches together to make natural garlands or wreaths. Slice citrus and let them dry in a low-temp oven to make citrus garlands and ornaments. Add red berries, pinecones, cinnamon sticks, cloves, acorns, pomegranates and other various natural items from the forest or grocery store to add a dash of the winter season to your home.
Experiment with having an au naturale “bare” tree. Try just adding ornaments made from nature. Or select a very sparing amount of man-made ornaments to grace its branches, rather than stuffing it full.
Not only does natural decor make your home smell amazing, but it also does not require precious square footage for storage year-round. Just throw it in the compost pile when it’s time to take it down!
4. They let go of “collections.”
I used to have about 50 nutcrackers…I’m not kidding. They lined the staircase and the mantel and table tops. They required an insane amount of boxes and space to store!
I have to fight my desire to collect things with peppermint candy cane swirls, simply because I purchased some mugs with that theme for my first apartment. Every time I see candy cane swirls on ceramic, I hear “Oh, but that MATCHES!” in my head. Just say ‘No.’ (And get out of the craft store holiday aisles!)
What are you collecting that also collects dust?
5. They choose a color theme.
One way to pare down your holiday decor is to get rid of everything that does not fall into a certain color scheme that brings you joy. Are you drawn to images of all-white Christmases? What about all-black? Maybe you just love the sparkle of silver-and-gold? A coastal white-and-blue? If you know there is something you love so much that you could stick to this theme for the next thirty years, go ahead and let go of all of the rest. Whittle the decor down to just the pieces that fit your color scheme. Do not fall into the trap of holding onto other colors “just in case.” It’s like creating a minimalist “capsule wardrobe” for your holiday decor!
6. They store items that can lay flat or break down.
If you want to cozy up your home with holiday-themed throw pillows, for example, be sure that you are only purchasing throw pillow covers, not the entire pillow. Switch out the covers on your existing pillows when the season changes. When spring arrives, you can switch them again. The pillow covers will lay flat in a box for storage and not require much space. Stockings and a throw blanket will fold into this box nicely, and any holiday-themed children’s books can stack on top. Put thought into items such as this and you can still achieve a cozy holiday feel without stuffing your entire attic or closet with boxes for the remainder of the year.
7. They focus more on lighting and less on tchotchkes.
Part of the “magic” of holiday decor really boils down to the lighting. It’s the sparkle of the Christmas tree at night or the candles flickering on the window sill. If you are going to dedicate a box to holiday storage, consider keeping your white-lights and fairy-lights and paring down all the cluttery and distracting tchotchkes. The glow of these lights make a space feel warm, like a roaring fireplace without all of the work. Keep it simple and keep it sparkly. Some of the most beautiful holiday decor is just simple evergreen branches with fairy lights twinkling.
I hope this helps you decide what to pare down this year. If you are interested in learning more, I discuss this in my book, “Have Yourself a Minimalist Christmas” in Chapter 4: “Intentionality.” At the end of my book, you’ll find a link for a Bonus Chapter. I go more in-depth into the popular aesthetics behind minimalist holiday decor (I didn’t want to go too much into this in the actual book, because I don’t want to distract from the true meaning of the minimalist lifestyle). I also have compiled about 1.5k images on Pinterest for inspiration.
Here are links to my Pinterest Boards, if interested:
Minimalist Christmas (general)
Let’s connect on social and let me know what you think!
You can find me at @megnordmann on Twitter or Instagram or follow the book at @minimalist_christmas on Instagram. If you feel so compelled, tagged me in your Christmas photos so I can see what you’ve done this year!
Remember, focus on peace, togetherness, simplicity and intentionality. Have a Merry (Minimalist) Christmas!
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