Dear Dr. Julie-Ann,
I LOVE decorating my home for Christmas. When I was growing up, my mom made decorating special for us and I try to replicate that old-fashioned simplicity. But I can’t even talk to the other moms in the school pickup line without hearing the dreadful lists of “shoulds” and “need to’s” and “have to’s” as they prepare to participate in the annual ritual known as “decorating for the holidays.” Nowhere in there do I hear joy or excitement. I hear the stress and overwhelm and exhaustion.
Dr. J, I have to wonder what their houses look like that it takes them several weeks to decorate it! What is going on? When did Christmas decorating become a chore? I want to say to them, “Do you really enjoy decorating for the holidays?”
Like you, my mother made decorating for the holidays a ritual for us. Each of us five children chose one decoration a day to put up around the house after we got home from school. I’ll admit that I don’t remember how many days she let us do it but, as you can imagine, with five kids putting something up for several weeks, our house was overflowing with a combination of made-at-school, DIY, and store-bought decorations.
Once The Mister and I created our own home, our decorating seemed rather sparse in comparison. I’ll admit that I was a little stressed trying to replicate the overflowing decorating of my childhood. And, because we had a Christmas-time wedding, we received a lot of decorations as gifts (and punchbowls…five or six of them). At first, I felt obligated to use all the decorations we received but then I finally realized that I was just “shoulding” all over myself and we gave the ones that we didn’t like away. And you know what? The world didn’t come to an end. Now, I’d say about 90% of our decorations have sentimental value for us. And everything fits into two boxes–one of them is for the tree ornaments. It is perfect for us and our little cottage.
Mid-century Decorating for the Holidays
One thing I’ve noticed looking at old photos and advertisements on Shorpy, Flickr, Vintage Ad Browser, various magazines, and family photos: compared to the decorating extravaganzas of today, most holiday decorations were rather simple. You see a decorated tree, stockings, some greenery on a mantel and staircase, a nativity scene, and Christmas cards.
Who Is Really Decorating Your House?
My sister collects all sorts of Christmas decorations and loves being able to put them on display during this time of year. Her home overflows with her collection and brings her joy.
But, if you aren’t enjoying the process and your home looks like an advertisement for Michael’s Crafts or JoAnn’s trying to sell their decorations, then perhaps it is time to do some visual and emotional editing. As they say, “less is more.” Have each person in the family choose their “must have decorations” to display and leave the rest in the box. Ask yourself if each decoration is adding beauty or joy to your festivities. If it isn’t, then it is time to let it go.
This holiday season, decide who will decorate your house: You or The Shoulds.
What is your decorating for the holidays style? What ideas or wisdom have your learned over the years? Share your thoughts in the comments, below.
To your fabulous Christmas decorating,
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