What prepping for winter holidays looks like now we are planning for a big trip and long term travel aboard a sailboat. We are a couple years out, but I’m definitely in the mindset of of minimize spending, maximize savings, and reduce clutter and stuff. Admittedly, that mindset by itself seems a bit scrooge-esque during a season of Christmas prep for a holiday which has become steeped in commercialism. We’ve never been over the top in terms of buying presents for our kids and each other, but I do have a hard time sticking to my present giving list when there are soo many cool things the kids would love! It really is fun to watch their faces light up with excitement. Call it “minimalist Christmas,” or a bit “homespun,” but it is a challenge (in a good way), to embrace the spirit of the holidays and really contemplate and act consciously with our decisions of what we do and what we give during this holiday season.
What does Our Minimalist Christmas Look Like?
It looks really low-key. It means not buying new decorations, but gently* loving our old decorations and making them last. It means being thoughtful about how to get into the holiday spirit, and taking a practical and minimalist approach to gift giving.
*Gently..I have a 19 month old, a 4 year old, and a 7 year old. The youngest is so excited to THROW all the “balls” across the room that she snags off the tree. Our tree is only have decorated- the top half. Shatterproof ornaments are the way to go, but it does not mean they are indestructible.
Since moving to New York, we have gotten a live christmas tree every Thanksgiving day. It has been such a treat, the kids really enjoy it, and it gets me out of my head of Thanksgiving day prep. It gives us room to breathe, and sets the stage for the next month. We will definitely do that until we aren’t here anymore. But we won’t be buying new, color-coordinated ornaments, but we might craft some new ones out of popsicle sticks and too much glitter and glue. We won’t buy the newest lights, or tree topper, but will make do with replacing any burned out bulbs we currently own, and love our Death Star for a while longer…hopefully it doesn’t break.
Presents to Give
It means what presents we do give other people will be very low-key, and homemade if possible. I’m thinking cookie in a jar, homemade playdough, tie-dyed shirts, or homemade christmas ornaments. It also means the grandparents will get presents of photos from us (shhh, don’t tell). Okay, that’s normally what we get them. We live on the other end of the country from them, and only see them maybe once a year.
As we are downsizing and trying to be minimalists at heart, the questions to ask are:
- Is it useful?
- Does it fit on a boat?
- Does it have more than one purpose?
- Does it fit with the lifestyle we are trying to live and promote?
- Will this thing last more than a few months?
- Are there experiences we would like to have rather than things to clutter?
So this looks a bit like…
- cheap, plastic toys as stocking fillers are a NO.
- Games or toys which span a variety of ages (including the adults) and/or which have an educational component, YES.
- Practical items like wool socks or base layers, or waterproof backpacks, YES.
- Adventure toys/tools, YES. But only 1. Seriously. These are a few that have been on our list:
- Books, always YES (Though, kindle versions may be preferable…).
- Stocking fillers are not just fillers, they are:
- Apple, Tangerine, Orange (husband’s family tradition)
- Beef jerky
- Coloring utensils
- Hair ties
Since we don’t have family in the area, we keep food low key. Fun is key, and there is no reason for me to cook a fancy meal for 3 small kids who won’t appreciate it. We’ll have some family favorites, but nothing too fancy. Though, my 7 year old has asked for tamales, since we read this book.
We will make cookies, for us and to give to our neighbors and friends. My great-aunt always made these tins full of yummy goodness, I’ll be a bit low-key though. We will make sugar cookies so we can cut out moose and octopus cookies, and maybe something with chocolate.
Getting our Hygge On
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there is a trend of hygge the last couple years. As someone who doesn’t really love these dark, cold winters, I’ve really tried to embrace this idea of coziness; but honestly, it’s ended in a lot of snuggling on the couch watching movies or reading a book, and not getting anything done. So this year, I’m being more cautious and intentional about what hygge looks like with my minimalist Christmas. The week between Christmas and New Year is a great time though to get our hygge on. Lots of snuggling reading books, watching the last of the Christmas movies, and playing games. My goal is to be present with my kids.
Part of my hygge routine includes a lit candle in the kitchen while I work, and some good Christmas music. My idea of Christmas has changed in the last few years, but my love for Christmas music remains firm.
Giving, Goals, Gratitude
Okay, so I would be remiss if I didn’t mention giving and gratitude as an integral part of our holidays. Giving to those who need help is a very important tradition that I want to continue to model for my children. Organizations I’m looking at contributing to this year include:
- Sailors Helping (hurricane relief in the Caribbean)
- Dominica Education Rebuild (friends of ours who moved there this year are behind this endeavor)
*Please be smart and research before you give.
Modeling and instilling a sense of gratitude in my children is a lot harder than I thought it would be, no joke! But we keep plugging away, filling our gratitude jar, and shifting the focus off of what we want to get and put it on what we want to give to others, and how we can be a help to others.
With an idea like sailing the world, keeping the goal alive and well in the dark of winter is hard. It’s hard for me, and it’s hard for the kids, who are very much in the moment, and not necessarily looking far ahead (though the 7 year old is getting better at thinking long term). So I’m making a concerted effort to keep our eyes on the prize, so to speak. We continue to watch sailing videos and documentaries about the oceans and ocean life. We continue to read books, both with the kids and for ourselves; practical sailing guides as well as adventure stories. We follow other cruisers with kids, and talk about them like they are friends, and look at their photos and videos, and find where they are on our world map. Right now for school we are learning about how early explorers discovered longitude. We’ve watched a movie, read books, and are learning to read and draw maps. We’re also talking about spring and summer already, and what adventures we may want to take aboard our boat. And of course, we’re still shopping for boats.
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