Why We Simplified Christmas This Year

Less Under Our Tree

I was with a group of friends earlier this week and one of the gals asked me, “So, are you all ready for Christmas?”

She was referring to whether or not I have all our presents purchased and wrapped and whether the myriad of other Christmas details were taken care of.

I wasn’t sure how to answer that question. You see, we simplified Christmas so much this year that it almost feels like we cancelled Christmas.

Only we didn’t.

We just decided that the past few months have been full enough that instead of trying to pack our December full, we’d instead leave it really, really empty.

Our extended families had already asked if we could cut back and really simplify when it came to gifts this year and we’d already decided that we were going to keep our kids’ gifts super simple, too.

Then, we decided to just let the kids choose which Christmas decorations they wanted to put up. They opted for their little pink Christmas tree — which they had fun decorating themselves.

Next, we decided that we’d skip sending Christmas cards. And pretty soon, after we’d crossed off or nixed most of the usual Christmas obligations or activities we’d opted to do in the past, we were left with a wide open December.

And it has been bliss. Bliss, I tell you.

Why We Simplified Christmas This Year

We’ve hung out as a family more. We’ve read together more. We’ve snuggled together and watched Christmas movies together. We’ve listened to a lot of Christmas music. We’ve gone to bed early. We’ve slept in. And we’ve not felt rushed or stressed or exhausted or frantic.

For the most part, December has been one of the calmest and quietest months we’ve had in ages. And it’s freed up much-needed space to just breathe, listen, love, rest, and enjoy being together.

Do I think families who have opted for lots of beautiful decorations, lots of Christmas shopping, and lots of festive activities are doing it wrong? Not in the least.

We’ve had years in the past where the Christmas season has been bustling with a lot of fun and where I found so much fulfillment in spending hours and hours picking out the perfect gifts to bless others. I don’t regret those years or those memories one bit.

But I also don’t regret having a quiet and simple Christmas this year. Sometimes, your soul just needs to take a step back and breathe.

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Simple Ways We Saved This Week: Creating art, using the library, puzzles, and why you shouldn’t put egg whites in your coffee!

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The girls have been doing lots of painting and drawing this week — mostly abstract type art pieces. I love to see them being creative and having so much doing it!

Bonus: it’s such a frugal activity — especially when they use art supplies we already have on hand.

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My sweet friend, Victoria, sent me this Craft Night in a Box — complete with a Starbucks gift card! It made for a free night of entertainment and relaxation for me.

I had so much fun working on it last night and am planning to finish my project tonight. If all goes well, I’ll share the finished results tomorrow.

{Isn’t this SUCH a great gift idea? If you know a crafter or a wanna-be crafter, this might be a great last-minute gift idea!}

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The kids have been enjoying some books and this drawing DVD we got at the library last week. Have I mentioned how much we love the library?

If you haven’t visited yours recently, you should take some time to do so — it’s like having thousands of unexplored worlds and ideas at your fingertips, for free!

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I’m loving reading this Lynn Austin novel I requested used from PaperBackSwap, one of my favorite frugal sources for books!

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We’ve been making memories by working on this 2000-piece puzzle that we got from a White Elephant gift exchange earlier this week.

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I got a $5 iTunes gift card with my points on Recyclebank. And I spent it to get some songs from one of my favorite movie soundtracks.

{Oh yes, I know, you might think it’s a little kooky that I love Frozen as much as I do. But here’s the thing: the songs not only make me so happy when I listen to them, but I can relate to many of the themes in the movie because of my own personal journey with being more authentic to my true self in the past few years. So yes, it might be juvenile, but I don’t really care! :)}
Simple Ways We Saved This Week

One way I didn’t save: I could not figure out why the “cream” I was pouring in my coffee this morning looked so watered down. And then I actually read the box. Yikes… Clearly, not all brain cells were firing this morning. Needless to say, I had to pour that coffee down the drain and brew a new cup!

How did YOU save this week?

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Let’s Stop Photoshopping Our Lives

Let's stop photoshopping our lives

“If most of us stopped to examine the expectations we set for ourselves, we would discover that our concept of perfection is so unrealistic that it can’t exist in one person. Instead, its a combination of pieces or snippets of what’s perceived as perfect. We don’t just want to be good at what we do, we want to be perfect–we want to edit together all the best clips of what we see to form our lives.”

Brene Brown, page 174, I Thought It Was Just Me But It Wasn’t

Last week, I brought you all into our home for the Clean Your Home for Christmas Challenge. I showed you my messy drawers, my unpacked suitcases, my untidy closets, and gave you a peek into real-life here.

Truthfully, I wasn’t sure how those posts would be taken. It’s always a little intimidating to press publish on posts that are far from perfect.

You know you’re going to disappoint some people. And as a recovering people-pleaser, that’s hard for me to voluntarily do.

Let's Stop Photo Shopping Our Lives

But can I be really honest with you? Letting you into our home — to see the underbelly, as it were, of our lives — was so freeing for me.

Again and again, women commented and said, “Thank you for being real. It’s so good to know I’m not alone.”

You’re Not Alone

The messes, the fact that I don’t hit all my goals, the unkempt closets, the suitcases that don’t get unpacked for months… they all bear witness to the fact that I’m a work in progress just like you.

I hope that it encourages you to know that I don’t have my ducks in an alphabetical row. Far from it. I deal with have stuff bombs and dust bunnies and bad hair days, just like you.

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In this online world beaming with Pinterest-staged pictures, it’s easy to start feeling like we’re the only one who has laundry piles, unwashed dishes, and sticky countertops.

We can be tempted to try to photoshop out the messes, slap on plastic smiles, and pretend we don’t have some ugly, messy, or struggles in our life and home.

But that’s not real life.

We All Have Struggles

I tried being a people-pleaser for years. And let me tell you this: not only is it completely exhausting, it’s lonely.

I’ve discovered it’s so much better to let people get to know me for exactly who I am — messes and struggles and all — than to wear myself out putting on an act in an effort to please someone.

Let's Stop Photo Shopping Our Lives

Real, authentic relationships only happen when we’re willing to stop pretending and start being honest about our struggles.

No one — no matter how put together they may seem — is exempt from hard things.

We all have struggles. We all have burdens. We all have areas where we fall short. We all have literal and metaphorical “junk drawers” in our homes and lives.

Let’s stop photoshopping our lives and instead welcome people in right where we’re at. It won’t always be pretty, put-together, or Pinterest-worthy, but it will certainly be much more fulfilling and freeing!

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How to Stop Being a Grumpy Mom

How to Stop Being a Grumpy Mom

I was feeling frazzled and impatient this morning — ready to throw in the towel and lose my temper. Kind of ironic because I just wrote a post about finding more S-P-A-C-E yesterday, I know.

But I’m just keepin’ it real here. And it was one of those days.

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We had a long day yesterday and were gone most of the day.

When we got home last night, we went pretty much straight to bed instead of staying up and going through the all mail and packages that had arrived (it was a pretty massive pile yesterday!), finishing cleaning up the kitchen, working on the laundry, or unloading the car that we’d spent a lot of time in yesterday while driving to various locations all over Nashville for different things.

This meant that I woke up feeling behind. Plus, for some reason, my alarm clock didn’t go off this morning and I overslept, too. Which didn’t help me feel any more calm.

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To add to that, there were some attitude issues that flared right off the bat this morning and some little people who didn’t want to help or focus or do what they were asked to do.

This morning, of all mornings, of course. I said to myself in frustration.

Being a Fun Mom Always Wins

By about 11:15 a.m., I had had it. It felt like nothing was going right, my anxiety level was rising, and I knew if I didn’t do something quickly, it was going to go from bad to worse really, really quickly.

I went out into the garage and called Jesse. He listened to me rattle on about how frustrated I was feeling. He encouraged me and by the end of the phone call, I was feeling somewhat better.

But I knew I needed to do something more, something tangible, to help turn the mood around in our home. Well, and mostly, to help turn around my mood. :)

So I called the kids into the living room, apologized for how I’d acted stressed this morning, and then told them we were going to pull out the puzzle we’d gotten at a White Elephant gift exchange the night before and we were going to stop what we were doing, set the timer, and work on the puzzle together until the timer went off.

How to Stop Being a Grumpy Mom

They were all thrilled with this idea — especially because it involved mom working with them on something that they love to do.

And I was amazed, because within 5 minutes, not only did I feel so much calmer, but I was actually really enjoying being down on the floor working on the puzzle with them.

Being a fun mom instead of a grumpy mom always wins! :)

Related post: How I Stopped Yelling At My Kids

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Being Organized Is About More Than a Clean House

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Last week, I invested a lot of my time and energy into getting our house more in order and getting our family into a new routine. It was a lot of work and honestly, there were multiple days that I didn’t want to put the effort into it.

But I kept at it and by the end of the week, our house looked so much better, our lives seemed a lot less chaotic, and I felt like I could breathe again. It felt so good.

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However, it wasn’t the clean house, calmer days, or less cluttered drawers I was most happy with. It was the space this freed up in our lives… space to exhale, space to love each other better, space to look into a child’s eyes and listen, space to stop and invest time.

It’s easy to get caught up in the busy, busy, rush-rush, go-go pace of life. To constantly feel like you have to hurry through the moment to get to the next thing.

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I get it that there are seasons when that’s just what you have to do. It’s finals week at school. Or you just had a baby. Or your grandmother is in the hospital. Or your friend was diagnosed with cancer.

Sometimes, we can’t slow the pace of life and we just have to go with it and power through.

But most of the time, I believe that we can choose to slow down.

We can choose to do less. To say no to the crazy, frantic pace. To put forth the effort to get better routines in place and less clutter in our homes and on our calendars so that instead of a hurried pace, we have a calm S-P-A-C-E.

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Space to love that child who needs extra nurturing on a Monday morning.

Space to listen to our friend who is feeling discouraged and overwhelmed today.

Space to text or call our neighbor who is going through a rough patch.

Space to smile at the elderly person in front of us in the checkout lane.

Space to pray for someone who is struggling.

Space to share a kind word of encouragement.

Space to refresh our souls so we can better serve those around us.

S-P-A-C-E. It’s a beautiful thing!

What is More Important Than a Clean House

Near the end of last week, as we were working on our morning chores, one of the kids found a copy of Silas’s very favorite books of all time: Goodnight Moon. We hadn’t read the book in months and we’d all sort of forgotten about it.

There were squeals of joy when it was re-discovered. And because I had space in my day, I was able to stop, snuggle with all three kids, and read the book aloud to them.

It was a simple thing — and it didn’t take a lot of time. But it was a beautiful moment in time. One that I will treasure in my heart for a long time.

I don’t want to miss out on these every day moments.

Related: Read this excellent post on why we need to stop being managers of our homes and instead start being nurturers of those in our home.

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