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Holiday Simplicity December 16, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Food & Drink, Life Balance.

After reading Simplify Your Life in 1997, we stopped stressing over the holidays.  We do what we enjoy doing, and don’t do stuff that feels like a chore.  We’ve decided Less is More.

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We do not spend hours putting up a BIG tree or untangling lights.

We have a tabletop tree that we store decorated with favorite ornaments ~ many handmade. It’s good to go in about 15 minutes.

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Other decorations collected over the years (Santas, Reindeer, Elves) go from boxes to shelves in about 60 minutes.

When our nieces and nephews were tiny toddlers, I gifted Santas to them (which helped keep our decorations in check).

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Instead of shopping ’til we’re dropping, we send cheery cards and college checks to nieces and nephews, and consumables (food, wine, snacks, books) to family and friends.

BFF and I don’t exchange Christmas gifts with each other. Instead, we spend time creating experiential memories together.

Ignoring the call of the mall leaves us with time and energy to enjoy local Holiday Offerings . . . like the Candy Cane Crawl, Christmas Town at Busch Gardens, and PIZZA on Pine Avenue.

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We stopped sending Christmas Cards to everyone we’ve ever known in every place we’ve ever lived or worked (NJ, VA, SC, NC, MD, and here).

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Culling the list from 250+ people we barely remember to those we genuinely care about and want to see again is a HUGE time saver each December.

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Which gives us a chance to enjoy Choirs of Angels in Santa Hats.

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Once they get situated with their hats on straight.

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A new tradition this year ~> collecting and gathering spare change to toss into the big red buckets manned by ubiquitous bell ringers.

Together with our cheery HO~HO~HO!

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Aah . . . that’s better!

What are your favorite traditions? Which ones could you do without?


1. Hariod Brawn - December 16, 2014

Is that your pizza order there Nancy? Hope you left room for the chocolate?

nrhatch - December 16, 2014

That’s some pizza, isn’t it! Last year, Vinnie served up a HUGE sub. This year he made the island’s largest pizza.

2. suzicate - December 16, 2014

Sounds like lovely Christmas days to me!

nrhatch - December 16, 2014

All is calm. All is bright.

3. Silver in the Barn - December 16, 2014

Naturally my favorite traditions revolve around food. And music. We are not exchanging gifts this year either, Nancy. Don’t need a doggone thing and don’t want it either. Spending time together going to a concert or a Christmas party is all I really want! Fa la la!! I am sooo with you on this and I think a lot of us are. (But I do still LOVE to decorate!!)

nrhatch - December 16, 2014

You might like to try adding this to your bag of decorating tricks:

4. Valleygrail - December 16, 2014

Your holiday simpliciry resonates with me so completely. I spend this time quietly, without the trappings and expense of a season gone mad with its outward display of intense celebration. But, I am pretty basic anyway, so it is not a stretch for me to keep it low key.

nrhatch - December 16, 2014

Same here, VG. It’s just so over done these days, that we’re happy to dial it back a notch or two hundred.

5. Jill Weatherholt - December 16, 2014

I’m with you, Nancy! Less is definitely more, especially during the holidays. It makes it so much more enjoyable. Ho Ho!

nrhatch - December 16, 2014

Exactly! The profusion of Christmas ads takes the Ho~Ho~Ho out of the Holidays.

6. katecrimmins - December 16, 2014

We slimmed down our “traditions” too although my husband still puts up a tree that can’t be stored trimmed (and of course I whine although it took 60 minutes this year). We did throw the bottom section out. Really it doesn’t need to be tall. I have a load of stuff that I am packing to donate next fall for someone to use and I did that last year. I prefer the holidays to be about friendship and food rather than chores. That pizza looks awesome!

nrhatch - December 16, 2014

Every year, we whittle away at the extraneous to leave more room for the essential. Here’s to filling our days with Fab, Festive, Fun!

katecrimmins - December 16, 2014

and pizza! (and a Starbucks for me!)

nrhatch - December 16, 2014

‘Tis the season to eat PIZZA . . . falalalalalalalala!

7. Kate @ Did That Just Happen? - December 16, 2014

I love the idea of paring down – I’ve done that – my decorations are fairly minimal (compared to Halloween at least!) and I only send 14-16 cards a year… one box! One box of cards and I’m a happy camper! 🙂

nrhatch - December 16, 2014

And just think of all the trees we are saving from the chopping block! :mrgreen:

8. William D'Andrea - December 16, 2014

With my very limited income, I have no difficulty keeping it simple. My family members understand my situation, so when I only buy gifts for my three grand nieces, I never hear any complaints; but I do send cards to my sister and brother-in-law, my niece and nephew and their families, and a few very close friends. Everyone else gets a hopefully pleasant e-mail greeting.

I myself do receive a few cards and gifts, which I truly appreciate. This year, a family from my Church has invited me to their place for dinner on Christmas day.

This past Sunday at my Church, we held our Annual Living Nativity Celebration, followed by an excellent Christmas dinner. I was among the people who helped set up the dinner; setting up the tables and chairs, and then setting the tables.

This year Mary was portrayed by a girl in her late teens, who has just begun her college education. Joseph was played by a boy who’s in junior high.

That’s a reversal of the usual interpretation. Mary was an “Older woman” an in reality, the two are actually cousins. I unique interpretation indeed!

nrhatch - December 16, 2014

Glad you’re enjoying the season!

9. granny1947 - December 16, 2014

We are going to be even more simple…no tree.
I shall buy small presents for the folks and my brother and I am buying Mex a bird bath…but don’t tell him!

nrhatch - December 16, 2014

Sweet! A win for Mex and a win for the birds. Mum’s the word.

10. Grannymar - December 16, 2014

I don’t bother with decorating the house at Christmas, there is nobody only me to see them. My Elly and her husband were here for the weekend and that is our celebration over and done with. She is expected to show up for the big day at her in-laws where the whole family (at least 21) gather. She feels bad about not spending it with me, but it is after all only one day and a short one at that, we can have a fun day together in the summer when the weather is better and the days longer. I have made her promise never to have a row with her husband or in- laws over the one day!

I know of one ten year old, Molly, who was asked, at the nudging from aunts and uncles what she wanted for Christmas. I love this child.

Her answer: A token of time!

If each one devoted a few hours or a day, spread out over the year, It would be fabulous.


nrhatch - December 16, 2014

I’m glad you enjoyed your weekend celebration with Elly and her husband. It’s hard when families and friends are spread out to be everywhere we want to be at the holidays.

BFF and I have family in NJ, VT, MD, CO, and FL. Making the rounds is out of the question. So we enjoy time with my sister and her family and send long distance greetings to the rest of the clan.

11. thecontentedcrafter - December 16, 2014

Good on you! And your place still manages to looks extremely festive with all those little treasures you showed in the last post scattered about. I have never done the Christmas card thing – it has always seemed an odd activity. I still get the random odd card from people who are close and can’t be around this season, but I prefer to be able to spend time with folks or keep in touch year round. I love your little fabric Santa at the top photo – so cute! Did you make him?

nrhatch - December 16, 2014

Isn’t he cute . . . and very relaxed looking. My aunt gave him to me a few years back.

Some folks view once-a-year correspondence (via Christmas cards) as a way to feel connected without really connecting. 😛

12. L. Marie - December 16, 2014

Love your decorations!! And I really love how you simplified the celebration. Makes it more fun, doesn’t it!
I wish I could find my Santa hat. I might have to make one if I don’t find it.

nrhatch - December 16, 2014

Thanks! I hope you find your Santa hat ~ they are so very merry!

13. Becky - December 16, 2014

I cut back on some of our decorating last year and it felt good. Edie girl has taken over most of the tree trimming and the years we send cards out, she handles that for us. She also does a good bit of my wrapping – she’s a lovely house elf I admit. If only she’d clean a bit more….

nrhatch - December 16, 2014

Edie sounds like an ideal house elf to have on hand as Christmas draws nigh. Maybe next year she’ll extend herself from trimming and wrapping to cleaning and tidying.

14. Eric Tonningsen - December 16, 2014

Simplicity, Nancy. Gotta love it! And how nicely you’ve embraced it.

nrhatch - December 16, 2014

Of all the books I’ve ever read, Simplify Your Life had the most immediate and lasting impact.

15. Yolanda M. - December 16, 2014

Love your tree! 🙂 Christmas this year is definitely going to be a more ‘restrained’ affair 🙂 I have learned that the things I want the most can’t be bought so I’m with you for ‘making memories’ and giving to others less fortunate.

nrhatch - December 16, 2014

Thanks, Yolanda. The more “over the top” the ads get . . . poking and prodding us to buy bigger, buy more . . . the less willing I am to be manipulated by the assault.

Wishing you all the best of the season ~ peace, joy, love, hope, happiness, and light.

16. anotherday2paradise - December 16, 2014

I think you really have the right idea, Nancy, I think there is far too much spending on and stressing over Christmas presents. We also send money to the kids and grandkids and tell them not to reciprocate as we really don’t need anything. This year, we’re just having Christmas brunch at the club with a couple of friends. In the afternoon, we’ll probably go for a walk in the nature reserve, and then we may go on to visit a few more friends in the evening. Of course we’ll also have to field all the family Skype calls in between. 🙂

nrhatch - December 16, 2014

That sounds like a full day, Sylvia. With just the right touch of festive fun. As a child, nothing pleased me more than wading for hours through all the presents under the tree. Now I’m happier not to have a mountain of gifts to unwrap.

Hope your day is full of love and light.

17. NancyTex - December 16, 2014

We spend Christmas Eve with my in-laws. A seafood extravaganza for dinner followed by board games, cards, drinking. 🙂 We used to do midnight mass as a big group, but over the years various members dropped that piece of tradition, choosing instead to stay in and drink and play while the others went to church. Once everyone was back, we would open presents and then head to bed. Last year I started a new tradition: since my husband, daughter, son and his GF all sleep over there, I decided to buy us all matching pajamas. 🙂 Last year’s outfit made it to a picture on FB and on my blog. I just bought this year’s pajamas. Cannot wait to see my son’s face when I make him put these on. 🙂

nrhatch - December 17, 2014

Those matching PJ’s sound like a fun tradition ~ cozy, warm, and humorous. Or humiliating . . . depending on your perspective.

When BFF’s parents were alive, we gathered Christmas night at their house (with all the cousins and kids) for games, food, laughter, and festive frivolity. FUN! Now our families are spread out from Colorado to Florida to Maryland to Vermont to New Jersey and there is no “home base.”

P.S. Just went to your blog to see last year’s PJ’s. Adorable and understated red plaid elegance.

NancyTex - December 17, 2014

I bought ladies PJs last year and this year so the guys end up with the short end of the stick. 🙂 Last year’s were downing tame compared to this year. 🙂

nrhatch - December 17, 2014

If you get a good group shot (like last year) . . . please share!

NancyTex - December 17, 2014

Oh, I will. Trust me. 🙂

nrhatch - December 17, 2014


18. Jacqueline King - December 17, 2014

Whenever we decide to spend Christmas home alone (like this year) Martin and I have a great time, just pleasing ourselves. We don’t make a huge meal ~ just a big bowl of prawns! We either buy each other one £20 ‘fun’ present, or we order up/purchase exactly what we’d like but don’t open it until Christmas Day. And my tiny tree gets packed away complete with baubles and lights ~ so it only takes a few minutes to smooth out the branches and plug it in! It’ll be a low key celebration ~ but I’m looking forward to it already! 🙂

nrhatch - December 17, 2014

Enjoy your quiet celebration (and prawns!) with Martin. Sounds like you’ve found the right mix of simple celebration to share.

That’s the focus of the suggestions in “Simplify Your Life” . . . to shed the extraneous (time and energy thieves) and uncover and discover the essential.

19. Cecelia Futch - December 17, 2014

Simple is best. . . and most meaningful. You and BFF appear to embrace the fullness of life by avoiding the distracting clutter that diverts so many of us from what really matters. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.

nrhatch - December 17, 2014

When life is not focused solely on survival (food, water, shelter), some distractions ADD to our enjoyment of life. Those distractions are worth hanging on to. But if we find that we are maneuvering over and around distractions that SAP our time and energy, it’s worth giving them the Heave HO~HO~HO!

20. Pix Under the Oaks - December 17, 2014

It all sounds good to me. We do what makes us happy so we don’t feel all the stress of the season. Very little decorating, no snail mail cards. Family Christmas is this Sunday and it is about being with family (some patience required) and FOOD!

nrhatch - December 17, 2014

Last night as we ate dinner, I realized (not for the first time) that FOOD is the best invention ever! It adds daily spice and variety to life. Enjoy your Funday on Sunday!

21. jannatwrites - December 17, 2014

That pizza looks great! I’m all for shedding the chores (but I love putting up the tree and ornaments 🙂 ) I did about 50 cards this year… next year, a few will drop off from the list. I couldn’t imagine 250- yikes!

nrhatch - December 17, 2014

If you love putting up the tree and ornaments ~ that’s a tradition to keep.

The first tradition I jettisoned was Holiday Baking. We used to spend an entire weekend baking cookies to give away to people whose kitchen overflowed with Holiday Goodies. I decided to leave the cookie making to others.

The card list grew every time we moved since we “wanted” to stay in touch with friends/acquaintances/co-workers from grade school, high school, college, law school, internship, first law firm, 2nd, 3rd, first non-profit . . . etc.

After reading Simplify Your Life, I realized that there were people on the list I’d worked with that I couldn’t even conjure up in my mind. They were just a name in the address book.

That year, I just WAITED. I sent cards to people who sent cards to us rather than doing the initiating. SHAZAM! The list culled itself.

22. Anne Lene - December 17, 2014

I don’t decorate much for Christmas, but then again, I never did. I put up the Christmas tree and decorate it and the house on the 23rd. Beside the tree, i have only a few key pieces that are put out as decorations. Mostly I decorate with Christmasy plants and candles. Chistmas present I only give to my parents and the younges in the family. All the rest of us “big kids” have stopped the gift giving to each other, it’s not like we don’t have everything already. I try, when I give gifts, to give something I know they want or some sort of consumerables (wine, food). So I have to admit, Chistmas is a pretty relaxed thing these daays 😉

nrhatch - December 17, 2014

Your gift-giving sounds like ours ~ mom and the kids and a sprinkling of friends. Our exchange between siblings had gotten to the point that everyone was just swapping gift cards because no one needed anything. Seemed a pointless exercise.

I used to put out the decorations the day after Thanksgiving and leave them out until the end of January. One year, I kept the Santas out until March “to keep me company.” Now I decorate later and put things away as soon as I’m tired of all the red and green. Last year, I looked around the day after Christmas and decided I’d had enough HO~HO~HO for one year and put everything away except for the tree.

Maybe next year I’ll follow your lead and wait until a few days before Christmas to decorate. :mrgreen:

Hope your holidays are full of Peace, Light, Love, Hope, and Joy!

23. Three Well Beings - December 18, 2014

I totally subscribe to your thinking about the holidays and simplifying at every turn. I have come a long, long way from where I once was on the “holiday merry-go-round” but I really think we still have a way to go. LOL! I didn’t think that so much until a day or so ago when I realized I was feeling more pressure than I would ordinarily voluntarily take on myself. Next year maybe we’ll cut even a little more! I really do like your approach and attitude. I think at this point you are definitely breathing lighter than I am! 🙂

nrhatch - December 18, 2014

I have a confession ~ if we had two pint-sized granddaughters living nearby, we would make more of the holidays. Once our 10 nieces and nephews graduated from sitting on Santa’s lap, we shifted simplicity up a notch.

24. JOriginal Muse - December 18, 2014

There were a couple of Christmases over the years that I bought small Rosemary bushes that I decorated as trees and kept indoors until the “holidaze” was over. Afterwards I tried to keep them alive outside to have fresh rosemary for my culinary needs. I think I need more lessons on how to nurture rosemary bushes 😦 If we weren’t going out of State for Christmas this year, I might have considered trying that again.

Card-giving is ancient history for me. Baking and cooking too much now violates my new raw vegan lifestyle. New traditions will include making healthy and colorful dishes that will surprise everyone’s taste buds and leave no regrets necessitating New Year’s Resolutions.

Spending time playing with grandkids, sharing fun, no-frill gatherings with family and friends… Calling and chatting with close friends and relatives I haven’t seen in ages and who’ve sent me cards… Just staying in the moment like any other day of the year.

People often tell me how relaxed and calm I make them feel… Well, I think it has everything to do with my conscious decisions to exchange redundant “traditions” for new and healthier options for celebrations. Thanks for this post, Nancy… Bliss and Blessings..! 🙂

nrhatch - December 18, 2014

What a great idea ~> a rosemary topiary sitting on the counter as part of our holiday decorations. Perhaps next year. So glad that you’ll be spending time with your grandkids and other friends and family that you don’t get to see every day.

I can imagine you exuding “all is calm, all is bright” as you nibble on new traditions. Peace, Light, Love, Hope and Joy to you and yours!

25. pix & kardz - December 19, 2014

my decorations have gotten less the last few years, too. i would sometimes decorate for about a week in the past, with boxes strewn about while all the old treasures emerge once again. but that makes for a very cluttered week, and in order to keep Timmy’s stress to a minimum, i have done it all within a matter of hours. this year it was even more efficient than last year which was his first Christmas with us. boxes out, decorations up, boxes back in just a few hours. to quote you – ahhh, that’s better!
regarding the sending of cards, i was just in a conversation about that with someone whose mother still dutifully mails out lots of cards each year, and then was very upset when she never got one back from one of her regulars. it turns out that friend had passed away some 8 months ago.
my friend was saying – how close of a friendship is that if all you do is exchange cards once a year and nothing of your lives otherwise.
anyhow, it seems that less is more, more or less 🙂

nrhatch - December 19, 2014

Haha. Love your last line. You’ve summed it up in a succinct package. Great example ~ when we learn about a friend’s death 8 month earlier via the annual Christmas Card exchange, perhaps friend isn’t really the right word.

In 2012, we used mom and dad’s Christmas Card list to let their friends know dad had passed away . . . we didn’t wait until December.

I’m glad that your desire to keep Timmy’s stress to a minimum allowed you to lessen your decorating stress, Kris. We’ve given away 75% of the extraneous decorations we used to haul out every December. We don’t miss them. And sometimes when I look at photos from way back when, I think . . . “what was I thinking?” :mrgreen:

26. Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com - December 22, 2014

Hi Nancy! Just getting caught up on some of my blog reading and had to chime in here just to agree with all you’ve said. It sure does help to celebrate the holiday when we slow down, simplify and get rid of all the have-to’s and shoulds. I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas time and enjoying every minute! ~Kathy

nrhatch - December 22, 2014

Thanks, Kathy. So far, so good. Hope you’re having a good time too.

BTW: I’ve enjoyed your last few posts but your blog didn’t cooperate when I tried to leave comments. It kept asking me to leave a longer comment.

27. William D'Andrea - December 23, 2014

Since this is what you prefer, I’ll keep it simple.
A Merry Christmas to you, to your entire family, and to everyone reading this.

nrhatch - December 23, 2014

Thanks, William. Have a Cool Yule!

28. laurakelly2 - December 23, 2014

I love the experiences of Christmas. My sister, her family, and I concentrate on family time. Parade of lights, baking cookies, Christmas Carols etc. That is what we hold in our hearts as precious this time of year. It makes all of the difference 🙂

nrhatch - December 23, 2014

Thanks for sharing your traditions, Laura. Hope you have a wonderful time filled with Peace, Hope, Joy, Love, and Light.

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