How To K.I.S.S. Christmas: Just The Nice-cessities, Please

I have a confession to make. I have come to the realization that not only am I materialistic, but I also am akin to a hoarder! Now, I know that word sounds really ugly, doesn’t it? A hoarder? Who wants to be one of those people? Those people are exploited on reality shows and made to look like fools! Is that what I am?

I have had this notion for the last couple years that I want to scoop up my three little munchkins, while they are still scoopable, and go to explore the world, while it is still explorable. The kids are getting increasingly unscoopable with each passing year, and the world is becoming increasingly unstable and thus less explorable.

Another theory, that perhaps you have heard me voice, is that there is no sense to wait for some distant unknown future to experience things that you want to experience, because one never knows what that future holds. Working in an ICU has definitely taught me one thing: live for today, because tomorrow may bring unexpected sickness and untimely death.

So, I guess the question is that since I have this dream, why have I not acted on it? We are always inundated with messages to “follow your dreams” and all that kind of drivel – as though we are in charge of our destiny. My short stint in Florida, however, has given me a little taste of this dream that I have harbored, so perhaps it is fair to say that this fire has been rekindled within me.

Of course there are many reasons why we haven’t packed up and left to live in some strange corner of the earth, and perhaps you are wondering what my revelation of my hoarding problem has to do with traveling the world. Incidentally, I might mention here that I am fully aware that traveling around the world is the ultimate depiction of “excess”, but I digress. I am supposed to be striving to be a minimalist……

Better yet, what does any of this have to do with Christmas in Florida? Now perhaps I can answer that!

First let’s consider that it is exponentially more difficult for a hoarder to take off to explore the world. What are you going to do? Haul around three 40 foot containers with you full of “stuff” you don’t even need?

Christmas has traditionally been the epitome of excess in our home. It seems that the true meaning of Christmas gets buried under the torn wrapping paper and strips of ribbon. The table is burgeoning with so much food that our sides split. The sheer volume of gifts overpowers reason, and often leaves me feeling ashamed and guilty. The excesses accumulate year on year and seem to multiply. This grand excessiveness only compounds my hoarding problem, as many new things are added to the collection of unneeded stuff already taking up room in our home and garage. Never mind that the money wasted on all of this could fund many grand world tours.

For many years now I have recognized the problem that I need to cut back on Christmas excess. Every year I tell the children that this is the year that I will cut back, but invariably it only seems to get worse. This year, once again, I have assured the kids that Santa is not going to bring them very much. Now bear in mind, they have been counting down to this day for many months! This is going to be painful for me. The kids just laugh at me, and assure me cockily that they have heard this weak threat before……

One motivator for me has been the realization that our culture has turned us into such a wasteful society that it is frightening. Seeing all the trash that washes up on our beautiful ocean beach here in Florida has been the ultimate wake up call! I don’t want to be a waster!

So, what are the strategies that I am going to employ to K.I.S.S. Christmas? Maybe this will be the year that I finally take action. (K.I.S.S.= Keep It Simple, Stupid!) Perhaps we will limit it to just a few nice-cessities……

K.I.S.S. Strategy # 1: Party Hearty

Who doesn’t love a great Christmas party? Guess what? Kids do! And what better way to get into the Christmas spirit that to throw a Finnish Pikkujoulu Christmas party for the kids! The kids can experience some Finnish culture and share with friends! It was thus that we invited the Humphreys over for a Pikkujoulu party.

I am thinking that maybe years from now the kids will say, “Hey, mom! Do you remember when we were in Florida and we had the Christmas party with the Humphreys – that was so awesome”, rather than them saying, “Hey, mom! Do you remember when we were in Florida for Christmas and I got that piece of crap toy that broke right away, and that we threw into the landfill a week later? That was so awesome – NOT!”

So, the Humphreys come over with their seven delightful children to liven up our party. We had made a few treats like prune tarts and carrot casserole. Okay, at least I didn’t make the liver casserole!

We ended up getting the kids into a gingerbread house decorating contest, which incidentally is rather un-Finnish – a true Finn might cringe at the concept of a contest of any sort at a Finnish Pikkujoulu party……but I guess this is a Finnish/American party!

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 What kid doesn’t love a contest! Who do you think wins? The girls?

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 Or the boys?

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 We had four conniving judges who knew what would happen if either party were the winners…..like maybe WWIII would break out…..and so it was a foregone conclusion that it would be a tie…..2:2…..

We had a great time at our party. The Humphreys may not have been too wild about my riisi puuro (rice porridge) and prune soup, but they never let me on. We had so much fun singing Christmas carols, or at least I did. I did make Eric promise not to tell anyone at WFMC about how ridonkulous I behaved, lest I should dig up some dirt on him to pass around the perpetual gossip mill at work. I haven’t heard any mention of my Christmas party at work, so I think he kept his promise.

K.I.S.S. Strategy # 2: Enjoy the beauty of the moment

What more can a person ask for than a beautiful day to spend with your loved ones in a beautiful place? Christmas Eve day dawns bright and beautiful!

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 K.I.S.S. Strategy # 3: Be spontaneous

Most of you probably know that my husband is very delightful, and the kids love him dearly. Being the man that he is, he knows how be spontaneous rather than focusing on trivial tasks. And so it was that on his suggestion we went for a family run in the nearby Guana Preserve on Christmas Eve. Dinner was due to be served in a couple of hours and here I was out in the preserve! I bit my tongue and kept quiet about the whole dinner making issue so as not to detract from this beautiful moment.

The kids were nervous about this forest. I suppose who wouldn’t be in this forest with alligators, mountain lions, poisonous snakes and spiders, wild boar, and various and sundry unknown dangers lurking in the misty shadows and behind thick hanging vines of Spanish moss, and nigh impassable palm brush.

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 I am really glad that spontaneity won the day, because if I had stayed home to slave over the hot stove to make food that everyone is too full to eat anyway, I would have missed out on this spectacular sunset through the moss covered trees deep in the Guana Preserve.

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 K.I.S.S. Strategy # 4: Cut the fluff

No sooner do we get back from our lovely run in the preserve than I dive into the dinner prep. Of course part of the preparation includes dressing the kids up, which Kristoff enjoys immensely. I know! I know! Dressing kids up for Christmas Eve dinner is not so necessary, but cutting out that stressor is a bit much to ask……I guess some traditions just die hard….

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But look here! I made Christmas dinner in 1 1/2 hours instead of 10! No, I did not make turkey and stuffing and ham and so many other dishes that I traditionally make! Instead we made oysters! What could be better than fresh oysters beachside in Florida? The kids love them, too! Trust me, I had to fight the urge to get a disposable Christmas tablecloth. Now I know the landfill thanks me for resisting, although the table does look a bit drab with my bed sheet tablecloth…….

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K.I.S.S. Strategy # 5: Resist the urge to splurge!

I can’t even begin to tell you how excitedly the kids have been counting down until Christmas! And it is finally here. The great day culminating months of grand anticipation and dreams in my children’s hearts. Just look at how darling they are! I want to get them everything their little hearts desire! How could I not?

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K.I.S.S. Strategy # 6: Don’t let the guilt kill you

I can tell you. The guilt is killing me! Look at this!

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Annika put some cookies and Finnish prune tarts out, and wrote a note to Santa just before going to bed. It says “please bring toys”. I feel panicked. Are there any stores open yet so that I can go buy more gifts for the kids? Alas no, everything is closed. I know I am doing the right thing, but why do I feel so terrible?

K.I.S.S. Strategy # 7: Don’t shop early: Do have a small tree

Ok, so it you shop early you end up buying a lot more stuff, and maybe even forget what you already bought. And if you have a small tree you need less gifts to make it seem look like more! Look how few things are under our tiny tree – and everything was purchased on the last two days before Christmas!

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See this. If you have a big tree you will feel like you need more gifts. Check out how ridiculous our usual Christmas tree is each year! I am proud of myself for cutting back! I can’t believe I have done it, but I go to bed super nervous wondering how disappointed the kids will be.

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 K.I.S.S. Strategy # 8: Go easy on your budget

Christmas morning dawns bright and beautiful. The kids sleep until 10. Maybe the anticipation has worn them out. And so we open gifts. Annika is pleased to get something she needs – a brush for her tangled hair!

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Maybe this is the last year Annika will smile about getting a Barbie…..

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And the boys seem happy with swords and slingshots, although the slingshots may cause some expensive damage and Santa will regret it……

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Well, maybe not! Bjorn looks pretty unimpressed here!

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Emerson gets something that I want! A super lightweight compact camping chair. Now, it is not a must have….maybe I can just borrow Emerson’s in the off chance that I need one…..

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Well, this may be a little in the excess category, but what man would not love a fishing cast net? It makes David break out into a silly grin……maybe he will use it once a year…..oops Santa made a mistake here.

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To save money you could always wrap up something a person bought for themselves……not to say that anyone around here wears Hugo Boss briefs……

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K.I.S.S. Strategy # 9: The greatest gift of all

I have come to realize that what matters most is what matters most. The greatest gift of all……Mr. Beautiful is here! I am soooooo happy!

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K.I.S.S. Strategy # 10: The great outdoors

There is one thing that we always like to do on Christmas Day, and that is getting outdoors. We have never been on a beach before at Christmas, and I have to say it is beautiful just to get out for a walk, even though the day turned out cloudy.

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 Don’t take a picture of me…..

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And how about if you feed birds with a slingshot…..yes, it does work marvelously well…..

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Annika and Hello Kitty love our little beach world…..

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And so it is…..Christmas Day draws to a close. Was I succesful in my quest to K.I.S.S. Christmas? Nobody died from lack of fancy presents. Nobody suffered because I didn’t spend weeks in the kitchen preparing. I feel unbelievably liberated. Nice-cessities or necessities? Who is to say, but everyone is happy and feeling full of life and love. And that is what Christmas is about……family, friends and faith……How have I been so blind as to not see that I have turned the celebration of Christ’s birth into a humongously bloated expression of materialism and commercialism!? I just hope that next year I can stick to my plan of minimalism and not let the hype of the season make me get carried away again. I cannot possibly be happier and more content than I am this holiday season! I have so much to be thankful for…the blessings are too many to count. That is what matters in this life.

Now my quest is to become a true minimalist. I need to purge and clean and get rid of all the things that are burdening me. Perhaps I will never be a true minimalist, but I certainly don’t want to be a hoarder……those are the people who are made fun of in reality shows……my life is not reality show material……or so I would like to think…..

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