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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sorting Saturday - How To Destress Christmas Decorating

I am disabled with Fibromyalgia and it's a struggle to keep everyday life going, much less adding holidays. And, for some reason, I get pretty depressed at Christmas which makes me dread it each year. I have no reason to get depressed. I have lots of family, we do our get togethers each year, I'm not alone, we all get along, lots of love, I deliberately remember Jesus in the midst of the holiday, etc. So I can't explain it except maybe it's the marking of another year gone and I'm seeing the time fly by and so much change. Change is hard for me, always has been. I don't wish I was young again. Although it would be nice to have the energy I had as a young woman, I would not give up all that I've learned and experienced in order to go back in time. But, I see my nieces and nephews as adults now; grandniece and grandnephews growing like weeds; my parents and mother-in-law aging; my husband and I are aging and it's sort of brought up in triple magnification at Christmas. I try not to dwell on it, but in the back of my head is, "How much longer will we be able to do this?" That may be what bothers me and gives me such sadness at Christmas. I don't mean to be a Debby Downer, that's just what's going on in my head. My Mother says that even as a little girl I would be sad during good times and I think it was because I didn't want it to end. (Yet being sad ruins the event so you've lost the good times too. How stupid is that? But I can't help it, it's part of my make up. It's something I have to struggle with. And I definitely don't want to spread negativism so I try to keep it to myself.)

Anyway, I decided I need to relieve as much stress as possible during this particular holiday since sadness is an issue with me. I really haven't been in the mood to decorate for Christmas for quite awhile. I'm in my 50's and I began culling out my Christmas decorations about 8 yrs ago. A little here and a little there each year. I stopped doing Christmas cards about 5 years ago. I've always been pretty organized. That's another natural part of being me. I was a born organizer. This year, I decided to get rid of as much stuff as possible and streamline it so that it's not too hard to put up or take down. We don't have children or grandchildren that need to see Christmas in our house so I radically slashed the Christmas decorations.

This year I had about 6 boxes of decorations, 1 trash bag full of Christmas florals, 4 wreaths, small Christmas tree, and my Christmas china to unpack. They were stored in the attic. When my husband brought it all down the day after Thanksgiving it overwhelmed me and I only used half of what I had. So, Christmas day, after our family Christmas brunch, I laid down for awhile to think about what I wanted to do. I made up my mind to get rid of as much as I could and get it down to a science. I don't have to have garlands everywhere, every tabletop arranged, stuff in every room. It's just too much for me to deal with. I understand that there are a lot of people out there who love putting it up and taking it down, for some it's even a hobby. I don't love to do it, I'm getting physically less able to do it every year, it's stressful and makes me depressed especially taking it down. So this is my story of how I decided to lessen the pressure next year. I feel guilty when I have all this stuff but then don't feel like decorating. I feel guilty that I've wasted money on buying stuff that I don't feel like putting out every year. I feel guilty that I don't feel "Christmasy", that I'm not in the "Christmas spirit". I'm not going to feel guilty any more. I will put out a minimum amount without it being stressful to me.

So, I made up a box of keepsakes. These are ornaments and decorations that people very close to me have made. I don't want to give them away, they have sentimental meanings to me but I also don't want to feel guilty about having to put them on the tree or on a tabletop every year. I carefully packed these things, labelled them with who made them for me and taped up the plastic bin/box and put it back in the attic. I don't intend to open it ever again. It makes me sad to remember when the children were little and one of them made this for me, etc.

Next I used a couple of large plastic bins to store some of the larger things that I like to set out. I have a large sleigh, a large elf and a large white ceramic nativity scene with all the pieces. I carefully packed these 2 boxes and stored them in easy reach.

Then I cleaned out a bottom cabinet in my builtins in the living room and stored the things I would set out in the living room in that cabinet. They are clean, set on the shelf and then everything covered with a clean dishtowel to avoid dust. This way they are easily accessible next year. No going up in the attic and handing down boxes.

I disassembled the 3' Christmas tree I have mainly because the tree topper lights went out. I took it outside and did some white spray paint on it to make it look frosted. Then I carefully put the lights back on it leaving a plug at the top for a new topper when I find one. I put some garlands around it and about 8 of my prettiest ornaments. Then I put a trash bag over it and sent it to the attic with my wreaths in their boxes. Next year, no putting up or taking down the tree, it's already done. If the lights go out on it, I will trash the tree, lights and all and buy another little tree.

Finally I decided not to pack the Christmas china in the china organizers. The clean china went back in the bottom of one of my 4 china cabinets and I put clean dishtowels over them to keep the dust out. All I have to do next year is take off the dishtowels and use them. No unpacking and repacking. If I didn't have all the china cabinets, I would get rid of the Christmas china and stick with a neutral nice china and just change the table linens and centerpiece for each season or holiday. But I happen to have enough room with 2 builtin china cabinets and 2 stand alone china cabinets, so that I have china sets for each season (Springs, Summer, Fall, Winter) and Christmas.

Next year I will put up the wreaths; put the Christmas china on the buffet and table; take the trash bag off the Christmas tree and plug it in; put some decorations on the living room mantle and tabletops and that's it.

No more Christmas cards (I used to send up to 100 every year); no more scrabbling for Christmas gifts (we cut that WAY down this year); no more decorating every room in the house; no more baking Christmas cookies which I never was good at anyway; no more doing what's expected unless I want to do it and can do it without stress. I need to stick to my routines and my little rut in order to have a stress free time. I have enough stuff to handle in life without adding extra stress. Now, for you, it may not add stress but adds excitement and fun and you enjoy it. I'm happy for you! For instance, Stan and I went out the Saturday before Christmas with no real objective in mind. Just wanted to get some of that excitement, people watch, spend some fun time together. But, as far as I was concerned, it was awful! Too many people; too much crowd, sensory overload; people pulling out in front of you; beeping their horn to hurry you out of your parking space; lines just to get a cup of coffee; etc. We didn't enjoy it at all. But our realtor came by about 5:00pm (I was already in bed working on my computer) that same afternoon. She was all bubbly and happy and looking forward to going all the way to Greenville, SC to go shopping because the stores were open 24 hrs. She said she didn't need anything, just wanted to be in all the hustle and bustle. After she left, bless her heart, Stan and I said we wouldn't get out in all that for nothing in this world! Some people love it and some of us don't.

If you love to decorate, go for it. If you look at this picture, it's beautiful! But if you were to remove all the Christmas decorations, there would be nothing left but bare wall. That's too much for me to deal with. But if you love it, go for it.

Let's talk about how to store your Christmas decorations. First sit down with a pen and pad of paper and plan it. Ask yourself some questions:

How much do I have to store? Do I have enough to rent a storage garage? Do I only need a closet? A single drawer? If you have a large home and you love to decorate for Christmas, maybe even do the big Christmas display outside, then you are going to need more room to store your decorations. If you live in a small apartment in a big city, you might not need or have space to store more than a few things. You may get your Christmas fix by seeing the decorations done by professional store displayers in store windows, or light displays in parks. So a drawer would be enough to store your Christmas decorations.

After you realize how much room you need to store your stuff, figure out where and how you are going to do it. Store in an outdoor building or shed? Store in the attic? Store in the basement? Store in the garage? Store in a closet in the house? Store in a rental garage? Can you afford to buy that shed or pay that rent? Where you decide to store will determine how much you can store.

Maybe you decide you don't want to store it at all but like to buy new every year. If you have the money, go for it! That way you are always in the current style. After Christmas, load it up and donate it to a charity.

Now that you know how much you want to store, where you are going to store it, how do you organize it? This may depend totally on your tastes and how you decorate. For instance, you may store decorations by room, boxes labelled by the room you use them in. Christmas china, centerpieces, dining room chair covers, table runners, etc. are stored in boxes labelled for the "Dining Room". The garlands for your staircase, the small tree for the entrance hall, the candles and centerpiece for the hall table would be stored in boxes labelled "Entrance Hall". Etc.

You may want to store your decorations by color.

You may want to store your decorations by themes: nativity scenes; fishing Christmas tree decorations; kitchen Christmas decorations; pink decorations for daughter's room; sports theme tree decorations for entertainment room; etc.

You may want to store them by days sort of like an advent calendar. December 1st box holds Christmas cards, address book, nativity scene, and recipes; December 2nd holds Christmas tree decorations and Christmas tree stand; December 3rd holds garlands and lights for the front porch; ...; December 23rd holds wrapping paper, bags; etc

You have to decide what works for you and how to organize in a way that makes sense to you. What works for your family and your schedule and for your way of thinking won't work for someone else. Take good ideas and make them your own. If it doesn't work, then re-work your plans for next year and do it another way. Some people use Christmas planners whether they are binders (notebooks) or done in notebooks on your computer. You can collect Christmas decorating ideas and recipes throughout the year and put a picture in your binder or your digital notebook. Use Pinterest for keeping ideas for the holiday. You can make gift lists and fill it in as you purchase gifts. Have a list of gift ideas as they come to you during the year. Have a schedule on your calendar to do things such as the day you do Christmas baking; the day you will wrap presents; the day you go to the Christmas singing at your church; the day your husband will be tied up watching football so don't schedule anything else that day day (LOL); etc.

Here's an idea, what about decorating with consumables. For instance a bowl full of apples and oranges as a centerpiece on your dining room table. Stick some sprigs of evergreen in it. Then, eat the fruits. You don't have to store them! How about adding a small silver bowl of cranberries; a pretty candy dish full of seasonal candies; a fresh Christmas tree instead of an artificial tree; a board with nails will hold apples, oranges and pineapple to use over your door; set out a plate of pretty Christmas cookies; don't just put all the gifts under the tree, place small ones around the house for decorations; some ribbons with Christmas cards pinned on them.

Here are some ideas on organizing and storing your Christmas decorations. Be especially careful of Christmas heirloom pieces. Maybe you have something from your Grandmother or a special and expensive glass ornament. Store them carefully and make a label for those heirloom pieces so that if you died during the year, your children would know why that ornament was special to you. And hang them up on the tree, label and all, so that those who look at it can read the story behind it.

Re-purpose things. This was a bag for carrying wine bottles.

To store your artificial tree, think about wheels. It's pretty heavy.

Cupcake papers protect ornaments.

Use a tree bag like this one to store your decorated tree. That you don't have to take it apart each year.

And storage and organization doesn't have to be expensive. Re-purpose or recycle some things and use them to store your Christmas decorations in.

Apples sometimes come in these blisters. They make great ornament storage. Use a piece of tissue paper, some quilt batting, cupcake papers, coffee filters for padding in these.

Cardboard cupholders also make good ornament storage.

Coffee cans

Glue plastic cups or plastic pill cups to luan or cardboard to form your own ornament holders. Then place in plastic boxes. I recommend plastic instead of cardboard boxes. Cardboard boxes don't last long and they are formed with natural tunnels that bugs love to nest in. So I recommend purchasing plastic boxes and cardboard can be used inside the plastic boxes.

Drink cartons

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