Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Category: Holidays (page 2 of 3)

90 Clutter Free Gifts from the Minimalist Mom

This list of 90 clutter free gifts, written by Rachel Jonat (the Minimalist Mom) was sitting in my inbox today and I LOVE it. It is now bookmarked on my computer. The great thing about it is that these aren’t just ideas for the minimalists in your life, these are great ideas for anyone.  From wine to movie tickets to an Amazon gift card you can use these for any occasion.  Check it out!

Email Christmas Cards (Quick Tip)

Christmas Card 2014

I love getting Christmas cards in the mail, especially the ones with news from friends who I don’t talk to often. We’ve sent Christmas cards every year to a growing list of people in the six places we’ve lived since Nathan and I were married ten years ago. Last year, however, after we’d just sent a birth announcement for our second daughter, I decided that the trouble of sending physical cards to our entire list three months after we just sent something else wasn’t necessary.

Instead, I sent Christmas cards only to family and friends for whom we don’t have email addresses. For everyone else, I sent an email with a short note and our Christmas card attached.

I apologized for not sending a physical card, but used the baby as an excuse and called it an experiment. I figured my close friends would pull me aside and say something like, “Hey, you know, sending Christmas cards electronically is rude and you probably shouldn’t do that ever again.” Perhaps some people did think that, but no one told me.

Instead, I got responses; immediate responses from people who I hadn’t heard from in months or years. The e-Christmas card actually started a conversation! It was an invitation to catch up in a way that physical cards don’t allow. It was so great that we’ll be doing it again this year.

Reasons to Send (at least some) Email Christmas Cards

  1. Save money when you don’t have to buy stamps and envelopes or print your own cards.
  2. Save time (at least a little). You could blast out a big email to everyone at once, but I recommend sending individual notes, which are far more personal and elicit an actual response.
  3. It’s easy because you don’t have to check-in with people who moved asking for addresses.
  4. Reconnect immediately with friends and family.
  5. Get started. If you’ve never sent a Christmas Card before, emailing them offers an pretty low barrier to entry.
  6. No physical object for your recipients to display and clean-up later.

Sure, it’s not quite the same thrill as holding a real, physical letter in your hand, but what’s the point in sending a letter if you never hear anything back?

Christmas Tree Alternatives

Christmas Plant

The debate rages on over whether to get a live christmas tree or an artificial one.  From a minimalist perspective, an artificial tree is an unattractive option given the storage space needed to keep a tree you won’t use for 11 months a year.

What doesn’t surface often in debates are some very creative Christmas tree alternatives. Year-to-year, I don’t remember our individual Christmas trees at all.  They blur together into one big Christmas tree memory.  What I do remember is the year we decorated a broken chair and the years we had a Christmas Hibiscus, which fit perfectly into our tiny North Dakota apartment.

You don’t have to keep putting up a regular Christmas tree! Here are a few Christmas tree alternatives to make your holidays brighter and easier.

Christmas Tree Alternatives

  1. Living trees – Buy a smaller, potted Christmas tree and plant it in the spring.  You’ll be able to enjoy your Christmas tree year-round without any environmental guilt.Living Tree Home
  2. Rent a tree – If you live in California, you can rent a Christmas tree.  It comes in a pot, you return it after Christmas, and it keeps growing and is rented again next year.
  3. Decorate a houseplant – Many people have rather large houseplants already and they make great temporary Christmas trees!  For many years, we had a Christmas Hibiscus, which brought so much more (tropical) warmth into our lives than a traditional Christmas tree.
  4. Decorate the wall – You can create a beautiful, one-of-a-kind tree out of paper, lights, or even a chalkboard and chalk on your wall.  Excess storage space is minimal and everyone will appreciate your unique spin on the Christmas tree.

    Painted Tree

    Photo Credit:

  5. Decorate something else – This is where you can get really creative and have some fun doing it.  One year, our computer chair broke just before Christmas and, instead of hauling it off to the dump right away, we made it the centerpiece of our Christmas lives.  It even gave us more space for boxes because we could stack them on top of the tree!

    Chair Christmas Tree

    We clearly weren’t trying, but I laugh every time I think of this “tree”.

  6. Cut your own Christmas tree – Avoid the crowds at Home Depot and head out into nature with your family.  There are many places to cut your own, live Christmas tree in the DC area and all over the US.  Turn the experience into a memorable event complete with a stop for hot chocolate afterwards.
  7. Branch out – Select an interesting branch from your yard, pot it, and decorate it.  It may not bring the traditional Christmas tree green indoors, but it can be a lovely reminder of what makes winter beautiful.

    Branch Tree

    Photo Credit:

  8. Don’t worry about a tree at all – We do a lot of things because they are tradition.  Traditions can make things special, familiar and give you something to look forward to, but when a tradition starts to become stressful, it loses its fun.  If shopping for, untangling lights, feeding, and disposing of a Christmas tree no longer inspires the Christmas spirit, stop doing it, and use the time to start a new tradition.


Black Friday Online (Quick Tip)

If I had to choose one cultural aspect of America that shows just how backwards we’ve become, it might just be Black Friday. Luckily, many (dare I say the majority?) of us don’t ever set foot in a store on Black Friday.  Many people simply choose to opt out of Black Friday and, sometimes, material gifts altogether. Our family is greatly cutting back on material gifts this year, but the kids will still get something they need and/or love.

Black Friday Online

Why buy presents when boxes and gift wrap are usually the biggest holiday hits?

When Nathan and I spent the winters in Medora, ND while he worked at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we were 1.5 hours away from the nearest Target.  With temperatures plunging well under 0 degrees and roads covered in ice and snow, I was forced to find a new way to shop for Christmas presents that didn’t involved physically slogging through Christmas specials at the store.

It turns out that you can get free shipping and many of the same deals ONLINE on Black Friday (and throughout the holiday season) that you get in the stores. Plus, you get to sit around in your pajamas drinking hot chocolate and enjoying turkey leftovers.

I shop ahead of Black Friday and jot down the prices so I have a price baseline and don’t get distracted by the store’s specials online. I find that for specific items, some of them get cheaper on Black Friday – probably fewer than half.

Of course, the best deal is opting out and finding something truly meaningful to get your family, but if you must get a traditional present, I recommend skipping the stores and thoughtfully choosing a gift online!

Happy Minimalist Halloween!

Minimalist Halloween

My kids may be a blur in this photo, but it’s holiday traditions like this that make me happy I slowed down to enjoy them.  Minimalism ensures my memories are completely in focus.

Happy Minimalist Halloween!

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