We had the privilege of sharing JoEllen’s first post on her journey toward a more minimal lifestyle this past fall. Her post Minimal Living Gives me Abundant Life was one of our most viewed posts in 2016 and was followed by many of you expressing not only your encouragement, but also your interest in this more simple way of life. We are thrilled to have Jo back on the blog today talking about her first Christmas as a minimalist. We hope you are challenged and encouraged.

2017 has arrived and I survived my first Christmas as a self-proclaimed minimalist. As the holidays approached I was curious as to how minimalism would affect how I prepared and celebrated. After calling myself a Scrooge for years, I discovered I’m not a Scrooge after all …I’m actually just a minimalist.

The reality was that excessive gift giving, cooking and decorating were never all that important to me, and this year I realized, that is ok. After years of feeling a guilt for not getting hyped up on many of the things the world deems important, I finally found peace in allowing myself to celebrate and experience Christmas the way that felt right.

Here are the 4 major lessons I learned:

1.The pressure for perfection is manageable.

Perfect food, perfect tablescape, perfect wrapping on the perfect gift, and the perfect decorations can cause unnecessary pressure. This year my husband and I opted for paper plates, because it was our first year without a dishwasher. I also chose to buy some goodies at our wonderful local bakery, since I would prefer to do about anything other than baking. These couple of choices lightened my workload and had no impact on our special time together as a family. Well, I guess it changed one thing; it actually gave us moretime together, and that’s a priceless gift.

2. Not all gifts can be wrapped.

Experiences and time can be wonderful gifts. This year, instead of buying and wrapping another unneeded gift, I took a dear friend for a spontaneous hour day-date. Just some one-on-one time, and we were both blessed by a brief distraction.

3. Charlie Brown may have had it figured out.

Christmases before I’ve bought gifts with borrowed money and caved to pressures of Christmas traditions. Although I’ve often felt that this holiday has become completely commercialized, this year I needed to be intentional about what was making me lose focus. Decreasing self-inflicted pressure and intentionally avoiding some traditions allowed me to bask in what Christmas is truly about.

A true Charlie Brown tree even graced our living room this year and the story of its retrieval brings me much more joy that all the perfect trees from my past.

4. Minimalism doesn’t equal being a Scrooge.

Calling myself a Scrooge has a very negative connotation and THAT’S a tradition I need to quit!  Christmas is a season of abundant excess, making minimalism seem more unnatural than usual.

Luke 2:8-14 … and that’s what Christmas is all about.

The picture above was a decoration in my work place that served as a reminder that big exciting traditions, gifts and decorations are wonderful but should never over shadow the true meaning of Christmas!

Next year I might get a “normal” tree and I might even use the good dishes again, but only because I want to do something special and not because Christmas traditions say I have to. Going against the grain is not easy– it never is. But it is rewarding.

Allowing ourselves to truly be who we are and not who a consumerism-crazed world tells us we should be gives us the freedom to break free and truly live.

If the traditional Christmas activities are your thing and make you happy, then by all means, go for it. But if the are making you stressed, broke and exhausted. Just stop, or at least cut back.

As I step into a new year I want to take what I learned this Christmas and move forward even more intentionally than I did in 2016. I plan to prioritize relationships and people over things and pressures. 

In your new year may you be challenged to be more purposeful in all you do. It is all too easy to sit back and let the world tell you how to live. I challenge you to take the time to sit down and think about your year ahead. What will you prioritize? How will you live fully as you?

Happy minimizing in 2017!