I’m writing this article as my husband and I are knee-deep in renovating our house. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t trying to finish this project before the holidays so my family could have a picturesque holiday season. (Trust me - right now, the 1960’s walls and flooring we are removing are anything but picturesque.)
But as delays in refinishing the floors meant changing my grand plans of hosting my Friends Thanksgiving party, I paused for a little perspective.
To me, the holidays are not about having a perfectly decorated home that would impress my Instagram community.
Instead, I want to be surrounded by joy, the people I love, and the glow of goodness and generosity that tends to warm the otherwise cold air during this special time of year. I want to spend my time focusing on creating memories, rather than standing in line at a crowded store to buy more stuff that I use for one month each year, or stressing out about how my ornament color scheme isn’t exactly on-trend.
So, I am going back to the basics this year for the holidays. I’m saying no to weekends full of stressful errands to “get ready for the holidays” and yes to lazy December Sundays spent listening to Christmas songs. I’m worrying less about how my house will look in pictures and focusing more on how joyful it feels in real life.
If you’re with me, here are some simple, conscious ways to celebrate the holidays and create a warm and festive space for your gatherings.
Display décor with meaning.
Better than the newest trend in holiday décor are items that are special to you and your family. Sure, that light-up, copper star tree-topper might not be Joanna Gaines-endorsed, but you remember buying it the year you had your very own Christmas tree in your first home. By now, that piece has become part of the tradition of decorating the tree, so it stays. (And the same goes for the glue-filled ornaments the kids made in preschool.)
Invest in pieces that tell a story or serve a greater purpose.
Think beyond the season by investing in items that serve a greater purpose than just looking pretty. Look for pieces that are functional and made ethically. I love these home décor items from Badala, which are handmade by artisans around the world who receive fair wages. They are timeless pieces that you can use year round, and for this season you can use them to serve your holiday meal or display vintage ornaments for a unique centerpiece.
Create a warm ambience.
An easy way to warm up a space is to add light, and I always gravitate toward beautiful candles. Add the fresh aromas of the holidays with candles that make a difference, like the Evergreens candle from The Light Candle Co. or the Chai Tea candle from Prosperity Candle. Not only do these candles smell amazing (and make great gifts), but they also support refugees with every purchase.
Incorporate natural elements in your décor for an affordable and no-waste way to prep for the holidays. Try adding figs, holly stems, or evergreen branches to vases for an elegant statement, or wrap birch logs with tiny lights to warm up a dark space. For your tabletop, use spruce or olive branch garlands, and add color with dreidels or ribbon.
Shop small or locally.
When you’re planning your holiday meals, check out the farmers’ market and local bakeries or food stores.
Local purchases are environmentally friendly because they aren’t transported long distances.
Shopping at farmers’ markets supports small-scale agriculture (which is good for our food supply and often the environment) and small businesses. Before you run to your local big box store for knick-knacks or gifts, first peruse the local boutiques or online small businesses you love. Your purchases will be unique, and you’ll make a greater economic impact.
Give meaningful gifts.
For years, my extended family celebrated the holidays with a white elephant gift exchange — you know, when you give each other little (and often goofy) gifts that none of us really needed or wanted. Rather than spending money on gifts for the sake of buying something, why not give meaningful gifts that make a difference? Look for ethical and impactful gifts, even stocking stuffers, at stores like Society B, a charitable online marketplace of fair trade and give-back goods. Even Target now offers goods from Hand in Hand Soap and Half United. You might consider skipping the fuss of a white elephant or secret santa gift exchange, and raise money for a good cause instead.
Reuse and repurpose your decorations.
When your guests have left and it’s time to take down the sparkle of the holidays, put away the décor responsibly. Many cities recycle Christmas trees and wreaths to create mulch for landscaping. Please call your local waste management service for more information.
Focus on the important things.
Remember, the best holiday gatherings are filled with memories and the people you love. I may not have the shoe molding installed on my floors or a gorgeous wreath on my front door by Christmas, but I’ll have time to imperfectly decorate a gingerbread house with my kids, which is far more meaningful.
Photos via Badala