Even though the first week of December was rainy and dreary in our neck of the woods, the girls and I have had a super start to our month. Part of the credit goes to the fact that I’ve made some very conscious decisions to simplify our lives, both for the holiday season and beyond.

This holiday season, we're cutting back. The conscious decisions I've made to simplify our lives are tiny steps that are already helping us live better.

We’re not talking radical changes – just tiny steps toward cutting back that I’ve taken, after a lot of thought – steps that are already helping us live better.

1) Edit out the old to make way for the new

As I’ve written before, every few months it’s a good idea to reevaluate what’s no longer working – whether it’s having a changing table in every room of the house, or hanging onto a wardrobe from a lifestyle you no longer live – and adjust accordingly.

For example…

This holiday season, I’ve applied that principle with a vengeance to the girls’ toy stash in the living room.

So far, they haven’t noticed a thing that has quietly gone away. Bonus: with fewer toys around to mess the place up, it’s a lot easier to get them to clean up the ones they have left, right after they use them.

Even better still: One day early in this process, when I hadn’t quite finished “editing,” a few of the things I’d meant to put away the night before were all over the floor again the next day – toys they often take out of the toy bins, but don’t actually play with anymore. I told them that anything they didn’t clean up would become mine, permanently.

After a few such public confiscations of the things I’d meant to eliminate anyway, they now know I mean business when I say it’s time to clean up – to the point that Kimmie has now taken over both urging Essie on, and picking up whatever Essie doesn’t.

And self-editing, too…

Lest you think I’m being cruel and heartless, I’ve also spent time recently cutting back on my own stuff in our house. Specifically, I’ve been going through things that have remained largely untouched since we last moved five years ago, before Kimmie was even born.

In the process, I’ve piled up boxes’ worth of clothing I’ll never wear again, knickknacks we don’t really need, and other stuff we can do without:

  • Those scarves I loved to wear to work ten years ago, but now can’t stand and don’t need? Gone.
  • That yarn I inherited that I’ll never make anything out of, because the colors are as weird to me as the texture? Gone.
  • The pile of brand-new curtains my mom scored for me at her church’s rummage sale fifteen years ago? If I haven’t figured out a way to use them by now, I think it’s safe to say that they just aren’t my style.

2) Focus on what really makes sense for your family

This month, we're keeping our calendar as empty of unnecessary commitments as possible.

This month, we’re keeping our calendar as empty of unnecessary commitments as possible.

December is already a busy month, between school concerts and holiday parties and celebrations with loved ones. This year, I’ve made a deliberate effort to reduce our family’s stress levels, by cutting back on time commitments in some areas so we have more time for the things that matter.

For example: This year, for the first time since I was pregnant with Kimmie, we are traveling to visit all three living grandparents over Christmas, for a total of approximately 1000 miles in my car over a week and a half. Not hosting Christmas at our house for grandparents, aunts, and uncles means I’ve decided to cut way back on the decorating this year. Instead, I’m focusing instead on the editing efforts I mentioned above.

Don’t get me wrong – we all love the decorations, and will miss them. But with the whole house torn up, between our efforts to eliminate excess clutter and the aftermath of some recent window repairs, getting out all of our usual decorations just doesn’t make sense.

Likewise, being out of town for Christmas means the girls won’t be here for their one church choir performance this month, singing at the Christmas Eve service. So, much as they look forward to the weekly practices, we’re taking a break from choir in order to focus on more family time at home. And since many of my church meetings coincide with their rehearsals, I’m skipping a few of those this month, too, so we can spend more time together as a family.

3) Stay focused on what they’ll remember<