Why I’m Embracing Minimalism This Holiday Season.. And Beyond

Embracing Minimalism This Holiday Season  |  The Organic Beauty BlogAnyone who knows me know that, at my core, I am anything but a minimalist.  Historically, I keep everything —  I have clothes, jewelry, notebooks, diaries, and trinkets dating as far back as elementary school.  I love stuff — I have stockpiles of unopened journals, stacks of books I’ve never read, and storage boxes full of trinkets, decorative items and pillow covers for seasonally swapping out.  I love to shop, I love presents, I love information, and I love options.  Needless to say, embracing minimalism does not come naturally to me.

But as I’ve gotten older (or, shall we say, more mature), and more tuned deeper into the wants and needs of my soul, I’ve begun to realize that not only does more stuff not lead to more happiness, but quite to the contrary, it leads to more anxiety, more distraction, and more physical and mental clutter.

Those of us with kids know that parenthood only exacerbates this phenomena.  Having children seems to mean an endless accumulation of clutter — physical, mental, emotional. I felt this keenly shortly after little M was born, and I slowly began the process of KonMari-ing my life (for the uninitiated, that is the Japanese art of decluttering your life and paring down your possessions to simply things that bring you joy.. It’s the best thing ever.  Even GOOP says so).  I’ve donated and sold mountains of clothes, books and jewelry that didn’t bring me joy; I’ve thrown away stacks of old papers and notebooks; I’ve allowed my (super minimalist) husband to throw away long-kept household items that were broken, old, or otherwise no longer useful.  It has felt great.  Liberating.  Clarifying.

But then the holidays roll around.  Between the shopping, wish list creating, decorating, cooking, and celebrating, it’s so easy to forget why less stuff equals more happiness, more calm, and a happier family.  So I am pausing my perusal of 12 Days of Deals on Amazon to remind myself (and hopefully inspire one or two of you!) of why I’m embracing minimalism, especially at this time of year.

Embracing Minimalism | The Organic Beauty Blog

Less stuff equals less work.

I don’t know about you, but I HATE cleaning.  I would rather do any number of uncomfortable and unpleasant tasks if it means I don’t have to spend an afternoon cleaning the house, or more than 5 minutes tidying up after the munchkin goes to bed.  So this is a BIG minimalism motivator for me: the less stuff we have in our home (and I’m specifically talking about toys, decorative items, small appliances, and gadgets), the less cleaning, organizing and arranging there is to do.  I have less toys to put away, less things to tidy up at the end of the day, less items to dust, and less crap to find a place for. This means I am saving myself several HOURS each week of dreaded housework.  It also means that it takes substantially less time to make the house presentable for last-minute guests, holiday get-togethers, and playdates.


  • Shoot for white space in your decorating, meaning more empty space between and around objects.

  • Leave large swaths of your shelves, tables, and floor space empty for a clean, modern look that brings more focus to the beloved items you do have, and makes quick business of tidying up.

  • When decorating for the holidays, pick just a few areas to embellish with a few treasured items of seasonal decor.

Embracing Minimalism | The Organic Beauty Blog

Less stuff makes for calmer, happier kids.

If you haven’t read Simplicity Parenting yet, get it.  Right now.  This is one exception to the less stuff rule.  This book completely revolutionizes the concepts of what it takes to raise happy, calm kids, and is a parenting and lifestyle game changer.  Turns out that tons of toys, classes and activities every day, and a steady diet of NEWness (new things! new experiences! new places!) isn’t creating the well-rounded and adaptable little people that we hope for.  Instead, it breeds overwhelm, tantrums, hyperactivity, anxiety, picky eating, poor sleep, and behavioral issues.

I’ve always instinctively leaned towards a more minimal approach when it came to toys (thanks in no small part to my aggressively minimalist hubby).  Since she was a baby, Little M has had one low bookcase of toys and books in our living room, that I keep minimally stocked with a handful of regularly rotated toys and books.  As she got older, we added a small table and chairs and a play kitchen to her play area, but that’s it.  No baskets or trunks full of toys, no stuff scattered all over the floor, nothing that beeps or talks, no limitless options to choose from during playtime.  The result?  A two year old who can play on her own for HOURS (I’m not exaggerating), making believe, creating games and worlds of her own, talking to herself, reading books.  It’s astounding.

But this time of year, I suddenly get sucked into all the stuff, all the excitement that a whole new set of toys can bring.  I can so easily forget how much her energy changes from calm, focused, and imaginative when she’s in a minimal, uncluttered play space to whiny, clingy, and clearly overwhelmed when she’s somewhere with too much clutter, stimuli and too many options.  I can so easily get sucked back into the trap of stuff, and the idea that more toys and entertaining options will somehow make her happier and more fulfilled.  Thankfully, all I need to do is watch her entertain herself for an hour with a ball of play dough to remember why this couldn’t be further from the truth.


  • Pare down your kids toys, by a lot.  Of what you decide to hold on to, keep just a handful of toys out at a time, and store the rest tucked away for swapping out.  Read Simplicity Parenting for a more in depth guide to getting this done (plus all the myriad reasons for WHY).

  • Create a wishlist of curated items for your kids, and request that family members stick to it when buying presents for your kids.  Shoot for open-ended, simple toys, made of simple, natural materials whenever possible.

  • Set a limit for the number of presents you give your kids (we’re shooting for 3).

  • Create a family tradition of donating a few of the gifts amassed to less fortunate children.

Embracing Minimalism | The Organic Beauty Blog 3

Less stuff to do means less stress.

When there is pressure to DO ALL THE STUFF — go to all the holiday parties and markets and tree lightings; bake all the cookies; decorate everything; get peppermint hot cocoas every other day — all those beautiful holiday memories get jumbled up into one big, stressful mess.  When we’re more selective about our activities, it takes SO much of the pressure off of the holidays and ourselves, and allows us to create special, meaningful memories with our families and loved ones.

In my work with clients, I hear over and over again how overwhelming it is to have a calendar packed with events this time of year.  Add to that the effects that all those parties, sweet treats, and drinks have on our health, and you have yourself a recipe for stress.  The solution? Saying no more, and being more selective about the activities you commit yourself to.

For families with children, all the excitement of constant goings-on this time of year can wreak havoc on sleep schedules and mealtimes, and create cranky, overwhelmed kids.  Children thrive on routine, so although straying from routine every once in a while can be exciting and memorable, doing it all the time for a month straight is a recipe for disaster.

I am keenly aware of my own tendency towards overwhelm, so saying no to too many plans or activities this time of year comes pretty easily to me.  Where I struggle is putting the pressure on to create holiday memories, which inevitably leads to stress, disappointment, and my astute little munchkin’s rebellion.  To keep my eye on the minimalist ball this time of year, I have to remind myself to think from her perspective: i.e. walking down the street together to the local tree lot and carrying home our holiday tree will be more fun for her than an hour and a half drive to the crowded tree farm with the holiday activities and mayhem.. she could care less about the great Instagram photos we’d get.


  • Only commit yourself to the activities and plans that you are REALLY excited about.

  • Pick a few favorite holiday traditions to share this year, knowing that you don’t have to do it all.  There’s always next year!

  • Listen to your body (and be watchful of your littles).  If your shoulders tense up when you think about all the events you have this week, or all the things you’ve committed to, that’s a sign that you’re doing too much.  Likewise, if you notice your kids are having trouble falling asleep for naps and bedtime, are acting more cranky, hyperactive or defiant, or are otherwise not themselves, that’s a sign that it’s time to pull back and return to the routine for a bit.

Embracing Minimalism | The Organic Beauty Blog

Less stuff means more mental space.

How does that saying go? The state of your space reflects the state of your mind? Something like that.  However it goes, it couldn’t be more true.  When I started to minimize my home and my life, I felt so much space open up inside my mind and body.  I felt more free, more able to focus, less scattered and overwhelmed. It may sound silly, but I feel like our dining room table is like a mirror of my mind.  When it gets overloaded with stuff (toys, mail, catalogues, candles, stuff to return, etc. etc.), you can bet your butt I am knee deep in “mom brain” — I’m all over the place, stressed out, and spent.  When I take the time to clear all the clutter, I can palpably feel a difference in my mind. It’s like night and day.

I notice the same thing with my kid.  When the laundry I have yet to fold starts to pile up on the couch in her room, or when I don’t enforce our cleanup routine before nap time and the blocks are still scattered on the floor when she wakes up — she seems way more scattered and overwhelmed as well. She jumps from activity to activity, she runs around the room, she is more likely to cause mischief or be naughty.  As soon as things are back to being uncluttered, it’s like a weight is lifted.  It seems like she feels free to explore and get deeper into her play, to imagine, and do her own thing.  It’s like she’s a totally different person!

I find that this time of year, an uncluttered space and mind is especially important… we can use all the extra mental space we can get.


  • Do a mental check in.  Are you feeling calm, focused, and energized? Or overwhelmed, scattered, and exhausted?  If it’s the latter, do an inventory of your space.  What areas seem to be in the most disarray?  Tackle those first and watch your mind clear.

  • Create systems for incoming clutter.  Holiday cards, catalogues, wrapping paper — find a place for everything that’s not out on display.

Embracing Minimalism | The Organic Beauty Blog

We all talk a lot about how stressful and overwhelming the holidays can be.. but why?  Too much food, too many sweets, too much to do, too much money spent, too many gifts to buy and receive, too much family drama.  This time of year is characterized by an excess of everything.

But if we pull back a bit on everything — less gifts, less pressure, less events, less stuff in general — then so much of that stress falls away.  We are able to enjoy this beautiful time of year for what it is: a chance to celebrate life with our loved ones and families.  When there’s less of everything, then what we do give, receive and experience becomes so much more lovely, so much sweeter, so much more meaningful.  We are able to focus on what matters without getting overwhelmed by all the BS.  And that is a beautiful thing.


  • Set some intentions for your holiday season (and, if you’re feeling ambitious, for the year ahead).  What is really important to you?  What do you want to remember when you look back on this time?  What feelings or states of mind are you craving?  Write them down and encourage your family to do the same.

  • Get on the same page with your peeps.  You don’t want to leave your friends feeling neglected when you don’t show up to that housewarming party, or your hubby to feel snubbed when you get him less gifts than he got you.  If your kids are old enough to notice the difference, share with them what to expect this year and what you all envision for the holidays.

  • If you do find yourself feeling stressed, identify where you can pull back, pare down, and minimize.

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