Cultivate/Curate | Holiday Un-Decorating


It’s always a little bit bittersweet when it’s time to un-trim the tree, take down the lights, and generally un-decorate post-holidays. On one hand, it’s a sure sign that the holidays are over and that can be a little bit melancholy. On the other hand, it’s kind of a relief to gain a little extra space and finally close the book on last year.

This year, I had a pretty big decluttering goal: fit all of my christmas bits-and-bobs into one single shoebox… and let go of the rest. That might sound like an extreme decision, and for some people, it might be. But in truth, I don’t have too many decorations. We’ve been through many moves and rounds of decluttering, so it wasn’t an overwhelming undertaking for me. But living in such a small apartment, storage space is premium, and I’ve decided that I can’t justify taking up a ton of closet real estate to store things we only display for 6-8 weeks of the year.


So, we pulled everything down from the tree, untangled the garlands from the shelves and Hector’s antlers, and put it all in one pile. We then sorted everything into 3 groups: things we love and want to keep, things we could replace but will keep if they fit, and things to donate. This process went pretty quickly for us. In preparation, I made sure to announce my downsizing goal to Andrew when decorated, so we’ve both had some time to think about what would and would not make the cut. I’m happy to report, we did it! We fit Christmas in a shoebox.



What Made the Cut:

  • The felted, heirloom animal ornaments we’ve been collecting since we got married.
  • The vintage Santa figurine I thrifted a few years back. He looks German or Scandinavian and kind of old world to me, and I’ve always really liked him. And that’s what’s important here. Especially for the holidays.
  • My sleigh bell ornaments and garland. This was a craft project from way back that I haven’t yet own-grown. I love a piece with staying power.
  • An ornate brass cylinder that I thrifted years ago. I’m not exactly sure of it’s original use, but I use each half as a candle holder. I love the way it glows!
  • Two glittery star garlands and a felted holly garland. They weren’t expensive — I think they both came from Target – but they are simple and understated, and I like them.
  • Our hand-made-from-an-old-sweater stockings. I made these a few years back from a cream, thrifted fisherman’s sweater. I’ve thought about replacing them, but I’ve yet to find something I like better.


What We Let Go:

  • Our traditional boxed-glass ornaments. I debated about whether or not I wanted to use these this past year, and I settled on only using the metallic ones. If you place them close to the trunk of the tree, they do a wonderful job reflecting the glow, doubling the effect of your string lights. But if we move — which we may as our lease will be up this summer — I don’t want to transport them. And I don’t want to store them regardless. Next year, we’ll take a different approach to filler ornaments.
  • Our string lights. Typically, we only use two strands of larger C9 lights, and they don’t take up a ton of space. I like the old-timey glow they provide, but we’re in need of an update. These particular strands have been with us for years, and due to an incident with my 6’3”ish, hulking “little” brother, a few of the lights are melted and burnt out.
  • My gold metallic, tinsel garlands. A couple years back, I wanted a little bit more glam in my holidays. I may have missed the mark just a bit, but either way, I’ve moved to wanting more understated decorations that are less “of the moment” and that I’ll love from year to year. I didn’t even pull them out of storage this year, so that’s a sure sign that it’s time to go.
  • A mish-mash of ornaments that we just didn’t feel attached to. Some were gifted, a few of them I made, a couple were picked up on sale as fillers. If I don’t love it, if it doesn’t mean something to me, I don’t want it on my tree. Simple as that.

The Plan for Holidays Future:
Next year, in addition to my shoebox of decorations, I plan to fill my home with fresh things that we can use up in the course of the season. This year, as I watched Little Women (yes, the one with young Christian Bale and Winona Ryder, duh), I kept thinking, that’s how I want my home to look and feel for the holidays. So next holiday season, my guiding principle for how I decorate for my home will be, “Does it remind me of Orchard House from Little Women?” Seriously, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, just go rewatch the movie. It’s filled with beautiful, classic, simple, Shaker goodness and lots of fresh flora.

Basically, my plan for holidays future is to fill my home with:

  • An abundance of greenery: a real Christmas tree (always and forever), green garlands, wall hangings of tree clippings, and more-than-likely homemade wreaths. Not only do they look lovely and classy, but they make my home smell amazing.
  • Fresh, seasonal flowers and herbs. In arrangements, in wreaths, dried and hung over the door.
  • Dried fruits, spices (think star anise, cloves, cinnamon sticks), and other semi-edibles (like old fashioned peppermints or gingerbread cookies) on the tree, as vase filler, and as gift tie-ons. I’m in love with these easy dried orange slice ornaments. I also have every intention of making traditional cranberry and popcorn garlands!
  • Candles. I love the idea of buying a brand new holiday candle or two every year and burning them until they’re completely used up. This year I bought a wonderful-smelling soy candle from a local maker, but I’m also really interested in making my own beeswax candles and scenting them with essential oils.
  • Natural elements, like twigs, pinecones, acorns, etc.

I’m so inspired by the idea of planning to decorate my home with things we can consume or use up by the end of the season. All of the festive feelings, none of the clutter.

Now, you may be a little bit confused about why I’m scheming and dreaming about next Christmas when it’s only January. I am a planner by nature, but normally planning this far in advance would  be a little too extreme even for me. But I’m working towards putting my thoughts down on paper now while it’s fresh on my mind and I can evaluate my most recent experience. If I don’t take the time to cut back and let go now, it would be way too easy to put everything back into storage. Plus, trimming down my holiday goodies is a good way to kick off an on-going, decluttering marathon that WILL be happening over the next few months! Stay tuned.


For more holiday downsizing inspiration, check out this post by Erin Boyle of Reading My Tea Leaves. She was the original inspiration for my Christmas in a shoebox goal!


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