Pairing Down Christmas

The holidays are coming and they have me feeling nervous. I’m worried about gifts- not in the way you might expect though; I’m not nervous about the idea of holiday shopping, but of holiday receiving. This year, the notion of receiving gifts, many of which will likely be useless objects that I will have to let into my life before figuring out what to do with makes me uncomfortable. It wasn’t always like this though- no, as an only child growing up, I adored Christmas and would often be so excited the night before that I couldn’t sleep. So many presents to open! The best part, of course, was the fact that my family essentially celebrated Christmas twice: while we would spend Christmas day with our immediate family, we would follow up by getting together with the larger family a few days later to exchange gifts once more. More presents! One could say I grew up surrounded by the comfort of many objects.

This year however, things are different.  In January, shortly before I moved out of New York City, I began seriously assessing the things in my life and what I had vs. what I needed.  From previous experience, I’ve found that this is, of course, much easier to do when you are moving and it inevitably gets easier as the packing continues. An item you may have liked becomes significantly less important after a week and hours upon hours of packing with the knowledge that even after it’s boxed up, you must then carry it from your apartment, down 3 flights of stairs and lug it into a U-Haul (and later unpack it once more).

But I digress.

Realistically, I figured that after moving my life would return to “normal” and I would begin to collect and clutter once more as I always have. But something clicked this time, as the move came about with my desire to change my life. I was moving out of Brooklyn, NY- leaving my “big city life”, full of chaos and long stressful hours of work only to survive in a micro apartment for a calmer, quieter life in a small town in Southern Maryland. My move came from a desperate need to reassess my goals and passions and reroute myself to a more desirable path.

With that, I began to wonder about the things in my life and about whether they really did bring joy and value to it, or whether they had simply become another thing to have to care for, organize and clean- something to physically clutter and create more work for myself. After all, I began to wonder, at what point does “comfort” become clutter and claustrophobia?  When does it begin to hold you back from the real things that matter in life?

The move gave me the initial kick start and next thing I knew, I found myself dealing with everything else, including many of the items that had been sitting in boxes at my mom’s house which hadn’t been touched since I graduated from high school almost a decade ago. It’s amazing the amount of things one can amass and obtain before they are thirty! In dealing with these things, I found myself filtering through memories, both good and bad, from growing up. I had boxed them away, but they had always been there, waiting to be dealt with.

The removal of objects ended up being a parallel to my life- a removal of physical clutter and mental clutter. My filtering of the physical items that mattered to me, buried under all the unimportant things began to take on a similar form as to what was going on in my head, as I searched for what really mattered to me and what I was wasting my time on. The person I am today is not the person I was in the past, just as the person I want to be in the future is not the same person I wanted to be previously.

This year I feel that the holidays are coming around as a trial- a final test- if you will. Like any adult, the holidays provide some stress in one way or another- after all, what family gathering is truly complete without some mishap? While there will inevitably be disagreements and arguments, family is one of those things in life that you can’t ignore, and it’s something that I want to work on and a relationship I want to build. It’s a person I want to be- a better daughter, granddaughter and cousin.

I have made multiple requests not to receive gifts this year -in which I was told, somewhat gleefully, “Too late!”-, and so I shall see them as what they are- gifts, showing love and care from my family members. I will likely give most of them away to others who appreciate and need them more and instead, will keep the memories of our time together. People have different ways of showing love. I haven’t always been close with my extended family, but if there’s one thing I’ve realized about them through this process, it’s that my family shows love by giving gifts. There aren’t always words to express feelings and, as they say, “It’s the thought that counts.”

About The Author

Kelsey is a has-been big city living, bodybuilding, all-or-nothing kind of gal who is currently enjoying a slower life in a small town off the Chesapeake Bay. She tries to travel as much as possible and adores food. Over at A Little Rosemary and Time she blogs about promoting a more natural, happy, healthy sustainable lifestyle. Kelsey is currently working towards becoming a Registered Dietician.