"What do you want for Christmas?" the Santa routinely asked my little girl. I abruptly piped in like only a parent could, "Nothing!!!! She doesn't want anything! She has all she needs and wants! Oh wait, I know what she can have....a professional organizer to help her deal with what she already has! The last thing she needs is MORE STUFF!!!!"
Well, I didn't say it out loud, but I certainly thought about it. For many families like ours, Christmas has meant two things: More and Stuff!
Stuff for the closet! Stuff for the toy bin! Stuff for the TV hutch! Stuff the garage! Stuff for the areas...with stuff! As a mother of six children, the last thing I need is more stuff on top of the stuff we have! After all the treats from the school party, costumes from the church performance, clothes and toys from the family-giving, I have felt as if I have a mall in my home entry room. All I can do in December is make a pile in the laundry room and deal with it all after New Years.
Then there is the More Factor. The innocent children in our lives have this inward understanding that every year the gifts should be bigger and better! The bigger you get, the bigger the presents get. And it better be better, mom, so they think. I thought this as a child and I know my children have had these expectations Seriously, my daughter made the comment a couple years ago of her Christmas gifts being more and more each year. "Just think, Mom! By the time I am 13 I will have a car!" No ho, ho,ho here...because truth is, she was right! There was this unsaid pattern we had been creating as a family every year that there were more gifts and more expensive gifts than the year before.
Certainly, Christmas is a wonderful time to purchase and receive presents as we rejoice over the ultimate Gift given to the world. And I love it all! But the reality is that it can easily get out of control and our children can become consumed with consuming. And this can lead to frustration in the minds and the home of the parents.
For us, we decided to pull the reins back a bit on the sleigh ride for our family so that we aren't overwhelmed with more stuff and yet still have the most wonderful time of the year. We took two easy steps that changed the direction of our whole season:
1. Give away as much as you can this month before more comes in the door. Since it's a hectic time, don't even separate it yet into those resale/giveaway/trash piles. Just get a box and throw everything you can get rid of in there. Think in terms of clothes, toys, decor, books, DVDs etc. Then take it to Goodwill or save if you have time to sell or share things after the season.
As you gather each item, you will feel a wave of holly jolly come over you, I guarantee. I typically have each of our children gather ten legitimate things (not their sibling's items or a small piece of a broken toy) to share. For us, that is 60 items out of the way! Merry Christmas to me!
2. Explain that each child is loved but the gifts are not always going to be more impressive than the year before. Some years may be a step up from the year before but some years may not, and that is okay. Share with them that the goal is to share the love not increase the greed. Just because they are growing up doesn't mean that the gifts are more and more. Some things may be more and some may be less. It can be a trap for them to compare from previous years or even with siblings who gets what and how much is it.
This talk may even need to happen a couple of times as they grow in this new way of thinking. Therefore, the atmosphere, tone and words we use in communicating these steps is for the children is crucial for them to understand and embrace. These changes may be harder for some hearts than others but it's beneficial for all.
Here is glimpse at what we actually say to our children during December, "Hey it's the most wonderful time of the year! Who is ready to celebrate? Decorate? Bake? Shop? Give?! Go light-seeing?! Here is the plan, kids. First, we are going to start by making room for the blessings that are to come! This way, other children can use what we have had and it keeps the house from being overwhelmed with too much stuff.
Secondly, let's keep things in perspective of appreciation for all you will be receiving this year. Each present is given because you are loved. However, every year they will not necessarily be bigger and better, okay? Just because you received a lot last year doesn't mean it will be the same this year or even bigger and better. But you will be blessed not only by Christmas morning but by the events and other festivities throughout the month! We will enjoy this all to the fullest when we have the right heart of gratitude. Who is ready to start?!"
3. Choose a family project to bless others. Most families spend time asking, "What do you want for Christmas?" However, one of the questions we emphasize in our home is "What should we do to bless someone else this year?" This question will get everyone thinking outside of themselves. We gather around and chat to hear what is on everyone's heart. Then we choose several smaller giving projects if everyone is asking for something different or we do one big giving project if we feel there is a more pressing larger need. This time will settle in your children's hearts as more and more meaningful through the years.
So, gather your small and big elves around the fire, pass out marshmallows and share the family's merry way to celebrate! Keep it short and sweet answering all questions at the end, then implement all month long with expectations of less material chaos and fewer greedy hearts. Everyone can still decorate the house, eat delicious treats, go visit the brightest lights, turn up the Christmas tunes, make traditional crafts and do some shopping for others. But most of all, you will be able to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year without everyone wanting more and your home overflowing with stuff.
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