Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Motherly advice...Could a Low Key Festive Season mean less stress...

Does Christmas mess, mess with your head? Has decorating for the festive season become a chore that means dragging out umpteen dozen boxes of stuff, and spreading it around the house, only to have to pack it away again, come January?
Don't get me wrong. I LOVE Christmas. I adore it in a manic child like way that has me baking, and preserving, and marinating, and embroidering, and sewing for the entire year, never mind in the months of November and December.
But I have learned over many long years, that 'more' isn't necessarily 'better'. Often less really is more, or at least in this case, more Festive. Sometimes Christmas decorating, isn't decorating. It's just swapping one type of clutter for another, or even worse, adding to existing clutter, with even more, shinier clutter. I think Pinterest and blogging has a lot to answer for in that respect. We all feel like we have to outdo each other, with ever larger displays of Festivity.
I used to think my husband was the ultimate Grinch. He seemed to become more stressed, the closer we crept towards Christmas Day. For many years, I thought he'd had a bad childhood experience that he wasn't ready to share, and just tolerated his Grinchy behaviour with soothing words, and foot massages. Meanwhile, I was happily adding to my usual display of knick-knacks, with ever increasing numbers of Christmas knick-knacks, from baubles and bears, to snow globes and Santas, to Nativities and Noel signs. He'd be humphing, and harrumphing, and I'd be scratching my head wondering why he wasn't getting into the Spirit of things.
I need to add here, that he is five years older than I am, so I find myself in recent years, at the same stage of life where he first exhibited what I thought was a Bah-Humbug attitude towards all things Festive.
Suddenly I see things differently.
We both enjoy a clean, tidy, beautifully presented home. We have a home of which we are very proud, and love entertaining friends and family and enjoying the haven we've created  from the world. We both have a few favourite bits and pieces on display, which we swap as season or whimsy dictates, but neither of us believe that it's necessary to have every. single. thing. we love, out at the same time. I wasn't always of that frame of mind. Lesson one.
We do have different tastes. One of his favourite pieces of artwork in the home is this print, purchased at the National Gallery in London, and framed upon returning home....
I once declared that I hated it and hurt his feelings terribly. When I recovered my diplomatic skills, I asked what it was that he loved about it. He said that it reminded him of water skiing as a child. He and his brothers were all champion water skiiers, and spent every weekend at a well known ski point, honing their skills. They'd arrive at 4am, ski from 5am till 9am, and be finished by the time everyone else was just starting to arrive. This print, reminds him of the calm, mirror-like lake of his water skiing childhood, with the grey criss-cross lines, resembling the tracks left by the water skis. Well. Who knew, right? I see this picture in a whole new light now, and have a new appreciation for why he loves it. I even like it. It's not something I would choose, but I enjoy looking at it now, knowing it's significance for him.
Here is one of my favourites by comparison...
Ballerinas. In tutus. What? You expected something else from me? Lol...
So, see, we have different tastes in artwork. The garden the same. He loves spiky, sculptural plants. I love soft, flowering, ornamentals. He loves Sandalwood soap, I love Jasmine or Rose. He drinks coffee, I drink tea. He loves the ocean, I love the mountains. Why then, would I assume that his taste in Christmas decorating, would automatically mirror mine? Lesson two.
Finally, we used to have different levels of tolerance for clutter. I have always been the Bower Bird, and as my husband and I met later in life (I was 35, he 40), we had to accept that some things we saw as less than ideal in each other, were not going to change. He'd like to live in a very pristine, five star hotel style environment, with minimalist décor. He's not averse to a few photos, and decorative thingos, but he hates having something on every surface in the house. Me, on the other hand...well, I live by the mantra 'my eye must see something of beauty at every turn'. I am very visually stimulated, and need pretty things around me. He's learned to allow me full rein, as far as displaying my collection of vintage pretties goes, so long as I keep it to my office, the kitchen, my craft room, and our bedroom. I've learned to not have everything out at the same time, and to put away, before adding to what is on display at any given time. I've also learned that he lives here too, and is equally entitled to display his collection of vintage cars, quirky clocks, and music paraphernalia, even if it does clash with my rose themed teacups, harlequin kitchenware, and Art Deco bedroom furniture. So, a truce, and an understanding is reached. Lesson three.
These days Christmas decorating is elegant and low key in our household. I've given away my gigantic 7 foot tall green plastic tree, and replaced it with a sweet tabletop, vintage silver feather tinsel tree. We adorn it with monochromatic ornaments and white fairy lights, and it lends an air of festivity, without dominating the living room. It's not up yet for this year, but will be soon.
Meanwhile, I've stopped bringing out every snow globe, French inspired Santa, glittered bauble, holiday themed serviette and placemat, figurine, wind chime, wreath, and feathered thing I own at Christmas.
Instead, each year, I choose a theme, and display a select few items, first packing away our daily display of favourites, to give our festive pretties a chance to take centre stage. I give my husband the courtesy of taking my cue from the high end hotels and department stores, and focusing on half a dozen themed and co-ordinated displays, over several dozen insignificant ones. I'm adding a Scandinavian restraint too, by choosing a single colour scheme and focusing on displays that are gentle on the eye and the mind, at this chaotic time of year.
We carry the restraint through to other rooms in the house, by not necessarily adding glitter and glitz (I know, right? You're now wondering if I've lost my sequin lover!), but rather changing linen and cushions to colours reflecting the Seasonal Spirit. There aren't too many Santas and Reindeer in the house these days, but Christmas abounds in calm and soothing colours, touches of Scandinavia in garlands of Fir tree boughs, silver, gold and clear baubles, and plain white candles.
Here are some key elements here this Christmas, and thanks must go to the many inspiring bloggers who post their ideas on Pinterest. I've drawn inspiration from them for all of these ideas. Whilst I haven't followed them slavishly, I have used key elements, and made them my own with what I had on hand.
Here in the front entry, we have a dozen simple household candles, bundled together and tied with a Champagne coloured, double satin bow. I added some gem like berries, sourced at the local haberdashery. The vintage fruit compote bowl, previously held a collection of vintage cotton reels. Cotton reels packed away. Candles on display.
While I was buying faux berries at the haberdashery, a few other assorted items found their way into my trolley. How does that happen? These Fir tree garlands were just $8, and when cut into four, gave me ample greenery to display. Taking my cue from a few favourite pins on Pinterest, and armed with my idea of leaning towards a Scandinavian take on the Festive season here, I added these little white polystyrene cone shapes to my trolley, to use as a suggestion of Christmas trees, without being 'trees'. I added a hand made tag to dress one up a little. The silver tray, had previously held my collection of crystal decanters. Decanters packed away, greenery and cones on display. Speaking of cones, I think this one needs some natural pine cones to finish it off. I'll grab them today on my walk.
My lounge cushions actually have crowns printed on them. I've reversed them so that the greenery takes pride of place.

A simple brown craftboard collection of letters, with a wreath of ivy and berries replacing the letter 'O', forms the word NOEL on a sideboard. Even my husband said 'aren't you going to put glitter on that?'. I just about died laughing! Has my leopard changed his spots?? I might glitter the star. I haven't decided.

More greenery, my favourite candlesticks, vintage baubles and white candles in a French themed wooden box. Thankyou KMart for saving me the task of making one. Shabby frame behind. Nothing more needed.

As a nod to The Grinch, who remains right up there with Santa as one of our favourite Christmas characters, more greenery, chunky candles, and some dried rosebuds, found their way into a wicker basket in the kitchen. My daughter inscribed the quote from Dr Seuss's Grinch, on a tiny chalkboard which somehow found it's way into my trolley too. More and more, we are realising that 'maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store....'.

My daughters room got a makeover with a bed sourced on Gumtree for just $50, and it's simply stunning. She's wrapped one of the fir garlands around the head, fairy lights at the foot, a red comforter, her usual cushions and throw rug, a Grinch style hat on the bed post, and dang, how did that shaggy white rug for her tootsies, get into my shopping haul? I couldn't resist. Sorry.
Do not be alarmed. All of this festive spending amounted to just $65, so I was pleased and so was husband. A far cry from the hundreds being spent on crazy shiny glittered stuff by many others, and formerly by, yes, me, myself and I. I told you. I'm learning.
Do you consult your husband or other family members before embarking on your Seasonal festivities? Do you feel overwhelmed by Christmas like my darling used to? Maybe it's time to reassess how you decorate and celebrate, and treat yourself to a low key Festive Season.
I was rewarded just last night, when my husband hugged me, and said 'I love the house like this'. Well. I never. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Christmas decorations and he loves it? Win!
Maybe, this year, 'Less is More', and it's time to appreciate a more elegant and restrained approach at your home too. It's chaos out there. Make home your haven. It might make all the difference.
Five Star Frou-Frou is my neverending linkup and you can find it here.
I feature a blogging friend who links, each time I post.
Todays featured blogger is....
Pam from Threading My Way, who shared her adorable stitched gift cards. I love this idea, and see all kinds of variations! Thanks Pam!
Make your own Christmas tags. All you need is a little card stock and a sewing machine. Tutorial at Threading My Way


  1. Mimi we forgot to look at the Christmas decorating yesterday - I might just have to go back and have a closer look.

    Our place has been so minimal since we moved back up here that it has not been decorated - at all. I love Christmas and would have decorations out in our previous houses but they were much bigger and so nothing looked cluttered.

    I have something in mind for the entry and then I need something for the sideboard then that will be it. Just need to find what I want in the boxes in the shed - can you hear my husband groaning?.

    He loves to have lights on the house but with us not being here from the 23rd for a few days he hasn't bothered. I don't think he has found the lights yet and then the question is -'do they work'?

    Love the simple elegance that you have created Mimi - now off to continue with my task for today - tomato jam. 2 lots down and 1 to go.

    Perhaps I could just stand a couple of jars of the jam on the sideboard, after all they are a rich red colour.


    1. Dear Lynette, I think actually looking at any more Christmas decorations was the last thing on my mind when we met! I think what you've done in the past sounds lovely, and I guess there will come a time when you and your husband will feel ready to drag out the lights and decorations again. The tomato jam sounds divine, and funnily enough, I have used jam as decorations, sitting with the sunlight streaming through from behind. The jars look like gems :) Mimi xxx

    2. It is all coming together - blue, white and silver will be the colours and of course very minimal - found the bowl that my grandmother always made salad in so that is now on the sideboard waiting for the baubles to come up from the shed. The front hallway has a slender cupboard that usually has my collection of beautiful trios (cups,saucers and plates) in it - that is the next spot to be decorated - I am thinking - lanterns filled with baubles and lights threaded through - just got to find the lights.

      The coppery coloured decoration caught my eye - I have some small lanterns in that colour and I had never thought to use them as part of my Christmas decorating - would you believe that they are in a box marked 'garage sale'?


  2. Mimi, this is the season that I am in as well, love this post!

    1. Patsy, I think there comes a time, when your children are no longer small, when you truly start to appreciate the idea of 'Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All Men', more than just 'Merry Christmas'. I think that's where we are :) Mimi xxx

  3. I have really cut back this year and it makes me so much happier. The whole meaning of Christmas is about the real reason for the season which I think has gotten lost in the commericalness of it. That is a distraction to keep us from focusing on the real reason for the season. I put up some garlands with twinkle lights. That is the one thing I really enjoy is the twinkle lights in different rooms of the house. But the tree, I don't enjoy so much. The one thing I featured in the house is the nativity and that is lit up also. That and a lot of good food and family to enjoy it with is all I need. Hoping you and your family have a really wonderful Thanksgiving and holiday season!

    1. Dear Sherry, yes, yes, and yes. As children we fashioned a Nativity from clay each year, and my mother would embellish it with the words 'Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All Men' in glue and glitter, on Christmas Eve. We loved waking up to our Nativity on Christmas morning, fresh with 'Angel glitter', reminding us that the real reason for Christmas was the birth of the Baby Jesus. We love twinkle lights too, and I adore your idea of using them on the Nativity. Beautiful. Happy Thanksgiving to you too Sherry. Much love, Mimi xxx

  4. Dear Mimi, I loved this post and it has got me thinking as now the nearby family birthdays are just over, is the time I look at putting up our tree.Like you I am slowly learning but still have a long way to go re; keeping decorations less and putting away the usual ornaments and things that stand on our flat tops like piano and tv cabinet (its low and sits under our biggish screen). I have to confess I do all the displays and decorating upstairs, hubby has our double garage as his haven where he adorns the walls with posters, has a wall of tools , and all his little knick knacks displayed on tops of music equipment.Even has his own fridge , well what would you expect while he sits looking lovingly at his toys ;-)
    I will give some thought to how he might dislay some items up here ....he might not be keen..who knows.
    I loved all your idea twists , looks very calm and serene, thankyou. Love Maria xx
    PS waving to Lynette!Your tomato jam as display sounds fab!

    1. Dear Maria, I think it's all about what works for you. My husband actually finds clutter quite claustrophobic, so even his displays of favourite knick-knacks are very restrained. He does however, like your hubby, have a music studio and a workshop where things are a little more chaotic, though not much! We just find nowadays, that the more frantic the world outside is, the more we need a peaceful retreat. Home can be that retreat, and we like it that way. I hope things are coming together there at your end. Love, Mimi xxx

  5. I have a talent for making every holiday as complicated and stressful as possible, by going the handmade, detail crazy way :-)

    1. Dear Amalia, that can be it's own sort of fun! How lovely to have unusual, bespoke decorations, over the mass produced ones. Just so long as it remains 'fun' ;0) Mimi xxx

  6. I am going to try your method Mimi, I tend to over decorate too. I haven't started yet although the BIG tree is up thanks to my sons girlfriend. It does look beautiful but not something I would have. They will be moving out soon and I am secretly hoping they take the BIG tree with them hehehe!

    I love pinterest etc for ideas, I too have been saving quite a few ideas lately.

    Tania xx

    1. Dear Tania...if you love it, stick with it! I started not to love it, because my Darling was so stressed. I just wish I'd wangled the reason out of him sooner! Poor thing. I think there are lots of people out there who find Christmas challenging for all kinds of reasons, and I'm just trying to say 'look it doesn't have to be that way', you know? I feel very calm and peaceful with my Christmassing these days. That doesn't mean I don't go all out, but the way I go about it, is very different. Keep the home calm, restful, soothing and peaceful. That is what's needed at this time of the year. For us, at least. I know what you mean about the BIG tree too. I used to love it when the kids were little. Not so much now. Funnily enough, my granddaugthers, who are 3 and not quite 5, adore our smaller tree, and call it the Fairy Tree. So even then, children don't necessarily need 'bigger' for things to be 'better'. It's an interesting thought. I hope things are not too hot for you there! Have a lovely weekend. Love, Mimi xxx

  7. Thanks so much for featuring my stitched Christmas cards, Mimi. At present I'm working on another sewn card design featuring stars. Since the kids have left home I haven't really bothered with Christmas decorating. As time goes on, though, I'm thinking I'd like to add a few accents - something like your candles, and maybe some cushions.

    1. My pleasure Pam. They're so cute! I think it's nice to continue to decorate for Christmas, even without kids at home. I know what you mean's easy to just go with the! Candles and cushions sound like a nice low key solution too. Love, Mimi xxx

  8. Nicely done, Mimi! Just enough displayed that you can thoroughly enjoy it, but don't have to dread packing it all back up in January. As we get older, hubby and I put out less each year. We are trying to go through and save the pieces that we really enjoy and use, and give away what is just, well, stuff.

    1. chipmunk that is it exactly. Fun to get it out, a darned chore to put away! And yes, a lot of ours was just 'stuff' too. It's freeing to kiss it goodbye! Merry Christmas. Love, Mimi xxx


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