I’m starting to hate Christmas.

I hate to admit it, but that was the thought running through my head exactly one year ago.

Now, before you start to think that something terrible has happened in regards to my faith, I’m not referring to the biblical account of Christ’s virgin birth as told in the Scriptures. The day the Word became flesh and dwelt among us is a glorious moment in history and something that I cherish. The true meaning of Christmas is one of the core doctrines of the Christian faith and is essential to the gospel. It is something to be celebrated 365 days a year!

No, when I say that I was starting to hate Christmas, I mean that I was beginning to hate what Christmas revealed about my heart and my desire to accumulate earthly treasures.

The picture above shows the number of containers needed last year to store all my family’s Christmas decorations. When my wife and I were first married, we needed a box for the tree and maybe one or two storage containers for our decorations.  Sixteen years and two kids later, the number of Christmas decorations had multiplied several times over. The increasing accumulation of decorations was certainly not intentional. We didn’t wake up one day and say, “Let’s buy out all of Hobby Lobby’s inventory!”  We had no aspirations of taking part in a Christmas light fight with the neighbors. We simply added a few items each year without letting go of any. And after sixteen years, we ended up with 2 trees and 12 storage containers full of ornaments, lights, garland, Christmas villages, and trinkets.  Deck the halls!

As I rested after retrieving the storage containers from the attic, I gazed at the mountain of plastic that filled our living room.  And that’s when the thought hit me: I’m starting to hate Christmas.

I was starting to hate pulling all the decorations out of the attic only to lug them back up there a few weeks later. I was starting to hate removing all the normal household decorations in order to make room for all the Christmas décor. I was starting to hate the fact that we needed so many containers for decorations that were only on display for one month out of the year.

Then, another thought hit me: this problem is bigger than just Christmas decorations. We definitely have too many of those. But, we have too much stuff in general. Our closets are full and overflowing. There’s no room under our beds. We have storage containers in the attic to hold all the clothes that won’t fit in our closets. Our kids have more toys than they could ever really play with.

Essentially, I was beginning to realize that I was storing up a great many treasures on earth.  Treasures that would be destroyed by moth and rust or stolen by thieves. And given the fact that Jesus explicitly taught his followers not to store up treasures on earth, but rather treasures in heaven, I began to realize just how much I had strayed from this teaching.

As I stood there staring at the pile of Christmas containers and coming to grips with my affinity for stuff, the Lord began to do a work in my heart.  After repenting over my accumulation of so many earthly treasures, my family and I have been on an exciting journey over the past year. It has been a journey of decluttering. It has been a journey toward a more simplified lifestyle. It has been a journey toward pursuing the things in life that really matter. And it all started as I began to put away last year’s Christmas decorations.

If you are reading this, I am by no means attempting to lay a guilt trip on you about the number of Christmas decorations you may have or the amount of stuff in your home. If, however, you can relate to my experience and you are beginning to desire to be content with less, I simply want to share the journey that my family has been on in the hopes it may encourage you to embark on a similar journey.

And let me say, this is a journey. We have not arrived.  We have taken wrong turns along the way and have had to backtrack several times.  But, we have made significant progress toward a less cluttered home. Which has led to less upkeep and maintenance. Which has led to less stress. Which has led to more time for family and opportunities to serve the Lord.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time nor the space to go into the specifics about our journey toward a clutter-free life in this post. But, let me briefly tell you where we are in the journey right now:

  • There are no longer any storage containers of my excess clothing in the attic. My closet used to have enough room only for summer or winter clothing, but never both at the same time. And what I mean by “enough room” was that I crammed as much clothing as possible in there and still only had enough room for summer or winter clothing. Now, all my clothes (summer and winter) are hanging together in my closet with plenty of room to breathe. What I found is that most of my clothes hung in the closet, but I never wore them.  So, over the past year, I have donated every article of clothing I owned that I did not absolutely love.
  • We have removed most multiples from our home. As we began to take inventory of all our belongings, we discovered that we had several multiples of the same type of item. For example, I discovered that I had 3 tape measures, all in good working order.  We had several measuring cups in the kitchen. Each child had multiple winter coats.  I had what seemed like a thousand neckties (and if you know me, you know I rarely ever wear one.)  So, as we decluttered our home, we kept one (or two, if deemed appropriate) of most items and donated the rest.
  • Our kids have donated a large percentage of their toys. As our two boys (ages 9 and 7) took inventory of their toys, they discovered they had forgotten about many of them. We set limits for how many they could keep, but we left the decision on which toys to keep and which to donate up to them.  We often made a game of it as we helped them determine the “most important toys”, but again, the decision was theirs at the end of the day.
  • We have reduced our Christmas decorations by almost half. This is where it all started, and I definitely did not have to take as many trips to the attic today as we put away our Christmas decorations.
  • We have recognized the tendency for the house to become re-cluttered. Just because we have de-cluttered most of our home doesn’t mean that it will stay that way. As new items enter the house, we have had to remove other items to maintain an equilibrium.  As the Christmas holiday has just passed, I have implemented a rule for myself (not required for the family unless they choose to) in which I replace item for item. For every new article of clothing that I add to my wardrobe, I remove an older article of clothing that I no longer want or need.

There is much more to say than I can include in what is already becoming a longer post. But, if I have shared enough to pique your interest, consider these suggestions before you put away your Christmas decorations:

  • Set a pre-determined limit on the number of storage containers you will use. Once you fill those up, donate the excess decorations.
  • Ask yourself, “Do I love this?” If the answer is not immediately and emphatically “Yes!”, the item is a candidate for removal from your home.
  • Make it a family activity. If you have a spouse, kids, or other family members in the home, make sure to gain their input. Talk it out. Otherwise, they may want to throw you to the curb instead of your Christmas decorations!
  • Brainstorm creative ways to donate excess decorations. Is there a homeless shelter or an orphan care center in your community? What about a community hospital or assisted living facility?  Donate your excess decorations to one of these facilities or come up with your own creative way to de-clutter and bless someone else at the same time!
  • Resist the temptation to stock up on after-Christmas sales. I know, I know, any unsold Christmas decorations are marked down right now. But, you don’t need these “deals” if you already have too many decorations.
  • Don’t stop with Christmas decorations. Why stop now? Begin to declutter your home, one room at a time. A great book, The Minimalist Home was just published by Joshua Becker, and it walks you step by step through each room of your home and offers some very practical advice to help you de-clutter.  I highly recommend it!

I don’t hate Christmas anymore. This year, I was able to enjoy time with my family, my church family, and my friends without feeling the stress of a cluttered home or wondering where I was going to put all this new stuff that I just received!  If you can relate to my struggles, I hope you will consider embarking on a similar journey in 2019!

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