The festive season is nearly upon us, as evidenced by the FABULOUS selection of sweets in the supermarkets and nativity displays springing up around the island.
It’ll be my first Christmas in Malta, though not my first away from the UK, and I’m eager to continue the KonMari lifestyle as we move into 2018.
So how can one aim to reduce clutter, stay organised, and live a joyful lifestyle during the Christmas and New Year period?
- Shop joyfully
The holiday period isn’t solely about the gifts, the cake, and the mince pies. It’s about the whole experience, the feeling you get when the Christmas playlist gets activated on Spotify, the delight at spending a few hours browsing beautiful gifts.
Make your festive shopping an experience. Dress comfortably in feel-good clothes, go armed with a gift list and a fully charged phone to photograph those ‘maybe’ items. Treat yourself to a drink at your favourite bar or lunch at that restaurant you love. If possible go alone so you aren’t sidetracked into visiting other stores.
If you’re shopping online make time to do so – prepare a mug of hot chocolate and pop on your favourite playlist to really get relaxed. If you get easily distracted online, list the sites you need to buy from before opening the laptop. Open a tab for each site and work through, methodically.
- Give mindfully
Part of living the KonMari life is about not foisting unwanted items onto others. Back in 2014 the UK Post Office surveyed 2000 adults, and ⅔ admitted that they’d received items they didn’t like, want or need at Christmas. One in 20 threw these gifts straight in the bin – that’s at least 100 items that went straight to landfill. Malta doesn’t need that – which country does?
Be part of the solution by asking in good time for recommendations, or if people prefer a surprise, try to go for something mildly pleasing by considering their taste and interests in good time.
- Receive thoughtfully
You know when people ask ‘what do you want for Christmas this year?’ and you say ‘oh just something nice’ or ‘don’t bother getting me anything’. That’s convenient and low maintenance, but also a fast-track route to unwanted clutter. I’m really not condoning long lists of specific and expensive demands, but a little direction, if asked for, goes a long way.
‘I’ve been meaning to get my hands on the latest Dan Brown novel’ has a much happier ending for everyone than ‘do you like Historical fiction?’ ‘Yeah, I guess so’ followed by a confused face on Christmas morning when you’ve forgotten that the conversation ever took place.
What if you genuinely don’t know what you want? Think outside the box – cinema vouchers, an afternoon of babysitting so you can have some time out, a jewellery making lesson with a local artisan……all valid gifts.
- Regift with a clear conscience
Received yet another pair of fleece pyjamas when you prefer to sleep in shorts? Been gifted with a fragrance gift set when you have a signature perfume that you don’t deviate from? Receive graciously and pass on to a good cause – an auction at the local school fundraiser, the local women’s refuge, the library that is chronically under-funded. Better for somebody to get some joy than for you to feel bad every time you open that particular drawer.
Keeping unwanted Christmas gifts in case the giver should drop by is a little unnecessary- would you expect a person you visited to magically have the candle you bought them 8 months ago burning?
Much better to pass items along to someone who will gain joy from them than to leave them in a cupboard, gathering dust at best and becoming unusable at worst.
If you still feel guilt, try thanking the item. ‘Thanks for giving Grandma Jane such happiness when she was choosing this cat candle for me’. It really helps to identify that the purpose of the unwanted gift has already been served.
- Wrap sustainably (and stylishly)
Well now – this has been THE revelation of 2017 for me. Before July I was vaguely aware that there were several Japanese ways to wrap in a zen yet attractive way but I felt they’d be complex and origami-like. Not the case!
The No-Tape Solution: I was staying in a hotel and needed to post a birthday gift to a friend’s child, but had no tape. Upon consulting Dr Google I learned with surprise that it was possible to use simple folds to wrap without any tape at all. This delighted me as it makes wrapping paper easier to recycle, as well as reducing the amount of plastic being sent to landfill.
The reusable giftwrap solution: Furoshiki is the tradition of using fabric to wrap items in beautiful ways. The fabric is then passed on and on, which is quite a lovely notion. Ways to wrap are here and Furoshiki fabrics are here, though of course you could use any particularly beautiful textiles you have to hand.
- Direct your guests – everybody wants certainty!
If you have family or friends staying with you over the Christmas and are worried for your KonMaried home, it’s important to give clear instructions. It’s unlikely that guests will be offended by these – a likelier scenario is that they’ll be happy not to have to guess at what your ‘standard operating mode’ is. Suggestions such as ‘you can smoke on the terrace outside the living area’ or ‘recycling’s really tight so we have to flatten all boxes’ save you valuable cleaning time and muttered profanities later.
- Maintain or create traditions
Using the same colours or themes year after year means building a selection over time that means something to you and your loved ones. It also means fewer feelings of resentment towards storing items that are used for only a short part of the year.
A big trend in the UK at the moment is for advent calendars that contain cosmetics or toys instead of chocolate. Some of these are truly works of art but create a lot of packaging and items that may not get used again.
Why not invest in a calendar you can use year after year and fill with items that are personalised to your household instead? They could contain trivia questions to be answered each day, or challenges to be attempted. MinimalistMum has some great ideas for daily advent calendar activities here, and Fortnum and Mason have a particularly beautiful calendar here if you want something that can become an heirloom to be passed on.
- Pack away with pride
When the season is over and done with it can be tempting to simply shove decorations, wrapping paper and the artificial tree into any old packaging and hide it out of sight. Try to resist by spending a few hours welcoming in a new era and returning order to your home. Nobody wants the disappointment of finding their favourite glass baubles smashed or perfectly usable wrapping materials torn in 11 month’s time. Earmark specific bags or boxes that suit your items (if you’ve got to the end of the Komono category you’ve probably already done this) and spend time thanking them for the light and festivity they brought to your home (even those tangled fairy lights). It’s a good opportunity to spot damage or broken bulbs, meaning that next year’s ‘shall we get the decorations out then?’ will be less likely to be marred by disappointment.
TL;DR? Christmas can be zen. Give and receive mindfully. Respect guests and home by being specific about how one can help the other. Reallocate unwanted gifts without guilt. Christmas is what you make it.