Can’t Take It With Us: Christmas Edition.

What’s six feet tall and can’t fit into a thirty-five foot bus?

Anybody need a 6′ Christmas tree?

Oh, yes. I’m about to go there…I’m saying goodbye to Christmas stuff on this round of Can’t Take It With Us, and I am so relieved. I’ve wanted to go through all of this stuff for years, but I’ve been held back by a mix of guilt, feelings of obligation, and memories that I was just not ready to deal with. I’m honestly thankful for this push. The holidays are stressful enough without dreading your decorations.

I’ve heard from several of you who wish that your holiday obligations were less overwhelming, so before the stress strikes again, now is a great time to clear out anything that doesn’t absolutely make it Christmas for you and your family. Let go of the things you are holding on to purely out of tradition, obligation, and plain old habit and make the things you really love and cherish take center stage. Do it now and bask in the warm glow of your accomplishment next Christmas.

Let’s get to it!

That tree includes it’s very own tree body bag!
How about some lights? They work!
Seriously though…untangled, working Christmas lights have got to be worth some money, right? Mama needs a composting toilet, y’all.

Ok, lights and the tree? Easy enough. The basket full of generic ornaments was easy to say goodbye to as well; most of the sets have been broken over the years anyway, and this was the surviving lot. But here we get a little harder…place mats from when it was just the 4 of us. (I almost let these stay because there are 6 trees, but I talked myself down…we don’t ever use place mats and finding two more that kind of matched was more commitment than I was willing to take on.)

Stocking holders from when it was just the five of us…

If you’ll note, there are kids in the background, and that’s because they were there making these decisions with me. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting rid of a childhood favorite that they were going to want to have for themselves one day, or that they would miss next year.

They sanctioned this going away:

(Now if there is an Elf in your life that you absolutely love and your children love it too, live it up and more power to you and just go ahead and skip this next section, because I’m not about to offer up 72 Pinterest-worthy ideas here.)

Here’s some honesty. This shit ain’t for us.

I think the Elf on the Shelf is one of the most tangible ways my parenting has dramatically shifted over the years. I remember being damn near gleeful when I bought it for my then 3-year-old daughter. It was going to be the perfect thing! Good behavior from Thanksgiving to Christmas, or else! All thanks to my new little spy and his boss. *muhahahahaha!*

Now, I feel rather embarrassed about that glee and the idea of telling my boys that their behavior is being monitored and reported back by a magic elf kinda makes my stomach turn. I don’t want to ever have to manipulate, bribe, and deceive my kids in exchange for good behavior…especially not with an outright lie and definitely not because toys are dangling on the line. The expectation in our family is for all of us to be good and kind year round, not only in the 24 days preceding the 25th of December. We act this way because that’s simply the right thing to do, no gifts attached. It’s being good for goodness sake (see what I did there?), and I’m not changing the expectation because of the time of year.

And yes, they know the truth about Santa, too. *cue the angry mob with pitchforks*

Jake and I made a commitment to always be honest with the kids, and we believe if they are old enough to ask the question, they are old enough to hear the (mentally/emotionally appropriate) truth. Eli asked around 3 years old if Santa was real. We answered honestly with a little historic context (which has since been expanded upon), and told him it was now a game that some people played where anyone could be a Santa if they wanted to surprise someone with a gift. I’ve asked if he would like to play too, and each year, his answer has been no*. If he changes his mind, or the other boys would like to play one day, we’ll be ready to go along with it. I want to teach kindness and generosity over self-serving “good” behavior, the Elf** did nothing to further that goal, so away he goes.

*puts away soap box, wipes rotten tomatoes off, moving on*

This is actually a potholder, but it’s served as our Christmas tree topper for the last decade. I bought it at Target because it was cheaper than a fancy light up star, and it went on the very first tree my ex-husband and I ever bought. And it kept going up, year after year. I gave this one some pause simply because of the number of years it’s been around. Would the kids miss it? Would they remember the funny potholder turned tree topper? Was it special to them?

So I asked, and the answer was a resounding no. They could not have cared less about this one, but they did want to know if we could pick out a new topper together. I have already said a big yes to that one, and there was a lengthy discussion on what exactly would be the right tree topper for our non-religious, non-Santa believing family. (Amelia’s vote was a big bow. Eli suggested we build a contraption that passed out the presents. Silas wants snow all over the tree. Quill just wanted to throw a few more of those generic ball ornaments around.)

So no childhood trauma over saying goodbye to this potholder turned tree topper, but….

…speaking of childhood trauma. Welcome to my collection of sheep ornaments. I was born in the spring, so my mother decided that my “theme” was lambs (my sister’s theme was bells and she had shelves full of them that I was not allowed to ring, like ever, which was its own special kind of childhood torture). Growing up, if it had a lamb on it, it was obviously for me. Now nothing against any ewes out there, but I am so over sheep. (Not that I was ever really into them in the first place.) So this lot can go***.

Also out of here, three bins that used to hold all of this stuff!

Here’s what’s staying. This bin contains the ceramic light up tree my Aunt Dorothy painted. The vintage Coca Cola Santa that I won in a raffle (amongst my siblings) when my mother was downsizing all of her Christmas stuff. The Mr. Peanut ornament my brother made in the 1st grade (making it about 40-year-old) that I have always loved. The ornaments that I have purchased for each of my own children every year. (Everyone gets an ornament related to what they are into that year, and once they each have their own first trees as adults, I’ll give them all of these so maybe they won’t ever have to buy generic ornaments as fillers.) Our Christmas books. And the five hand-knit stockings I made for each of us. (Sorry, Quill! Yours is almost done! Swearsies! Next year, you’ll have a stocking on the bus!)

So what will we do for Christmas on the bus? I’m not sure yet, but I assume we’ll have a very small tree up in the space on the dash. Our keep bin will be going into the smallest available storage unit, but I’m going to carry our stockings (all 6 of them!) (somebody remind me to finish Quill’s sometime in June, please) with us and we’ll make ornaments and decorations on the road. I’d love to decorate the whole bus with lights and make the most out of wherever we are for our first holiday on the road.

Who else is tackling and evaluating their holiday decorations this year instead of just putting them away until next time?
_______________

* But oddly, despite knowing the real deal on Santa, Eli has chosen to believe in the Tooth Fairy. He knows it’s me (he asked and I confirmed), but he wanted to keep on playing the game, which I’m happy to do for him. I even knit a special Tooth Fairy bag for him and he’s thrilled to run down the stairs the next morning to announce how many coins that last tooth was worth before covertly whispering “I still know it was you, Mama.”

** Yes, I am familiar with kindness elves and the other varieties that stay away from the Big Brother aspects of the Elf on the Shelf. Maybe one day.

*** Don’t worry family members, I have saved 2 sheep for nostalgia/obligation sake. A handmade lamb made by an aunt that has a very sweet face (the lamb, not the aunt), and one sheep given to me by my godmother.

Dana was once described (to her great delight) as a "rock and roll Martha Stewart". Since then, despite being rather awful at hosting dinner parties, she's tried her best to live up to such a distinction. Armed with the ability to laugh endlessly at her own mildly funny jokes, Dana juggles marriage, motherhood, and minimalism with an equal measure of sarcasm and incessant worrying. She is wife to one, mother to many, and friend to anyone who brings her baked goods.

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