Metro Augusta Parent has re-emerged from its insert status within Metro Spirit and once again stands alone as an independent monthly publication.
You can now find Parent, complete with a column by Marin, each month at local Augusta grocery stores, including Kroger and Bi-Lo.
Scroll down for November’s content.
by Marin Rose
Like so much in American life, it’s all too easy for seasonal decorating to get way out of hand. An innocent attempt at showing some seasonal spirit devolves quickly into an exhausting, expensive annual effort to create the internal merriment we seek by adorning our homes with material things. In too many cases, the traditions we’ve created to enhance our holidays actually become barriers to our enjoyment of the season. The antidote? Organization, of course.
Like anything, seasonal stress and expense can be managed by applying a few universal organizational principles, the first of which is identifying priorities. Each of us has a unique set of priorities, particularly when it comes to celebrating the holiday season. Before you commit to doing any holiday-related tasks, it’s important that you take a moment to clearly assess yours. Identifying what you most wish to enjoy this season – family time, old friends, good food, etc. – will keep you focused on the things that support those priorities and make it easier to cut out those that don’t.
As any professional organizer will tell you, the first step toward conquering clutter, whether physical or metaphorical, is to purge. Take an inventory of the décor items you already have. If the sheer volume of it makes you sigh with exhaustion at the thought of putting it all up, cleaning and maintaining it and then packing it all up again come January, give yourself permission right now to cut back.
Daunted by this task? Here are a few practical tips for narrowing down your seasonal tchotchkes:
- Gather items that work well together and in your space. Eliminate any outliers, even if they’re really cute.
- Limit yourself to one storage container. Place your favorite items inside first and donate what won’t fit.
- Keep only the items that are most meaningful to you. Some items that may NOT fall into this category are: every last thing your child has ever made at school, items you inherited or received as gifts and items that cost a lot of money.
- Stick to décor that’s easy to display and store. Forego items with cords that tangle and use electricity, items that collect a lot of dust or items that are very large.
Once you’ve made peace with your decorating intentions, it’s time to manage others’ expectations. Friends and family members, children in particular, may have come to expect a certain standard of décor such that they associate holiday enjoyment with those items and feel unable to experience the holiday spirit in their absence. Before you allow guilt to set in, recognize that this is not a healthy association, especially for children. If your child insists that it just “won’t be Christmas” without an elaborate light display in your lawn, this is probably evidence in itself that you need to cut back on the lights. Talk with your family about the priorities you set for the season and decide together which traditions should stay this year and which should be let go.
Managing adults’ expectations is sometimes even more difficult than managing kids’. If you’re the one who routinely hosts Thanksgiving dinner, for example, prepare your guests for a more modest spread. Offer to display items that they would like to bring to your home. If you have a close relationship, ask them to help you with the cost and effort of decorating for the holiday. When you involve others in the process of creating a seasonal atmosphere, they are more likely to appreciate the result. This is particularly true of children. When you engage children in domestic activities you get help with the work and impart valuable lessons about responsibility, all while spending quality time together. The result might not look perfect but it’s more important that your child contribute and enjoy a sense of pride in his/her work.
Planning is the next key step to saving money and preventing stress around the holidays. Now that you have an inventory of items you already own (Are you sure that your list is comprehensive? Double check all the possible places where you might have stashed odds and ends you obtained throughout the year and may have forgotten) and narrowed it down to just the things you enjoy most, you might still feel you need one or two new pieces to tie everything together. The retail world at this time of year is a minefield and you need to enter it with a plan in hand.
What, precisely, do you need to complete your seasonal look? Make a list and include measurements and other specifications so you don’t end up bringing home the wrong thing. Stick to your list. Remember, less is more even during the holidays. Here are a few decorating principles to follow to get the most bang for your buck this season:
- Choose a focal point. Whether it’s your front door, your foyer or your centerpiece, play up one piece in your space. Save your money on the surrounding areas by letting them complement the drama of that central feature.
- Create a color palette and stick to it. Rather than bringing in an entirely new color scheme, pull out an accent color already present in your home and play with it for a seasonal splash. Limit any new purchases to items that will work into your décor plan.
- Think beyond the expected. Earth tones are classic in autumn but you can create a fresh fall look with any color you like, including neutrals and even luxurious reds and purples. Do what fits in most naturally with your home’s existing look.
- Use small accents to enhance the atmosphere. A few well-planned details can make an entire space feel “put together.” Replace your dish and hand towels with seasonal ones, or change out your pillow covers.
- Avoid trendy décor themes. Stick with the classics and you won’t tire of them from year to year.
- Bring the outdoors in. The most beautiful and seasonal décor items are often free. Incorporate durable, natural materials such as branches, dried leaves, acorns, pinecones and gourds. Especially when we’re spending more of our time indoors, it’s inspiring to have a touch of nature in the home.
As with anything, a little extra time spent at the end of the season neatly putting away your things will save your time and money next year. Carefully organize your decorations and store them in a place that makes sense to you. Since you’ll only be accessing this container once or twice a year, an attic, basement, garage or out-of-reach cabinet will do. Label your container with a complete inventory list and consider taping a few photos to it so you remember next year exactly what you have.
And finally, enjoy the season! Commit to doing only what’s necessary and eliminate the superfluous. You need not limit this practice to holiday decorating. I suggest you apply the same thought process to all of your holiday traditions and identify places where letting go might actually increase your enjoyment of the holidays. Is gift-giving draining your checking account? Set a spending limit with your friends or agree not to exchange presents this year. Are you getting carpel tunnel from writing greeting cards? Don’t send them. Is the thought of hosting Thanksgiving stressing you out? Keep the guest list small and the menu simple, and ask for help. Your true friends will understand.
Marin Rose owns and operates Functional, Fashionable, a professional organizing, decorating and home staging company. For more information, visit functionalfashionable.com.