Through self-diagnosis and multiple comments from my husband, kids, and friends, I’ve come to believe I have a mild case of OCD. This causes me to go bit nutters when disorganization and clutter takes over.
However, clutter and excess seem to be part of the Christmas blessings. This has always been my least favorite thing about one of my favorite times of the year. The excess wrapping paper, flood of catalogs, and over-packaged gifts tend to make me feel a little overwhelmed.
To keep everything under control, I have come up with a few ways to reel in the craziness creatively:
• Catalog Wrapping Paper. In the age of everything going paperless, the holiday catalogs still pile up. Starting before Halloween, gift and specialty catalogs bearing suspiciously Christmas-y cover designs begin choking our mailbox on an almost daily basis.
I do take advantage of the gift idea choices from some of these, but do I really need so many?
Last year, I saved the holiday catalogs starting in late October, and by mid-December, I had a tower of catalogs taller than my three-year-old daughter. Since these were made out of slick paper, and many did bear attractive Christmas images, I decided to make use of this mess, turning them into homemade wrapping paper. One page was perfect for smaller items, such as CDs or little ring boxes, but it was also fun to tape several together for some of the larger items, creating a sort of patchwork quilt of consumerism. I did go through some cellophane tape on a particularly large world map for my father, but the result was worth it.
• Rustic Tree Stump Art. Those who enjoy real Christmas trees go through the ritual of slicing off a small piece of the trunk to help the tree absorb water or fit in the stand. Some of these little remnants are really nice looking. A few years ago, I began marking each tree remnant with the year, tying a recycled decorative ribbon around its circumference. These make a nice nature craft project and way to see the differences in tree size and shape over the years. They look especially nice on a hearth or in a basket of pinecones.
• Christmas Photo Scrapbook. Thanks to programs like Snapfish and Shutterfly, everyone is a professional photographer and graphic designer today. This couldn’t be more obvious than during the holiday season, with lovingly put together photo cards becoming the norm.
I love seeing these photos of friends and family, but I just feel so guilty throwing away — or even recycling — photos of my friend’s six-year-old holding his new little brother or a cousin’s elegant family portrait. Instead of stuffing these images in a box, we began keeping them in a simple photo book, decorated with scrapbooked decorations repurposed from the Christmas cards we received that year.
We set this book of memories on our coffee table every season so people can look back and see how much people have (or haven’t) changed over the years. It can be heartwarming to see families grow, heartbreaking to see who has left us during the year, unnerving to see how fast people’s kids grow, and downright hilarious to see those bad fashion choices from years past.
I’m always on the lookout for new ways to lessen Christmas and holiday waste, and these ideas have been something my family and I can work on as a team. Yes, these projects organize the clutter and help lessen the waste, but they help us to not waste the most important part of our holiday season: precious time together.