Minimalism Makes Room for Joy
Toyon Avenue in my town has been a special destination for thousands of people every December for more than 20 years.
All of the neighbors living in a four-block area decorate their homes for the winter holidays – some with a few strings of lights along the eaves and porch, or a sparkling tree in the front window, and some with many more lights and large decorations covering their home and yard, and even arching over the street.
There are themes. One family illustrates Buddy the Elf's journey from the North Pole to New York City (from the movie Elf), another has Frozen-themed décor. Several homes feature Santa and his reindeer and sleigh, several more have beautiful nativity scenes. There are a few homes decorated for Hanukkah.
It's a wonderful, walkable neighborhood. My family has gone caroling there many times, and now my husband and I enjoy our grandsons' excitement and wonder as we walk slowly along the street. At various times we've warmed ourselves by outdoor fireplaces, and we've been offered homemade cookies, English toffee, and hot cocoa by the very kind homeowners who host this annual month-long light show. Strolling Toyon is a local tradition that we love.
But it's not minimal.
These hundreds of thousands of lights, plus the large displays, inflatables (almost like parade floats), artificial Christmas trees, over-sized ornaments and more must be stored all year, probably off-site. Putting them up and taking them down must require many hours, maybe a couple of days. December electricity bills must be huge. And none of it is necessary.
But it's fun. It's generous. It's merry and bright. It brings the community together. It really brings out the best in people, and adds something very special and memorable to their holiday celebrations.
Obviously, the families of Toyon are passionate about their Christmas displays!
They may not be necessary, but they are important.
If you love to go all-out with your decorating, and you think about it, and plan for it, and look forward to it every year, then it is in keeping with a minimalist philosophy to make room for that in your life.
If you adore throwing a huge holiday party every year, and you don't complain about the work or the cost, but relish hosting your 100 closest friends and business associates, then even as a minimalist you should continue to do it.
If it brings you joy to sew all of the costumes for the Christmas pageant, or to make dozens of items for your church's annual craft fair, then by all means continue to make the time, space, and room in your budget to do that.
Minimalism is not about scrimping or living a dark, cold, narrow, tiny life. It's also not about rushing through the holidays (or any time of year) complaining about all that you have to do, pushing your way through traffic on the road and crowds in the mall, running up credit card debt to buy gadgets and trinkets you think you need in order to create some advertiser's image of a "perfect holiday."
Minimalism is about removing the things that get in the way of living your best, most creative and joyful life. It's about pursuing what has value to you and your family, whatever that means, because your heart is in it.
If your to-do list energizes and fulfills you then it's a good list, even if it's long. And if it brings real happiness and enjoyment to others, so much the better. Even minimalists can be extravagant sometimes.
If it's right for you, enjoy the lights and the action now, and find your simplicity, quiet, rest, and contemplation after the holidays.
P.S. This post is a reprint of a chapter of my book, Minimalism for the Holidays, available on Amazon (paid link).
Photos © 2020 Jon Trefzger