cozy into fall with some thoughts on how a recovering overachiever plans to enjoy the holidays

October 30, 2021

Typically I don't go for overly fussy seasonal decor, but I do like each season to be represented. When I brought my fall box down from the attic and looked inside I had to admit it was pretty pitiful, only half full; I guess when I decluttered last year I really meant business! So, having only the white pumpkins I made last year, some silvery turkeys I like to put on my Thanksgiving table, and a few Halloween decorations I hold on to for my grandson to enjoy, I felt my fall holiday box and house needed a wee retail refresh. I went to Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel certain I'd find things I'd love, and I sure did, but when I saw the prices I almost choked. I think most seasonal decor is faddish and I hate to spend a lot of money, not to mention the actual storing of it, on something that will look dated in a few years. I then headed to Target, and honestly, they rarely disappoint. Good old Target. I paid $30 for three graduated sizes of ceramic pumpkins in a pretty muted orange and also found a matching pumpkin scented candle. Next I looked for some foliage but everything I saw at the local craft and hobby stores looked garish so my next stop was Amazon. Jackpot! I bought a few stems of artificial pomegranate branches in orange. I worried what they would actually look like in real life but I was so happy when they arrived. They are gorgeous. They add just the right amount of fall color I wanted in my home. And because I follow a strict rule of one in, one out, (a handy minimalist trick to make sure the clutter does not creep back) I had to find a half dozen things to remove from my home. I try to remove like for like, but since my fall box was already decluttered, I headed to my closet and went for my skirts instead! 

The big holiday season is around the corner and we have already begun to make plans for get-togethers. As much as I love Christmas and love to gather together with friends, I don't like to over-do. Been there, done that, and I know all too well the feelings of anxiety when faced with a busy calendar and not enough hours in the day to do it all. Taking on too much was stealing the beauty from my favorite season. So, about a decade ago and without even knowing what I was doing, I slowly started down that wobbly road of simplification. For the first years I focused on the holiday season, but eventually I carried it throughout the entire year. I only later found out that I was practicing a form of minimalism, but at the time, all I knew is that I simply had to remove things, but what to remove I didn't know. I started to look at how I spent my time and my money, and in both cases I was spending too much time and money on things that just didn't make me happy, and actually made me unhappy. In my heart I'm actually an introvert and frugal, but I wasn't living my life that way. 

First, I gave myself more down time. I started removing things from my calendar. I was still working part-time at the time, and even took on less hours there too. I started to say no to volunteer opportunities and invitations, things that I loved doing, but knew I didn't have the hours to spare. Saying no was awkward at first but that became easier with practice. Somewhere on this journey I started to read about minimalism. Right away I knew that it was right for me. I didn't want to organize my stuff anymore, I wanted to have less of it. Over time (I'm rather slow at getting the point) I learned that decluttering is not only for physical household clutter, but emotional clutter, calendar clutter, and digital clutter. My journey has been slow but steady and I'm still working it out. 

How then does the hustle and bustle of the holidays fit in with my new style? I actually love the hustle, but need smaller doses of it, so for me, the first thing to do is keep my calendar manageable. My husband and I prioritize spending time with our grandson (while he still loves to be with us) and our family. How I'm managing to spend less money is probably best left to another post. 

We still host gatherings because we both love to have guests over, but our style has changed over the years; it's more casual, simpler, most always on the small side, but still pretty, yummy and welcoming. We recently hosted two small dinner parties for six. In both cases I set pretty tables, one with my new pumpkins and another with some faux magnolia and candles as the centerpiece. For the first dinner I made Italian Wedding Meatball Soup and the second I made individual chicken pot pies. Along with both I served a green salad and served cookies for dessert. We enjoyed both our little parties very much and we could tell our guests did too.  I will never go back to the complicated and grand scale of entertaining I used to do. It poops me out, costs too much, and is no more enjoyable than a simple dinner.

Every month or so I seem to have a filled-to-the-brim box to hand over to the charity shop. Simplifying my life is a work in progress and while I doubt many people would call me a minimalist, in my mind I am. Minimalism looks different on everyone. In a future post I'd like to share more detailed ways in which I've been able to make my life more manageable, and where I find inspiration. If you are on this journey, I'd love to know your progress and any tips you can share.

This particular sedum turns from green to lavender in the fall and attracts bees all summer.

drying hydrangeas


The late summer green sedum florets turn lavender in the fall, along with their leaves, below.

Our downtown streets and downtown parking lots, in fact most of the entire town, is lined with Chinese Pistache trees. They turn flame red in fall and are breathtaking. I imagine most homes in town have at least one of these beautiful trees. There is a reason, and it's a good one. During WWII, when this town had a tiny fraction of the population we have now, a beloved Japanese family who owned the garden nursery, were sent to an internment camp. The neighbors said they would watch over the nursery and keep it safe until they came back. They did, and to thank the town for keeping their nursery and home safe, the family donated Chinese Pistache trees to the downtown association and offered every citizen a tree at a very low price. Our house was built in 1942 and I'm proud to have one of those original trees in our backyard, now 80 years old and massive. Since then, the Chinese Pistache has become a very popular tree in our town and is still being planted.

Yesterday, downtown had trick or treating for the kids. We took our own little Spidey, and then stayed on to watch the Homecoming Parade. As the different floats passed by (each class makes a float that looks like it will topple over at any moment) I explained to him about the different teams and clubs and told him his daddy used to be in the parade too. He wanted to know if he could be in the parade, and I said, "it's just for teenagers". He asked me if he was a teenager and I said, "not yet, but will you be one day." And then I thought to myself, "Oh my, in the blink of an eye you will be a teenager!"

Happy Halloween!

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  1. Thanks for the story of the pistache trees in your downtown! Because my cousins lived in Los Altos (we were in Portal Valley) visiting in the fall was mind-blowing! All those red-leaved trees! I didn't know trees did that and I'm still not sure it is ok, even though I now live in a part of the country where it happens every fall.

    And I love your minimalism -- very encouraging.

    1. Yes! I remember that you lived near by! Thank you so much for commenting, and I'm happy you are encouraged by my minimalism journey!

  2. You are just so clever Kristen and you have such an artistic eye.
    Loved this post.
    XO Sue

  3. Great post! Thanks for taking the time to write it.

    1. Thank you so much. I never know if my minimalist posts are boring or what. Thank you for commenting.

  4. I love this post. You should write a book!



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