Christmas, Christmas lights, end of Christmas, Family, Flowers, ideas, Seasons, Seasons Greetings, Uncategorized, Winter

Throwing Out Christmas (aka How Soon is too Soon to Toss the Christmas Tree?)

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”  – Dr. Seuss

Beautiful tree you served us well and didn't burn down the house though your water reservoir was dry today.

Today January 5 between 7 am-8 am (the time between Leisa leaving for school and Jon getting up), I threw out Christmas.  Not another house in our 128 unit complex had a tree by the curbside.   And yet I can’t tell you how freeing, how liberating it felt; it was as if a weight as heavy as Santa’s full sleigh had been lifted from my psyche.  Now I know some may think that makes me a Grinch, but it doesn’t, slightly phobic, perhaps, but not Grinchy or at least not pre-epiphany Grinchy.

I have, it seems to some, an irrational fear of a few things –

  1. Christmas Trees
  2. Space Heaters
  3. Gas Heat and Stoves
  4. Overwhelming Clutter

I probably could have an irrational fear of candles, but I do not, so I think that ups the sanity quotient for me.

And like every person with an irrational fear, I think I can rationalize it.  In one word – FIRE.  Every year since childhood I listened to the news about some whole family who lost all their possessions, even Christmas gifts that were never opened because a fire broke out due to Christmas tree wiring combined with lack of Christmas tree watering, and space heaters.  I remember as a kid wanting to give some of my as yet undelivered Santa presents to the kids who now had nothing.  I spent long hours contemplating what “nothing” meant – usually at a young age it meant no more toys or in some of the worst scenarios – no more pets.

So imagine my state of mind when my husband brought home a space heater.  And he regularly insists, joining forces with Leisa, that we must have a live tree put up early in December. And we bought a townhouse with (supposedly) preferable gas heat and stove.  “Do you want to just kill us all???  I swear my life insurance policy isn’t all that big.”

Now the clutter thing isn’t as closely linked to fire.  Although it could provide fuel and impede exiting a burning building.  Clutter paralyzes me, and I am a collector of stuff and a maker of my fair share of clutter.  But then I am powerless against it.  Client and executive coach Robin Samora of told me that clutter in your space is indicative of clutter in your mind.  And both need to be cleaned out before anything good can happen.  I believe her.

All four of my fears combine around Christmas, so really is it any wonder I am relieved to dispense with the Christmas trappings. (“Trappings” seems such an appropriate word here.) By 7:45 a.m., I set about carefully categorizing my ornaments for their labeled boxes (labeled for easy visibility on top and 3 sides (four sides would be overkill)):  Stars, Hearts, Angels, Snowflakes, Birds, Natural, Family-made & Family-oriented, Balls coordinated by color, Folk Art-like, Specials (valuable or antiques or craftsman-made) and that tiny frustrating box marked Misc. Ornaments. I gave away all the candy canes, contained the excess wrap, folded the 12 stockings with care, untangled and checked strings of garish multi-speed blinking, multi-colored lights, and I am joyful about the post-Christmas return of order to my world.  This morning I breathed a sigh of relief and whispered:  “God Blessed Us Everyone, we made it through another year”.

While sweeping the needles from the front steps for the tenth time knowing full well there will be an eleventh and twelfth sweeping and that sometime during the spring or summer I will again hear the tinny sound of an elusive needle being sucked up by the vacuum, I see that neighbors witnessed our tree in repose by the curb, and have started to bring out their own.  It’s time now to   commence my post holiday hankering for spring by growing things – amaryllis and paperwhites – to tide me over ’til my vigilance pays off and I see snow drops (the plants, not the flaky stuff) and pussywillows.  Except for the mud, Spring is a much tidier season.

© 2012 by Alison Colby-Campbell

6 thoughts on “Throwing Out Christmas (aka How Soon is too Soon to Toss the Christmas Tree?)”

  1. oh can I relate to this whole thing. It is true, that the clutter in your surroundings usually reflects the clutter in one’s mind and for those of us with uncluttered minds, this time of year has us going over the edge of sanity into a VERY dark place. I live with a “clutterer” so we still have one tree up (hidden in the front room away from my sight) and the creche up and those are being taken care of this weekend. ALL other decorations came down the day after Christmas. I as well have a fear of the fire thing too (hate space heaters, Mr. Clutterer insists to have one on all the time in his office) – did you read the news of that horrible CT fire that five people died in??? not by a space heater or tree, but still Christmas related. A very tragic awful story……


  2. I am sitting in the midst of a drawn-out holiday. We had our last dinner party Thursday night and our company is leaving tomorrow (Saturday-1/7). I started to de-Christmas the house by starting with the kitchen and eat-in area. I am re-reading my Christmas cards before kicking them to the curb. I cleaned out the refrigerator today and took all the tasty treats that were baked or given and they have also ended up in file 13 as they are stale. It’s very cathartic as I combine the de-cluttering with a good old fashioned cleaning. Tomorrow, after everyone has gone either to the airport or work, I will start, room-by-room and wind up in the basement reorganizing and repacking everything and re-labeling (and no, three sides is not too much, but four, definitely over-kill). The basement will then be subjected to its own special brand of de-cluttering and cleaning so that order is restored from chaos. I will then make a cup of tea with some brandy and sit in my living room, devoid of Christmas trees and lights and delight also in the order restored to my world. xoxoxo ❤


  3. Leslie and Trish – you guys so “get it” thanks for commenting….Noting that no guys feel strongly enough to comment…but that’s okay, I appear to have found “My People”


  4. Ummm, so what does this have to do with Christmas stress? Well, the same guidelines can apply for Christmas as well. Don’t worry about what other people are getting their kids for Christmas. Don’t worry that the neighbors across the street already have their lights up and you can’t even remember where yours are. Don’t worry that the cookies you are bringing to the cookie exchange are store-bought instead of homemade. You and you family need to decide where you want to spend your time and money this holiday season and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.


  5. Thanks for responding Mercadee…I think the stress is in the disarray, but that is compounded by all the things you mention – too much time spent cramming a year’s worth of celebrating in a 6-week period. I have two holiday parties that are my favorites BECAUSE they happen late in January. When there aren’t a thousand other parties and obligations, you can just sit back and enjoy the people you want to be with without the stress of a neglected shopping list or unbaked cookies. Your ideas are straight on target – modify expectations of self switching thinking from “get it all done” to “enjoy it all” by lessening commitment.


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