Minimalist Mama

A simple Christmas day and plan for decluttering in the New Year

Yay, Christmas is here! If you have young children, like I do, then Christmas morning is an exciting time in your home. But it doesn’t have to be stressful!

There are so many ways to embrace minimalism on Christmas morning and keep the spirit of the season alive by spending more time with your loved ones.

First, plan ahead. In my family, a breakfast casserole is pre-made and ready to go in the oven on Christmas morning:

6 slices white bread, torn into small pieces

1 pound breakfast pork sausage, cooked and drained

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

6 eggs

2 cups milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place bread in 13×9-inch pan sprayed with cooking spray; top with sausage and cheese. Whisk remaining ingredients until blended; pour over ingredients in pan. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean and top is lightly browned.

What’s great about this recipe is that it’s so easy to alter — add bacon, diced ham, shredded hash browns or green peppers. It can be topped with salsa or a dollop of sour cream; be creative and use what you have in the fridge! Once Mom and Dad have had a cup of coffee and put this in the oven, then we can start opening gifts.

Next, make sure you have your garbage bags ready. I have one for recycling paper, cardboard and plastic, and another for garbage, like the hundreds of twisty ties and plastic bands that secure children’s toys.

If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, the paper and cardboard can be burned, but if you don’t, it can go in the recycling bin. Have a good pair of scissors and wire cutters nearby to cut down on Christmas morning stress when opening presents.

Encourage family and friends to use gift bags; these can be reused from year to year. In my family we put a to/from sticker on the bag or gift box and just keep giving it to that person year after year – it’s become a family joke to see how many times we can keep reusing these bags and boxes.

Ribbons and bows can be reused from year to year, as well. I make my own wrapping decorations from curling ribbon, staples and clear tape, and as they are pulled from gifts, they are thrown into a bag for reuse the next year.

If you have young children who are getting toys that need to be assembled, consider assembling them the night before and then just covering them with fabric or paper. This will save you from spending an hour putting together a toy when you want to spend time enjoying it with your child. But, if your children are older and they get a toy that needs assembling, like a Lego kit or puzzle, this is a great time to get in some quality time together.

After the excitement is over and you’re sitting around with your family, use this as an opportunity to discuss options for next year’s holiday season.

My friend gave me some great advice a few years ago when my children were toddlers: once you over give, it’s hard to go back. This means cutting back on the number of gifts a child gets so they don’t have an expectation of opening gifts all morning and instead find joy in spending time together reading the new book, working on that new craft set or putting the real tools to use outdoors.

An easy way to cut back on the gifts is to do the four-gift rule: something they need, something they want, something they wear and something to read. This also works great for well-meaning family members who like to spoil grandchildren. You can even have a Christmas Eve surprise with new pajamas, a movie and family time snacks to ensure that the holiday starts on a snuggly note.

As some families grow larger, it may make sense to draw names from a hat or bowl so you only have to buy for one person in a pre-determined monetary amount. Don’t forget to tap the talents of family members, too, and consider a handmade/homemade Chris­tmas.

As the New Year approaches, consider these ideas for cutting back on holiday clutter.

• Get one, toss one (or two): If you received a new DVD or scarf, then put one (or two!) aside to donate to the library or local shelter.

• Declutter as you pack up: use the boxes that the holiday gifts came in and fill them up with donations of holiday decorations, ornaments, linens, cooking items and knick-knacks. It might be easy to put it away quickly, but spending a few minutes to toss no longer wanted or needed items into a donation box will save you storage space and your sanity when you unpack next year.

• Cut back on social media: Who says you have to do Elf on the Shelf or compete with others’ Pinterest-worthy pictures? By cutting back on the computer and phone time, you will spend more time with family and friends – and isn’t that a better way to spend the holidays?

Remember that minimizing Christmas doesn’t mean being a Scrooge. It means making a concerted effort to embrace the traditions that mean the most to you and relieve anxiety during an often-stressful time.

Use the time to share a holiday movie from your childhood with your kids, work on a puzzle, play games or relax together in the spirit of the holidays.

Share any tips you’ve learned with me at

Minimalist Mama is published on the first Sunday of each month in the Lifestyle section. Brigandi can be reached at