Simplifying: Why I need less stuff

Right in my ear, as I hung out the freshly washed sheets in the summer sunshine, she said, “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”
Marie Kondō that is, in the audio book of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
I’ve recently read Joshua Becker’s The Minimalist Home: A Room-By-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life and also Erin Loechner’s Chasing Slow.

They’ve all made me increasingly aware of the excess stuff that has made it’s way into my home over the years.
I have always been good at decluttering, and letting go of some of the stuff—you know, passing on toys and clothes the kids grow out of, and clearing the pantry of out of date packages… but it’s seemed that no matter how much decluttering I’ve done, the contents of our home hasn’t stopped swelling, and a significant amount of my time and energy has gone into tidying, reorganising, sorting, and moving a myriad of things into different spaces.
All of it to make me feel organised, clear-headed, and productive.
But what I’ve found is that even when those things are in a different space, and maybe not so visible, the stuff is still there, and still takes up space in my home and my life, and eventually the contents accumulate and spill out onto various surfaces, and then I spend more time, energy and money (plastic storage tubs anyone?) reorganising again.
The thing is, to our cultural standards, I’m sure that what I own isn’t excessive. In fact, as I’ve been more and more intentional about not accumulating more, I have been more conscious of what those around me fill their homes with—and more and more I want to excuse myself from the race. You know, the one you’re subconsciously running in—the race to have more, and new, and bigger and better.

I want out of the culture that says we must consume in excess.

Because my lifetime accumulation of stuff is suddenly overwhelming.

Today I cleared out three small bedside drawers, and filled a shopping bag full of rubbish.
It was full of notebooks I’d used only a few pages of, cords for devices I no longer own, dried up gel pens and birthday cards from years gone by. All the things I was keeping ‘just in case’ had begun to encroach on my ability to live freely, lightly. And all of it felt like wasteful excess. Unnecessary multiples whose only purpose seemed to have been only to provide momentary thrill and sparkle of owning something new.

I have yet to see a house that lacked sufficient storage. The real problem is that we have far more than we need or want. – Marie Kondō

Every year we try to take the kids on a staycation in our city. We stay in a hotel overnight, wander streets for coffee and ice-cream and order room service. It took me a while to work out why our time together at these times was such quality. How did we connect with the kids so well? Why was it so easy to give each other attention? How did conversation flow so freely?
I have come to the conclusion that this occurs because there was is no distraction. It’s intentional. Because the hotel rooms are empty of stuff, so our focus changes—there’s no tidying to do, so we invent things to do together.

I’m not saying I want a home as bare as a hotel room, but I do want to intentionally curate a home where the focus is on the people in it, rather than the stuff we’re surrounded by. Because even stuff that is hidden well in drawers and cupboards and excellent storage spaces and curated organisational containers, it still encroaches on my ability to breathe deeply the freedom that is found in undistracted time with people.

So this year I’ve made a quiet promise to myself. To explore minimalism. To not add to my wardrobe, kitchen, bathroom cupboards, or kids rooms without deep thought and intention.
To shop for needs, not wants.
To stop keeping things ‘just in case’ and to hold on to the material things in my life lightly. To create a home that allows me the space to love my people, and to have the time to pursue the life I want (and really, to spend less time organising and tidying my writing space, and more time writing in it!).

xx

The December Booklist

Twenty nineteen is done and dusted. As dusted as so many previously neglected areas of my home, after a couple of my December reads that I honestly think have completely changed the way that I think, and have been a catalyst to some changes and decisions I’ve made as I’ve moved into this new year.
December was busy—in that regular December kind of way, that sneaks up on you even when you think you’ve been organised and prepared. But also in a different kind of way. Because life is different now that I have a big grown-up job, and this alone affected the way we prepared for Christmas and the expectations I laid down around having and doing it all. It was different, but lovely.

I worked on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve and served library patrons, and wished them happy Christmases, and tracked down book titles they’d heard about, and extended due dates for the ones who’d be holidaying in January and wouldn’t be able to return their books on time. One of the things I love about the library is that it whirrs on; there is always someone available to help you photocopy, or chat with you about your latest read. In the crazy Christmas hustle, the library was like a refuge. I watched people walk through our doors and breath a deep sigh of relief; this was no busy shopping centre, and here there was no to-do list.

So, in all the working hours and Christmas preparations, I made sure to read a Christmas novel, and a few others in between. Here’s my December wrap-up:

The Christmas Party by Karen Swan
Irish countryside, long-held family feuds and multiple plot lines, all centred around Christmas? Yes please. I am a sucker for a good romance, even if it’s as predictable as my morning coffee. My morning coffee is no less enjoyable in its predictability, and neither is a romantic novel. And a Christmas one at that.
This was our bookclub choice for the month (and when I say our pick, I do really mean two of us who needed something lighthearted and Christmassy, after some heavy choices in the previous months!). I loved having this to look forward to curling up with after a long day at work!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
I think my favourite part of the book was the prologue, in which the author talks about meeting and spending time with the man whose story she wrote. Her friendship with the elderly gentleman grew over three years, in which he shared with her his story, in bits and pieces of memory. The end result is a beautiful, moving piece of historical fiction, about a Slovakian Jew in the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau who meets the love of his life. I listened to this one on audio, and it was beautifully read. I will always be shocked and heartbroken over the treatment of human beings at that period of history—anything that reminds us of the evil we are capable of, and serves to then help to prevent further horrors, is a good thing.

Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner
This was another audiobook. Before the kids finished school, and as I was preparing the house and presents and ticking things off my to-do list, I’d put on my headphones and listen to Erin read me her book. I loved hearing her journey through excess, share her faith and her values, and question all the things I’ve questioned: what am I chasing? When will I arrive? Will this stuff ever make me happy?
”There are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” (G. K. Chesterton)
This is more of a memoir than anything (with a few recipes along the way – I did actually go and make her better pasta recipe, with a creamy cashew sauce and zucchini noodles and it was delicious!) but I love the way she writes, her honesty with herself and her readers, and I was inspired to evaluate the things I cling onto too. Ultimately, this journey of slow is exactly that: a journey.

The Minimalist Home: A Room-By-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life by Joshua Becker
This. There was this one week, prior to Christmas where I had a couple of days off and I was determined to use them well, and to sink my teeth into something I may otherwise not have time for before Christmas. The back room had been getting on my nerves prior to then, with the dusty blinds and windows, and it was a big job. I wanted another audiobook after I’d finished Chasing Slow, and I needed one that was available now, not in a few weeks. So this one came up as a recommended read. I wasn’t that excited about it to be honest, but because I was standing over a bucket of hot soapy water, and was about to spend the following four or five hours scrubbing blinds and windows until they shone, I tapped ‘borrow’ and set to it.
I was ridiculously inspired. This book is both incredibly practical (room by room, drawer by drawer, why do I need two vegetable peelers? ) and also inspires us to look at the underlying issues of why we keep so much, why we need to store, collect, display and hoard. This quote I scribbled in my journal in the days I was listening:
”Minimising forces us to confront our stuff, and our stuff forces us to confront ourselves”
The advantages to a minimalist lifestyle are actually profound. There is so much joy to be found in owning less. I 100% recommend this book (and, in fact, any of Becker’s resources) if you are looking to simplify your life in 2020.
This is only the beginning of a journey for me, but one that I’ve begun with decluttered kitchen drawers and sparkling windows.

Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas
This is probably my favourite Advent devotional ever. It has 45 readings, or chapters, each by a different author. There are readings by CS Lewis, Sylvia Plath, Henri Nouwen, Philip Yancey, TS Eliot, John Donne – I could go on. It’s literary and spiritual genius, that focuses on the significance of Christmas. This is a book that will be well-loved and dog-eared for many years to come.

So. Folks. I did it.
I read 45 books this year—5 more than my goal.
I shared each of them here on my blog with a mini review, which seems like a massive feat in itself for this not-great-at-finishing-things-I-start kinda girl.

We started a bookclub, and I fell in love with reading again, and now I work in a library.

Life.

What to read in 2020?

Follow me over on Goodreads and send inspiration, and let me know what your 2020 reading goals are?

xx

Go ahead: a word for 2020

Every morning since about October, I’ve been getting up early, propping up my pillows and reaching for my Bible and my journal. I’m not going to lie, some mornings I scroll Facebook more than I read (until today, when I deleted the app from my phone!), or I scribble down all those morning words and not read at all.
When I finally finished the book of Job in my One Year Bible reading app (that I’ve been working through for almost two years now) and hit Proverbs, it completely held my attention. I haven’t missed a day.
Okay God, I’m listening.
Wisdom, personified as Lady Wisdom has my imagination on overdrive!
Imagine, Lady Wisdom, dancing across eternity, before the beginning of time, watching as God “hung the tapestry of the heavens and stretched out the horizon of the earth” she was there, “close to the Creator’s side as his master artist.”*
Wisdom, I’m pursuing you this year.

So, yesterday morning was no different. I heard my husband up and about and busy getting ready for work. I rolled and stretched as I heard him turn the coffee machine on, and then I blearily sat to prop up my pillows for the first time this year. I was ready to write a 2020 manifesto of sorts, ready to write the vision and make it plain, ready to put some goals and ideas on paper.

Opening my Bible to Proverbs Chapter 16 I was wonderstruck.

“Go ahead and make all the plans you want, but its the Lord who will ultimately direct your steps…
Before you do anything, put your trust totally in God and not in yourself.
Then every plan you make will succeed.” **

Do you ever just know when something or someone is telling you something?
Like, when something you were oblivious to before suddenly becomes something you see everywhere?

The timing of this verse was divinely orchestrated coincidence—a confirmation of His voice.
The reminder I needed that was as simple as the PUSH sign on a heavy glass door. Approaching the door your eyes are darting all around to find the way, so you don’t look like an idiot in front of people when you get to the door and pull instead of push. You find the little sign as you get there and glide right through with relief.

This verse was that for me. I knew there was a way for 2020, I just hadn’t worked it out just yet.
Until I read those verses, that sign. I can walk through the doors now and know I’m not going to get it wrong.
I’m not going to be embarrassed before the eyes of anyone watching me, because I know the way now.

Before you do anything.
Before you make a move.
Before you speak.
Before you accept.
Before you plan.
Before you give up.
Before your best yes.
Before you rise, move, sign, write, abandon, begin, decide…

Put your trust in God.

So, I’m going ahead in 2020.
I’m going to make all the plans, but I won’t be putting my trust in myself—I don’t even know which way to open a glass door, why would I put trust in myself?
I’m going to trust in the One who goes before me, who knows all the things, and who causes my plans to succeed.

xx

* (Read Proverbs 8 in The Passion Translation!)
** Proverbs 16:1,3 TPT

The November Booklist

I’ve recently (thanks to being a public library employee) discovered our free e-lending system.
It has been a game changer. We’re really intentional about what we sign up for—read: stingy, we’re stingy with the things we sign up for. I don’t want to be leaking money in areas that are not being used, or in areas that are unnecessary. For example, I refuse to pay for a gym membership when I much prefer pounding the pavement on actual pavement. (Daniel does however, have a gym membership because he uses it almost daily) We only have one tv streaming account, and our music streaming is a part of Daniel’s phone plan.
This year we downsized our phone plans, too. Anyway. The point is, why pay for downloadable e-resources when you can get them for free through our public libraries?!
Cue: BorrowBox or Libby (by OverDrive) or any number of the borrowing apps that will work when you sign up with your public library.
It’s changed my reading game. I can listen to audio books while I’m washing dishes or weeding the garden, or driving long distances. They’re not completely the same as cosying up with a paperback, but they serve their purpose all the same, and I am stoked to be able to access this stuff for free. Get a library card my friends.

Anyway. November was a good, albeit heavy, reading month. I’m looking forward to December’s Christmas novel to lighten it all up a bit more!

Here’s the November read list:

The Pearl Thief by Fiona McIntosh
”Oh, you must try one, my dear,” says an elderly woman stuffing her library card back into her purse with arthritic fingers and a twinkle in her eye. “They’re so well researched. All the stories are just lovely. I couldn’t put this one down.” It wasn’t the first of Fiona McIntosh’s titles that had crossed my path this month, they’re popular and I was intrigued. I popped this one aside, and rode home from work with it in my bike basket.
I wasn’t disappointed. It contained the right mix of popular fiction with historical facts, doing justice to the Holocaust and it’s survivors. I loved its straight-backed protagonist and the ending was perfect.

Boys Will Be Boys: Power, Patriarchy, and the Toxic Bonds of Mateship by Clementine Ford
I cannot even, with this one. I listened on Audio, and while Clem is very, very angry, by the end of the book it really isn’t difficult to see why. There was one moment, where I was driving down the freeway listening in horror to the absolute injustice of men who have committed horrific crimes against women and have not been given fair punishment. It seems that this book was a punch in my already-aching justice-loving feminist heart.
It needs to be read, far and wide.
I’ll write more about this. I will. Because I know I already lost 80% of you with the word feminist.
But, ladies, remember this: the feminist movement is what has given you your right to vote, to decide whether you’d like to have children or not and to decide whether you will work inside the home or out of it. It wasn’t that long ago that we weren’t given that autonomy, and we should be grateful.
*puts the feminist soapbox aside… for now*

Beloved by Toni Morrison
I know I’ve probably harped on a little about book club. Or maybe I haven’t harped on enough, because BOOK CLUB! My girl gang is a book club and this makes my bookish heart so happy.
We gathered again to talk about this book, our pick for the month. We ate pavlova and as I licked the last of the cream from my fork, and stared at a flickering candle on the coffee table, legs tucked underneath me in my corner of the couch, I got to hear what was loved, what was learned, and what was gained from Beloved. And share my thoughts too.
This book is a bit hectic. I don’t love ghosty stories, and if you’ve ever seen the movie (it has Oprah in it, by the way) you’ll know it’s a horror genre. Which the book doesn’t fully portray. What is horrific, however, is the way people of colour were treated in that period, and the pain inflicted on families and generations and women. I always love the historical aspects of books, love to learn about our pasts, about different time periods and other peoples. Toni Morrison is a master storyteller, and this book is a classic for a reason. But go in prepared for discomfort.

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman
I needed a Fredrik Backman novel after Boys and Beloved!
Earlier this year I read Britt Marie Was Here and while this one didn’t quite captivate me as much (I got a bit tired of the imaginary world, I just wanted to go on with the story in the protagonists here and now) it was a reprieve from the heaviness, and lovely to curl up with in the evenings and make me smile. Everyone needs a granny like Elsa, and I think I want to be that kind of granny when I grow up too.

Next month I want to read at least two corny Christmas novels, and I’ve just borrowed Erin Loechner’s Chasing Slow to listen via BorrowBox.
What are you reading/hoping to read this month?

xx

How to do Christmas memories well: a step by step guide for us all

Here’s my (non exhaustive) how-to list to simplify Christmas, and enjoy an evening with your people:

1. Choose a Christmas movie. Specifically, choose Elf because it is the very best one. Following that, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is also a winner.

2. Don’t stress about the dinner dishes. Don’t snap at the family for not helping with said dishes.

3. Dessert need not be extravagant—a simple rice pudding (coloured green because, Christmas) and vanilla ice cream is perfect (our movie night tradition). Or, vanilla ice-cream with Milo sprinkled on top, a la our childhoods, is also a cheap and easy option, and just as loved.

4. Don’t worry about washing your hair, just have the quickest shower you can so you can spend more time with aforementioned people.

5. Gaudy Christmas t-shirts, mugs and hats are optional, but recommended. Pjs non-negotiable.

6. Take the time to get your bean bag just the way you like it right away, so the rustling doesn’t disturb the movie-watching.

7. Get up when the kettle whistles—without being resentful. Yes, maybe you cooked the dinner and cleaned the kitchen and made the dessert so why should I have to make the tea as well?! Because you’re creating memories, and creating space, and sometimes that means you either a) roll up your sleeves and take a breath and get it done or b) ruin the moment with your resentment. I recommend option a. Serve your family well.

8. Settle in. Don’t forget to take stock. Notice the way your 13 year old son sits against your husband, the need for affection unhidden and unashamed. Take note of the fact that she’s brought out her comfort blanket that she’s had since she was a newborn, and refuses to give up even though she’s turning 12. Smile at the way the youngest eats her ice-cream, methodically, intentionally, letting her lips only remove the top layer on the spoon at a time.

9. Laugh out loud. Laugh in anticipation of the hilarity that you know is about to occur. Laugh at the one liners and the slap stick and then laugh at everyone else laughing. This can only occur if you’re as engaged in the movie as everyone else. Leave your phone in the bedroom.

10. Catch eyes with your loved one across the room, where he’s sitting with kids’ legs splayed over him and Christmas lights reflected in his eyes. Let that feeling swell until you feel like it’ll burst in your chest.

And that’s it. All you need is your people. Or your cat, it’ll work the same. The other night when my husband was on night shift, I watched You’ve Got Mail, with only the cat for company. I pretty much had the same swelling, heart-bursting gratitude.
All you need is to be present right there in that moment. All you need is to be grateful.

It’s easy to get caught up in it all: the consumerism, the having and the buying and the doing.
I have moments where I feel like I need to keep up with those Joneses, the ones with their styled living rooms and extravagant new decorations and Christmas trees. I scroll Facebook and it tells me I need the latest Nutribullet, and that dress she’s wearing from Sportsgirl.
I’m pulling out of the competition though, because when I’m comparing, no one wins anyway.
I know by now that the want for more is insatiable, and immeasurable.

This I can measure though, but it’s not measured in the same way as collected inanimate things.
This life I can measure with gratitude. This living room full of living, breathing, heart-swelling, life-giving folk who remind me that I don’t need the holidays or the new things or the clean floor (okay sometimes I really need the clean floor)—that all I really need is to find the place within me that says, Oh God, I am so grateful.

And that is enough.

xx

transitions and transplants

At the time of writing, it is 34 days, 9 hours and 50 minutes until the clock ticks over into a new year.
A new decade.
Twenty years ago, I was 15 and we were entering into a new millennium. I remember feeling the weight of it; there was a sense that I was living in an important time in history.
It was an important time in my own story. At the end of Year 10, I changed schools and ultimately changed the course of my life—the path I followed lead me to find Jesus, and lifelong friends, and myself and the church community where I met the man I would marry, only a few years after graduating.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened had I not made the decision to move schools, to seek a
fresh start.

This year I’m beginning to feel that weightiness again. The brink of a new decade feels heavy, important.
I sense the rapid passing of time, and there’s an urgency and intention that meets me in that space.
Maybe it’s because I’m no longer 15 but 35.
It could also be that this year has been just as transitional and profound as the year I started a new school.
This year has been uncomfortable and thrilling, frustrating and tiring and elating.
For the first time in 13 years, I shifted from the zone of work-from-home mum, to having an outside the home job—no small thing. Then, Daniel started a new job, after being in his job for almost twenty years—all this after he had worked hard for years to get a Diploma, and a Builders license and we’d almost given up hope.
This year has been so full of changes, and transitions and newness and adjustment.

We’ve unravelled and unlearned. We’ve been undone and been re-done and laughed till we cried.
We’ve worked as a team and high-fived each other every step of the way, but, it’s been hard.

A couple of weeks ago I stopped dead in my lounge room—I felt as if I had been slapped in the face.
Transplanting.
There’s a transplanting that is taking place. My fiddle leaf had outgrown it’s pot. It was root bound. I had to find a new pot so that its roots could stretch out, so that it could begin to flourish again.
You see, I’d given it everything that it needed to thrive. It had water, good soil, the spot near the front window with the bright morning light. Regardless of all of the perfect elements, it had outgrown the space it was in, and if I didn’t transplant it to another pot, it wouldn’t survive.
It was in that moment in my lounge room I realised that sometimes we outgrow spaces, and that we can’t keep shrinking to keep ourselves there. We can’t stay small.
We can’t stay in doubt or in fear or in that place of concern for what others might think.
Sure, there’s a bit of trauma with a transplant, my poor fiddle definitely had a little shock.
When I slipped it out of the pot it had been in for too many years, its roots were densely curled around themselves, and so very squished.
The new pot got a load of fresh soil, and I had to forcefully pull apart some of the roots as a reminder—you don’t need to stay small, I know this hurts a bit now, but it’s going to be so much better in this bigger place. (I know you talk to your indoor plants too.)
Now it’s thriving again, unfurling new leaves in bright green, and not drooping sadly anymore.

The transplant is hard. Removing ourselves from spaces that limit us, lid us, and restrict our growth can be a shock.
But we need to remember that there is so much more ahead, in larger vessels where we can flourish.

One of my favourite life-verses talks about living in wide open spaces.
I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection.
Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!
(2 Cor 6:11-13 MSG)

The best thing about these wide open spaces waiting for us, is that He’s gone before us there too.

Things I’m asking myself on the brink of this new year:

What has kept me small?
What do I have to do to move into a bigger wide-open space?
What do I need to let go of?
What needs to be pruned out?

I’m making time over the next month to get honest, to reflect on what has been, and to prepare my heart for what is to come.

xx

(As an aside, my friend Amanda has an amazing resource for those of us who want to intentionally move into a new year with vision and purpose. It’s a workbook called Seeking Clarity, you can find it in her shop.)

Advent: an easy list of activities to usher in Christmas with your family

“Aren’t you getting a bit old for it now?” I asked him skeptically.
My thirteen year old son looked at me aghast, “Mum. It’s Christmas. I will never be too old for Advent.”
”But what about Christmas craft?” I raise my eyebrows.
”I’ll still do Christmas craft,” he’s earnest, and it’s sweet, but I’m undecided.
”But you don’t want to write cards for your friends anymore. You didn’t last year.”
”I’ll write them to like, Granny and Grandpa instead, if it’s card writing.”

Our conversation went on like this, as I was stirring the dinner and he leaned his elbows on the island bench, watching me. I was smiling to myself, proud that we’d been able to create solid Christmas traditions that an almost 14 year old boy didn’t yet want to let go of.

I smiled even more when he reached for a piece of paper and began listing our every-year-without-fail Christmas Advent activities.
”Watch Elf, drive and look at Christmas lights… um… oh! Gingerbread houses, I can’t wait to do those again… And you have to use the calendar that we always use, with the pockets mum. Don’t get slack.”

There were years when the kids were little, and I was the driver of the Christmas Spirit, the creator of things I hoped would one day become tradition. Well, a decade later, and I’m sitting in the back seat—the wind’s in my hair and there are three kids in the front whooping with glee, directing and leading.
”Mum! Don’t forget the Christmas pudding candle that you always light!”
”Don’t forget we have to have a Home Alone movie marathon!”
”Mum! It’s time to get the Christmas mugs out!”
”Mum I created a new playlist, with Mariah and Michael Bublé”

You guys. I feel like I’ve made it.

And to celebrate, I’ve compiled our Advent activity list, thanks to my 13 year old who has written them all out so early.

Our advent calendar is one I sewed years ago, and what do you know, after a little bit of Google searching, I found the instructions (on the off chance you feel like making a tiny quilt from scratch right before Christmas, ahem). These types of advent calendars are easy to find in the shops now though, and Pinterest has a host of inspiration for you to create something with 24 activities.
I write our activities on little tags and tuck them in the pockets. The best thing is that you can move the activities around to suit—a movie marathon for a Saturday, writing cards for a week day after school. On days we’re pressed for time I’ll pop in an easy activity. On days I’m completely lazy, they’ll find a little chocolate each. I love that it can be completely simple.

For us, it’s not about extravagance. They don’t have to be expensive or over the top.
It’s about simply anticipating a day that is deeply important to our faith, and creating traditions of celebration and togetherness for our family.
Traditions are the foundations that memories are built on.
The way each and every year the kids remember dad decorating his gingerbread house with only icing and chocolate Freckles.
The way that I have to make rice pudding with vanilla ice-cream when we watch Elf.
The smell of a balmy summer, rising from the bitumen as we drive local neighbourhoods in our pjs, to search for the houses with the best Christmas lights.

Most of these ‘activities’ we’d do together anyway. Putting them in an advent activity calendar just makes them a whole lot more fun.

So here’s our (not exhaustive!) Advent activity list. I hope this helps you to prepare for your own memory-making!

1. Put up the tree
2. Write Christmas cards to friends and/or family (I bought these ones from Kmart this year, I don’t think you could find any cheaper than that!)
3. Create snowflakes to bluetack to your windows. There are heaps of tutorials like this one online.
4. Have a Christmas movie marathon. Our favourites are Elf, Home Alone, and Home Alone: Lost in New York. Last year my husband introduced our then 12 year old to Die Hard, oh gosh.
5. Bake Gingerbread. (My recipe is here, it is the BEST and easiest, and there’s a link to our little bitty Gingerbread house pattern that we use every year too.) This is usually two activities in our calendar – one day we make the dough and bake the gingerbread, the next day is for building and decorating.
6. Go to the city at night. There’s something about our little city, and the Christmas decorations and the carols playing in the department stores. The City of Perth says their Christmas Lights Trail will be even better this year, too. We loved it last year.
7. Santa photos. We vowed never to get Santa photos again, after they were terrible a few years ago. Instead we set up a tripod to get a cheesy family photo in front of the tree. This also doubles as a little Christmas gift for all the great grandparents.
8. Put candy canes on the tree. They’re $1 a bag at Kmart. When visitors come over, they get offered a candy cane from the tree.
9. Write a letter to Santa. Only, since they stopped really believing in Santa, it’s not really a letter to Santa anymore, it’s more a re-cap of the year. Favourite memories, accomplishments, things they’re looking forward to for next year. This is pretty sweet to stash away and read the following years.
10. Donate food. The kids schools do food donation drives for our local favourites SOUL Soup Patrol. We go to our local IGA and do a little grocery shop, especially to donate.
11. Go gift shopping. Each of the kids has a set amount to spend on their siblings. We take them shopping and they get to buy each other their presents. This is super fun, especially when we split up, each of us taking a child or two, and then having to hide their purchase/bags from the others when we meet up again. They’re always so excited about their choices.
12. Wrap the gifts they’ve bought or made for each other, and for others.
13. Drive around our local areas with the best Christmas lights on the houses, blaring Christmas carols of course.
14. Salt dough ornaments. These are great teacher gifts, and gift tag/decorations.
15. Create a wreath out of branches from the garden for the front door.
16. Bake/make Christmas treats and invite friends over to share them.
17. Go to Carols by Candlelight or a church Christmas production.
18. Decorate the house with Christmas lights.
19. Have a picnic dinner on the floor in the lounge room by the tree.
20. Have a hot/iced chocolate in a Christmas mug after dinner (I think I need to try this one, omg).
21. Make thank you notes, and deliver them to houses with beautiful Christmas lights.
22. Bake shortbread for an elderly neighbour.
23. Read your favourite Christmas picture books.
24. Christmas Eve for us is always unwrapping one present. And it’s always summer pyjamas with a little chocolate. It’s not a surprise anymore, but still something we all look forward to (yep, Daniel and I get new pjs too!)

These are things we do each year. But there are hundreds of other ideas for advent activities across Pinterest.

Tell me what some of your favourite Christmas traditions are?

xx

PS our tree has been up for almost two weeks already. Shhhh.