Tis the Season for More Joy & Less Clutter

12 Ways to Cultivate More Joy & Less Clutter Through the Holiday Season

If you’ve been working hard this year to simplify your life, and even if you are just getting started, the holidays have a way of unraveling your best intentions.

Whether you are feeling pressured to demonstrate how spirited you are by spending and indulging, or if the holidays just naturally carry you away, there are ways to stay clutter-free through the season to make time and space for what matters most to you this time of year.

The real purpose of less stuff and clutter in your home and schedule is discovering more meaning, more joy, and more of what truly matters.

12 Ways to Cultivate More Joy & Less Clutter Through the Holiday Season

1. Say no.
Or, say “no thank you.” Set boundaries for yourself in advance and stick to what you know is best for you and your family. If you’ve maxed out your budget on entertainment, say no to an invitation to dinner or a night out. If you are exhausted and are looking forward to a day off, say no to the last-minute party invite. Saying no thank you isn’t mean or hurtful. It’s gracious. By declining, you are respecting other people’s investment of time, money and attention and honoring how you and your family want to experience the holiday season.

2. One in, one out.
Stay clutter-free, or at the very least, avoid adding to your clutter by sticking with a one in, one out rule. For each thing that comes in, another goes out. Apply this rule to gifts, clothing, and decorations.

3. Tell them what you want.
If someone asks you what you want and you don’t tell them, they will give you something you don’t want. Instead, ask for something you can actually use or enjoy. Or, suggest an experience that you can enjoy together in lieu of exchanging gifts.

4. Opt out.
White elephant gifts are typically filed under the clutter category. Opt out of white elephant, Yankee swaps and other gifty-games that encourage spending money on crap. Suggest a new game that supports a local shelter or food bank. Participants can purchase items from a wish list, and instead of swapping gag gifts, you can collectively donate items that are needed and appreciated.

5. Try a simplicity experiment.
To help you further simplify, choose a simplicity challenge now instead of waiting for the new year. A challenge or experiment will help you stay focused on simplifying your life even through the holiday season. You will be pleasantly surprised in how that allows you to fully engage in the spirit of the season. Here are 5 simplicity experiments to consider.

6. Take a walk.
When Black Friday sales are calling and your inbox is lighting up with special offers, simply take a walk. Close your computer. Turn off your phone, and go for a walk. Give yourself some distance from temptation and time to think about what really matters.

7. Decorate 50% less.
If you’ve been collecting holiday decor for years, or decades, and you try to display all of it, no one really enjoys any of it. This year, hide half of your holiday decorations and see if you notice a difference. If you don’t miss the hidden items, donate them at the end of the season.

8. Boycott sales.
Holiday shopping is not always about shopping for the holidays. Some use extreme sales as a reason to buy household items and other stuff. Resist. Limit your spending to holiday related items and boycott the sales. You won’t miss a thing.

9. Give experiences.
The best things aren’t things. Instead, give an experience which can provide memories, joy, and connection without contributing to clutter. Here are 3 ideas:

10. Give consumables.
Send a bottle of wine from a company that saves dogs, temporary intention tattoos, or homemade cookies.

11. Give ideas.
Books, courses, and seminars are a great way to encourage learning, and share inspiration. Consider local cooking, art, or dance courses, or virtual courses like these that help people live and work more simply.

12. Give you.
Your time and attention is the most valuable gift you can offer. Whether it’s volunteering to feed cold, hungry people in your community or taking a friend for a hike, or out to lunch, you can make a difference just by simply showing up.

The holidays can be a challenging time to stay clutter free, but they can be the best reminder that the things that matter most are never things.


  • 31 Days of Gifts You So Deserve starts December 1st. I am really looking forward to sharing these special gifts, these things that aren’t things with you. If you’d like to gift this experience to family, friends or co-workers, please email bemorewithless@gmail.com and I’ll make it really easy.
  • The lovely Jess Lively recently interviewed me about approaching the holidays with more intention. You can listen to the interview here for more ideas on simplifying things like gift giving, decor, and holiday commitments.