Making a Little Space for Life

Have not forgotten you, nor fallen off ladder while decorating, nor been engulfed in Yule log flames, figurative or otherwise. Just been trying to make a little space for life. I’ve been out of the habit so long I don’t know quite how to go about it, especially at Christmas time.

My old New York apartment was awash in amaryllis. I do love them. Haven’t ordered a one this year…

I started trying back in November. Results thus far are mixed, to be honest, but I’ll have more to say in the next few weeks. 

What about you? Is this the year you’ve reminded yourself of what you told yourself last year? That this year would be different? Not so crazy? Not so over-programmed? Even letting go of one little thing makes a difference. I let go of the whirl of New York and planning a Christmas party. And yet here I am thousands of miles away at our ranch, and I still feel slightly frantic, and I’m not sure why. Is it just my holiday DNA or what?

What about you? We’d all like to hear. This is a time where One Little Thing can make a big difference. What have you let go? Or what might you let go to let it a little space?


  1. I let 8 boxes of Christmas decorations remain unopened. I’ve also let go of a toxic friendship. There’s still no space..but there you go:)
    Merry Christmas!

  2. This year is definitely different for my family! We are in a small condo while building our new house (old house sold, thank goodness!) and most of our belongings are in storage. We feel as if we are in limbo, but I am trying to keep our most beloved traditions going. I must admit, it is a relief to not HAVE to do everything this year. An Annick Goutal Noel candle and room spray bring the smell of Christmas to our house and make us all happy. It’s all about the small things.
    Revel in your free time and have a very Merry Christmas, Frances!

  3. I have talked with more than a few friends who are editing Christmas, but even as we give ourselves permission to let go of old traditions, we find new ones to fill that void that we had intended for sitting around the fireplace reading a good book. Peace, Frances!

    1. Yes, Alison, you rightly an all-too-common conundrum. There’s the discipline of editing, and then there’s the discipline of sticking with it. Good luck, and do get to that book by the fire! Thanks for writing.


  5. Here are a few thoughts from an all-volunteer group called “Simple Living Works.” They may seem extreme or overly-Christian/spiritual – but may be useful as jumping off points for one’s own thoughts. The main thing, it seems to me, is to make actual decisions with others instead of being on auto-pilot or a slave to “tradition.”

    A Christmas Pledge
    Believing in the true spirit of Christmas, I commit myself to…
    -Remember those people who truly need my gifts.
    -Express my love in more direct ways than gifts.
    -Examine my holiday activities in the light of my deepest values.
    -Be a peacemaker within my circle of family and friends.-
    -Rededicate myself to my spiritual growth.

    10 Tips for a Simpler More Meaningful Christmas
    1. Plan ahead. Instead of going on auto-pilot the day after Thanksgiving, hold a family meeting to decide what the group really wants to do and who’s going to do what.
    2. If you need a symbol for giving (in addition to Jesus and the Three Wise Ones), learn about St. Nicholas. Santa Claus has been completely taken over by commerce.
    3. Avoid debt. Refuse to be pressured by advertising to overspend.
    4. Avoid stress. Give to yourself. Don’t assume that things have to be the same way they’ve always been.
    5. Draw names rather than everyone giving something to everyone else in your giving circle. Set a ceiling for each recipient. Give children ONE thing they really want, rather than so many gifts. If need be, pool funds.
    6. Give appropriate gifts. Get to know the recipient. Give what they want to receive, not what you want to buy.
    7. Give alternative gifts. Give 25% of what you spent last year to the needy… individuals or groups locally, nationally or internationally.
    – Buy crafts and clothing from developing countries at alternative gift markets, not from commercial importers, so that the artisans receive a fair price for their work.
    – Give of yourself, not just “stuff” – a coupon book for future services (such as baby-sitting or an “enchanted evening”); something baked, sewn, handmade, composed, etc.; or a family service project, such as working together at a soup kitchen.
    8. Observe the season of Advent for four weeks before Christmas. (Themes are expectancy, waiting, hope – and a key image is light in the darkness.)
    9. Put the gifts under the tree shortly before opening them. Then take turns opening them around the tree, not all at once, so that each gift can be admired and each giver thanked.
    10. Make changes slowly but persistently. Don’t try to change everything and everybody all at once. The resistance will make you feel defeated and lonely.

    1. Oh, Randall, deepest and heartfelt thanks for this. If it is all right with you, I’d like to make this my Advent post for next year. I have this in printed form, thanks to you, next to my morning meditation chair for daily review, along with Scott Stoner’s booklet, “Living Well Through Advent 2014.” A link to Rev. Stoner’s website here:

  6. As our family has grown, we offer the whole family a trip together to Cabo in December or January as our Christmas gift to all. Now that has become part of our tradition. Is there anything more special than shared time? Nothing plastic about it either!
    By the way, one thing we always do, no matter the space, is to set out our lovely carved wooden nativity group from Austria. It keeps us centered on the true Christmas gift…
    blessings to all!

    1. Oh, Renee, what a lovely tradition, and yes, shared time is the best gift of all. I love your keeping of the creche, as well. What a great idea to have a portable piece of tradition, and one that is both decorative and sacred.

  7. We strive to get our very large family together for Thanksgiving and do it up big. Then for Christmas my husband and I take a little mini vacation and the kids do Christmas with their children and in-laws. It has reduced the stress of preparing dinner twice. I love Christmas cards. . . sending and receiving them, but have cut back to only my very special friends and family. Merry Christmas Frances! Love and best wishes to you and yours!

    1. Thank you, Jane. So I am taking it you all live in the same town, or near one another? And you and your husband vamoose over Christmas? Do you miss them? It does get confusing and sometimes dramatic with big families and in-laws and what not. It is nice you recognize there are always options, and no one has to feel pressured or trapped.

  8. We left California moved back to Michigan. We longed for wide open spaces, snow, change of seasons, fresh lake water water and lots of space (including parking spaces that are large!). Last year we came close to losing our son as you know, so this year is about being Grateful! We are also concentrating on the ONE who gave us our son back, Jesus. This is HIS time.

  9. I let go of the tree skirt(s) after years of my cats standing on(and ruining) the skirt, drenching it, while trying to drink the water out of the tree stand. Now, I put my tree in a huge galvanized tub….the cats are still ticked at me.

    1. Brilliant solution, Hazel! And btw, the cats would find something else to annoy them, so it is thoughtful of you to be consistent and not confuse them. 😉 Happy Christmas.

  10. For almost 30 years I did all of the Christmas meals/parties for my family and on day I simply said, “I’m done.” Now I do as I please. And what pleases me is most is to light candles and celebrate the winter solstice with the promise that every day after that is the return of the light. I find pleasure in not buying into the hideous commercialism this holiday has come to be.

  11. Frances, I am letting go of tons this year. The new bathroom renovation is almost complete — still workers here almost every day. I have the tree up but no lights. Sent the boys to buy a 9-10 foot tree, they come home with a 14-15 foot tree … no tape measure was the excuse. My wreaths are up and I have a kissing ball- kissing is good.
    xo, lissy

    1. Lissy, I don’t know HOW you do all you do, but you do it beautifully and with grace and poise. Keep up the kissing! And a kiss back to you, Frances

  12. The extent of our decorating in Tucson this year is a wreath on the front door and we will be off for Virginia next week to spend the holidays with our daughter livng there and youngest son coming down from RI and their families. We will return a week after the New Year and will have help dismantle Christmas 2014 and stashed away for another year. We have all decided to gift only the children this year and other gifting has been charitable. We will have our formal family dinner Christmas Eve and Christmas morn will be watching the kids open their gifts from Santa and and then we will have a breakfast casserole brunch and will all attend church together at ten. Afterwards the elves will then take a Christmas nap and relax and the kids will enjoy their gifts. I will take my annual Christmas walk and especially enjoy seeing the VA countryside and the horses in the paddocks frolicking with their red and green Christmas coats. Less is definitely becomming more as I age even though I am a traditonalist K I S S is the way from here on out. Oh the one traditon that won’t be missed is having lunch or tea and seeing the tree in Rockefeller Center and the Christmas show in Radio City. Our special girls day out with my daughter and grandaughter. This will be a perfect Christmas of 2014

    1. Yes WorthyStyle, YOU are worthy, too! Take care of yourself, and maybe you can find a virtual or mental pied-a-terre until the real thing can materialize.

  13. Frances, I have let go of my mind. Inadvertently, I must confess, but its “waftiness” ( new word) seems to help reduce the stress.

    1. OMG so damn funny YOU! You have so much more brain that most of us, you won’t even notice! Thank you for writing, Sterch and almost Happy Birthday on the 13th!! xox Frances

  14. I try to limit myself to doing one thing at a time. Instead of baking 3 homemade goodies at once like I usually do, I bake one at a time. And I signed up for a daily meditation practice that has helped significantly to lower my fast paced personality. Also planning ahead and shopping early for food and gifts has helped. Less crowds = less stress for me!

    1. You are on to a few good things here, Karla. One thing at a time is great. “Mis en place” as the French (and restaurant kitchen staff) say. “Put in place,” one thing at a time. You all know my longtime practice and support of meditation – whatever form it takes – it works! Congratulations and keep us posted.

  15. I am teaching high school until the 19th so cannot get into my full baking frenzy until then. Also, my boys won’t be home from university until the 23rd, so it all won’t really start until then.

    1. Nice to have a framework, isn’t it, Susan? Sounds like you have things well in hand and have the sense not to stress about the “what is.” Have fun. x Frances

  16. Just when I’m so proud of letting something go, I find that I’ve taken something new on! Don’t know how it happens! But I do try to find a time each day to sit and say thank you. This quiet time centers me and helps me remember what is truly important in life.

  17. Oh how I loved reading each comment tonight! I have let go of a Christmas tree….i spend three weeks decking the halls for others with my design biz…so my fill of evergreen is complete! I have also loved seeing Christmas through the eyes of the children in my life! Their hearts so pure as they look at Baby Jesus in the Nativity. Frances, I think creative people have a bittersweet “curse” to want to make all things special….even if it’s fluffing out a tired bow! Pour an eggnog with a hint of Brandy, curl up with His Grace and know how we love you and all of your inspiration near and far! xo “Merry” Mac

    1. Me too, Merry Mac, so much so that I’ve felt compelled to answer each of them–a luxury I don’t always have. But yes you are right about us creative sorts and our perfectionist tendencies. Guilty as charged. We just have to know when to say “good enough.” Sounds like you are getting there. xo Frances

  18. We have changed our Christmas celebrations. We are focussed on loving each other, and sharing peace and joy quietly with each other and special friends. It is a relief to
    be on the beach, and not have the rush of several parties a night, and all of my perfectionist pressure to do everything, and be the best! — happily gone. The tree is to be delivered soon, and wreath is up. Stockings getting ready for little ones, and Santa’s
    arrival will be the fulfillment of young wishes and dreams, and many days of being “very, very good”. Only candles for lights over Christmas, sacred carols, and church…….. The other great gift for me is no baking or cooking this year. Although I really enjoy those pleasures, I am having someone else do them — oh, what a relief! (Now that I have finally gotten to be excellent in the kitchen, I am turning it over)…..And, in October, I bought, wrapped, labelled and ribboned each gift for all seven grandchildren, and it feels great to have that “all done”. This year should be restful, unhurried, and marked by the joy of being alive, well, and feeling very blessed. Merry Christmas. xox

  19. It’s the Year of the Horse – a year to hold on tight and enjoy the ride…..
    Wishing you a lovely holiday season with lots of joy and just the right amount of commotion. Miss your colorful rich stories and images – come back soon.

  20. Oh, YAY!!!! Loved this post and can we clone Randall Day, please??? “A key image is light in the darkness” if that is not Christmas in a nutshell, I don’t know what is. Love what he says about giving of yourself, I think time is one of the best gifts one can give. Loved Hazel’s galvanized tub tip, I am purchasing one tomorrow morning first thing, feline children are imaginatively playful around Christmas trees. Praying my Moose does not try to jump from the top of the armoire (his favorite perch, he thinks he is part gargoyle) onto the tree. Fingers crossed. Wishing you, His Grace and all your lovely family a very Merry Christmas and a Fabulous 2015, which will bring the Bee book, yay!

  21. Yes. I had wonderful friends come over and help me get things from the attic. With my husband’s illness, I am sort of at the mercy of keeping things simple. There are things up there I would still like to get down, like my collection of holiday books, but I am want to hold back and say, “why?” My tree is decorated and a wreathe is on the door, so what more is there to do except buy packages to put under the tree. Sometimes life begs us to keep things simple and to think about what is the most important. I hope you have blessed Christmas Frances! 🙂

    1. Sounds like you are managing, Leslie, and with a smile at that. I love that your friends came to help and that you let them. It is sooo important to remember Christmas is about RECEIVING as well as giving. Receiving love, friendship, forgiveness — all those good things. Blessings to you, Frances

  22. I am letting go of tons this year. The new bathroom renovation is almost complete — still workers here almost every day. I have the tree up but no lights. Sent the boys to buy a 9-10 foot tree, they come home with a 14-15 foot tree … no tape measure was the excuse. My wreaths are up and I have a kissing ball- kissing is good.

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