Making room for a happy holiday.

Calgary Herald December 1, 2014: Every year about this time—as pretty lights start going up around the neighbourhood and shopping mall parking lots become anything but pretty—I head to the little closet under the stairs to dig out the Christmas decorations.

It’s a wonderful chore.

As I duck my head to squeeze past the shelves stacked with kid’s kindergarten art, my mother’s tea cups and papers from my university days, I’m always amazed that it’s December again. Already.  As I rummage in the closet I can’t help but think back to last year’s festivities while looking forward to the next few weeks of visiting friends, going to parties and my favourite, just hanging out with the family.

I back out of the closet with the first box of Christmas stuff, the one with the sparkly green apple ornaments, and I’m careful not to trip over the laundry basket full of odd socks. It’s the exact same basket with pretty much the exact same socks that I had to step over last year.

I think I keep the socks because of second generation depression syndrome. What if the other sock turns up?  What if we want to make sock puppets?  What if suddenly I need a cleaning rag, or 30?

As I grab the box with the Christmas books that no one reads anymore and the Cowboy Santa that doesn’t fit anywhere, I maneuver around the shopping bag holding my impressive shopping bag collection. I think I keep the shopping bags out of some weird connection to my childhood. My cousin does the same thing.  Our grandmother would give us big bags from Woodward’s or Johnston Walker full of presents on our birthdays. Christmas too.

Like all grammas, she loved giving presents. You weren’t allowed in her basement after Labour Day because she would have started stashing that year’s Christmas presents in the rumpus room under the paintings of dogs playing poker. She must have spent days wrapping all the loot for her 11 grandchildren, always scraping the scissor blade against the ribbon to make it curl up like ringlets.

One of my favourite holiday activities is stuffing the clean laundry that’s on my bed into my closet, closing my bedroom door and getting busy wrapping presents. I line up the gifts, smooth out the paper and fish the scotch tape out of the junk drawer. The presents always look so pretty stacked up under the tree.

Maybe that’s why we buy people stuff they don’t need at Christmas instead of giving people who could use them sheep, clean water or baby chicks through one of those international development agencies. No one on my shopping list actually needs anything at all. But there are loads of people around the world who could really use or a goat or two to make a little living.

There are loads of people around the corner who could use some help too: A warm coat, a little extra scratch to help pay winter heating bills or an apartment they can afford. And maybe something brand new and frivolous too, like an infinity scarf.  But consider picking up this year’s must-have item from a local shop. Maybe skip Nordstrom. I think the big, high-end U.S. department store is doing OK.  Meanwhile, that great little neighbourhood boutique owned by a hockey mom could use your business.

Another mom I know told me about a book that helped her get rid of her kid’s out-of-focus baby pictures and other crap she didn’t need anymore. Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui argues that clutter is more than a fire hazard, it’s “trapped energy” that can affect you physically, emotionally and spiritually.

“Everything around you, especially your home environment, mirrors your inner self,” author Karen Kingston argues. “So by changing your home you also change the possibilities in your own life. Removing the obstacles to the harmonious flow of energy in your living environment creates more harmony in your life and the space for wonderful new opportunities to come to you.”

Not to mention creating more space in the closet under the stairs for the Balinese space clearing bell that’s only 160 British pounds on the Clear your Clutter website (195 quid with the stand).

As I bring up the last box of Christmas stuff, walking past the bread maker that’s collecting dust on a shelf and stepping over the pile of clothes for Goodwill at the bottom of the stairs, I think I am going to get myself a Christmas present this year.

I think I will throw out the socks, fill up my collection of shopping bags with stuff we don’t need to give who those who do, and give myself the gift of less is more.

Spoiler alert, if you’re on my list, you might be getting a goat.

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