Small Home for the Holidays

Tips to Celebrate When You’re Short on Square Feet

My first place was 400 square feet and I loved it. Ten years later, married with a child, I’ve upgraded to a voluminous 742 square feet. You can’t call my place a tiny home (those are under 500 square feet) but, it’s less than half the size of the average American house. And I still love it!


I’ve found that a little home allows me to live large. The simplicity leaves more room for creative pursuits. To restructure that old adage, “The less things you own, the less things own you.”    

When you live like this, you find that your approach to the holiday season changes. Instead of worrying about obligations and to-do lists, you refocus on the simple things that matter most to you. 

How’s that for an #autumnmood?

Whether you live in a small house by choice or chance, you can find ways to pack in some holiday spirit. 

Idea 1: Rotate and pack seasonal items. Your home will feel fresh with the new white spaces.

Before you dig out the holiday decorations, find some things to put away. Each season requires different tools, gear and clothes. While you want flip flops and a yard sprinkler in reach during the summer, take some time this fall to sub them out for a raincoat and rake. 

As you do your fall walk-through, pick up anything that wandered out during the warm weather. 

Tiny Tip: Get everyone in the household involved by assigning rooms. Send them off to different spaces to fill a laundry basket with anything that needs to be packed away for the winter.

Idea 2: Choose high-impact, low-clutter decor. With some creative substitutes, you can tailor holiday mainstays to fit your place.

Flip through any home magazine and you’ll find maximal designs for McMansions. If you’re short on space, you’ll need to rethink  your favorite ideas. 

For example, piles of plush pillows and complicated tablescapes can cramp a little living room. But, swapping out your wall art with cozy, winter images won’t take up much space. 

Tiny Tip: Take a photo of your room to evaluate the design. It can help you see messy areas with fresh eyes.

Idea 3: Embrace Lagom. It’s the new Hygge.

If you were hot for Hygge, you’ll love Lagom. The Swedish word translates to “just the right amount.” Basically, the philosophy prioritizes balance in all areas of life. 

When you’re living in a tiny home, those are #wordstoliveby. So, make the most of the fact that less square footage means less maintenance and cleaning. With less chores, you get more time to work through your fall bucket list.

Tiny Tip: Find a pretty way to work this word into your life. While you don’t need to tattoo it on your wrist, it would make an excellent device background. 

Idea 4: Sub brunch for dinner. It’s easier to host this small plates meal when your home is “standing room only.”

You can entertain in a little home. Just substitute a sit-down dinner with a brilliant brunch. Self-serve with dessert plates and let your guests wander as they eat.

My favorite brunch foods are muffins and mini quiches. You have a savory and a sweet choice. Plus, they’re easy to make ahead.

You’ll find that a standing brunch creates a fun energy. It’s relaxed, playful and social.

Tiny Tip: Divide up your food and drinks into a few small stations around the space. Then, people won’t crowd one area.

Idea 5: Meet up! When you start to go stir crazy, check your bucket list of places you always wanted to visit.

When chilly weather drives you inside, find a way to get out. Tight spaces can create a bit of cabin fever. However, you can break up the days by playing tourist in your own town.

For inspiration, I always ask longtime locals about their annual traditions. If a venue is worth a repeat visit, I definitely want to try it.

Tiny Tip: Experiences make great substitutes for physical gifts. Plan ahead for Christmas by asking people to fund your mini adventures as a gift.

If you find yourself in a little home for the holidays, enjoy the chance to focus on the spirit of the season. With less homekeeping, you can put your energy into the moments that matter most. From that first pumpkin spice latte to your last glass of eggnog, you’ll be enjoying the simple life in your small space.

The Self-Possession of Keeping a Journal

Whenever I need a burst of creativity, I read either a memoir or a fictional story written in the first person. It pushes me out of my own mental boundaries and makes me consider another person’s point of view. My mind takes on that new role and flexes into new thoughts.

One of my favorite stories to revisit is The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Read it here). The main character’s reflection on her own state of mind mirrors the process I go through daily when I jot in my own journal. Although I am not in a state of mental anguish, keeping a journal helps me gain confidence and regulate my emotions. It helps me see myself and think about how I want to exist in this world.

A notable example of early feminist literature, the story builds symbolism around the sick room of the unnamed narrator. A modern reader will feel conflicted about her situation as she is held against her will to recover from her recent pregnancy.

It’s not a thriller. And it doesn’t need to be.

There is no real twist. Just a horrifying journey of an unwell mind (or perhaps a mind that has been made unwell.)

If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency—what is one to do?

My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the same thing.

So I take phosphates or phosphites—whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to “work” until I am well again.

Personally, I disagree with their ideas.

Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.

But what is one to do?


The author’s sentiments foreshadow the soon-after cultural critique of domestic life as both bland and suffocating. In both fiction and non-fiction, her contemporaries and followers began to question the meaninglessness of mid-century household arrangements. Most of them did this through an exploration of their thoughts and feelings.


Most explored their identities through a series of journal entries (or fictional recreations of journals) that showed a progression of self. This fascination with self loosely ties together these stories for me. I always lump these types together in my mind — although they may fit in different categories.

They’re not really coming-of-age stories — more like finding-myself stories.

Going through these journeys with the writer opens doors in my own mind — to consider who I have become and could become.

That’s why I keep coming back to my own journal. It’s not a record of anything other than a progression of self — as obscure and unread as my story may be.

How to Deal With Sentimental Clutter

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Projecting emotions onto objects is an odd quirk of being human. Items themselves can evoke memories from their shape, feel and smell. Some are special and good. Some are unpleasant or weak. Separating meaningful items (even if they aren’t useful) into keep and toss piles can be a stressful and energy sucking process.

In fact, sentimental clutter is usually listed as a separate category of organization. It’s so hard to decide what stays and what goes.

The experts say…

  • Christine Kell: “I put my prom dress on one last time, took a picture, and shared it on Facebook,” says Kell. “People laughed and commented, and that made it easier to get rid of the dress — because it’s really all about your relationships and sharing the memory.” (Source)
  • Marie Kondo: “Hold each item in your hands, as close to your heart as possible,” she says. “And then, pay close attention to how your body responds. When something sparks joy, you should feel a little thrill running through your body, as if your body is somehow slowly rising up to meet the item, embracing it even.” (Source)
  • Joanna Gaines: While going through her kids’ baby clothes, she kept her favorites and tucked them each in a container with a note, “in case they are sentimental like their mama,” she writes on Insta Stories. (Source)

How to Deal with Sentimental Clutter

My process for sentimental clutter is a little different. I go through a process that allows me to identify the emotions and determine what space the objects have in my life. Below are the steps I take to assess each item.

Separate Emotional Items

First, I pull together the clutter that I consider to be keepsakes. These are objects that really don’t have much function and don’t fit as part of my daily life. I put them in laundry baskets. Seeing them together often causes me to reconsider the sheer amount of sentimental items I really need to keep.

Pack Away and Take a Test

Next, I pack these items away. I leave them somewhere safe but, where I can’t see them. I put a reminder in my calendar to go back a couple of months later and review the baskets.

When the time comes, I try to make a list of what I packed away without looking. Usually, I can only recall a handful of special things that I set aside. This is a very telling part of the process. It shows what items really matter because they take up some space in my memory.

At this point, I can usually remove some of the items because I have realized they really don’t matter much to me.

Write Down Your Feelings

With the remaining items, I create a list. Next to each, I write little notes about the emotions they give me. Sometimes, the feelings can be complicated or negative. Often the emotions are not ones I want to relive. This helps me get rid of things that don’t make me feel joy.

Display and Enjoy

With anything that is left, I make a plan on how I will display them. Sometimes that means framing things, cleaning them or altering them in some way. Regardless, this means less of those items are actually clutter.

They are now a meaningful part of my home decor with the chance to bring me joy each day.

Tell Me Your Thoughts!

How to deal with Sentimental clutter
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I’d love to hear about the special items that you choose to keep and display. Do you have something special handed down from a friend or family member? Do you have mementos from special events? Let me know about your favorite pieces and how they came into your life.

How to Be More Organized

“I always carry lots of stuff with me wherever I roam, always weighted down with books, with cassettes, with pens and paper, just in case I get the urge to sit down somewhere, and oh, I don’t know, read something or write my masterpiece.”

-Elizabeth Wurtzel, author

The creative process and organization are closely aligned. While the word “organized” may make some people think of a grey, stifled office cubicle filled with dead-looking filing cabinets, you can be organized in such a way that promotes the creative process. The trick requires balancing the process with the end result. Essentially, you need to use organization as a tool to aid creativity without stifling your energy.

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Vintage Chair Transformation ( with Good Bones Paint)

Vintage IKEA Blue Chair Transformation with Good Bones Paint

Ever since I attended a class at James T. Davis in Lynchburg, VA, I’ve wanted to try Good Bones Paint on a furniture project. Their product advertises “NO SANDING. NO PRIMING. NO SEALING.” making it “a truly a one-step furniture paint.”

Personally, I did opt to prep my chairs because they were old, IKEA furniture. My parents had purchased them as part of a set in the 1980s. I remember the little white table and chairs as one of my first crafting and coloring stations.

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Why You Need to Declutter Your Life

Clutter is such a fascinating word. Its both the individual pieces and the state of all those pieces put together. It’s an active verb. It’s a state of being. It’s a process.

Almost every self-help decluttering guide focuses on the central theme of feeling overwhelmed by stuff. You are literally tripping over things and it gets in the way of your life. My personal (and continuing) journey to decluttering started with similar frustration.

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