What a Christmas Tree Skirt Taught Me About Questioning Tradition is a cheery Dec 10, 2019 post by my colleague Kathy Vines of Clever Girl Organizing. Kathy and I first met when she organized a panel for Professional Organizers about marketing: she honored me by asking me, owner of Casual Uncluttering, to be one of the panelists. We’ve been glad correspondents ever since. I particularly appreciated this post because… drum roll please… I have “PUT THE LIGHTS ON FIRST” emblazoned on my tree’s box because I used to put them on last and, well, Strands Normal All Fouled Up.
“Shortly after Thanksgiving, ideally that weekend, I like to have Christmas ready to go. HandyBoy (my husband) and I get the lights on the house, especially if the weather is more than 50 degrees here in Boston, since we can’t count on another one of those coming on a weekend. I finish my handmade holiday cards so they can get in the mail right after the weekend. And the Christmas Tree goes up. Last year, we did a real tree, but for a few reasons, we decided to go back to our tried-and-true artificial tree this year, which is still lovely. Decorating the tree is a ritual of sequence for me, including some decorations I’ve owned over 30 years, where the tradition of what goes on when and where really matters to me. This year, however, HandyBoy got involved in setting up the tree and my world was permanently rocked.
You see, he usually kind of leaves me to it. He gets me set by bringing the tree and the decoration bins up from the basement but gets out of my way while I put it all together. I don’t mind; in fact, I kind of prefer being able to have my tree “just so”, and he doesn’t seem to mind letting me have my vision on this. This year, for some reason, he was more motivated to get the tree up a bit earlier than I might have and motivated enough to start doing the assembly. He opened up the tree bag and took out the various pieces as I let him know what the order should be. He put the base together and in the spot it goes, and then, he grabbed the Christmas tree skirt and put it on top of the base before moving on to inserting the tree pole.
I was aghast! I screamed quietly inside my own brain,
“WHAT is he DOing?!?!? THE TREE SKIRT GOES ON LAST!!”
But before I opened my mouth, I miraculously stopped myself, for a few reasons.
First, I knew I was fortunate to have his help. It is super awesome that he is engaged and being helpful here, and I didn’t have to ask or negotiate to have his help with this. I mean, if this isn’t the purpose of decorating our home for the holidays so that we can both enjoy it, what is?
Second, I mean… hmm… maybe putting on the skirt now isn’t such a terrible idea. I don’t have to get on the ground and navigate carefully around and under the tree, and it isn’t preventing anything else from happening with the decorating. It’s actually kind of efficient. And, well, aren’t I all about finding opportunities to question assumptions in systems and find alternatives that are better and more efficient?
The part that felt wounded was the tradition of it all… the “finishing touch” that laying the tree skirt seemed to represent in my brain. But inside my brain is the only place it lived and didn’t really live there for a reason. I’d just learned it that way, and I continued it, without question. Even though it clearly is the HARDER option. Because it is Christmas, it’s “Tradition,” so somehow, the choice seems more sacred. But is it any more sacred than other things that happen every day in our homes?
I think about that when I work with my clients, and I ask them about their systems and how things have come about in their homes. Systems evolve from things like “I guess we just started that way when we moved in and never thought about it again” or “well, it made sense when the kids were young, but I guess they’re older now.” I provide a new set of eyes ad a voice to help people rethink their surroundings and how they spend their time there, to help them solve the problems they most want to be solved. And yes, often, there’s a big head-scratcher of a moment where you just can’t seem to come up with a good answer of why you shouldn’t make a change. It just never occurred to you that change was an option.
That’s my tree-skirt-moment: It never occurred to me there was another way, so it never occurred to me to try and find one.
And now, I can’t imagine I’ll ever do it any other way again. I’m a Tree-Skirt-First convert! Thanks and Merry Christmas, HandyBoy!”