If you holiday shop like I do, the experience goes something like this: I go into a store with the intention of buying gifts for family. Next thing, I’ve purchased five holiday gifts for my home, which doesn’t need them, and nothing for anyone on my list.
“The temptation is real,” said Mary Collette Rogers, a kitchen expert based in Boulder whom I tap now and then when looking for a serving of common sense. “You say, ‘Oh isn’t that cute!’ Because of the appealing way stores merchandise, you get sucked in.”
No kidding. One minute you’re full of budget-minded resolve, edited lists and gift-shopping discipline, and the next you’re buying candy-cane stocking hangers, and gingerbread house kits.
Although I would be the last person to tell you not to buy something beautiful and enjoyable for your holiday home — especially after the 20 months we’ve been through — I might gently suggest that before you or I splurge, we ask ourselves: Does this fill a glaring gap in my holiday houseware?
Does it go with the rest of my home? Do I have room to store it? Can I get rid of something that it’s replacing?
Here are a few more thoughts to help you pump the brakes when holiday shopping:
• Take inventory. Make this deal with yourself: Before shopping, first take out all your holiday home décor and assess what you have (more than you think and probably more than last year). This works like a wrist slap and helps keep you from piling on more.
• Give before you get. Take a good look at what you have too much of and what you could give away. For instance, if you have managed to amass 12 platters over the years, consider handing some down to the next generation. “In your kitchen alone, you probably only use 15% of what you have,” Rogers said. “Weed through the rest looking for duplicates or never-used items to hand down or donate. Your kitchen will instantly become more efficient.”
• Skip the Christmas china. I might be too late, but if you don’t already own a set of Christmas dishes, do not feel compelled. Rather, Rogers said, ask yourself, “Do I really want to buy and store a set of dishes I can use only at Christmas?” Is that what makes the holiday? Or can I create a festive feeling with a few special touches?” If you want a set of china for special occasions in addition to your everyday dishes, pick a pattern that works year-round, like one that’s white with a gold rim, as opposed to one with spring flowers or a Christmas tree.
• Cut the colored crystal. Similarly, resist the impulse to buy red or green, cut-crystal wine glasses. Stick with clear. Though colored glassware can work for other beverages, part of appreciating wine is to see it.
• Avoid one-shot wonders. For those home chefs who see the holidays as a good reason to beef up their kitchenware, Rogers has this crave-crushing news: “If your kitchen works well for everyday cooking, you should have all the cookware you need for holiday meals and parties.” In other words, you probably don’t need to buy anything. Regardless, don’t fall for gadgets that only do one thing. Gizmos such as a corncob kernel remover, an egg separator or a crème brulée torch waste money and space. This advice goes double for infrequently used appliances such as that chocolate fountain or Mickey Mouse waffle iron.
• Beware theme-y patterns. In general, good design is about capturing the essence of a season or holiday, not a literal image. So, rather than buy a tablecloth embellished with holiday wreaths, or cloth napkins emblazoned with sleighs full of toys, choose solid color table linens in seasonal colors that go with your décor.
All that aside, if you’re out shopping for others this season, and you come across that enchanting holiday item that speaks to you from among all the pretty displays, by all means get it.
Marni Jameson is the author of six home and lifestyle books, including “Downsizing the Blended Home – When Two Households Become One.” Reach her at marnijameson.com.