Holiday Cheer in Small Spaces

There will no doubt be no shortage of “green” holiday tips this time of year. I’m expanding on that with some tips on how to celebrate within your green lifestyle–namely, a small living space. Living small doesn’t mean you need to miss out on holiday celebrations.
  • Eating-You don’t have to miss out on hosting that holiday meal just because you have a small space. Use a table with leaves, and store them when not in use. Use folding chairs and card tables that can be stored in clever places. Tables, chairs, and linens can also be rented. Nice linens, candles, and center pieces can dress up any room. If your kitchen is too small for preparations, you can always go the potluck route.
  • Your local Goodwill or thrift store is usually a treasure trove of fun china, serving dishes, and seasonal linens. Save money and go green by buying these rarely used items, well, used.
  • Even in my modestly sized condo, I have to have a tree, but like many multifamily buildings, we do not have yard waste pick up. Lucky for those of us in Seattle, you can take your tree to the transfer station free of charge, usually for about two weeks after Christmas. Or, look for tree-recycling events in your city.
  • If you have a yard, another great option is a living tree, which is smaller (ranging in size from a potted plant to an actual tree). Since it’s alive, you don’t as much of that great smell, but you can replant it in your yard, so after a few years you have your own little tree farm.
  • No room to decorate at all? Enjoy others decorations by visiting department stores, wineries, and hotel lobbies.
  • There’s no need for a permanent guest bedroom. Blow up queen sized air mattresses are a great alternative to a guest bedroom, and take up very little space when not in use. Consolidate kids in one space with a tent or sleeping bags for a fun slumber party. A sofa that folds down into a bed is a great modern alternative to the clunky sofa bed. Don’t let the word “futon” give you a college apartment flashback–the fold down sofas available now are much classier.
  • As much as I love having everyone in one house, paying a higher mortgage or extra rent to have a guest bedroom can be much more expensive than a hotel room a few nights a year for your guests.
  • Short on storage space? Use those flat gift boxes to store lights and decorations in small spaces. Store seasonal items in matching bins above your cabinets or under furniture the rest of the year.
  • This is more along the lines of just a plain old green holiday tip, but I must admit that I am one of those picky people who saves wrapping and tissue paper, ribbons, and gift bags. I even reuse tinsel year after year (I like the old fashioned silver stringy kind, and you have to pick out every bit anyway if you are taking a tree to be recycled). It doesn’t take much space to store these things, and it saves money and helps curb holiday waste.
  • It’s a busy time of year for most, but do some last minute purging now, ahead of spring cleaning. Look for charities that need gently used items, or recycle your computer with a program like InterConnection in Seattle, and you can deduct those from your 2013 taxes if you itemize.

To help others with small spaces, think twice before buying someone a holiday trinket. As the daughter of a preschool teacher, I have seen how many stuffed Santa’s and wooden snowmen my mom gets each year. As thoughtful as they are, these items can be wasteful, have to be stored, and can just turn into clutter, especially if they are not someone’s style. Opt for something like a gift card to a book store, spa or restaurant instead.