I can hardly bring myself to tell you this. I've lost all my Christmas decorations. Twenty years of accumulated Christmas decorations, including the tree, are gone. I don't have one stocking, not a strand of garland, nor a string of lights. All went to Goodwill.
I know. You're hyperventilating as I am. I will explain. But don't try to follow the logic, not that there's any to follow.
Last March my husband and I ventured into a new, uhh, marital frontier. To take advantage of career opportunities that appealed to both of us - though they were in separate states - and to get out from under the burden of a large house, which was tying us down, we changed things up.
We moved out of our large house in Denver, and rented it to a nice family with four young kids who really do fill up the place. Then we made real estate moves designed to keep our options open as we transition into the second half of our lives. (One child is off to college; the next isn't far behind, and we can glimpse a different kind of life in the distance.) Sitting in front of the fire one night (What were we drinking?) the notion of a place in Florida and one in Colorado sounded fun.
Next thing, I move to Orlando, where I'm renting a house. He moves into a loft in Denver. And we spend a lot of time on Skype and airplanes. Frankly, the whole situation is like dogs in space; we really don't know how this will come out. Anyway, here we aren't.
Back to the lost Christmas decorations. As the movers loaded the first truck, a 26-foot rig headed for Orlando, they came to the last foot that remained for loading and told me I had to make a game-time decision: the patio furniture or the Christmas decorations. (The Christmas boxes were large and numerous).
I took the patio furniture, and told Dan: "You keep the Christmas stuff at your place, and we'll have Christmas in Denver." Solved!
After my send-off, Dan moved to his new place. He sized up his storage area, a cage about the size of a dog crate, and quickly assessed that he had better things, like ski equipment, to put there than Christmas stuff. Hence the donation.
Pass the Kleenex. Breathe. Moving forward, here's the bright side, because if I don't find one I am going to guzzle drain cleaner: I get a do-over.
But first, I called New Orleans interior designer John Stephens, and told him my sad story. "Sentiment is overrated," he said, talking me off the ledge. "After Hurricane Katrina, many people here lost their holiday decorations. In a way it's cathartic. You know what was and that was great, and then there's this line, and then this is new and will be even better."
As I start Christmas from scratch, I've thought about what I did before that I will do again, and what I'll do differently, and took some advice from Stephens:
What I will do the same
• I will get another artificial tree. I'm not knocking traditionalists who want the real deal. But the tree we donated was 14 years old and still looked great. Fake trees don't die, or run out of water, or drop needles. They're an investment up front, but, compared to what real trees cost the investment amortizes nicely.
• I will stick to one color palette. The key to a pulled together look is to pick two colors - one metallic, one rich tone - and add crystal clear. Picture royal purple and gold, peacock and silver, crimson and bronze, accented with bling. Keep colors consistent in all holiday décor. "If you pick one color way, over the years you can add to it with control," said Stephens, "and let your look evolve."
What I will do differently
• I will buy a pre-lit tree. Because nothing causes more holiday friction than not enough, tangled, or burned out lights, I'm getting a pre-lit tree, and opting for LED lights, which should last until my unborn grandchildren are using walkers.
• I won't overdo. This should be easy, since I have nothing. "You don't need to decorate every surface," said Stephens.
• I will decorate only public spaces. It's less work. Here's Stephens' ideal: A wreath on the door and some garland in the entry; a great tree in the living or family room; a festive centerpiece on the dining room table; a Christmas candle and a Santa in the kitchen; a hearth with stockings and something on the mantel, perhaps nutcrackers. And you're done.
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of "House of Havoc" and "The House Always Wins" (Da Capo Press). Contact her through www.marnijameson.com.