Downsizing means a new approach to holiday decorating.
Story by Carol McGarvey
Photography by tim Abramowitz
Featured in November/December 2020
Like a number of central Iowans, Cindy Johnson of Grimes has had to rethink her approach to Christmas decorating. She formerly lived in a large family home with 7,500 square feet, where “I went a little over the top in decorations.” Yes, she says she had decorations everywhere in a big two-story home.
Now single and with kids grown, she is in a walkout ranch home with 3,000 square feet. “Needless to say, I have cut back a lot. And with a new home, I have downsized and have taken a more minimalist approach,” she admits.
The busy businesswoman—she’s a Realtor with Coldwell-Banker and owns a property management company as well—has thought through her new approach while also keeping her foot firmly entrenched in tradition. “I have always been a Christmas elf. I just absolutely love the whole season and all that it entails.”
She savors celebrating with family. Growing up in Granger, she was the only girl among five brothers. Her own family includes a daughter and son-in-law, two sons, one daughter-in-law, and six grandsons. “It’s a big family when we’re all together, and I love it. It’s not uncommon to have 35 people or more at a holiday party, especially when all of my brothers and their families attend.”
Sorted and donated
To downsize, she judiciously went through everything Christmas and sorted and culled. She donated items so they could find new life in another home, discarded some things, and kept what she felt best showcased her new lifestyle.
What she did keep for sure included her Santa Claus collection. “We used to operate a small golf course, so I have two golfing Santas, along with a Santa in colorful PJs, one waving an American flag, and a variety of traditional Santa figures.” All have a twinkle in their eyes.
Some have been gifts over the years, and Cindy has purchased some locally or when she travels. Her grandkids love them. “If the Santa figures speak to me, I take them home,” she says. “There has to be a connection I can feel.”
Guests are greeted at the front door by a ginormous wreath and six Santa and Father Christmas figures, plus a welcoming snowman. Setting the tone is a sign extolling “the most wonderful time of the year.” On the floor nearby are three thin sequined trees in various heights in sparkly gold, red, and silver.
The open great-room in gray, black, and white takes on a layer of color for the holidays. A showy 9-foot tree decked out in blue and white with a wide white tulle garland stands in a corner next to the fireplace, where white, gray, and navy stockings with snowflake designs await Santa’s visit.
On the coffee table in front of the sectional sofa, a sleigh and sparkly small tree add to the festive look.
More Santas smile down from above the cabinets in the open kitchen. One is a patriotic Santa waving a flag, along with other traditional gift givers and greenery.
The dining area nearby sports a 7-foot frosted pencil tree decorated with red Christmas balls for a slightly contemporary look. Around the table stand two wing chairs, two upholstered chairs, and a bench. The stylized centerpiece features three rings with candles and red berries. A large wooden Santa standing by the stairway to the lower level presides over the whole scene.
Downstairs is a Father Christmas figure, almost life-size. He stands near a beautiful vintage Nativity set with many figurines. “It was made many years ago by a friend of my mother’s,” Cindy explains. “It’s very special.”
There’s a pencil “kid tree” with photos and mementos of children’s and grandchildren’s growing-up times. On the kitchenette counter are five more Santa figures in front of a Family Rules sign with suggestions such as these:
Laugh at Yourself
Say I Love You
Do Your Best
Try New Things
There are stockings for pets, including Nash, short for Nashville, the Boston terrier.
And the nice thing about the new house is that there’s lots of built-in storage for packing away the holiday items.
“It’s all working out beautifully,” Cindy says. “I absolutely love the Christmas spirit.” •