Give presence, wrap wine in socks – tips for a minimalist Christmas

Stress levels rising? To-do lists lengthening? Five experts tell us how have a simpler, calmer Christmas

With the festive season’s time frame stretching to two months in some households, we sought the advice of experts to help you avoid its pitfalls of tension and excess, and to manage expectations throughout. They reimagine how it could be, given a dash of altruism and with less consumption and clutter.

The Minimalist, Ryan Nicodemus

How to gift at Christmas time in a meaningful way

Ryan Nicodemus, along with his business partner and lifelong friend Joshua Becker, comprise The Minimalists. The pair took Netflix by storm with their series Less is More in 2021 and they have millions of followers across various platforms.

Nicodemus, who is half Irish, has a good insight into the unique Christmas experience of these shores. The first step towards keeping it simple, he says, is to avoid key marketing dates “whether it’s Black Friday or any of the subsequent big shopping weekends”.

Such sales, says Nicodemus, “are designed to take advantage of our insatiable desire to consume”.


Nicodemus abandoned a lucrative corporate career in favour of a honed-down existence and rates quality time as the premium Christmas gift.

“The best present is presence,” he says. “The people I care about mean much more to me than the unwanted additional clutter of a new pair of shoes or a fancy new gadget or a tie clip.”

This Minimalist also advocates contributing to a cause or a soup-kitchen and remembers a Christmas he spent with Joshua at a food bank.

“When we step into our discomfort zones and contribute beyond ourselves we grow, we experience the world in a different way and we gain new perspectives from which to be thankful,” he says.

KonMari expert Vera Keohane

How to take the mess out of Christmas in your home

Personal organiser Vera Keohane is the founder of Enjoy Your Home. She trained with decluttering guru Marie Kondo in New York to become Ireland’s first KonMari consultant.

Keohane advocates a less-is-more policy. Once you’ve decided to purchase, “consider the value of something, rather than the cost”, she says. “Opt for local, quality items – while more expensive on the upfront, they will save you money in the longer term as you will not need to re-buy again and again.”

Unwanted gifts should not take up space in the home, says Keohane. After expressing gratitude to the giver, they should be returned or donated.

“Pass them on to win back the space in [your] home,” she advises. And if you’re tempted to feel ungrateful? “People need to remember that nobody intentionally wishes to burden us with unnecessary clutter to deal with.”

Keohane also has a solution for wrapping presents: “My number one tip for this is to use something reusable, like a new tea towel or socks, which are perfect for wine, to wrap your gifts. This style of wrapping, called furoshiki, was created out of necessity in Japan, but is a really wonderful idea.

“If Santa Claus is visiting your house this year why not leave out a reusable Santa sack so that children’s gifts can be put into that year after year rather than individually wrapped?”

Richard Hogan

How to have the best Christmas for family, mind and soul

Psychotherapist and author Richard Hogan warns that it is not “the most wonderful time of the year” for everyone, particularly with the onslaught of and pressure from Christmas advertising in a cash-strapped economy.

“We all want to make our children’s experience of Christmas special but, remember, materialism doesn’t make a special Christmas,” he says. “It is about the atmosphere you create in the home – those are the memories your children recall.”

Hogan suggests a practical approach as a hard January looms in some homes.

“Think about how many presents you actually remember,” he says. “Of course, there will be one or two that were particularly special but, other than that, you probably cannot recall many others. I often ask my children about what they asked for last year. That question can be met with silence.”

He suggests that, as there are logistical limits to where Santa can deliver and reasons why he can’t get to some children, limits should be placed on expectations. It is, he says, “an important realisation [that] you can’t always get what you want and you should think of others too”.

Man Can Cook, Daniel Rankin

How to have (mostly) healthy and mindful Christmas meals

Daniel Rankin has been dishing up healthy eating and lifestyle advice for years – accompanied by his canine friend Fraser and the sound of some great bangers – to hundreds of thousands of followers across various platforms and on his website Man Can Cook.

His first tip is to eat slowly and to “stop at satisfied, instead of stuffed”.

“It takes 15-20 minutes for your digestive system to let your brain know that you’re satisfied,” says Rankin. “Slowing down a meal allows that to happen before you overeat. When you slow down you ‘sense into’, and savour your food; you feel content with much less. This means you’ll eat less but enjoy what you’ve eaten more.”

Rankin’s second seasonal strategy is to eat lots and lots of veggies.

“They’re water-dense, calorie-sparse and full of the nutrients you need to keep your energy and mood up for holiday party number 17,” he says. “They will also help fill you up, which will help with hunger cues.”

Let’s face it, people are still going to push the boat out and, with that in mind, Rankin says to just go with it and be in the moment.

“Enjoy some real cookies this holiday season. Or some other thing you enjoy but think is off-limits. Just do it consciously, mindfully and joyfully. Stay present and checked in. Choose with purpose. Then move on.”

Fitness and life coach Karl Henry

How to have the Christmas craic without losing your wellness mojo

Karl Henry, the personal trainer from RTÉ’s Operation Transformation, recognises the importance of marking the festive season but without overdoing it.

“Christmas is a time to celebrate, recalibrate, socialise and recover from a busy year,” he says. “But the week after Christmas is such an epic time to stay healthy, set targets and set yourself up for health not only that week but for 2024.”

Henry’s best tips include to get your exercise completed early in the day, to do it as part of a team and, every so often, to indulge.

“Have the chocolate and the extra roast spuds but just not every day,” he advises. “Choose your meals and days, and eat normally the rest of the time.”

He also suggests a plan, review and re-boot strategy.

“Set yourself up for success, stock up on the food you want to eat, schedule in your exercise and set some small, simple goals.”