Halloween decorations still up and a wet sock on the tree: Advent is off to a rollicking start at the Fulwiler house

December 10, 2015 | 9 comments

Advent is usually a season of fail for me. High expectations collide with low estimates of how many free hours I actually have in a day, and the result is lot of staring at Instagram in despair as I convince myself that everyone else gets an A+ for their holiday celebrations and I get an F.

This year I decided to take the approach of setting my expectations much, much lower. I’d say it’s going well.


We don’t have a single decoration on the tree, unless you count the wet sock that my son set on there to dry, but I consider it a win that we have a tree at all. I feel like a champion compared to the year that Yaya had to take matters into her own hands and throw a Douglas fir on our doorstep.

I was going to take down the Halloween ghost lights that send my neighbors the very clear message that I can’t deal with life, but then awesome people on Facebook pointed out that they look like Christmas bells so I decided to leave them up.


I had big plans to celebrate St. Nicholas Day this year, and then I took one look at our shoe corner and realized that St. Nicholas would die if he rolled up to this house with his bag of coins and candy and encountered this mess.


(Also, it is not particularly appetizing to imagine eating goodies that have been sitting in some of our third-generation hand-me-down footwear.)

Advent is off to its usual fail-ridden start around here, but I have to say, I feel pretty good about it. I feel good because there’s one big thing that I am finally tackling right now: the clutter.

With eight people living in the same three-bedroom house for the better part of a decade, most of them children, it was starting to feel like I was in a horror movie where a nefarious army of stuffed animals and half-naked Barbies slowly take over a house.

It was time for a bold move, so we did something crazy:

We asked for help. We hired a professional organizer.

I was skeptical that having someone like that come to the house would make a difference, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. To have someone else push forward the decluttering process drastically reduces not just the physical energy I have to expend, but the mental energy as well.


For fellow organizing nerds, here are a couple of before and afters:



(I’m pretty much ready to hire a live-in professional organizer.)

I still don’t have the tree decorated, and we’re about four days behind on opening the Advent calendar, but I’m okay with that. I think I’m finally at a place of spiritual confidence where I can say:

There are ghost lights on my front door and a sock drying on my tree and I’m spending more time working with a professional organizer than baking ginger bread cookies, but this is what Advent needs to look like for us this year.

I hope you’re having a great Advent that is exactly what you need as well!

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On another note — I release a free podcast with highlights from my radio show each week. You can look it up by searching for The Jennifer Fulwiler Show on iTunes or on your favorite podcasting app. Here’s the latest episode (click here if you don’t see a player below):

P.S. If you want to know what I’m up to right now, come say hi on Facebook, Instagram (@jenniferfulwiler), or Twitter (@jenfulwiler)!


  1. Amy

    Your ghost lights remind me of the time I left a three-foot across Halloween spider in the bushes in front of my house for so long that I went out and bought 8 little Christmas stockings and put them on each of his legs. Christmas spider!

  2. Meredith

    Jen, I love your candor. Here’s to an Advent preparing us all, in one way or another, to be humbled by Christ’s birth!

  3. Lauren

    I love it. Cleaning out clutter and organizing is one of the best symbolic activities you can do during Advent, in my opinion. Happy Advent!

  4. Lynne

    Jen, I’m on about week 3 of a major life epiphany: my daughter and I and maybe some other people in my family have a.d.d. I know this is the catchphrase for all things hyper and spacey, so it’s sort of lost it’s significance. Let’s just say it isn’t about little boys bouncing off the walls. It’s about grown women who can’t “get it all together.” I’m not looking for excuses or diagnoses, but wowza, if taking some medication or trying some different strategies can help my daughter and I feel more normal and less like fails, then I’m for that. Not that you are a.d.d., but, well…if the large pile of shoes fit…. Point is, your post is one I totally relate to and I LOVE that you have a sock on your tree and ghost-bells on your door, and that you have a person helping you organize your home. At age 45 I’m trying to learn to do the same. Prayers for you always!

  5. Lynne

    Well don’t I sound like some kind of bizarre Adderall junkie!? lol Please know there is more to the story and I don’t advocate medicating yourself so you can get your Christmas tree up and decorated by Dec. 10.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      No, I knew exactly what you meant! That’s a very interesting perspective — I wouldn’t be surprised if I have mild ADD. 🙂

  6. Erin

    Yeah, I think this year’s about par for the course. We’re (supposedly) going to get a tree this weekend, whether it gets decorated or not remains to be seen. I forgot St. Nicholas Day and nearly forgot the Feast of the Immaculate Conception — I didn’t remind my husband to leave work early, so we arrived at Mass 20 minutes late and had to stand in the back with all 3 kids and try not to get run over by the ushers. I still haven’t located our Advent calendar OR our nativity. I’m hoping that pitching a “straw” tent over our Holy Family statue counts, we’ll have to go scrounging in the kids’ toys for animals and kings. And although we’ve been very good about lighting our Advent candles every night at dinner time and singing “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” when I pulled out the wreath (which still has no greenery added to it, so it’s really just a naked candleholder) I found we had no red candles left, so it’s got the other three until I get to the store… BUT! We’ve been reading lots of seasonally-themed books and our family prayer life is growing!

  7. Calee

    Nothing says getting ready for a baby like clearing out the house. Looks like you’re on the right track!

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