Now I know this is my fault. I don't have to read magazines and perhaps I shouldn't, especially not in the run up to Christmas. I don't have to read weekend papers and watch television but, heck, I like all those things. I am a real newspaper addict, love my particular magazines dearly (Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Woman and Home, Gardens Illustrated and The English Garden since you asked, with occasional diversions into Red) and while I don't watch a lot of television, what I do like are things that make me laugh like "The Thick of It" and cookery or gardening programmes, particularly ones like River Cottage which talk about growing and cooking the kind of food I like.
So I don't really want to turn into Mrs Grumpy and give up my usual pleasures during the run up to Christmas but I am plodding through my usual reading feeling that the country is running mad. Do people really give each other £900 headsets from Swavorski or is it a joke? Do they spend £68 on a child's watch? I don't spend that much on my own watch and any of my children would have broken or lost it within a week until they were well into their teens. Do people buy Prada velvet and crystal shoes for £505? Does every child have a laptop and a mobile phone by the time they are eight? I know there are some fabulous exceptions. (Have a look at Who's the Mummy's fantastic toy guide for a reminder that there are lots of great things out there which don't break the bank.) But an hour or two with my favourite papers and magazines at the moment is making me feel quite queasy.
Similarly, do people really fret and angst about cooking the Christmas meal to the extent that magazines and television imply that they do? Come on, it's only a roast dinner. If you can roast a chicken you can roast a turkey and if the problem is not knowing what to do with a great big bird, ask yourself exactly why five of you need a 14lb turkey anyway. Buy a 10lb one and you won't find it that different from cooking a chicken and you'll have plenty, unless you intend to feed twenty five which I suggest you don't do unless you like doing it. Sorry, I can hear myself getting bossy here.
And all the endless exhortations to "get ahead"! Yes, it is great to have some meals in the freezer if you have guests staying for days but how long are the shops going to be shut? Less than forty eight hours? You don't need to behave as if we are all going to be snowbound for a fortnight.
All that stuff about stress and how to cope with your awful relatives at Christmas too! Do people really get so stressed by making a Christmas dinner and sharing it with their in laws?
It all makes me want to say:
Buy less. We all have way too much stuff. I know present giving feels like showing your loved ones how much you care and I am absolutely not immune from that sensation that somehow you haven't found the best and brightest and biggest present or from the desire to please and cherish. But maybe we can please and cherish with time and care and something smaller or even home made.
Fret less. Your house doesn't have to be perfect, neither do your children and neither do you. Hang up the cards, bring a tree in (one you can put back outside if you can, but a fresh one which smells like a tree), light a few candles or a fire and it looks festive and Christmassy without spending a fortune on decorations from John Lewis or hours making home made gingerbread men, unless of course you like making home made gingerbread men.
And I suppose that the thing I feel like saying most of all, especially to women, is to enjoy it, do what you like doing. If you are newly weds and you really want to spend Christmas at home together, eating special food, going to bed for the afternoon, watching old movies, well do it. Things will change and when you have a family the chance for a little loving selfishness won't happen for another twenty years. You can go visiting parents before and after Christmas Day and shower them with some of your bright and shiny loving kindness.
If you are exhausted balancing work and home and the very last thing you feel like doing is cooking a Christmas meal and washing up afterwards, don't. Go out to a hotel, go abroad, run away, drum up some assistance. Work out what you need to do to have a nice time and, in so far as it is reasonable, do it.
And if some of your relatives are a bit trying either don't invite them at all, or, if that would create World War III, put up with it. It is only a few hours of listening to the same old stories and swigging another glass of wine. Surround yourself with the people you love and if you have to have the odd one who you wouldn't have through the door were it not for the sake of one you love dearly, well that's the deal in family life. "Suck it up" as my son would say.
If you are a religious person, Christmas will have a meaning for you that ought to make sense of the celebration, but if you are not it can still be a great time: a few days off work, the company of your nearest and dearest, nice food, the chance to sit by the fire or go for a walk, a pause in the rush of life while the year turns. Turn your back on excess, whether it is excess consumption or excess fuss, and have a good time whether it is with those you love or on your own. You know anyway that the best bit is always the cold turkey sandwich on Boxing Day.
I am way too messy to be a minimalist but this might be a time to borrow their slogan: less is more.