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the holiday season November 7, 2009

Filed under: holidays — Liz @ 4:28 am

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Believe it or not, the holidays are upon us. Before you know it you’ll be listening to Christmas music ad nauseum, you’ll be stressing over the perfect Christmas gift and you’ll overextend yourself by attempting to do too much. It’s happened to me many a time, and from a browse around the blogosphere I know it happens to plenty of other women, too.

How can we put meaning back into the season? You may notice an emerging theme in my suggestions – a theme that I continue to develop in my own search for simplicity and meaning.

First, identify your priorities. What do you really enjoy about the holidays? What family traditions do you want to establish or continue? Write these down so that you can come back to them when you feel overwhelmed. Keep the list short:

I enjoy the time with family. With all of my family in town, we’ll be sure to have a game night and a few special meals together.

I enjoy the decorations – but I prefer them to be kept simple.

I enjoy the gift-giving aspect of Christmas but I don’t want to go overboard. My family is doing a gift exchange this year.

Last but definitely not least, I enjoy the religious aspect of Christmas (and to a lesser extent, Thanksgiving). The true meaning of Christmas is in the incarnation and I will dwell on this throughout the holiday season.

Now that you have identified what IS important, identify the things that are NOT important. What stressed you out last year? Write it down so that you will remember not to do the same this year.

I won’t schedule too many events on any one day.

I won’t try to do too much – I don’t need to give every person I know a homebaked good.

Look over the two lists that you have created. Does the first list emphasize the “stuff” of the holidays – bigger and better presents, the latest gadget, the endless hours of shopping? Hopefully not!  You should see a trend towards time with family and friends in simple pleasures and away from a gluttony of material goods. In that vein of though, tackle the issue of consumerism. How can you limit (or even eliminate) its impact this year?

Some ideas:

  • Place a dollar limit on gift exchanges.
  • Exchange a different type of gift: give food, or concert tickets, or free babysitting, or an invitation for a future night out.
  • Implement a gift exchange.
  • Forgo gifts altogether and instead plan a special trip or activity. Go skiing or on a cruise. Plan a weekend getaway with friends or family.

To really get into the holiday spirit, think about others. How can you help the people in your community and beyond?

  • Consider buying a gift for a child through Angel Tree
  • Donate to your local food pantry
  • Volunteer to work in a soup kitchen

What are you doing differently this year? What will you continue to do to create a meaningful holiday season for you and your family?

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simplicity is a mindset November 2, 2009

Filed under: contentment,simplicity — Liz @ 2:41 am

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Maybe there are people out there who are naturally content – unfortunately I am not one of them. I can always think of ways that my own life might be better – if this project was done, if my husband did more chores, if my baby was never cranky, if I could take a vacation. Those things are all well and good, but I get caught up in living in the someday portion of my life much to the detriment of the here and now version. As a result, I focus on the shortcomings of the present moment and I am far from content.

Simplicity is a mindset. Contentment is a choice. If you truly desire simple living, you must reshape the way that you view your world. Choose to be content with your surroundings. See the beauty in what you have. This is very much an ongoing exercise that will likely take a lifetime to master. Future posts will address how we can move towards this goal:

  1. Determine your priorities.
  2. Fight consumerism.
  3. Think of others.

What makes you content? What keeps you grounded?