I have to be honest. I don't love holidays, or at least what they have turned into. I actually feel my chest tighten and my back stiffen at the mere thought of holidays (any really!). Does this sound familiar?
The holidays have changed incredibly over the past 50 years. What used to be a holiday centred around food, sharing and love, has turned into a race for the biggest and best. The best Christmas tree. The best gift. The biggest turkey. The best decorations. The best party. It's consumerism at it's worst.
Stuff. Stuff. Stuff. More stuff! Everyone rushing around to buy the "perfect" gift for everyone on their list. Everyone trying to make their house look perfect and their meals taste like heaven. Instagram photos. Pinterest pins. Facebook updates. It's all exhausting to me.
How do we find the balance between consumption and necessities. Between a little bit of fun and going overboard. How do we balance wants with needs.
Over the years I have found strategies, ideas and tips that work well. Here are a few of our favorites that help our family simplify the holidays and find balance.
1. DIY Decorations - make all your decorations. I know what you're thinking - this isn't making the holidays more simple! I am adding more work to my life. I promise though, the DIY route can be easier. You don't need hundreds of fancy decorations - those take up space and time in your life. Go outside cut your own tree, or branch even, and make some decorations with your children. Grab some old fabrics (shirts if you want) and cut them into strips to use as garland. Make cinnamon scented orange slices (dehydrated) for garland and decorations throughout your home. Cut some greenery from your backyard or head to a local tree farm. Go for the natural look in your home and you won't regret it!
2. Wrap all your gifts without spending a cent! Use leftover fabrics, newspapers, tea towels, silk scarves. Whatever you can get your hands on in your own home - use it to wrap with! Burlap bags, leftover food packaging (such as cereal boxes). You can add a touch of festivities or beauty to it with dried flowers, small branches, pine needles, dehydrated orange slices. If your children are forever painting and coloring masterpieces, use these works of art as cards or wrapping. It is fabulous way to showcase their art to family and friends and save packaging at the same time.
3. Keep gift giving simple and meaningful. You don't have to buy a gift for every person you meet! Stop wasting your money and time on stuff you know they won't use or don't want. The holidays aren't about stuff! What about having a lovely poem printed on some card stock? Or a basic water color painting (rainbow, tree, watermelon slice). Opt for a gift exchange with adult family members instead of purchasing a gift for everyone individually. Have you tried the Want, Need, Wear and Read strategy for gifting with kids? Instead of purchasing tons of gifts purchase one gift from each of the above categories. If you want to throw in a stocking as well go for it!
4. Create your own traditions. Don't like making that long drive to ________? Try spending the holidays at home this year. If your familly is disappointed let them know they are more than welcome to join you on an alternate date. Christmas dinner has your panties in a bunch? Try a boxing day brunch instead! Give gifts on Christmas eve instead of Christmas morning. What about 24 days of gratitude instead of an advent calendar?
5. Say no! Opt out of everything that doesn't bring you joy and ease. Saying no can be hard, especially during during the holidays. The pressure we feel from family and friends to participate is high and we don't want others to feel as though we've let them down. But if you are always saying yes and not taking time for yourself and your family, you are ultimately letting yourself down. Is it worth the risk? There are kind and compassionate ways to say no without being harsh and cold. Not feeling the work party this year? Tell them you are keeping things low key this year. Not interested in Christmas carolling with your church group? Let them know it doesn't work for you. Here is a great graphic from Ask for What you Want about 12 ways to say no.