Simplify the Holidays
I know there are many different personality types, but for me this equation governs much of my decision-making and habits:
COMPLEXITY = STRESS
I like things simple. Often simple translates to less consumption, less busy-ness, more time, more richness, and I would say more fun. And simple usually lives harmoniously with good money choices too.
Center for a New American Dream
Since I’m a fan of simple, one of my favorite places to visit (virtually) is the Center for a New American Dream (CNAD). The Center’s mission is to help Americans “reduce and shift their consumption to improve quality of life, protect the environment, and promote social justice.” In a nutshell, CNAD aims to rupture the destructive connections between “the American dream,” consumerism, and hyper-consumption. How and why did the American dream become synonymous with a McMansion and owning lots of stuff? Is the money, debt, and materialism treadmill on which many Americans find themselves making them happy or good for our society? If not, then why not get off?
Simplify the Holidays Pledge
One of the initiatives CNAD’s got going right now is its Simplify the Holidays Pledge. The Center’s come up with fifteen suggestions for simplifying your holiday time. By doing so you’ll feel far less stress, enjoy your family and holiday gatherings more, and emerge from the season without a money hangover.
Here are CNAD’s fifteen holiday pledge suggestions:
- GIVE THE GIFT OF TIME by creating your own gift card for a service (e.g., babysitting, car washing, petsitting, chores, making dinner, organizing an outing).
- GIVE A HANDMADE GIFT like a memoir of cherished memories with that person, a book of family recipes, a collage of pictures and mementos, or a calendar filled with the birthdays and anniversaries of friends and family.
- OFFER TO TEACH A SKILL YOU POSSESS (e.g., knitting, photography, computer skills, financial planning, a foreign language, music lessons, canning tomatoes, cooking a favorite recipe).
- CONSIDER LESS GIMMICKY, LESS COMMERCIAL GIFTS for children, such as arts/crafts supplies, books, a magnifying glass, or building blocks.
- CREATE A PAPERLESS HOLIDAY LETTER on the computer and email it to friends and family.
- HAVE A WHITE ELEPHANT PARTY at the office instead of a traditional gift exchange, where each person brings a wrapped secondhand item in good condition.
- DRAW NAMES IN YOUR FAMILY FOR GIFT-GIVING (for extra fun and surprise, make it “Secret Santas”), so that you can put more time and thought into one gift instead of having to give to several people.
- SHOP FOR USED ITEMS for all or most of your holiday gifts (e.g., local thrift store, Craigslist, Freecycle, used products on Amazon or eBay).
- SHARE THE GIFT OF MUSIC by caroling, and include visits to elderly neighbors or a nursing home. Or, gather friends and family for an in-home holiday sing-a-long.
- GIVE BACK TO YOUR COMMUNITY by preparing care packages for the homeless, or volunteering at an organization to help those in need during the holiday season.
- ADOPT A “LESS IS MORE” ATTITUDE toward holiday decorating. Opt for natural trimmings such as clippings from local evergreens and holly bushes.
- SAVE PAPER by wrapping gifts in newspaper comics, junk mail, paper bags decorated with markers, old maps, phone books, or other reused paper.
- PREPARE YOUR HOLIDAY MEALS with as many seasonal, locally grown, and/or organic foods as possible.
- REDUCE JUNK MAIL by removing your name from mailing lists of unwanted holiday catalogs.
- CELEBRATE BUY NOTHING DAY on November 23 and spend that day doing community service, visiting an elderly friend, helping a neighbor, or just enjoying time with family.
I’m not sure I’d wrap gifts in junk mail or phone book pages, and official Buy Nothing Day is over (though you could set your own—December 26 maybe?), but do several of these ideas sound good to you? You can learn more and take the Center for a New American Dream pledge here. It’ll help get your 2013 off to a great start.
How About You?
Are you consciously taking steps to simplify your holidays? Are you feeling stressed? Do your holiday activities make you feel the way you’d like to feel during the season?