farewell to December

farewell-to-december

The stark contrast between the last month of the year and the first one is most welcome by the time the New Year comes. During the height of the holidays, I dream of the quiet and slow-paced days of January.

Meal planning shifts from rich, high-calorie dishes to recipes that are healthy and low-fat. Instead of shopping and acquiring new stuff for everyone, closets get cleaned out and old stuff is given away.

In my post Farewell to November, changes were proposed to some old traditions to make the holidays less hectic. These changes helped simplify our celebration and decrease my stress level.

This was the first year I didn’t mail Christmas cards. Instead, I posted a holiday message on Facebook with a picture of our kids, and sent a text message and photo to some of our friends.

Another change was getting a live Christmas tree. Despite some negative things I heard about it being a chore to water, a fire hazard, and difficult to keep the cat out of, this was my favorite holiday change. I absolutely loved having a real tree instead of an artificial one. The smell was wonderful and there is something magical about the centerpiece of our decorations being organic and alive.

I also vowed to simplify our commitments and we did. This allowed me to be less frazzled at the ones we attended. We still saw most everyone we normally see during the holidays, but chose not to attend some get-togethers and had a few less dishes to prepare and gifts to buy.

Santa also simplified this year and skipped the wrapping paper on the gifts he left and no one even noticed! What everyone did notice was the extra time we had for an impromptu trip to Nashville to visit my sister’s family and a night at the movies to see Star Wars.

Now looking ahead to a brand new year and planning my goals, I’m not too wiped out to dream big, or minimal in my case. I’m inspired by the positive changes that living more simply is bringing. I’m also inspired by the minimalist and zero-waste trailblazers that are making this lifestyle more attainable for me and others. Links to a few of my favorites are below.

One of my goals for 2016 is to decrease the amount of landfill trash we produce by half. We’ve decreased it quite a bit with recycling, but going further will require some changes to what we eat. This will be my biggest challenge yet. My kids are picky eaters and they come by it honestly. My husband and I are not too adventurous when it comes to trying new and healthy food either.

I know that composting is an inevitable part of reducing our landfill waste, but I’m nervous about it. I tried composting a few years ago and it did not go well. I’ll never forget the smell of that failed attempt! Hopefully a little more research and the right kind of composting bin will bring success this time.

Another goal this year is to create a capsule wardrobe. I’m fashionably challenged and wish that everyone in the world would just wear uniforms and be done with all the fuss, so I love the idea of having such a concise, purposeful wardrobe! Just imagine how much easier life would be if the clothes in your closet were things you loved to wear and they could all be mixed and matched so you always have the right outfit for the occasion.

This year I’m ready to spend less time managing my stuff and more time doing the things I love but never seem to have time for. I look forward to the freedom and spontaneity that will come as I get closer to a minimal lifestyle.

Do your goals for the New Year include making your life simpler and living in a way that has a more positive impact on the environment? I wish you luck and would love to hear about your progress!

Helpful Websites

http://www.zerowastehome.com/

I consider Bea Johnson a pioneer of the zero-waste lifestyle. On her website, she provides practical tips and resources to make this lifestyle attainable.

http://www.missminimalist.com/

Francine Jay offers encouragement for your minimal journey through informative blog posts and stories from real-life minimalists. Her books eloquently describe the benefits of living with less stuff.

http://bemorewithless.com/

Courtney Carver serves up some great advice for simplifying on her website, including how to create a capsule wardrobe. Project 333, her minimalist fashion challenge, is something I plan to take part in this year.

farewell to November

farewell-to-november

A few nights ago, I was wide awake at midnight because my internal clock was off track. Setting the alarm for the first time in nearly a week signaled the end of sleeping late and staying up late with the kids. We had some great family meals, watched movies, and took a much-needed break from routine over Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is the calm before the storm, the last peaceful moment before the frenzied rush of the coming weeks. Christmas is at the doorstep ringing the bell. It desperately wanted in last weekend, and I usually usher Thanksgiving out quickly to accommodate.

I’ll admit that Christmas took over a few hours on Black Friday with some online shopping. Gifts are an inevitable part of the holidays, and I always hope to have them bought early so I can avoid last-minute shopping trips.

Christmas is an exciting time, but the world tends to move too fast for me and I have a hard time keeping pace in December. Each year I have new hope that the season won’t be as hectic as the year before and all the holiday preparations will get done in time to relax and enjoy the activities that make this a wonderful time of the year. But no matter how early I start preparing it’s never enough, so I have to wonder if my expectations for this season are unrealistic.

After practicing some minimal habits throughout the year, I’m starting to have a different view of some of our holiday traditions. My usual planning, shopping, decorating, baking, and gift wrapping are a lot to fit in to a schedule that nearly doubles with events during the month. It’s time to consider the purpose behind our traditions and if they need to be changed up a bit.

We send photo cards to friends and relatives each year, but it’s done in more of a mass productive manner than the way I’m sure the tradition was originally intended. I’ve considered eliminating this tradition in favor of a more environmentally conscious and personalized greeting, but am reluctant because I enjoy receiving cards from friends. Perhaps personalized emails with photo attachments will be my new tradition if time permits.

Each gift I give this season will be done more consciously. This year, there are more experiences on our wish lists than before. Gifts will be given because they evoke joy or make life better in some way. I’ll try to avoid giving gifts that were bought because they were a great deal I couldn’t pass up, or because I feel obligated to give something out of a false sense of expectation. Who knows, maybe others feel the same way and wonder why we exchange gifts at all when the act of spending time together is really enough!

As far as decorating, my daughter and I have set up the nativity scene and hung stockings, but other decorations will wait for a week or so. Our artificial pre-lit Christmas tree has been a source of aggravation with branches that take a long time to separate and fluff and sections that won’t stay lit.

I’ve researched Christmas tree alternatives on Pinterest, as well as what type of tree is best for the environment. There are many different opinions on this, but I decided to get a real tree and gave away our artificial one so there’s no turning back now! The great thing about getting a real tree is that it might die if bought too early, so it graciously gives Thanksgiving its due time.

I’m willing to accept that some traditions can’t be changed overnight. Small changes to our holiday traditions just might start new ones that are more meaningful to us, like having time to bake and deliver cookies to friends, make ornaments with the kids, or do something spontaneous to celebrate the holiday.

My husband and son have a tradition of watching The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy over several nights in December. Sometimes they convince me to sit and watch with them, but I’m always distracted by my long to-do list. A calmer state of mind will allow me to be more present, which is worth changing some traditions.

As we say goodbye to November, not rushing through Thanksgiving has set the pace for a less hectic holiday for my family. I plan to let go of some of my former expectations of a perfect Christmas and lighten up on myself.

Things don’t have to be done perfectly, and in fact, some things don’t have to be done at all. The things I choose to do this holiday will hopefully be more meaningful because of it.

Do you have a plan for making the holidays less stressful by changing some traditions that don’t really fit your lifestyle anymore? If so, I wish you luck and would love to hear about your progress!