Thanksgiving Thoughts…

As Thanksgiving approaches (and with it the unofficial beginning of the holiday season) it seems like a good time to not only give thanks for our blessings, but take a deep breath and the time to consider how we can made the upcoming holidays more meaningful, less stressful, and ultimately more rewarding.

We have reflected on some of the ways to do this over the past nine years on this blog. It’s interesting to notice that in those years certain things have changed. For example, there has been an interesting evolution in the observation of Black Friday: it’s no longer all about sales. Many companies, noting a tendency of things to get out of hand, have even closed their stores on that day, urging people to instead use the extra day to spend time with family, or enjoy nature, or give back to others.

It’s also gotten easier to make holiday celebrations more “green,” whether by recycling old holiday lights or thinking more carefully about how to wrap gifts.

And of course there is always the question of how to keep the holidays from forcing us into habits of overconsumption, while still finding ways to present our friends and family with thoughtful gifts.

Here are a few of the posts we’ve written over the years to help our readers think of ways to make the holiday season special but also more ecological, calmer, less stressed. Because some of these posts are a few years old, some of the details and links may be a bit out of date, and of course some of the information varies from location to location. But hopefully these posts will inspire you to seek out ways to make your holidays more meaningful, more “green,” and less stressful.

https://downsizingthehome.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/wishing-you-green-peaceful-holidays/

https://downsizingthehome.wordpress.com/2015/11/06/talking-turkey-about-downsizing-at-the-holidays/

https://downsizingthehome.wordpress.com/2018/12/21/caught-at-the-last-minute-without-a-gift-no-youre-not/

https://downsizingthehome.wordpress.com/2017/12/15/tis-the-season-to-givewith-gifts-that-make-a-difference/

https://downsizingthehome.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/giving-thanks-and-giving-back/

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher. She is coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home and author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You

 

Holiday Preparations for Downsizers & Minimalists: Tips for Gift-Giving & More

 

Trees-of-the-Adirondacks-Eastern-Hemlock-28-July-2012-5

As the end-of-year holiday season draws near, now can be a good time to take stock of how to plan ahead, especially for people who are trying to acquire less “stuff,” or who are trying to get rid of all the things they’ve already acquired.

First, the matter of gift-giving: how does one reconcile the lessons learned in downsizing–one of the main ones being not to acquire so much to begin with–with the joy of giving gifts at the holiday season?

Of course there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. In past years we’ve discussed a few ways to think about this, including this post on five different kinds of gifts that won’t cause clutter.

Over the past couple of years I’ve also seen a number of blog posts that discuss the “four-gift” concept. The idea is to limit the number of gifts children are given down to a minimal four, which is partly to reel in gift-giving madness, and partly to teach children not to be quite so materialistic, and to enjoy a few nice things as much as a bunch of them. The idea is to give each child

1. Something they want

2. Something they need

3. Something to wear

4. Something to read.

I’ve also seen some bloggers suggest giving five gifts, with the fifth gift sometimes being “something they don’t know they want but you do,” and sometimes a gift given to a charitable organization in the child’s name, perhaps chosen by the child.

When my children were small and starting to walk around the house circling items in toy catalogues, I found myself often repeating the words, “Remember, Christmas is about giving too…” (One day my son Sammy caught me off guard by altering the script,  as he sailed through the room with this off-hand remark:  “Remember, Mommy, Christmas is about giving too…so you have to give ME something!!!”  )

I know to some people the four-gift idea may seem stingy and Scrooge-ish. Certainly there can be an awful lot of joy in the faces of children when they see an abundant pile of presents under the tree. And there’s certainly no need for everyone to follow this rule, or even to come close to it.

But for those to whom it appeals, or whose budgets it fits, it can be a helpful way of teaching children to appreciate a few nice gifts along with the other joys of the season–singing, being together, enjoying special meals, baking cookies, sharing with others (aka as “giving too”)–all ways of focusing on the true meaning of the season–while avoiding the perils of overconsumption as well.

One thing that happened in the home I was growing up in is that often very practical, inexpensive gifts would be wrapped and placed under the tree, or in our stockings, along with the more special gifts. Since part of the joy of all those beautifully wrapped presents is precisely that–the sight of all those presents–why not do this? There can be thoughtfulness in choosing simple, practical gifts as well as the special ones, and why can’t the presentation be part of the present? (And surely everyone has had the experience of watching a small child enjoy playing with the boxes and the wrapping paper as much as with the toys themselves?)

When the pressure of gift-giving (thinking of and then finding the gifts; affording the gifts; acquiring and wrapping the gifts in the pre-holiday rush) threatens to take away from the enjoyment of the season, it may be time to step back and think about other ways to celebrate. There are many ways to do this, from giving gifts to charitable organizations to visiting people who need visiting–the old, the lonely, the sick–and spending some of the time that might be spent shopping, or wrapping presents, with them. This too can offer children a very important example.

Of course it’s good to talk with your family, whether they are children, or adults, about how you all want to decide to approach the matter of gift-giving beforehand. And now is a perfect time to have these conversations.

Second, as you plan to entertain or celebrate with family and friends, you might want to take a look at posts we’ve written in past years about ways to enjoy the holidays (and cleaning up after them) in less-consumer-focused, more ecological ways here.

Finally, the holidays can be a good time to plan as a family for downsizing projects. if your family is at a decision point about dismantling the family home, or you think you should be, and don’t quite know how to get started, you may find some help here.

And so as the season approaches, here’s wishing you and your loved ones all good things during the holidays–starting with a peaceful and happy Thanksgiving.

Janet Hulstrand is a writer/editor, writing coach, travel blogger, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.

 

 

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