Do You Have A Vision?

Peeking into the future.

Peeking into the future.

In the next few days, as 2016 comes to an end (not too soon for many of us) and 2017 begins, many people will make resolutions – or at least think about making them.

One definition of resolution is “a firm decision to do or not do something” but, as many of us know from past experience, resolutions are hardly firm. Another part of the definition is “the action of solving a problem.” Yet, can we be honest, how many problems do we solve with New Year’s resolutions?

So instead of looking at the problems we need to solve or the things we do not want to continue to do, let’s look at how we want to see ourselves.

A man in one of my downsizing talks asked me, “Do you have a vision?” and I thought what a great question. He was asking about a vision of a less cluttered life; do the steps we take make more sense if we have a vision of what we want our homes to look like. But it’s also a question about life in general. What if we looked at our vision, the end goal, what we want our lives to look like, rather than at the steps or resolutions we need to take to get there.

For the new year, I would like to set goals for myself, goals that will help me meet a vision of myself that is more positive. Goals like having more kindness in my life, being more minimalist – yes, more of less, and having more gratitude for each day. I want to have a vision of myself as a better person.

Here are five areas where I envision a better version of myself.

*I would like to be more positive.

And I definitely want to be less negative, less anxious, less stressed, less judgmental and less of all the other things that I usually am. I want to take to heart the wonderful words of Gandhi.

“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”

*I would like to be more thankful.

The quality of being thankful has been defined as the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. As someone wise said, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” In a previous post I wrote about the wisdom of gratitude.

*I want to work forwards rather than backwards.

It helps to think of “ought” as the operative word according to Harold Schulweis, an author and activist who said, “Is faces me toward the present; ought turns me to the future.” It’s not what I am doing but what I ought to be doing. A great insight for New Year’s resolution makers.

*I would like to realize a dream.

Someone said childhood dreams never leave us, but we leave them. What would we do if we knew we could not fail? Lily Tomlin had it right when she said, “I always wanted to be someone, but now I realize I needed to be more specific.” Can we be more specific? What is one task or project or dream we have been putting off and what is one thing we could do to get started?

*I would like to be an even better friend.

Friendship, the coming together of people I value greatly, has meant a lot to me these last few years and I want to continue to be a good friend to my best women friends, my group of women, my extended family of friends, the men and women I work with, and the people I volunteer with.

So I will take a deep breath – or better yet do some yoga breathing – as I look forward to working on a more positive me.

As we approach the new year, I would like to share with you wise words from Susan Sontag in her Vassar College commencement speech in 2003.

“I haven’t talked about love. Or about happiness. I’ve talked about becoming – or remaining – the person who can be happy, a lot of the time, without thinking that being happy is what it’s all about. It’s not. It’s about becoming the largest, most inclusive, most responsive person you can be.”

A happy, healthy, and peaceful New Year to all.

Linda Hetzer is an editor and author of books on home designcrafts, and food, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home

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Gift-Giving for Minimalists & Downsizers

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Our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree (“All it needed was a little love…”)

Last month I wrote a post with gift-giving and other tips for the holiday season, which can present a challenge for those who want to celebrate the season and share joy with others, but who are also seeking to simplify their lives, minimize clutter, and “live with less.”

It is sad that for some, maybe even many people, the frenzy that surrounds gift-giving at the holiday season can actually destroy the joy that it is meant to inspire. In talking about this with a friend whose means are limited, another aspect of the problem was revealed. “I like to give gifts,” she said. “But I just can’t afford to give everyone the nice things I would like to. It makes me sad.” She added, “Also, sometimes you feel bad receiving gifts when you know that the person couldn’t really afford to give what they’re giving. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t feel good.”

I wondered what Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, aka “The Minimalists,” would have to say on this subject. “To stay focused, we must first focus on the right things: we must change our focus from consumption and obligation to love and support,” they wrote in one of the posts on their blog. Much of their advice is similar to advice we, and others, have given, and is fairly obvious: give gifts of time, consumables (wine, food, soaps, candles, etc.), give “experience” gifts (theatre tickets, trips, outings). But they also address the matter of how to deal with the expectations of others at holiday time, and they dig into the psychology of gift-giving in an interesting way.  “Gift-giving is, by definition, transactional,” they write. “But love is not a transaction. Love is transcendent: it transcends language and material possessions and can be demonstrated only through our thoughts, actions, and intentions.” It’s a thoughtful essay, well worth a read.

One of the challenges inherent in the alternative to  giving “stuff” for the holidays is following through on the alternative of “experience” gifts, the kind where you offer the gift of time spent in some special way with a loved one, or a favor you will do for them, or a promise you intend to keep. The easy part is making the promise: the harder part is making it really happen.

And since the holiday season conveniently includes the tradition of making New Year resolutions, maybe that’s a good resolution to make. Make sure that those promises you write down and present to a loved one during the holiday season really happen in–or even before–the New Year. Now, there’s a resolution well worth keeping!

Wishing you and yours warm, wonderful, meaningful holidays–with lots of joy, and not too much stuff!

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

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

 

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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.

 

 

Talking Turkey (About Downsizing) at the Holidays

atis-fruit-clipart-outline-turkey-feather-turkey-clip-art---vector-clip-art-online-royalty-free-public-domain-hfcdh2ddIt may not be the first thing that comes to mind as an appropriate topic of conversation when family members gather during the coming holiday season.

But the holidays are actually a great time to take advantage of the opportunity, when family members are all (or at least more) in one place, to talk about The Future.

Many people dread this conversation, but most also find, once that deep breath has been taken and the subject launched, that’s it’s not as bad as they feared it would be.

Is it time to talk to your parents–or your kids–about an eventual (or imminent) move from the family home? What are the pros and cons? What are some of the available options? Are there waiting lists for some of the more desirable places? Are there tours you could take together while everyone’s together, “just to see,” whether any decisions are made now–or left until “later”? Are there ways you can help each other begin to figure out how to approach this process, how to begin dispersing and/or safeguarding important family records, treasures, favorite items of furniture–or whatever? Are there tasks that can be done now rather than later, so that when the time does come, it’s not so overwhelming?

Even if no move is planned–if the plan is for “aging in place”–there’s plenty to talk about in terms of making a family home safer and more accessible, and for various matters having to do with the passing on and/or distributing the responsibility and caring for treasured family items–not to mention treasured family members!

This may not be the best mealtime conversation, but surely it’s not a bad time to broach the subject and agree to sit down to a family meeting sometime while you’re all together.

If you’re planning a trip home for the holidays, we urge you to think about this in advance. Our book “Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home” can be helpful in planning ahead, and in figuring out how best to approach the topic. The people we talked to in the process of writing our book–just “regular folks” as well as professionals who help families and individuals through this process–have lots of good ideas for how each family can find their “own right way” to do this.

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So if downsizing is on the horizon for someone in your family, we hope you’ll consider taking our book with you for reading on the plane–or maybe sharing it with other members of the family before you get together. Our new e-book version has lots of helpful links for resources that can be helpful in the process–guiding you toward detailed advice for dealing with everything from antiques appraisal to recycling or disposing of toxic materials.

Plus we’ve gathered helpful tips about how to navigate the delicate feelings and surprisingly intense emotions that tend to come to the surface along the way–and how to get through this process stronger and closer as a family, no matter what bumps in the road you encounter.

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

Dealing with Holiday Aftermath: An Ecological Approach

We’re not exactly through “the holidays” yet, but there certainly has been a flurry of activity for the past few weeks, hasn’t there?

Now, a little bit more than midway through it all, is a good time to think about how we can deal with the aftermath–all that wrapping paper, all those strings of lights, all those Christmas trees,  all the “trimmings and trappings,” in a way that does minimal damage to (or may even help) the earth.

Here’s a post we published a couple of years ago with some tips about “green” ways to deal with the holiday aftermath. This year I learned that Mom’s Organic Market, which has stores along the Mid-Atlantic coast from Pennsylvania to Virginia, has a great recycling program that includes holiday lights and corks. (Real corks only, not the synthetic ones–in many areas you can recycle synthetic ones along with the rest of your plastic). You can even get discounts on the purchase of new holiday lights when you turn your old ones in.

Timing can be important–if you know about locations or deadlines for holiday-related recycling in your area that you’d like to share with your neighbors, please feel free to share the information by commenting on this post.

Here’s wishing you safe and pleasant celebration into the New Year–and a green year ahead!

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

 

 

 

A Day for Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday, it is my second-favorite. But to me it is also the purest, simplest, most wonderful holiday in so many ways.

You don’t actually have to buy anything or even consume anything in order to celebrate Thanksgiving. All you have to do is be grateful.

I suppose it is true of most holidays that, stripped down to their essentials, no expense, no fuss, no commercial aspects need apply. The Whos in Whoville discovered this when the Grinch took away all “the trimmings, the trappings” of Christmas, and they sang it in joyously anyway.  Easter is about rebirth; Passover about freedom from slavery; Valentine’s Day about love. And so on. And most holidays are also about sharing joy of one kind or another with our loved ones.

Perhaps that too is one of the gifts of Thanksgiving. To remind us that at the core of the holidays we celebrate is simply an appreciation of life and all its gifts. And that all we have to do, really, to celebrate them is to appreciate those gifts. Holidays remind us to be grateful for the simple gift of life; they remind us of the things we value, the things we aspire to, what we can achieve when we are at our best. And they remind us that despite the importance of all our efforts, our work, our diligence, many of the blessings of life fall on us as simple good fortune, like water from the sky.

Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing today, may your Thanksgiving day be filled with appreciation, joy, and, well…thanksgiving!

JH