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 Because some of these posts are a few years old, some of the details and links may be a bit out of date, and of course some of the information varies from location to location.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.

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


Thanksgiving and Giving Tuesday


Thanksgiving is almost here…

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love the fact that despite vigorous and unrelenting attempts to do so, to me it seems to have largely resisted the attempts to commercialize it, and has retained its quintessential purity and simplicity. It is really fundamentally about gathering with friends and family and being grateful for the gifts, the blessings of our lives.

For that reason I have never really liked the nickname “Turkey Day.” I love to linger on the word “thanks-giving” and, much as I love turkey and all the trimmings, I prefer to keep the focus on the giving thanks.

The very next day the commercial world goes into high gear with Black Friday: and while I understand the appeal of the opportunity to save big going into the holiday season, I have never understood why it has to start so early in the day. Why should people have to get up at the crack of dawn the very next day to shop? What, the bosses couldn’t give both shoppers and store employees a break, and start the sales a little bit later in the day? Give people a little bit of time to enjoy the afterglow of Thanksgiving Day?

Well, who knows, perhaps that will evolve in time. Certainly in the last few years there has been some pushback to a day that was becoming a bit frenzied to say the least. Many stores have begun reversing the trend to start the big sales on Thanksgiving Day itself; many parks, and cultural and community centers have begun offering alternative things to do, all of them wholesome, many of them free, for those who may decide that they’d like to avoid all the crowds, and make the day after Thanksgiving a “Buy Nothing Day” instead.

There is also Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday, when shoppers are urged to support small local businesses. And there is Cyber Monday, which gives everyone a chance to get some great bargains online going into the season.

But what is Giving Tuesday, and where and when did it start?

Giving Tuesday is relatively new: it began in 2012, and it is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Giving Tuesday is a day to focus on supporting educational, humanitarian, and cultural organizations around the world.

Like so many other wonderful things, Giving Tuesday began in New York City, specifically at the Belfer Center for Innovation & Social Impact, at the 92nd Street Y.

This link will take you to the part of the Giving Tuesday site that tells you what you can do as an individual to become involved in supporting organizations near you—or halfway around the world.

Giving Tuesday happens to come at a time of year that is advantageous both to the organizations  that need support, and taxpayers  who want to increase their tax-deductible  donations before the end of the year.

So all around, it’s a win-win situation—especially for those who benefit from others reaching into their pockets, or giving of their time and talents,  to help make the world a better place in a variety of ways.

Here’s wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving–and, however you choose to spend the days that follow–a safe, healthy, and joyful start to the holiday season.

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.


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.

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!


%d bloggers like this: