"Live less out of habit, and more out of intent"

It's been a while since I posted (more on that another time), and within the blink of an eye, the holiday season is already upon us!

When it comes to Christmas, I am not very good at "adulting". The older I get, the more I actually dread the holidays. It's a lot of Hullabaloo, as my mom would say. I am an HSP (highly-sensitive) introvert so every year the month-long frenzy of parties, gift swaps, baking, hosting, shopping lists, and decorating can feel completely overwhelming. I don't even have kids yet, so I don't know how you parents do it!

Over the years I have been actively trying to find ways to master the holidays. How? By simplifying! Here's what has worked to keep stress levels low and happiness high in the "most wonderful time of the year":

1. Stop Should-ing Yourself. An excess of time and energy can be spent feeling guilt or obsessing over what you think you should be doing at the holidays- based on what media, advertisers, Pinterest, friends, family, coworkers and neighbors are doing. It's time to let that sh*t go because, in reality, the only thing you really should be doing is being true to yourself and what is best for you!

  • If, like me, you don't want do to hours of dishes after hosting your holiday party, give yourself permission to buy disposable (recycled paper and/or bamboo) plates or cups- just this once! Even better, follow the latest eco-trend and ask people to BYOP (Bring Your Own Plate/Bowl/Cup etc). Seriously- it's a thing.

  • If, like me, you hate the wastefulness of wrapping paper, then wrap your gifts in newspaper, paper bag, or a bag from last year's gift exchange. Trust me, people will be more grateful for your thoughtfulness and consideration in using some "ugly" homemade wrapping paper than in the 5 second thrill they will get from pretty store-bought gift wrap.

  • If, like me, you really love the sentiment of Christmas cards, but just can't seem to get it together (photographer, design, getting everyone's address, stamps- who has time for that??) save some energy AND some trees with a digital e-card. If someone simply MUST have a tangible card to add to their "collection", they can go and print it themselves! Even a beautiful photo and a heartfelt post to social media can work in spreading cheer far and wide!

  • If, like me, baking is SO not your thing, don't slave away in the kitchen. Instead of following another "recipe for stress" for something you're not ultimately proud of, buy your favorite pastry or cookies at the local bakery or farmers market. Or, if you're feeling ambitious then master a delicious no-bake dessert!

2. Think outside The Box. The holidays are a time for cheer and CREATIVITY. There are a million opportunities to honor tradition and inspire joy, while getting crafty and resourceful with what you already have around you.

For us, it's the tree. I am not one of those people who needs a Christmas tree. I frankly find it to be a lot of trouble (and a bit strange) to go and cut down a perfectly healthy tree, bring it in your house to die, decorate it, and then a few weeks later, leave it somewhere to decay. Perhaps one day when we have a bigger family that tradition will be nice but right now it's just not practical. I will probably follow in my hippie-parents footsteps and boycott the traditional tree in lieu of decorating an outdoor tree with popcorn, berries, and other homemade natural ornaments. Good for the birds, and for the soul!

There is always room for compromise though. If you are like my husband in that you love all things Christmas and crave the cozy decor, then try to think of some simple alternatives. For example, because we do not have a fireplace/mantle, this year we decorated our piano with lights and tinsel. We also splurged (thoughtfully) for one of those battery-powered bendable LED Charlie Brown/twig tree. And when I say splurge, I mean it was $18. It's minimalist and tasteful-looking, zero-maintenance, and folds up small so it will be easy to store year after year. It can be used in a variety of festive ways, including displaying the "special" (breakable) ornaments, holiday cards from friends/family, or adding pizazz to the front porch.

3. Practice SMART Gifting. Remember this acronym next time you're holiday shopping so that you can ensure your do-gooding is not only benefiting the gift recipient, but also your planet, your community, and yourself.

  • Sustainable (Is it green, eco-friendly or fair-trade?)

  • Meaningful (Is it handmade, homemade, locally made, or charitable in nature?)

  • Affordable (Does it feel safe and comfortable within my personal budget?)

  • Really Useful (Can it be consumed or experienced hands-on at least weekly or monthly?)

  • Timeless (Is it a classic- something can be cherished for many generations to come?)

If a gift fits all of the criteria above, it's likely a SMART gift- so give away, and give freely! If it is likely to end up in the landfill or Goodwill in 10 years- please pass- for the sake of your wallet, your time, the recipients sanity, and our dear Mother Earth.

Over time I have completely downsized our holiday shopping list, while at the same time decreased opportunities for clutter- WIN, WIN! The first year of marriage when we were extra crunched for money (which is still, to be honest) Adam and I made the concious decision to not exchange gifts with eachother. With so much other "stuff" to worry about that time of year, we decided to go all-out for Valentine's day instead. We figured that extra time would give us more of an opportunity to save, shop/make, and ultimately be more present in the moment of gifting, which is quite romantic in itself.

We also made a mutual agreement with our adult family members to only give Christmas gifts to the under-25 kiddos, nieces and nephews. For eachother we established a tradition of White Elephant- everyone bring a SMART gift to swap in a fun, simple game. The family has appreciated this simplification because now it's more about quality over quantity. We each go home with less (but better) so there is no post-holiday guilt or worry about money spent, or the logistics of using or storing an unwanted or unusable gift.

At the end of the day it's important to focus on the true meaning of the holidays. It's NOT about the Black Friday deals, endless obligations and chores, or breaking the bank to buying things we don't need just to impress eachother. It IS about celebrating the season and spreading joy the old-fashioned ways- indulgent hygge traditions, delicious seasonal foods, quality time with loved ones, singing, laughing, practicing gratitude and giving back to those in need.

So next time you're going through your holiday to-do's remember this list tops them all:

What holiday traditions have you foregone, or added to your life, to make the season merry and bright?


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