Simplify the Season

I felt out of place yesterday at Preschool drop-off.  The parents were in line waiting and discussing their gift-giving issues: namely, that Santa has left sooo many packages from Amazon, they are running out of places in the house to hide the gifts for their kids.  Another Mom moaned that she hasn’t even started shopping and the lists keep growing.  More complained that they will never get the gifts wrapped in time.IMG_1597

So much stress.

I didn’t offer my own experience this year, I stood quietly and listened, thankful that my gifts are here, and wrapped – all in a single cardboard box on my dining room table.   We had 11 people to purchase for this year (more than most years).  We didn’t “minimize” the gift giving- it seemed as though most gift ideas for people we were given were for food related items, or things that can be used nearly year round.

My son, who is 5, only requested a copy of Minecraft, which we did purchase for him.  I also got him a set of Tinker Toys since he enjoys building things. For stocking stuffers, I got him a few new toothbrushes, some glitter glue and craft items, and a checker board from Dollar General.   I think because we don’t have cable, and what tv he does watch is on Netflix, he wasn’t exposed to as many commercials for toys.  His list was short and true to what he really loves.

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Gingerbread House Mission Complete

Thanks to shorter lists, and the use of online shopping, instead of stress from rushing from store to store, desperate for the latest item, I spent more time baking cookies and building gingerbread houses with Vince.   Our family spent an hour or so wrapping gifts.   It has been one of the few holiday seasons I did not feel completely overwhelmed and burnt out.  I was able to make memories with my son and husband that I hope to remember for a lifetime.

It’s not to say this season will be picture perfect-  My husband will be working on the actual holiday.  My son will be at his father’s house the entire Christmas weekend.  My parents are over an hour away, and my sister and brother in law will be working and live out of town as well.   We have real logistical issues for even celebrating together this season.

Had I faced that, and also the stress of crazy shopping, I would not be able to calmly sit and enjoy what time we do have together– And the time we spend together is the most precious gift I’ve been given this year.

 

 

Big Tree, Little Tree

‘Tis the season for decorations- At least in this part of the world.  As a Minimalist in training, this time of year poses challenges to me as I am torn between enjoying the abundance of decorations, and the need for quiet reflection on the season’s meaning.

Two years ago, when my son was 3, I downsized our holiday. I was in the middle of a divorce and will admit my mind was having a difficult time focusing on the holiday between attorney phone calls and unpleasant texts with my ex-to-be.   My sister donated a small, sky blue Disney-themed tree to me- the tree couldn’t have been more than two feet tall or so.  I happily took it- a reminder of how I was stripping away the unnecessary in life.  I smugly thought I could also use it as a teaching moment to my son.  We didn’t need ‘things’ or big flashy Christmas decorations to celebrate- that’s not the meaning of the holiday.

“It’s not big enough”.

That was my toddler’s comment when he looked on the little tree, contempt written all over his tiny face.  “Grandma’s tree is bigger. This one is too small. I don’t like it”.

2017 Xmas
Big tree or little tree? Which, or none, did you go with this year?

I explained to him what Christmas was about.  I explained the gift of baby Jesus to the world.  I explained there were many people in this world that had less than us and we should be grateful for what we had.   No luck.  “It’s not big enough”-  Every single time he walked by that tree, that was the comment that humble little tree received to it’s shiny lights and perky color.

Why couldn’t I change his mind? Why couldn’t he see that my way of viewing the world, and the holiday, was the right way to celebrate the season?

Part of the reason is that he was 3 years old.  There’s a lot of brain development yet to go.  Maybe my intentions were misguided-  he was also going thru challenges with the divorce in the household, and to disrupt one more thing wasn’t the best idea. Perhaps I shouldn’t try to ‘force’ my ideas on simplification on anyone.

In any case- that little tree left it’s mark on both of us.  Now 5, he still reminds me, “Do you remember that little tree we had for Christmas? It was so tiny”.   I will never forget it.

Our new family will gather around a decidedly non-Minimalist, 9 foot tall tree this year, and make more memories.  While it towers over us, instead of being frustrated that we aren’t ‘downsizing’, I choose to let it remind me of the woods of Northeast Pennsylvania where I grew up.  I will try to take time to focus on the simple side of Christmas, the quiet  peace in a church service, the family and friends we will spend time with.   The debate on the merits of a Minimalist aesthetic in decorations can wait till after the holidays are over.

My son’s reaction to the tree reaching so far over his head?

“It’s perfect!”