Holly Jolly Happiness
Well! It's been a minute since I finally wrote a blog post. The last one I wrote was about going to the beach in July (what! haha) and now it's the holiday season up around here! I am so grateful for how things are going, but I truly love sharing and chatting and writing about all the things, so hopefully I can put a little more pen to paper (so to say) soon. If you're new around here, feel free to check out my highlights on Instagram where I kept up with my Friday Sustainability Stories these past few months for more tips and thoughts!
So. The holidays. This time of year is not always so lovely for everyone. The older we get the more we realize that happiness isn't a destination, it's not something guaranteed if you just try to be a good person and do the right thing, and things in our past and present aren't always perfect and it can get amplified right now. And then you need to add a long to-do list, forced merriment, travelling and extra cooking and baking in a packed schedule while you really just want to... not. To be perfectly honest, they can be so draining. I finally understood that most of the magic of Christmas is created by moms, whose plates are already too full, and this year they are extra over-flowy in the categories of mental health and the ability to make it all happen with lessened support and means and all of the Covid to make one just exhausted as can be. While this speaks to a greater issue with some gender norms and expectations (things end up just being so 'traditional' around the holidays, too, because we are running on old traditional routines here especially), this is more about how you can manage all this a little better instead of me throwing a few more tough new routines on top of that. If you are feeling like you need more joy, more calm, more happiness in this department, I'm going to tell you how I found it.
The secret is less.
I'm not the first person on the Internet to talk about this - less is definitely more. But I think this conversation goes hand-in-hand with sustainability. We need to reel things back a bit. We are consuming 400% more than we were 20 years ago (Foster Slow) - so the answer is definitely not in 'more.' Trying to do every tradition and take advantage of everything and do *all of the things* is actually crazy wasteful because at some point the meaning is gone, we are just over-consuming, and that can consume you, too. So, here's some permission to cut out all the stuff that doesn't truly bring you joy. Hate how much that plastic garland sheds all over your house? Hate the tons of Secret Santa events that just add to the 'things' in your home that you don't really want to deal with? Hate the emptiness that trots along behind you when you're staring at an overwhelming credit card statement in January? It's okay to admit that you don't love it all. Let's just change it.
To echo Marie Kondo, if it doesn't bring joy, you don't have to do it. This is the holidays, not grocery shopping or paying the phone bill; nothing is truly mandatory. A few years ago I realized that too many things weren't fitting with my values about the holidays and it was time to either just be grumpy that time of year or make a change. So, I learned how to say 'no.' And, if you're a bit of a people-pleaser, you're going to have to really work at that. Coming up with a way to say no (like a sentence that's already prepared) and some self compassion (it's easier to say, that's for sure, but you don't really have to feel badly, you're protecting yourself and your family!) is a good way to start, and know that it will get easier each time you do it. That's a good first step.
It's a bit of an easier thing to do in your home. Just start with those tons of boxes in the basement that we all have. As you take things out this time of year, ask yourself if this truly brings you joy. It's more work the first time through, but take the 'lens' or perspective upon opening those boxes to only take out the things that bring joy that you love. If you leave a good majority of it in the basement, decide what goes (and where) and if you're not sure about it, give it another year. The less you take out, the more meaningful those things will be. And if it's all joyful for you, and taking care of it is no prob, then that's great, too! This is not about deprivation, but I'll try to show you what I mean with my experience.
I have a timber frame home and collected all this garland to put up, all of these decorations to completely transform my home into this winter cabin situation that were given to me or purchased at Home Sense or Canadian Tire. But I had to be honest with myself - I am a visual person and the clutter and visual environment of my home is my calm and peace. I hated how much more cleaning all of the plastic garland wisps and plastic glitter added to my plate. It didn't add to my life at all. So I began lovingly passing it on or selling it. If you take out the Christmas lights and just feel terrible at the thought of having to deal with putting them up and taking them down, just don't do it. Really! We no longer have any Christmas themed serving ware and plateware and tablecloths and aprons because it was just something extra right at crunch time that I had to remember, and it never added anything to the day for me. I had to wash them because they sat for the year and put them out and figure out where to keep them when they were out, and then make sure they were washed on time and then pack them all away again. But, the couple of Santa mugs we have bring me joy daily from November right until the end of December, and so those stay. This doesn't mean you need to get rid of all your Christmas plates if you love those! You will find what works for you, and I promise space will be made. Space to do the meaningful things and the things that matter.
So, what types of things continue to bring joy after you get rid of what doesn't? And how do we keep heading down this path of reeling it back a bit, wasting less, and making things matter more, especially when we are going to be buying more? If you're down the path on this journey a little bit, you'll already know the quiet joy and calm it can bring to focus on a sustainable, simple home, and it doesn't end at Christmas!