Once again, these columns get posted here a few weeks behind their publication in the local paper. I hope everyone reading has enjoyed a wonderful holiday and has a safe New Year!
Live a simple life
As Christmas approaches it’s easy to feel crushed by the noise, glitter and encroaching clutter of what should be the happiest time of year. Let’s face it, even at the best of times there’s a lot of pressure to have “the most” and Christmas is when our consumerist and materialistic demons really rear their ugly heads. There is pressure to feed everyone the finest meal, have the cleanest home, put up the most Christmas lights, be the most cheerful and, of course, have the most gifts under the tree.
Less is more
Parents, think back on your childhood and recall: was there a most treasured gift that you remember being truly excited about? Why do you think it stands out in your memory? Probably because it was something new and all your own that you had anticipated and waited for. How long do kids nowadays have to wait for anything? How is it possible to give our kids that same magical experience when their rooms are already overflowing with toys that they may or may not appreciate? Here is a hint—it’s not by indulging them, everyday of the year, with treats and “stuff” and creating an even greater expectation of what is special.
Though likely too late to make any drastic changes this year, the busy weeks leading up to Christmas are a good time to consider what is working in your lifestyle and what is dragging you down. If the holidays present themselves as yet another example of your inability to make everyone happy, it’s a good indication that things have gone off the rails. But how to get things back on a more meaningful, intentional track?
Minimalism is a lifestyle that might, at first, scare the designer jeans off a person used to hunting for and buying new possessions. But don’t panic. Minimalism is different things to different people—but most agree that it is the unburdening oneself of excess and waste. Whether it is excess belongings, noise, distractions, or obligations, minimalism is meant to allow you to focus on what is left behind once those excesses are shed. For example, people, relationships, hobbies, travel, learning. A minimalist lifestyle is one that is sustainable, frugal, debt-free and natural (mnmlist.com).
Comparing apples to oranges
Let’s say you’ve taken a cut in pay over the last few years but you’re still kicking. You have maintained most of your old habits while making a few cutbacks to get by. No one knows what a struggle it is to maintain. The kids still have their designer labels and your Instagram account is still zinging with pictures of family trips and home décor and the tree buried in gifts this year. The debt is piling up or at least not receding, and there is no real plan how to stop the interest from burying you someday in the future. What’s worse, there is a sense of dissatisfaction that permeates the lifestyle. There is never enough time with your family because you can’t possibly make enough money to keep everything chugging along. You are exhausted, and it’s no wonder.
No one is saying you have to ditch your life and move into a tiny home. Adopting a more minimalist attitude could be as simple as purging your home of all the unwanted, unnecessary items that you have to clean and keep tidy to maintain your sanity. It means not buying anything to fill those empty spaces. Unburden yourself, also, from the interruptions of social media notifications that give a false sense of busyness and distract you from your face to face relationships. Don’t text during meals, family time and visits with friends. Allow your kids to be bored and entertain themselves.
Imaginations are being stunted by the constant screen time offered to keep them under control. If activities 6 nights a week are exhausting the budget and family, commit only to the most vital extra-curricular activities and focus on quiet, simple time together instead. Notice what makes your family feel positive and content, and do more of those things.
Find your balance
It is one thing to choose a more minimalist lifestyle because it suits you, but quite another to have it thrust upon you by unforeseen circumstances like job loss. There is a silver-lining, though, when you consider that rejecting consumerism can also mean embracing a life where you invest yourself in meaningful relationships and experiences instead of trying to keep up with the neighbours. Once the preoccupation with having more and better things is behind you, you will find the time and clarity to explore what gives you a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment, outside of the consumer rat race. Here’s to a 2017 filled with a minimum of things and the maximum of joy.