Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Seeking to Simplify {What about Holidays?}

Since we just celebrated a holiday yesterday I thought that I would write about Holidays and Simplifying in that area. I think that the purpose for trying to simplify in our lives is primarily because we want less stress and less chaos. We want to be able to focus on the things we find most important. Is that true for you?

 I also think that holidays can be a stressful and chaotic time for many people. Is that true for you? They don't have to be that way but somehow they can easily get that way. Holidays are very full of traditions and so often we keep going doing what we have always done growing up just because that seems like what we should do. Then when we get married we have to figure out how to add in the traditions from our spouse's family too. Things can start to get overwhelming if we don't start to make some conscious decisions about what truly works for us and what doesn't. Holidays are tricky too because they involve others. If we could just decide what works for me and maybe my young children (forget about what my husband wants, my parents, my in-laws, my adult children, etc) it could be easy. But do we really want it that way? NO! We want it to be a fun time for everybody and with everybody feeling loved and respected. So it can get challenging. Discussions need to be had at times and sometimes there is no way around it but somebody gets disappointed (or perhaps hurt or angry if that is their nature). But if we can have our discussions with love and respect and a willingness for a little compromise when necessary I think we can have a fun time celebrating Holidays with our family and friends. We can simplify and focus on what is truly important to us and get rid of at least some of the chaos and stress.

   I will admit when it came to blending families and holidays Ken and I have had it pretty easy. I know many (probably most) of you have it way harder. For one thing - I grew up in a family with very, very limited holiday traditions. We didn't do much at all to celebrate Christmas (my Grandma sent us a box of gifts and sometimes we would be involved in a Christmas program at church - that was it. And that was by choice and I don't think any of us kids felt deprived or unhappy about that.), Valentine's day basically wasn't observed, Memorial and Labor days were celebrated by going to church rallies (which we loved), On the 4th of July we generally went to the parade and once and a while fireworks or we did our own shooting of guns at home, Thanksgiving was a time to have a special meal and invite others over to join us, New Years Eve was very special with a New Years Eve sing at my Grandpa's. We did celebrate Birthdays but never any large parties.

  As far as Ken's family - They celebrated birthdays and Thanksgiving in similar ways to us and Ken didn't bring any traditions from the other Holidays into our marriage except Christmas. Also his parents had always made a big deal about their anniversary (mine didn't) and so that was something he figured we would do to. Christmas was a big deal for Ken (and it wasn't for me) as it was full of traditions from time at his grandparents. What is interesting now is that Ken's parents don't even celebrate it any more and his grandparents are now gone but the childhood traditions remain important to Ken.

   For us too our families live a long distance apart from one another (over 1,000 miles) so we don't have to try to split a holiday up jumping from one house to another. Also if Ken's family has ever been here for a Holiday (and most of my family is here too) than we just all celebrate together. Our parents and siblings are friends too so we can just be one big happy family. That is truly a blessing! Ken's parents could potentially move here sometime and so it is comforting to know that they would just join the party so to speak when it comes to celebrating holidays. If this isn't the case with your family is it possibly something that could be developed? Would that help to simplify your holiday time or only confuse it more - something to think about.

    So, largely we have not had a lot to stress us out concerning our extended family when it comes to holidays which I know is not the case with many of you. But still we have had to be mindful about the traditions that we have created and what we chose to do. It might start out fun  but get overwhelming over time so it never hurts to step back and rethink things and discuss them.
Our table yesterday

   In our family we do enjoy special days. I enjoy decorating and Ken enjoys seeing it he also enjoys helping some at times such as putting lights on the outside of our house. The kids always seem to enjoy any effort that is made to make a day special. Ken is good at gift giving, I enjoy making homemade gifts but going shopping to try to find ones to buy tends to stress me out. Ken loves traditions like a certain meal for a certain time, always going to watch fireworks or going on a walk to gather greenery every year. I am not personally as in love with traditions but I am learning to enjoy them too and to honor Ken by keeping them with him. As we observe what we really enjoy and what just feels stressful to us we are talking about that and fine tuning our holidays to be fun for all of us. 
When we think about clutter in our homes holidays can easily become a source of a lot of that. I know that many families get lots and lots of gifts for Christmas and Birthdays plus gifts at Easter and Valentine's day too. Are there other Holidays that people give gifts at? Early on in our raising kids this was a concern for me that there would be to much stuff which just clutters our home and honestly I feel it can lead to dissatisfied and ungrateful children so we have tried to be careful in that area. Here are some of the decisions we made it that area:

  •  For Christmas we decided to set a limit - that all the gifts for a certain person must fit in their Christmas stocking. As you can see from the picture above that kind of gets stretched a little with things sticking out the top but still over all we abide by that rule. Also we don't exchange gifts with our extended family at this time so that does help a lot.
  • For Birthdays. We do exchange gifts but we try not to be excessive and their are practical gifts (socks, other clothes, etc) given as well. The local part of my extended family does tend to join us in giving presents at birthdays but thankfully my mom is also largely practical in her gift giving and things don't get to excessive. We have never had birthday parties with lots of other children partly because I wanted to avoid large amounts of gifts. I figure we can have fun with other kids at other times. We have held skating parties, etc instead but not centered around a birthday.
  • Valentines and our Anniversary. Ken and I used to exchange gifts at this time. This past year when I was feeling overwhelmed by stuff we visited about it and I requested that maybe we don't do that anymore. We still enjoy doing something special together (taking a trip, going on a date) and a card is fine but I thought it would be nice to avoid more stuff.
  • Mother's Day and Father's Day - the kids tend to fix us meals, make cards, possibly pick a bouquet of flowers and maybe make a small gift but it is usually pretty simple and I love it that way. We do also like to spend time with extended family and I will usually try to give cards/small gifts to our parents.
   The way we celebrate holidays may not sound fun to you and I am not saying you should do it this way. I just think it makes sense to look at the Holidays you celebrate and determine if they are fine as is or if they feel stressful (not simple) to you and if so, why? When you determine the cause, what can you do to change it? Can you stop doing a part of it? Can you work on it earlier and not procrastinate so that it is fun - not stressful? Or is it really important to others and you need to pray for God's help in changing your attitude about it?

    I would love to hear your thoughts about celebrating holidays while seeking to live a more simple life.

  Also, quickly - my simplifying report for the past week. :-)
I got rid of 72 items. I cleaned out my e-mail inbox every day! I went through 5 pictures files every day. I did not sell anything. Also I still have been keeping a clean desk and that feels super good. A music student saw my office today and her comment was "You keep your office so clean!" That felt really good as that has been true this year but it wasn't true for many, many years. I have struggled with having a messy desk since I was a young child. At that time of my life I would move everything from my desk to my bed in the day so that I could work on it and then from my bed to my desk at night again so that I could sleep. In college I still struggled with a messy desk and then that followed me into my marriage. So, I am so happy that I have had a clean on for the past month and a half. It seems like the habit of keeping it clean should be truly developed now so I will just work at maintaining that habit. 


Mrs. Chrissy T said...

We keep holidays very simple but do make them special. We are careful about what comes in and out. I have a few boxes I've paired down in the attic to a VERY SMALL amount of holiday decor and try to reuse, repurpose items for decor.

A Joyful Cottage said...

As parents of adult children who live all over the country, our holidays are extremely simple. We have two grandchildren who live far from us and we send them gift cards for birthdays and Christmas. They're teens, and this is what they want. Not exciting, but it works. We send something small to our adult children, usually food related. This year we sent them organic garlic from a local farm. They all cook and they appreciated that. We don't send them birthday gifts, nor do they send us gifts. No need. We talk on the phone and we're all happy with that. My husband and I don't exchange gifts at Christmas and decorations consist of a creche and a wreath on the door. A few candles maybe, not much more. We were married on Valentine's Day and celebrate our anniversary by going out to dinner. As we age we find we want to simplify our lives more and more. Far less stressful. And by the way, I LOVE handmade gifts. xo

Abbi said...

It sounds like both of you have figured out how to simplify holidays too. It is a blessing when you figure out what works for you and your family!


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