I started writing this post in early December.
For almost a month I’ve opened this post and typed a bit and then hit a wall of discomfort. I’ve come back over and over each time leaving without hitting publish, because I know what I’m trying to say will probably not be understood by a number of people. Here we are at the end of December and I’ve finally pushed through actually share these feelings about the holidays.
These aren’t new feelings though, and the discomfort isn’t new either. I’ve carried these emotions for years. Each year with growing clarity on where source of the feelings. After all, almost a year ago today I decreed 2017 the year of less.
Every year I start to feel slightly overwhelmed in October. As we start to consume more and more. Costumes and candy make way for tables overflowing with food and drink leading up to spaces covered in decorations, piles of presents, and treats at every turn. The source of my anxiety is not immediately apparent. Usually it takes a little while for me to zero in on my agitator. As the calendar moves forward, usually sometime in early December, it dawns on me. I’m overwhelmed by all the stuff. The nonstop buying, making, decorating, giving receiving. Nonstop stuff. Everywhere.
We keep a pretty organized life. Our home is tidy, clean and organized for the most part. Our cars are free of clutter and junk. The calendar is in order and we stay on top of things like bills, appointments, and deadlines. We have it together. We have it together, and it’s exhausting. The amount of energy it takes to stay on top of it all and keep it organized is draining.
Managing life is what it is. It’s a part of staying on top of our commitments and managing our schedules is work, but it’s manageable. The amount of time I spend taking care of stuff is what zaps me the most. Sorting, folding, dusting, organizing, finding places for all the little things that make their way around our home every. single. day. Time spent clearing things out to make way for the next wave of new things to come. Because if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that there is always another wave of disposable – or not so disposable – things to come.
I love time with friends and family. There are items in my home I truly treasure. I appreciate the thought behind heartfelt gifts. Here is the big thing though, Love does not live in things. Memories do not live in things. Honestly, all the gift giving and gift getting is too much.
Let’s check my privilege here. I know how it sounds to complain about having too much and getting too much, especially when there are so many people in the word with not enough. I know. I’m not complaining about our good fortune to live a comfortable life. I’m complaining about the social expectations in place that make this a never ending problem. Things as a symbol of love. Shopping as a hobby. Accumulating stacks, buckets, and bins of truly unneeded items simply because we can. Wasting time, energy, and resources buying, storing and taking care of stuff.
With the societal expectations that there will be gifts, goodies, papers, and knick knacks at every gathering children learn they don’t have to value things because there is always more on the way. They learn that things are expendable and that waste is not a concern. They see that things are supposed to make them happy and they should be keeping track of how much they have instead of feeling content.
Obviously, Luke and I work to teach our children gratitude. We model contentedness. We try to live a life where experiences are sought after and things are not. We actively think about our consumption. Our decisions on purchases are based on more than just if we can afford it or if we want it. We are thoughtful about waste. Less is more. Experiences over things.
I don’t need a gift to feel love. I don’t need to be surrounded by wall-to-wall decorations to feel the spirit of the winter holidays. My children do not either. They can feel your love when you sit down and color with them or snuggle up and read a book to them. They cherish memories of park visits and time at the movies. The revel in visiting new places and learning new things from people they admire.
Our trip to the mountains to a tiny rental condo in a small mountain town to ski, play board games as a family, and simply spend time together has been our favorite part of the whole holiday season the past couple of years. Our trip doesn’t include gifts, fancy meals, elaborate expectations, or holiday decorations at all. It’s what I feel like the holiday season should be. There is no anxiety about gift giving or receiving, no to do lists, zero expectations from family and friends, and we aren’t surrounded my an overwhelming amount of stuff at every turn. It’s the only time between mid-October and December 26th I feel no anxiety. That’s worth noting.
I”m not perfect in my pursuit of less. I’m guilty of buying gifts and sometimes falling into the trap of “keeping up,” but I try. I hope my girls are picking up on how Luke and I are trying to live. I hope they see the lightness that less stuff – all kinds of stuff from actual physical things to heavy expectations – brings to life. I think they are. In the mean time I’ll keep trying to scale back on the stuff, and all the things that send my anxiety levels soaring around the holidays, and hopefully the world around me will start to do the same.