New Year, New Challenge: Simplify.

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Every year, I take on a challenge. Something that gets me closer to living a life inline with my values. It allows me to focus on one thing – and usually see some significant strides in that area – rather than tackling everything at once.

This past year, I completed a STUFF Project. It included going through all of the things in my condo and storage. Piece by piece. I would be lying if I said that it was easy, took only a couple of weekends, or that I enjoyed the process. It was quite stressful, as I thrive in clean and uncluttered spaces, and the process involved ripping apart well hidden pockets of forgotten items in boxes/bins/drawers and the resulting boxes piled up in the hallways.

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away” – Antoine de SaintExupery

It made me realize how many things I still have, and how much work could be done to simplify my life. That’s why this year, I want to take an even deeper look at how I got here in the first place. Continue reading

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The Story of “Stuff” & Surviving the holidays without consumerism

This is the season when consumption skyrockets. The average American spends over $800 on seasonal gifts, even though a national survey (by Center for a new American Dream) indicates that over 70% of Americans would welcome less emphasis on gift giving and spending.

Need proof that people don’t need more “stuff”? The Environmental Protection Agency, estimates that from Thanksgiving to New Year’s household waste increases by more than 25%. That’s an additional million tons of unneeded gifts, packaging and shopping bags – a week! 

It’s very fitting, then, that I share one of my favorite visually appealing explanations of the issues surrounding consumerism – The Story of Stuff – which has now rightly turned into a movement. Check out the video above, and consider re-evaluating how and what you give this season.  Better yet, consider being more intentional with the way you interact with “stuff” all the time.

Convinced, but unsure how to get through the holiday season without offending others? Check out my post ‘Holiday Craziness…I think I’ll pass‘ for my favorite sustainable holiday suggestions – such as gifts, and decorations.

How do you currently handle the “stuff” in your life? What are some of the strategies you use to reduce consumerism? What could you do to further improve? Share your ideas below!

 

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Holiday Craziness… I think I’ll pass.

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Anxiety. Stress. Overconsumption. Financial strain. Upbeat Christmas songs playing loudly, as shoppers push and shove past each other. On the other side – loneliness: a microwave dinner alone in front of a television.

How often we get caught up in the festivities and miss out on the important stuff – love, peace, community.

Many of the typical holiday traditions go against everything I believe in. They ooze of overconsumption, and flaunt the killings of trees, wasting of energy and unnecessary use of natural resources. I struggle between sharing in holiday spirit and staying true to myself.

Here are some of my ‘traditions’ which you may be interested in trying yourself:

Gifts – Is this really necessary? No. You can opt for not giving anything at all, except your wonderful presence. I personally think that’s the best gift I could get from any of my family or loved ones. Although on the flip side, I can see some of the “feel good” benefits of giving and receiving. It’s a time to celebrate and appreciate those who are special in our lives, and I support that wholeheartedly.

  • Activities together – Make a coupon to do something together. Be specific. Be outrageous. // Make a sheet tent, and have a sleep over – flashlights and bedtime stories included// Make a snow fort, prep bottles with water mixed with food color // Go skydiving // 8 hours of Mr/Mrs “Fix-it” time//
  • Kiva – Give the gift of a micro loan. This is perfect for the last minute holiday shopper. One of my all time favorite gifts {and no, not only because you can purchase all the gifts you need in under an hour in the comfort of your own home – although, lets be honest, this is pretty good perk}. Kiva generates opportunities for entrepreneurs in even the most remote areas to create change in the world, and allows your gift receiver the freedom to ‘invest’ their money in a borrower which resonates with them personally. Last year this is all I gave, and I’ve found that many people enjoyed it so much they have decided to contribute additional amounts personally to provide more loans. This gift truly ‘keeps on giving’ as the loans are not donations, they are paid back, and that money can be re-invested again.
  • Changing_the_present – This site is a compilation on multiple non-profits with tangible gifts your donations will help to provide, and has an option for simple but classy ‘cards’ (both digital and paper). You can search by different criteria, such as cause (environment, community etc.) and price range.

Decorations – I’m not a huge fan of holiday themed decorations – perhaps a mix of feeling they are unnecessary/consumer driven and my complete dis-interest in spending copious amounts of time setting everything up and taking everything down. My friends and family have been kindly coaxing me for years, by showering me with them (sleigh bells, Christmas wreaths, bobble head snowmen…). Hint taken.

  • Lights – I have never felt the need to have  any – it’s completely acceptable to skip on this tradition. Lets be honest, in one of the most energy intensive seasons (heating), we put even more load on the system by decking our houses up with thousands of lights, blow up figurines, and singing Santa’s. Having said that, last night I came home, on a pitch black freezing cold night to look up at my building and realize that not even one unit had a set of lights up. So I bought some – one lone strand of LED Christmas lights in calming colours, an extension chord, and a timer. I even saw some lights online, that are solar powered! There are some less impactful options out there, should you choose to do this.
  • Tree – I find this one of the most unfortunate traditions. Millions of trees are cut down, millions of acres of mono cultured farmed coniferous trees are planted, millions of trees are pulled to end the of the curb, millions of trucks transport them. Millions. I’m not a fan of plastic based alternatives either, although many opt for this. My parents, when I was small, started putting decorations on a large household plant and it caught on! Should I ever choose to decorate a tree, it will be the large Money Tree (Guiana Chestnut) in the living room.
  • Other – I don’t particularly like having things in my house that clutter it or have little to no function: seasonal decorations aren’t my style. Having said that, should you want to decorate your house further, I’d suggest: DIY (do it yourself) projects with re-used materials you no longer use, checking out Etsy to support artists who have brilliant ideas, or having all your friends over to make edible decorations like Gingerbread houses.

Do less, appreciate more – Find ways to de-stress. Don’t put yourself in financial strain. Spend more time with family and less time in the stores. Sit down. Laugh. Give love. Find peace. Create community. Stay true to yourself, while still appreciating the kindness and generosity of others. Give back. Say thank you. Mean it.

What are some of your favorite ‘sustainable’ holiday traditions? Share below!

 

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