Ideas on How to Simplify Christmas

So Many Reasons to Love  December

I love December! The charmed month that brings the longest night of the year, and the promise of longer days ahead. It brings twinkling lights and sparkling snow, walks in the fresh northern air, the smell of pine, the brilliant blue winter skies. It means time spent with friends and family, the wonderful aromas of delicious food and tasty wine.   When I assess what it is that I find so magical about December, I realize it has very little to do with shopping, or receiving material gifts. The things that make this month magical for me have everything to do with spending time with loved ones, and savouring life.

How to Enjoy the Holidays… Your Way.

With all of the pressure to buy, spend, out-do and out-decorate, though, we sometimes wind up feeling more stress than joy.  It is important to remember that we have the choice to make changes, and create a simpler season for ourselves.  The key is to make decisions that are right for you and your family, based on what you want your Christmas to be, not the expectations dictated by a commercially driven holiday.  

Simple Ideas for a Simpler Christmas

Our family tries to keep things pretty simple at Christmas, but we enjoy celebrating together and doing some sort of gift exchange. Everyone always buys presents for the children, though we try not to over do it.  However, we tend to be quite minimalist with the adult gift exchange.  Some years, we pick names and only buy for that one person.  This means that we can put more thought into the gift.  Also, my husband and I don’t always buy each other presents, or we keep the gifts small, fun, or really wanted (Example: I love books, but rarely spurge on them for myself – I just use the library.  So, at Christmas, my husband will often buy me a book he knows I love).   When deciding on gifts, remember that unique and creative gifts are often way better than the latest and greatest piece of plastic.    Another way we simplify is that we reuse gift bags and decorations… I am still using the artificial tree and the ornaments from my childhood!  My son loves it, and putting up that old tree has become  quite a family tradition.

How Would You Like to Spend This Christmas?

Early in December is a good time to reflect on how we’d like to see the season unfold. Ask yourself: How would you like to spend your time this December? What makes this month special for you?   Make a list, and prioratize – identify which activities are most important to you.  Then, remember the list when planning your engagements and gift exchanges for the season.  You can’t say yes to everything, so use the list to help guide your choices.  If necessary, consider making a few changes to how you’ll approach the holidays this year.  As my mom always says, “There are a lot of stops between everything and nothing.”  Small changes can make a difference.

Enjoy Christmas and December, too.

Celebrating a simpler Christmas keeps December from becoming a frantic month, and it gives you the opportunity to really enjoy the activities of the season.    It has been a win-win for us:  less packaging, less shopping, less pressure, less waste, more time to do the things that matter, more time to spend with the people who we love, more money in the bank or contributed to a charity, more contemplation and more health.

Home, Life, and Living.

So here’s to December.  In an imperfect world, and with all it’s challenges, may it still sparkle with some sincere joy.  Thanks for stopping by  I can’t wait to share my next post with you!

Ideas to Help You Relax, Even When You Are Very Busy

Are You Too Busy To Slow Down Lately?  

Last spring, a friend of mine was feeling frustrated and exhausted because she felt she couldn’t take even one evening away from the mundaine obligations of her routine.  She had gone to her kids’ soccer match, enjoying the beautiful evening and socializing with the parents. Then, when she got home, it was late and all of her daily responsibilities were still waiting for her. She still had to do dishes and prepare lunches, and get everyone up early the next day, and then head off for a day at her demanding career. This is a frustration that many people share. We want to slow down and savour the moment,  we long to pursue personal areas of interest, but we are too busy.  There are realities that keep us from doing it.

Finding a Balance.

Over the last few years, I have gotten to a place where I have more time and energy to focus on personal areas of interest, like creative work.   It has been a process, and I am still learning how to balance all of the things I love to do and have to do.  Living  life fully is a beautiful pursuit, but an imperfect art, and last week I had an experience that was, to a some degree, similar to my friend’s story.

Choose Activities that Won’t Set You Back… Most of The Time.

You might recall that last Wednesday I wrote a post describing the wonderful evening I’d had – idyllic hours spent relaxing by the fire place , breaking the usual weekly routine. At the end of the post, I declared that I was off to do the dishes.  Sadly,  I did not follow through on my good intentions. Long story short, the next couple of days were very busy, and it wound up taking me days to get through the whole pile of dishes because we are constantly dirtying more! When pausing from a busy schedule, it is advantageous to choose activities that don’t set us back.  I loved my Wednesday evening and do not regret it, but it’s all about balance.  Most often, I would leave that kind of an evening for the weekend.

How to Take Time To Relax… Even When You are Very Busy.

When we are  going through a period in life when we are busy with a tight schedule, we benefit most from activities that rejuvenate us quickly, and don’t disrupt our obligations too much.  Pausing need not be complicated or excessively time consuming.  Remember simple activities that can be done in or around the home, and vary the length and time of the activity to suit your daily schedule:

~ Go for a walk.  Don’t overthink it and talk yourself out of it!  Just put on a pair of comfortable shoes, and go enjoy some fresh air and natural light.

~ Sit comfortably and focus on your breathing.  If you start to think about something else, just gently bring your thoughts back to your breath.  Set your cell phone timer, on a gentle tone. Start with two minutes… or longer, if you want. Then, just sit and relax for a few minutes.

~ Put your feet up and just enjoy a bit of stillness.  No music, no cell phone, no tv.  Just a few minutes of stillness are very restful for the mind.

~ Drink a cup of coffee or tea and really savour it.  Smell the fragrance of the beverage, think about the taste , and the temperature.   Feel the cup in your hands.

~ Sit or dance while listening to a great song.

~ Set your timer and take a nap.  It is amazing how a bit of sleep revitalizes you, and there is a lot of research backing it up.  Even a quick nap is great for your physical and mental well-being.

The key is to choose one activity, and do it mindfully.  Don’t underestimate the benefits of spending even 5 minutes doing any one of these activities!  (You might need 15 for the nap. )  It can change how you feel almost instantly. On your days off, block bigger chunks of time to rest, relax, and enjoy the activities that rejuvenate you.  By the way, the friend who I described earlier took up walking on a regular basis. Sometimes, it might just be a very quick walk during lunch break, but she seems much more relaxed and happy.

In the end, life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. Embrace exceptions, get to know yourself, and find ways to pause that will maximize the benefits of health and the joy of living.

Home, Life, and Living.

Posting Soon – How do we make time for the things that matter most, the things we really long to do?  Learning how to fill our lives with the activities and responsibilities that are truly meaningful to us.

Thanks for visiting I can’t wait to share my next post with you!


Relax! It’s Not a Waste of Time!

An Evening Relaxing By the Fireplace

Today has turned out to be a special evening. It’s Wednesday, and it is feeling like winter out there, with the weather getting cold and the days getting very short.  The late afternoon started out as usual, with everyone getting home from work and school, and heading to the kitchen to get supper ready. My husband had worked outdoors the whole day, so when he came in, he suggested we do something that we usually reserve for Fridays or weekends: light some logs in the fireplace.  We enjoyed supper by the warmth of the comforting blaze, and then my son and I played a game of chess.   Now we are all sitting quietly, each of us absorbed in our own activity, relaxing into a bit of introspection. This evening has a rare, “old-world” kind of charm.  There is a stillness and tranquility about sitting next to a crackling fire that soothes the spirit.

Research Proves that Relaxing Is No Waste of Time.

We live in such a hectic, busy world, and it just keeps speeding up. Many people even think that busyness is the sign of efficiency and success.  True, working hard is a good and necessary aspect of life.  The truth, though, is that resting is just as important, and it is a wise investment in your physical and mental health. There is a huge body of respected research to prove it.

The Many Benefits of Rest.

A mounting body of research is now proving something that we’ve probably known all along: taking time to slow down, to step away from our busy schedules, is great for all aspects of our health, and actually helps us be more productive.  It recharges and renews us, gives us a chance to reflect, and process our decisions and plans. It helps us feel contented and connected. While the fireplace is a nice treat that we enjoy in our current home, the most important part is taking time to pause.  We can’t often take an evening during the week to relax in the way we did this Wednesday, but we can incorporate shorter, restful breaks into our days and evenings. We can also plan for longer pauses on our weekends, scheduling blocks of time that we can look forward to.

Maybe It’s Time For a Little Nap.

It is wise to make rest one of our priorities- even schedule it into our agendas – if that’s what it takes. How to spend that time, what to do  is flexible: choose what works for you, what you enjoy most.  Even napping is a wise way to pause, as evidence shows it has many benefits both for the body and mind.   Slowing down helps us savour life, stay connected to who we are, and restore balance.   In the end, taking time to live at a more natural pace means we become more productive and feel more enthusiasm to face our daily lives.

And Now, The Dishes….

Now I have to go do the dishes, and get us ready for another busy day tomorrow. Oh well.   At least we’re ready to take on the rest of the week with more focus and energy.

Posting soon –  These days, we are all too busy.  On saying no: How do we make the time for the things that really matter to us?

Home, Life, and Living.

Thanks for visiting I can’t wait to share my next post with you!


How to Find Your Way Home Through Your Vocation

“Success, Failure, and The Drive To Keep Creating”

– The title of Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk

I want to share the following TED Talk that I heard recently. In it, Elizabeth Gilbert explores a wonderful definition of the word  home; the idea of your vocation as your “home”. She tells how, in the face of both failure and success, she was able to restore herself by dedicating herself to her truest vocation – writing.

A Good Reason to Do What You Love

Some people might not have that  desire to focus on a single vocation.  Still, the wisdom of Elizabeth’s words can be extended to offer this advice:

If we ever feel lost, we can find our way back home through the things and activities that give our lives the most meaning

There have been long periods in my life when I was not doing creative work regularly, for a number of reasons, including being too busy working on my career.  In those times, I would often focus on walking (sometimes running) and connecting with nature, reading, writing in my journal, and focusing on causes about which I feel passionate.  Spending time with family, and getting advice from them, was also a big help. These activities were meaningful to me and helped me to find answers to the questions or challenges I faced. In many ways, those meaningful activities probably brought me back to my creative endeavours.

What activities help you release stress and refocus your energies?

By the way, I have never read Eat, Pray, Love, or any of Gilbert’s work, but I am now adding her to my list of author’s whose work I should check out.

Thanks for visiting, and I look forward to sharing my next post with you!