Monday, November 18, 2013

all I want for christmas is ...

'Tis the season ... the season where my kids scour the catalogs that come in the mail and oh so meticulously (sometimes with multiple drafts!) compose their Christmas lists.  After all, it's difficult to see the 14 million different toy options available and whittle it down to a respectable list of approximately 10-12 items :)

All joking aside, do you ever wonder if your kids are presented with too many choices on a daily basis?  I think back to the Sears catalog we used to get in the mail when I was a kid.  That was all we got ... one lonely catalog .. and that was plenty for me.  I didn't count, but I'm guessing we've had somewhere around 40-50 catalogs show up in our mailbox in the last few weeks.  It overwhelms me, not to mention the kids!

A few years ago, I started reading about the minimalism movement which directly contradicts modern day consumerism.  I read a few blogs and borrowed a couple of books from the library ... and I truly enjoyed reading about people's journeys toward a more minimalist lifestyle.  I envied how some are able to embrace the lifestyle with almost no effort, but for me (and my family) the path didn't seem so clear.  In America, everywhere you turn, you are bombarded with rampant consumerism messages.  In fact, most Americans are so used to the exposure that they often don't even notice it anymore ... it's just a fact of life and we accept it.

I am generally a non-confrontational person.  I don't seek out conflict or go looking for trouble.  But somewhere along my journey into minimalism, I decided that was the only option available to me :)  I was going to have to fight ... fight the gimmes I heard multiple times a day from my kids ... fight the envy I see in my kids (and myself!) when someone has something cool or new ... fight the tendency to abuse stuff because there is always more ... and probably most relevent to me, fight the belief that this is the only way we can live because everyone else does it too.

The first think we did was get rid of TV service.  This helped get the consumerist attitude out of our faces and pushed it into the background.  After all, I figure if you don't know that it exists, you most likely won't want it, unless you have a really vivid imagination in which case you should invent it :)  Out of all the things I've done, I'm pretty sure this has had the biggest impact overall.  It truly is a case of out of sight, out of mind.

Next, I tried to teach my kids that they don't need the newest and best of everything.  If you are happy with what you have, then there is no need for more.  My oldest makes fun of me all the time because I don't use my smartphone, but shortly after I got the phone I realized how stupid that move really was.  I didn't need it because my old phone served my needs just fine and the fact that it was only a penny didn't justify my buying it. Now I'm just waiting for my contract to expire (this month!) so I can dumb it down again and reap a smaller bill as a reward :)

The comment about being happy with what you have brings me to my next plan of attack.  I want to teach my kids that happiness does not stem from stuff.  The saying "you can't buy happiness" is 100% true.  There have been countless studies done which prove that happiness only increases up to the point where basic needs are met.  Beyond that point, an increase in wealth does not translate to an increase in happiness.  We, both in my home and as a culture, need to learn to embrace what we have and find happiness in the people and places around us.  We live in a beautiful free country full of interesting people, and I know I personally need to focus on and be thankful for that a whole lot more than I am now.

It's kind of funny, but when I started writing this post, this was not at all where I intended to go with it.  I was actually going to attempt to put together a list of sewing related things I might want for Christmas ... seems I really strayed off topic on this one :)  But now that I've written it, I'm not taking it back.  I really don't need anything for Christmas.  Sure, there are plenty of things I want, but I already have everything I need, and it is imperative that I remember that.  Maybe I just need to emulate my 9 year old a little more.  The other night while he was making his Christmas list he looked through the catalogs and told me he couldn't come up with anything for his list.  When I asked him why not, he told me he already has everything he needs and he doesn't think he would play with anything else.  Once again, I found myself envious, this time of my own son, who seems to have had found his personal path to happiness :)  Although I did question that when he was fighting with his siblings later that same day over every little thing!  Perhaps it's not happiness but contentment that I'm seeking ... happiness is too dependent on circumstances ... as evidenced by my bickering kids :)

If you are open to the idea of minimalism and want to learn more, here are a few great blogs to get you started:


  1. What a great post! I struggle with this, and we suffer from chronic "way too much crap" in my house, but I'm getting better. My kids are generally not yet at the age of constant gimmes, and Joe's request for the occasional $2 wind-up toy is pretty reasonable.

    You will pry my smart phone from my cold, dead, internet-addicted fingers, though. :-)

    1. I laughed when I read your comment! I know an awful lot of people who feel exactly the same about their smart phone as you do ... and I'm married to one of them :)