Posts Tagged ‘SIMPLIFY!’

A point I’ve made over and over again in this blog is that in order to simplify your Christmas, you have to do something. You have to make a concerted, positive effort to change those things that are making you miserable with each passing Christmas. In line with this is the “Christmas Pledge, set forth in Unplug the Christmas Machine , by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli. For your edification, I now reproduce the pledge in its original form, save for adding a sixth element of my own devising to the pledge.


Believing in the beauty and simplicity of Christmas, I commit myself to the following:

  1. To remember those people who truly need my gifts.
  2. To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways than presents.
  3. To rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family.
  4. To examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas.
  5. To initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends.
  6. To endeavor, after each Christmas season, to carry something of the values of Christmas with me throughout the rest of the year.

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Well, no kid has everything, but let me pose the following scenario to you. I have no doubt that many readers will be familiar with it–

Dick and Jane get lots of presents at Christmas.  Their parents go all out, as do both sets of grandparents along with assorted aunts and uncles. There’s not room for everything under the tree; presents have to be piled on the kitchen table as well. Christmas Eve, or Christmas morning, the unwrapping gets underway, and two or three hours after starting, Dick and Jane are still at it. Paper and ribbon and bows everywhere; the place looks like it’s been hit by a hurricane.

It’s hard to buy for kids like this. First of all, there’s the risk of duplication, especially if you go after this year’s “trendy” toys.  But on a deeper plane, suppose that you feel like you want to get them something that’s special, amongst all those other “special” things (read: special junk)….

Answer: Books. When the toys have lost their novelty a few months down the road, and joined the vast array of rarely-played-with toys that populate Dick and Jane’s rooms, the books will still be there, beckoning. Well, maybe. This strategy probably works better with younger kids who are just learning to read, than it will with older kids who have discovered the allure of the video game. But even if the books go neglected, you will know that you gave it your best shot, bestowing upon them a time-honored, non-passive form of entertainment that enriches both mind and spirit. As opposed to glitzy crap made in Chinese sweatshops.

There’s the added advantage here that you can, with some judicious shopping around in used bookstores, pick up like-new kids books at a substantial savings over the big retailers. Unless you think that spending more money on brand new books means you love Dick and Jane more, that God abhors Christmas thrift, or some other crazy idea along those general lines.

Another idea is art supplies. Most kids like to draw and color, so getting them crayons, colored pens and pencils, art paper, etc., is never a waste.

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Q: What’s 9 miles long and eats turkey?
The line outside Wal-Mart on Black Friday.

*Dodges assorted fruits and vegetables*

Okay, I admit it. I made it up. But, then, I’m no comedian. Keith Deltano, on the other hand, is a comedian, and he puts on a whiz-bang holiday show entitled “I’m Dreaming of a Stress-Free Christmas,” where he “takes on the marketing, promotions, the malls, the parking and the must-have, must-buy gifts….”

Comedy has a way of stripping away the veneer of that which is patently ludicrous, of exposing the silliness for all to see. Like the jester’s wand at a great banquet, it rises above the crowd, showing that grinning jester’s face to all. And there is scarcely any silliness that is not vulnerable to it, including the silliness of pursuing a stress-laden, wholly commercialized Christmas to your own detriment and the detriment of your family, year after year after year…

Check out Keith Deltano’s website and while you’re there, be sure to check out his tips for Simplifying your Christmas.

Take on Christmas with Comedy

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Is this the true meaning of Christmas?

Whether one observes a secular or religious Christmas, we are all bombarded each year with messages – both subtle and gross – to buy, buy, buy. It’s no different this year, except that the vast Christmas machine seems to have shifted into overdrive. Watching the evening news over the last week, I note a recurring emphasis on the fact that most major American retailers had the worst October, saleswise, since 1969. While this is certainly newsworthy, the extent of the coverage betrays an array of underlying “details”– (more…)

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A lot of holiday stress can be attributed to lack of organization. Possibly you have these amorphous thoughts floating around in your head about what needs to be done, but you never sit down and make out a list or a schedule. Perhaps you don’t even evaluate how much you can–or how much you want to spend–this year. Then the 15th of December rolls around, and just like last year, you haven’t made any preparations at all….

So you stress. And come New Year’s Day, you’re exhausted and you’re glad it’s over for another year.

Get yourself organized. Get a blank calendar, and start planning out every aspect of your holiday season. There is something about getting all the plans out on paper that is both stress-reducing and liberating. Not only that, but after you’ve finished filling out your calendar, you can ruminate over it for a few days and decide what you need or would like to hack out to make things easier on you and yours.

No excuses. Here is a link to a site where you can design and print out as many custom, full page blank calendars as you’d like, for free – no membership necessary, no leaving your e-mail address. 100% free, no strings attached. You can even personalize your calendar(s) with a photograph(s).

samplecalendarA reduced-size version of a blank calendar created for free at dayweekyear.com.

Do it NOW. Don’t wait. To give you some ideas on how to go about scheduling, see my  posts from last year: Tips for Simplifying the Holiday Dinner & Holiday Dinners Don’t Have to Be a Lot of Work. You may also want to have a look at the posts

Lastly, here’s a Christmas schedule that no one but Martha Stewart would attempt. 😉

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I know that October  8th may seem rather early to debut the Christmas calendar for 2008, but the fact of the matter is that some of the ticketed events are already selling seats – and it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to bring the calendar online after these have sold out. Surprisingly, however, one very big holiday event kicks off before the end of this month – namely, the Tacoma Holiday Food and Gift Festival, to be held at the Tacoma Dome October 22-26.

As with last year, there will be a strong emphasis this year on discovering and listing free and low-cost events throughout Whatcom County and greater Western Washington that the whole family can enjoy. This is in line with the general theme of this site: simplifying Christmas, and  creating pleasant and memorable experiences in the place of pre-Christmas stress and a post-Christmas flat wallet.

Events with a price for admission will of course be listed, as well – there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the producers of an event asking that a production or festival be supported by the attendees (although I must confess that $184-$450 price tags on a family-of-four admission to a certain time-honored production this year strikes me as near-larceny).

From now until Halloween, I’ll be very busy behind the scenes, here, gathering material for the site, and discovering even more events to populate the calendar (there’s a whole lot out there). Before I close this post, though, I’d like to ask you to keep the following phrase in mind: Ornament is for joy. Christmastime is a season of ornament, and has the potential to be a time of real value, of real joy, rather than a time for superficial affectations of joy and a closing value that can be summed off of gift-receipts.  But it’s up to you. If you’ve turned the holiday season into a finance-straining, nerve-shattering experience…well, it’s your own damned fault. About that, here’s some good news: it doesn’t have to be that way. You can make it better; you can make this very Christmas one to remember fondly.  And I can help you with that.

See you on November 1st: All Saint’s Day!

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The real Bad Santa

To many individuals, the sentiment expressed in this poster is Christmas. Maybe they dislike it, maybe they resent it, maybe they regret it, maybe they long for something different. Or maybe they buy into it. Both literally and figuratively.

The old saying goes, “Time is money.” It’s not true. Beyond estimation, time is worth more than money. This Christmas and all throughout the year, spend time with those you love. With your wife, your husband, your children, your friends. No gift(s), no matter how lavish, can take the place of that.

And as for love: tell them so. Look them in the eye, and say, “I love you.” Almost nothing says it better than that. Since time immemorial.

Time stand still
I’m not looking back, but I
Want to look around me, now.
Time stand still
See more of the people and the
Places that surround me, now.

Neil Peart, “Time Stand Still”

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