12 Lessons from the Holidays


1. Less can be more. I only put out 1/3 of our decorations.  We moved into a new house that we are sharing with a housemate and I didn't want to completely overwhelm her with our 5 boxes of Christmas. But you know what?   In addition to being easier to set up and take down, it was still homey and cozy.  Would you downsize your decorations?  

2. Sometimes dinner feels like a Sisyphean task.  I find a can of garbanzo beans, some olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and lemon juice also make an excellent 30 second dinner.  My husband disagrees.  If the troops mutiny, tell them to cook their own damn dinner. :) Or better yet, ask your partner or Munchery* for help.  Not feasible? Rotate between a few favorite easy meals.  It's better than being a martyr and overextending yourself. 

3. Saying no is ok.  We turned down several holiday party options, and instead just went to the two we felt up to.  There's no shame in that.  I'm more comfortable in one-on-one situations anyway, though it was nice to stretch outside the comfort zone and chat with new people at both parties.   If going to parties energizes you, great! Say yes.  If they drain you, know your limits. Have you said "no" and enjoyed it?

4. "You" time is ok.  Be it just you or you and a partner.  We had to turn down a New Year's Day dinner because we just needed to have a day at home with ourselves.  Need a day? Take that sick/comp/vacation day and enjoy the hell outta it! You're going to feel better!

5. Presence is always the best present.  I'm not the first to say that, but I believe it's true.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE giving and getting presents - the fun of finding just the right thing, the anticipation that they are going to love what I picked out.  However, at the end of the day, what I remember most is time spent with loved ones. Maybe it's a walk, a game of cards, time on the patio..those are the memories that endure, much longer than the "stuff" that went with them.  Who's presence are you craving? Can you make it happen in this new year?

6. The Christmas Tree is what makes it for me.  Having that puppy glowing in the corner makes it feel like home.  Each ornament I unwrap and place on it takes me on a trip down memory lane. Some are from my parents, some from grandparents and great-grandparents, some from travels both local and abroad.  What decoration makes it feel like the holidays for you? If not a decoration, what?  

7. Traditions are awesome.  When we travelled overseas to Italy, the thing that struck me the most was the age of everything.  That rock? Yeah, it's from the Etruscans.  Before the Romans. Whoa.  You can feel the weight of history upon you.  In a good way.  You feel connected the to past, and traditions in the present do the same thing for me.  My Grandmama was from the deep south.  Black-eyed peas were a New Year's religion.  Eat them and you won't starve in the coming year.  Cornbread? It better be in a black, cast-iron pan.  We eat these things and think of her, think of where we came from.  Is there a certain tradition that makes you feel connected?

8. More blankets beat the heater any day of the week.   A blast of hot air from the heater never felt as good as a pile of blankets.  If the heater kicking on and off is waking you up and drying out your skin, give this a try. Turn the heat down to 62 and pile on a few extra blankets.  That big heavy pile of blankets might even make you feel calmer in the morning.  

9. The playlist makes the mood.  If you've got some heavy duty cleaning, wrapping, or cooking to do, the playlist is where it's at.  I dig high energy for cleaning, Cheesy Christmas for wrapping, classical for thinking and some trip-hop for the in-between tasks.  We all intuitively know music makes things better, but science proved it.  What sounds make you move, groove or chill? 

10.  Scents make sense.  Smell has been proven to be a strong link to memory.  I don't know about you, but the smell of cloves takes me right home to winter in Lockeford.  The woodburning stove was going, the pot of water on top spiked with clove and cinnamon.  To this day that smell means winter and Christmas to me.  Add to that pine scented candles and I'm as cozy as a bug in a rug.**  What smell takes you home?

11. Fire makes it all good.  Maybe it's candles, maybe a Duraflame, or maybe a full on rip-roaring fire.  I think we can all agree that fire makes things cozier.  I'm made fun of for my tea-light addiction and we've been rocking the Duraflames every few nights, so maybe I'm biased.  But tell me, have you lit any candles this season?  Scented or otherwise? Did you feel warmer? Cozier? Calmer? The Danes even have a word for this: hygge and they are some of the happiest people in the world. 

12. I love/hate sending Christmas cards.  You know, this whole writing thing is actually a pain in the arse, or hand, more accurately. BUT, it's beautiful.  You get to pause and think fondly of the person your writing to.  I'm sure Michelangelo's neck hurt while he was painting the Sistine Chapel, and I'm also sure that he was stoked with the results.  So, if you're down, I'd recommend sending out the holiday cards of your choosing (Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's, etc.) because taking a moment as we write to pause and appreciate our friends can never be a bad thing, and it might even make you smarter.  

Well? Anything else? What made you feel good during the holiday season?  What lessons did you learn? Tag it with #thesimplifiedlife on Instagram or Twitter if you've got a photo to share.  And speaking of sharing, send this on to friends if you dig it.  <3



*Yes, that's an affiliate link.  You get $20 off and so do I. 

**Yes, I'm a bit of a hypocrite.  I aim for unscented, toxin free everything the rest of the year, but those pine scented candles get me every time.  If you know of an all natural one, please send me a link. 

Simplified Saturdays: Holidays Part 5

Well, holiday season is in full swing in our neighborhood.  Christmas lights are up, carols are being sung and it's even supposed to rain a few more days!

On my end, the presents are wrapped (more on presents and gift giving in a later post), the tree is up and the cards are written.  This is the first year I haven't felt rushed in a long time and I thought I would share a few tips I learned.

1.  Having a preprinted list of all the addresses you will be sending cards to is key!  I made this list before we went to Europe, so that I could easily send postcards.  Having this list on a physical piece of paper, rather than having to scroll through contacts on a phone or through an address book took at least an hour off the card writing process. 

2. The tree.  I am a sucker for a Noble Fir.  This is my favorite part of Christmas.  Period.  So, to keep decorating from being overwhelming, I've greatly pared down my other holiday ornaments.  I have the same wreath I decorated years ago that goes on the door, I have the same piece of twine with mini-clothespins that I pin to the wall to hold Christmas cards, I have a few pieces of poinsettia garland with white lights, the same door and kitchen mats I swap out every year.  Other than that, there are just a few miscellaneous items.  The key is to just keep your favorite items.  You know exactly where they go, it take 5 minutes, it brings you joy. Done.  That way, any extra time can be spent decorating the tree and reminiscing about the origin of all the ornaments.  Some are over 100 years old!

3.  Presents.  I do want to continue to downsize our present giving tradition. Hopefully we can implement the 1 want, 1 need, 1 read and 1 experience idea next year.  In the meantime, I highly recommend staying the hell outta stores in December.  I managed to find most of the things I wanted to purchase before December and found this to be key in not overspending. 

4.  Parties.  Don't over do it.  Last year JT and I practically collapsed at the end of the season.  This year we've tried to stay home at least one day per weekend.  This is helping greatly.  The parties are fun, but so is time spent with each other. 

5.  Compromise.  Be it where to spend the important days, what to serve, what services to go to, the dollar amount to spend on gifts, where to put the decorations.  Compromise is key.  Being an only child and a newlywed, I'm still learning that. :) I can vouch for the joy you'll get when you see your loved one get their way though.  

That's all I have for now.  I hope you have a moment to curl up on the couch with a good book or enjoy a cup of tea and a quiet moment.