With Thanksgiving behind us, those living in the U.S. can expect to be swamped with messages of consumerism for the next 34 days. In fact, Black Friday, which many retailers have named as the most heavily shopped day of the year, is today. If you are anything like me, even with the best of intentions it’s easy to be mesmerized by the glamor of things being advertised everywhere—even when we know better. But rather than give in to the impulse, I instead decided to sit down and write out a few simple, but important, ways I want to stay rightsized over the coming holiday season. If you could use some help with your resolve, please check out my list and add some of your own suggestions in the comments below.
If you are new to SMART Living 365 you may not be familiar with what I mean by “rightsized.” I started using the word about ten years ago to describe the lifestyle that my husband Thom and I began practicing. At the time, we felt a strong draw to a more simple and minimal existence, so we considered the popular step that many people refer to as “downsizing.” We didn’t need such a big house and certainly didn’t need all the stuff that we had accumulated over the years. But rather than calling it downsizing (which implies sacrifice) we decided to call it rightsizing. Rather than a focus on giving up things, we took steps to eliminate everything that wasn’t adding joy and contentment to our lives. Of course, it wasn’t just about getting rid of stuff we owned, it was mostly choosing to focus on the things that truly mattered to us.
One great thing about rightsizing is that there are no hard and fast rules. You don’t have to become a minimalist and sell your house to move into something smaller—although that often happens. You also don’t have to give up those items in your home that you consider precious to you—only that other stuff you keep around “just in case.” In addition, you don’t have to give up your job—although if your work makes you miserable why not? In fact, one of the best benefits of rightsizing is that it allows you to design a life as unique as you are. And the best way to be “rightsized” is to first find what is deeply important to you and your family, and then commit yourself to that pursuit.
Furthermore, there is a “rightsize” for every area of our lives—and that includes the coming holidays. So, if you love Christmas and are convinced it is the best holiday ever—then celebrating the holiday your way should take a priority. If you are Jewish and only observe Jewish holidays this time of year—no problem—rightsize your holy days without regret. Prefer the Winter Solstice, Mawlid an-Nabi, Kwanzaa or Saturnalia? Again, no problem because rightsizing is the permission to celebrate and practice whatever faith or non-faith you choose.
Therefore, no matter how you decide to observe the holiday, the challenge is to do it in a way that brings you joy and peace of mind. If you experience other emotions like guilt, stress, anxiety, pressure to conform, overwhelm, anger, resentment, jealousy or other toxic emotions, then that is an indication that you aren’t rightsized in some way. I know this because I have been there myself.
So, what can you do? Here are ten simple (but not always easy) ideas that can lead to a rightsized holiday.
1. Decide first and foremost what you enjoy most about the holiday and what you dislike. Then, to put it bluntly, do the things that bring you joy and STOP doing the things you dislike. And please don’t say that you “have” to do some things even though you hate them. There are very few things we actually “have” to do—but most of the time we do them out of guilt, obligation or thinking we need to prove our love. Even with things like going to work, or taking care of others, we have choices. We might not like all the choices we have before us—but we have them. How we choose to direct the time and energy of our life is up to us.
The problem with doing things that we hate is that we end up feeling victimized and resentful, and that bitterness is evident to everyone around us—including our own soul. Far better to be true to ourselves and seek our own peace of mind than to force ourselves to celebrate and behave in ways that bring out the worst in us rather than the best. If there is really something you believe you must do for a variety of reasons, find a way to reframe that experience in a way that allows you to let go of the resentment. Otherwise, stop doing that thing that is making you miserable.
2. Once you have a list of what you enjoy most about the holiday, commit to only putting those activities on your calendar for the next 34 days. That means that if you love decorating the house to look like a Hallmark Holiday then do it! If you never liked sending out Christmas Cards—stop it!!! If you are dreading that office holiday party—just don’t go. Instead of whining about having to cook the same old turkey dinner just because everyone expects you to—let someone else cook for a change. Focusing on a couple of the actions that you enjoy most of all this time of year, and letting go of all those others, is pure rightsizing.
3. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Going into debt for the holidays completely misses the mark on what most people say is the “reason for the season.” No matter what holiday you celebrate, only spend money you can easily afford. Refuse to spend money out of habit, or perhaps worse, allow yourself to be hypnotized by the push of advertisers trying to convince you that you must buy more and more (for yourself or others) to be happy.
4.Consider going gift-free this holiday season. Even before Thom and I rightsized our lives we began feeling the pressure to buy gifts every time a holiday rolled around. I understand that it is pleasurable to think of those we love and try to make them happy by buying them something we think they will enjoy. But most of the times the gifts we received were just token items because people felt they were obligated to get us something. And often, our own gifts to others were clearly not that appreciated. At some point, we made the decision to stop giving or receiving gifts during Christmas.
It wasn’t easy in the beginning. After all, gifts are expected, right? It was especially difficult when someone went ahead and gave us a gift even after we asked them not to do it. But instead of feeling powerless, we began attempting to provide experiences rather than items. What do I mean by that? Instead of roaming the stores looking for something they may or may not like anyway, we took our loved ones to lunch, dinner, a concert or a play. That way we spent time with them doing something we both enjoyed. That, or I baked them something or made them something as a gift. Not only does the elimination of traditional gift giving ease up your time and money during the holidays, it also helps you remember what you value most in your life—including the “why” behind your holiday in the first place.
5. Put taking care of your body, mind, and soul at the top of your to-do list. In other words, if you eat healthy of most time, don’t start gulping down fudge and eggnog just because someone brought it to work. It’s also wise not to forget our normal exercise routines. Meditation and other spiritual rituals are extremely helpful all year long, but nearly essential during busy times like the holidays. Whatever form of beneficial self-care fits into your regular lives, be sure and continue them throughout the holidays.
6. Focus on appreciating what you do have instead of focusing on anything you think you are missing—in other words, practice gratitude. Unfortunately, I sometimes allow myself to get so caught up in doing things that I forget to just stop and appreciate what is right in front of me. Rightsizing keeps me focused and grateful for what matters most to me.
7. Refuse to compare your way of celebrating and enjoying the holiday with how others are choosing to do it. A phrase in yoga says it well, “Keep your eyes on your own mat.” Those of us who spend time on Facebook or any other form of social media are exposed to everything all our friends and acquaintances are doing. Sure, some of it looks fun or just downright amazing. But, let’s keep in mind that what we see on Facebook is usually the “best” of what they are doing, not the whole story. Sure, it is wonderful to admire things about our friends—let’s just not allow ourselves to feel envious and unhappy because we don’t have or do the same.
8. Surround yourself with the people who love and support you, and avoid the rest. Hey, I have a family too so I know that there is bound to be a person (or two) that shows up during the holidays that we don’t care to be around. So, when I say avoid them if at all possible I really mean it. It is far better to refuse an invite than to hang out with people who will suck the life out of you. It is also very important to stay away from people who love to shop, overspend or over-indulge during the holidays. We are all highly influenced by the people around us so it is best to find people who practice the same values and intentions as we do. The holidays are no exception.
9. Accept the fact that you can’t do it all–but be aware that in most cases, doing less will actually bring you MORE positive results. A few weeks ago, I blogged about tradeoffs, or the PTV (poop-to-value-ratio), of everything. Holiday fun, chores, and activities need to be considered the same way. Some will have a high tradeoff value and others have very low PTV. Take the time to figure out which return the highest benefit and let go of all the rest. Refuse to believe you have to (even if you could!) do every single thing that comes along to make it a great holiday.
10. The simple living and minimalism approach is all about decluttering and letting go of unnecessary things. Holiday decorations, activities, food and family have a way of expanding to the extreme limits of our lives if we let them. A strategy invented by Joshua Becker in his book, The More of Less is, “Only the best.” Using this process, he suggests that we consider everything in our lives (and holiday related) and then asked ourselves, “Is this the very best of what I have or could be doing? Is this the very best I could be spending my money on? Is this the very best use of my time?” If we vowed to do “only the best” this holiday season, our experience would be rightsized—and there’s a good chance it would make this holiday season the best ever.
These are just a few of the rightsizing ideas that I intend to implement in the coming days before Christmas. Remember, rightsizing isn’t about sacrifice. Those things I will be avoiding will instead offer me so much more of what matters to me. This year, I plan to stay focused on those things that truly bring me joy and happiness—and then share my joy and happiness with everyone I encounter. However you decide to celebrate the coming holidays, it would be SMART to make sure your plans are rightsized.
Okay, your turn. Do you have any suggestions on how we can all rightsize our holidays? If yes, please share them in the comments below.