The holidays can be a tricky time for us minimalists. A lot of what is glorified about the holiday season goes against our ideals of a simple life and less-is-more living. As someone who once got up at 4:00am on the day after Thanksgiving to score a $99 television, I get it.
When I think back to those days where materialism ruled my life, two things stand out—first, black Friday shopping was a bonding experience for me and my mom. We scoured the sales circulars in the Thanksgiving Day newspaper, created our plan of attack, and then bleary-eyed the next morning executed our plan to near perfection. That part of the memory I like because not only am I spending time with a loved one, but we’re accomplishing something we set out to do.
The second thing that stands out is how much pushing and shoving happened as we all waited in the cold for the store doors to open. People did not exhibit the behaviors we typically enjoy about the holiday season, such as generosity, joy, peace, and gratitude. Instead it was ME, ME, ME, ME, ME!
And, yes, it was ME! I shoved, I pushed, and being small, I could finagle my way to the front of the line and tear through the store like an Olympic sprinter striving for that gold. But in my case the gold was a $99 television and not something to bring lasting fame and glory.
The irony is that I rarely watch television anymore and now I don’t even own a TV. I listed that $99 television for free on craigslist a few years ago when I began to embrace the minimalist mindset.
Do I miss it? Not at all. And I don’t just mean the television, but all of it—the spending of money on things I don’t really want or need but feel compelled to buy because of the bargain price, the fighting with crowds at the butt crack of dawn, and the weighed down feeling of stuff, stuff, and more stuff.
Thankfully, my mom and I learned the error of our ways, though our journey to get there was on somewhat separate paths. As my Mom has had to deal with the death of her parents and my father’s, as well as other extended family members, my childhood home became bloated with four additional households worth of stuff. I think she felt nothing but gratitude when we stopped buying into the black Friday hype and instead found other ways to have fun over the holidays.
For myself, I realized I much preferred experiences over stuff. In November of 2013, I participated in an online meditation series which focused on gratitude. I looked at my life in new ways and realized the things that brought me joy were not, in fact, things.
Minimal Living During a Hectic Holiday Season
Now we spend our Thanksgiving celebrating the intention of the holiday. Instead of planning how we can acquire more stuff for the least amount of money, we pay attention to how we can embody gratitude that day (and beyond). The benefits are invaluable. Here are just a few:
1. Less stress.
By being grateful for what we have in the present moment, there’s no need to worry about everything being “just right.” It already is. There’s no fuss about perfect decorations or table settings because the changing leaves, the autumn sky, and crisp air provide the perfect backdrop for any Thanksgiving meal.
2. Less discord.
The gratitude mindset for everything, great and small, can make us appreciate the little things about our loved ones that used to drive us crazy. Once we feel this appreciation, it’s so much easier to set aside our differences and celebrate the love of family connections. We can laugh and make jokes and at the very least we can say, “Here have some mashed potatoes,” and then with our mouths filled and bellies happy, we won’t we need to argue anymore.
3. More time.
Waking up at 4:00am to go shopping is a drain on so many levels; when you give that up, the amount of time you gain seems like hours more because it’s not just about the early rising time. There’s also an abundance of energy that isn’t getting sucked up by crowds of people who have materialism on their minds.
With this extra time, you can get outside, soaking up the restorative power of nature. The best part is nature is free and it doesn’t take up any more space in our lives. We never have to wait for it to go on sale and there’s always more than enough to go around (for now, anyway).
4. More hospitality.
When you don’t have to go out and do a lot of shopping, there’s more time to spend with your family and friends. The holidays are also a perfect time to get to know your neighbors. Think about how many times we’ve sat around a dinner table complaining about what’s wrong with the world and arguing about how to make it a better place. Now we have time to open our doors and get to know one another. When we treat our neighbors like family members, it’s that much easier to see the world as a better place.
As we embrace this shift in holiday consciousness, remember the “things” that matter most are the ones we don’t ever have to buy at a store. We can make “Thank you; I love you,” our mantra instead of, “Let’s go shopping.”
By keeping love and gratitude the central theme of the holiday season, you don’t even miss the rest—and isn’t that what it’s all about?