It seems everyone I’m coming in contact with lately is adding one more task to their list or one more activity to their calendar. There’s even a commercial on tv that challenges us, “Who wouldn’t want more?”
As someone who is actively minimizing I’m paying close attention to the idea of “more.” We’ve been conditioned to believe that more is better. My husband and I often joke about one of our college accounting professors instilling in us the idea that, “More is always better than less.” The older and hopefully wiser I become, I’m no longer believing that’s the case. Sometimes more is overwhelming, which is what I’m noticing for a lot of people I’ve overheard this holiday season:
There are still so many gifts to buy! How will I ever get it all done?
They really don’t need anything, but I have to get them something.
Why can’t I find the perfect outdoor holiday decorations, like my neighbor?
Even though this has been a year of minimizing and simplifying for us, I recently found myself experiencing some of this same holiday overwhelm.
If you’re a long time reader you may recall the Sharbs experimented with skipping Christmas in 2014. Then, because we were preparing our house for listing in January 2016, we skipped holiday decorating for a second year in a row in 2015. When we moved to our smaller house in 2016 we donated our beautiful nine-foot-pre-lit-so-life-like-fraser-fir christmas tree, because it was too tall to fit in our new home.
When Thanksgiving 2016 rolled around it hit me, “We don’t have a tree to decorate!” Even though we had in effect “practiced” for not having a tree the past two holiday seasons, practicing for no tree and having no tree were two very different things. My husband and sons were perfectly fine with the idea of no tree and even grateful they would never have to haul the 9 foot monster tree up from the basement again. But, I found myself strangely discontent and feeling a need to buy a tree.
So, go buy a tree you say. Well, going out to buy a tree didn’t seem like the right thing to do for people who are minimizing. I was conflicted, but this didn’t stop me from looking.
I looked online for days and at no less than six different stores all over Cleveland. I’m embarrassed by how much time I spent looking for the “right” tree. As I searched though, I kept coming up with reasons to not buy a tree: not life-like enough, not enough tips, not enough lights, wrong color of lights, too slim, too wide, too big to store easily, too small, and too expensive.
Exhausted from the search, I stepped back to observe what was going on and a few things came up for me. First, it was becoming clear that I was the barrier between having a tree and not having one. Second, I noticed I wasn’t considering this situation from the perspective of minimizing. Instead I was working to recreate my previous life, which isn’t the goal of our minimizing experiment. Third, I was complicating my life and creating unneeded stress by striving for “more.” What if instead of one more thing to search for, store and care for I had one less?
A conversation came back to me. It was a conversation I’d had with my coach many years ago when I was struggling with “one-more-thing-itis”, which was my need at that time to always tack on one more thing and overwhelm myself. Because this felt like another manifestation of “one-more-thing-itis”, I challenged myself: “What’s one less thing I can do?”
Luckily, this was an easy question to answer. I could stop my search for the perfect, slim, pre-lit, compact, reasonably priced tree with lots of tips.
Having stopped the search, I went down to the basement to see what I had to work with.
As I opened the boxes of holiday decorations that hadn’t seen the light of day in two years, I rediscovered some old holiday favorites, like my antique chalk Santa bank and my Royal Doulton snowman, in the photo above, which was a gift from my grandmother. My small collection of unusual Christmas trees, brought a smile to my face and got the wheels turning. These simple unadorned trees had always been holiday decorating “filler” in my previous home. What if they became the main attraction? What if I used them to display select ornaments? It was an untraditional solution, but we’re becoming more untraditional people with each passing each day, so I gave it a try.
The result is not what most people would think of when they imagine holiday decor, but this solution works well for us aesthetically and allows us to honor our emerging core value of having less, not more. This outcome also resulted in less running around, less stress and frustration and more time to relax and enjoy what the holiday season has to offer.
So, less is more for us during the holidays this year and when that commercial shows up on my tv screen asking, : “Who wouldn’t want more? I respond, “Me!”
What’s one less thing you could do this holiday season? How might committing to one less thing bring more joy and relaxation to your life?