‘Twas the Day After Christmas

Twas the Day after Christmas… and all through the house, every box was left empty… even the one kicked under the couch…

Well… you’ve arrived.  The post-Christmas hangover that has little to do with the abundance of eggnog, or that new Belgian beer you were gifted from that really cool uncle.  No, this is the hangover that you experience when all of the anticipation of gizmos and gadgets that were unpackaged created a silence in your soul that have you wondering if something was missed along the way.

Every year, the best intentioned of us approach the holiday season to get in touch with the true meaning of Christmas… something to do with the heart of the issue that says that Love didn’t come in the form of an accessory… but as living, breathing flesh.  The gift of presence… not presents.  The gift of touching human, not touching screen.

On Christmas Eve, I made a quick run up to the local Family Dollar to grab a special chord that I needed, and ran into a mad house.  See, we have a house on some land in a small town, and the Walmart is about a 20 minute drive away.  Our town has two dollar stores to accommodate a poorer population, and so this stop is not only convenient, but also a necessity for many who call this place home.

When I arrived, and made my way to the ‘technology’ aisle, I found it to be cleaned out.  Now hear me… while I’m not knocking the Family Dollar (it’s my store of choice for most everything essential), truth is, the shelves here don’t typically carry the top of the line products.  They are the knock off brands made for those with a tighter budget.  The shelves here were stripped bare.

These are the types of items, that in the 11th hour of Christmas shopping are there more to fill a void in the giver… than they are the recipient.  That void that screams, ‘so-in-so is going to be devastated on Christmas morning… if… they… don’t… have… one… more… thing… to… open…’

Now… don’t get me wrong… I’m not trying to scrooge away the magic that a child feels when, through that early morning grogginess get to see a beautiful tree with packages that contain their name.  I’m just advocating for the warm memories that last after they have all grown up, and they remember the feel of sitting on someone’s lap… under a blanket… on that long December morning from years gone by.

You know what I mean.

The good news is that the holidays are not over.  For many, the next week will continue to be filled with getting together with family and friends as we look forward to ringing in a new year… and yet anticipation begins to build.  That of a hope that says maybe next year will be even better that it is now.

And so, here is our hope for you: that you would consider meditating on some or all of the following things from our friends at Becoming Minimalist… and see if you can enjoy a happy and healthy 2014, and not stress that there are only 363 more shopping days till Christmas.

1. Spend Less | Choosing to accumulate only the essential often results in financial freedom.

2. Less Stress | A minimalist home is significantly less stressful.

3. Easier to Clean | The fewer things in our home, the easier they are to clean.

4. More Freedom | The sense of freedom that comes from minimalism is truly refreshing.

5. Good for the Environment | The less we consume, the less damage we do to the environment.

6. Be More Productive | Our possessions consume our time more than we realize.

7. Example for my Kids | These are valuable life lessons they will never learn in the media.

8. Support Other Causes | Money is only as valuable as what we choose to spend it on.

9. Own Higher Quality Things | More is not better… better is better.

10. Less Work for Someone Else | Create a less stressful life today and lessen the burden on someone else too.

11. Be Happier | Owning fewer possessions makes you happier.

12. Do Work You Love | Own less stuff. Choose work you love.

13. Freedom From the Comparison Game | Our culture begs us to own more.

14. Time for Things that Matter Most | The more stuff you own, the more your stuff owns you.

15. Visually Appealing | Make your home more appealing.

16. Not Tied to the Past | Release the past to create a better tomorrow.

17. Less Places for Your Heart | Invest your heart into meaningful things.

18. More Opportunity for Rest | Take a deep breath.

19. Find Things Easier | Own less clutter. Find stuff quicker.

20. Live in a Smaller Space | For most families, a house is the costliest investment they’ll ever make.

21. Display What You Value Most | Communicate what is most important.

Tell You A Vision

We have one of those nifty digital antennas on the TV.  You know… one of the ones that you buy at the store that is the box that promises free HD quality programming.  There is enough technical nerdiness in the house to get really excited about seeing how many channels you can get in with the satisfaction that none of it is being paid for.  Muwahaha…!

Upon setup, you have to navigate the remote to find section of the menu that will tell the tv to scan through all of the available channels.  I have to admit, that the numerous times that we’ve done this, there is more excitement seeing how high the number of available channels that are picked up is actually more exciting than the programming that comes in.  The progress bar moves across the screen, and there are always two local stations from Grand Rapids that come in (which is good, because one of them is an all weather station which tends to be on most of the time… the kids think we’re lame).

After that, it is a crap shoot on channel selection.  There are three religious stations that are in perpetual fundraising mode that come in about 80% of the time.  Maybe… we’ll get in some programming from a university in the area.  What I’m really hoping for is some signal from Detroit so that the Lions games can be enjoyed in the background of a Sunday afternoon… but the planets really need to be aligned for that to come in.

Occasionally we’ll get the local CBS station… but never while the sun is up… and only if the antenna is positioned flat on a little stand at a 45 degree angle facing southeast.

All that to say: we don’t watch a lot of television, and the extent of our knowledge typically involves what high pressure system is going to be bringing snow into the area (better make sure there is enough wood in the house for the stove.)

With channel availability at a minimum at home, I can say that this holiday season has been less stressful on the materialism front.

There is no advertised pressure bombarding my system to have the latest and greatest toy that will end up on a shelf or in a garage sale someday.

There is no feeling that the simplicity which we enjoy in our little corner of the wooded world is not enough to keep up with the rest of society.

There is no lack of conversation due to the fact that if we need to zone into anything… it will be each other.

It is easy this time of year… while rebuilding a family unit to look at years that have gone by and feel that you need to at least live up to the materialism of the past.  Spend money that you don’t have… on things that you don’t need.

Intentionally limiting the amount of television programming that has come into the house has helped to develop an ethos of sitting together throughout our day and talking… playing music… coloring… eating… laughing with (and at) each other… going for walks… or enjoying the comfortable silence that just being together brings.

We are looking forward to a simpler Christmas this year, in part due to the fact that the glowing materialism that pixelates itself across the TV screen has been tamed… and the closeness of family time has been nurtured.

After all… isn’t that what we really remember from days gone by… the warmth of just… being… together.