For families, the holidays are usually a mad dash that leaves kids overstimulated and parents drained. But 2020 changed all the rules. This year, simplicity may just be the seasonal gift that keeps on giving.
"It's the most wonderful time of the year! There'll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow."
When I first hear this iconic Christmas song bellowing through the air, I get giddy with holiday glee. My adrenaline goes on auto-pilot as I begin plotting and planning how I'll wow my family and friends with another decked-out season.
Well, not this year. Things are drastically different. None of us could've ever imagined that when we welcomed 2020, we were actually embarking on one of the most unprecedented years of our lifetime.
There's no doubt that 2020 has pushed families to the limits of their endurance, which is why I want to take some time to focus on one bright spot—simplicity. In fact, simplicity may just be the one holiday gift you didn't even know you needed this year.
"Spark Real Joy" and let go of the everyday madness
I remember my days as a stay-at-home mom when my eight kids were younger. I loved my kids, but I felt so cooped up and desperately wanted to spend time with people I didn't have to change and feed. And since I didn't get out often, I remember how draining it was to be surrounded by endless piles of toys and other paraphernalia.
Many families have embraced organizing and purging clutter as a way to bring peace to their home environments despite the chaos outside.
Now that we're cooped up for reasons other than having to manage young children, many families have embraced organizing and purging clutter as a way to bring peace to their home environments despite the chaos outside.
Millions of people worldwide—myself included—fell in love with Marie Kondo by reading her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, or watching her star in the Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. With eight kids, the amount of claptrap our family managed was unthinkable. Then I followed the KonMari method, which mandates that you only keep the items that bring you joy. Her approach is unlike any other decluttering process because you create a vision for your ideal lifestyle before you begin. The KonMari method is category-based, not a room-by-room approach. Her philosophy of only keeping things that "spark real joy" is a fantastic concept.
Once you let go of the extra "stuff" in your life, you automatically make room for clean energy and happiness. Simplifying your everyday surroundings will help spark joy and fuel a sense of zen-like calm.
Increase the value of your time with smarter choices
How often do you say or think "If I only had more time"? In 2020, we were suddenly handed more time as commutes to work and school were exchanged for remote work and learning, rehearsals and sports practices were canceled, and many activities that would normally take us away from home and occupy our precious time ground to a halt.
You may miss the hustle and bustle, but there's an unexpected upshot. Without so many obligations, you now have time to focus on causes that add value to your life and learn to let the rest go.
I took the advice of Lisa Bodell, an expert on innovation and the author of Why Simple Wins, and completed a productivity T-chart. On the left side, list anything and everything you typically spend your time doing daily. Now, circle what you consider offers value to yourself, your family, or your career. On the right side, you list how you'd like to be spending your time.
I've restructured my daily schedule to make it more efficient and fulfilling. This is a gift that keeps on giving!
I was astounded to see how many hours I spend each day on emails and (gasp!) perusing social media. I'm always saying, "I wish I had more time to read and research info for my business," but I continued falling into the same trap of not finding a way to do it.
These days, I've restructured my daily schedule to make it more efficient and fulfilling. I make deliberate and careful decisions about where and how I spend my time. Unlike the Jelly of the Month Club, this is truly a gift that keeps on giving!
Saying "no" becomes easier
Besides making better use of your time, an added benefit of mindful simplicity is learning not to overcommit yourself. We've started learning to say that one scary word many of us are challenged to utter: "no." (Guilty as charged!)
This is graduation from 'no' school. Just like guilt, apologizing is for when you've done something wrong. It may seem like a fine line between not apologizing and being rude, but done well, 'no' can be gracious and polite. Your requestor won't even miss the 'I’m so sorry.' For instance, 'What a lovely idea to make handmade decorations for the reunion! I have to admit, I’m just not the woman for that job. But I can make a mean sangria.' Tah-dah! No apologies needed.
Practice makes perfect! Well, almost. I'm not perfect, but I’ve become much more diligent about only accepting opportunities and obligations that I feel good about or that will benefit my family. The time I’ve gleaned from eliminating extra hassles this season allows more time for holiday baking, reading by the tree, and taking walks in our coastal winter wonderland.
Simplicity breeds a healthier lifestyle
Being homebound due to the pandemic has offered us some choices with regard to our overall health. Do you gravitate toward hearty comfort foods while binging on Netflix, or do you stay motivated with creative, at-home workouts and cooking lean? You probably know people from both camps.
The quarantine 15 is no laughing matter. Numerous adults and children have gained weight due to being confined and eating fatty, processed foods. This, combined with a sedentary lifestyle, is a toxic combination.
On the flip side, others took the opportunity to carve out a healthier lifestyle for themselves. In the New York Times article Using the Pandemic as an Opportunity to Lose Weight and Get in Shape, several folks shared how living a simpler life throughout the pandemic motivated them to make positive changes in their lifestyles mentally and physically.
With less outside distractions and competing agendas, there’s more time to be mindful of healthy choices—an ultimate win/win for the entire family.