Merriam- Webster defines simplify as “to make simple or simpler, to reduce to basic essentials, to diminish in scope or complexity”
I have been thinking about this for a while, well since New Years actually. I have been putting off making my resolution this year, or putting off writing about it. I have been working out what exactly this means to me, and if I set this as my goal what will the results be. Simply put; what do I want out of this?
This actually started before Christmas. Maybe it started with the down fall of the economy, I don’t know, but I really felt it resonate in my heart at Christmas. I really wanted a simpler Christmas. I didn’t want to have to go to the Mall, wasting gas and time trying to find the right present for everyone. And then having to wrap or bag everything. I am starting to learn that my time is precious and simply that is just not how I want to spend it. I would rather spend it with the people I love. Even if I’m making presents at home, it feels like I am getting better use of my time and that the presents will be more appreciated.
I also think that our expectations are too high. That’s the reason that people feel more depressed during the Holidays. We expect to receive gifts, and we expect to be able to give a certain amount of gifts. I think it starts to make Christmas feel a little hollow. I started thinking about what kind of memories did I want to start for my families. What would our Christmas traditions be? I realized that compared to my husband’s family, my side didn’t really have that many traditions. One thing that did stick out was the Christmases that my Mother had as a child. My mother was one of eleven children, born at the tail end of the depression in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. To say that sometimes there wasn’t enough to go around would be an understatement. But, they still had Christmas.
Each Christmas there would be a hand cut tree strung with popcorn or paper chains and hung with homemade ornaments. Everyone would hang their socks on the fireplace to find them filled Christmas morn with some candy, oranges, and a toothbrush. There were corn husk dolls and new feed sack dresses! And hand made sling shots made from bicycle tires and mountain laurel! I can’t imagine that the thrill of Christmas was lost on them, that they weren’t grateful for their gifts and with the time spent together was any less special.
That’s what I want to give my family, not time lost shopping or worrying about the perfect presents, but time together. Time is a gift in and of itself. That’s the tradition that I want to keep.
So this past Christmas I wanted to share that feeling with the rest of my family, my now growing extended family. I decided to make everyone Appalachian Christmas Stockings. I was a little worried that the sentiment would be lost. With my side of the family, I think my presents were . . . well it was appreciated but it really wasn’t different. I guess they, having been raised like me, find a gift like that to be ‘normal.’ My husband’s side of the family was a little confused when they first were handed the socks I think, but as they started to pull the brown packages of nuts and cookies out I think they started to understand. At least I hope so.
During New Years I realized that I didn’t want to just stop at Christmas. Wouldn’t it be great if my whole life was like that? Cutting back on the things that just take up extra time, scaling down my expectations that will only eventually lead to disappointment anyway? Well, why not. Resolutions are usually made at the first of the year and then after a couple of months they seem to fall by the wayside. What kind of resolutions could I possibly make that would give me the results that I was looking for, that I wouldn’t expect too much from, and disappoint myself with failure? Then I started to ask myself what I really wanted anyway.
“To reduce to basic essentials.” I want to de-clutter. My office, my bedroom, my old clothes. Basically the whole house. I want to return to the basics on bills, spending, the kitchen cabinets, how I cook, the to-do list . . . everything. But to put it more simply, I want more time. Time to enjoy life, to spend with my family, or to just be. I want to not take my time for granitite. I want to spend the next year thinking hard about what I want the basics in my life to be, and spend more time concentrating on those things.
“Diminish in scope.” How can I diminish anything with such a large list? Well the beauty of this plan is that if I accomplish one of these I have succeeded. My life will become easier for it. If I can cut back, then I will have more time. That means that I haven’t failed my resolution. I have diminished the scope of my expectations. See the beauty in this plan?
I remember a long time ago watching a program on Oprah about an author who had decided to rearrange her life. She was going to cut out all the things that she felt that she spend too much time doing. Some of her ideas seemed real extreme at the time, but I guess they worked because here many years later I still remember it. She got rid of all her formal wear, and instead bought two dresses, one black one dark blue. That way she cut out the time spent on wondering what she was going to wear, because she only had two options. She also stopped making her bed. Her reasoning, she was airing it out. (I have been using that reasoning since!) I tried to find the author and I think I did, Elaine St. James who wrote Keep It Simple. While I probably wouldn’t restrict myself to two dresses, her ideas behind it aren’t bad ones.
So my resolution for 2009 is to cut out excess, to make life simpler, to diminish my scope of expectations, to reduce to basic essentials, or simply put simplify.
I think 2009 is going to be a good year!