When Christmas Perfection leads to overwhelm

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, and also the most everything time of the year.

It’s the time to eat the most cookies and desserts you’ve had all year.

It’s the time to cook the most elaborate meal you’ve made all year.

It’s the time to get out all the fancy china, with way too many pieces of silverware and all the special serving spoons and butter knives and gravy boats and snowman spatulas, and on and on and on.

(When really your normal set of dishes and cutlery would do.)

You don’t need all those things and all those desserts and all those Christmas cards to write— but yet we write them.

And we stress because we waited too long and now they might not make it in time for Christmas. And the presents still aren’t wrapped and…

You might feel overwhelmed. Honestly I’m not partaking in any of the above (except the eating desserts) but I got overwhelmed just now typing it all out.

It’s not your normal. It’s no one’s normal. So it’s completely okay to feel overwhelmed this time of year. Don’t feel guilty or like you’re just not able to handle it like everyone else is.

They can’t handle it either. Everyone is pushing extra hard this month to get everything done and to make things just perfect.

But I think that’s one of the big flaws. This idea of Christmas Perfection. Maybe it’s how we saw our own parents handle the holidays, where everything seemed so effortless because we were kids and didn’t know the half of it. Or maybe it’s to live up to some Instagram expectation that’s now become our standard.

Whatever it is, this idea isn’t sustainable, and it’s hardly attainable. (tweet that)

We exhaust ourselves by making sure the appetizers are perfectly spaced on the tray, while looking over our shoulder to make sure the right wines are being paired with the right cheeses.

It’s too much.

What if we did Christmas a different way this year? What if we minimized all the plates and little spoons. What if we only made our favorite few dishes and really savored them. What if we only bought half the Christmas gifts and didn’t send out any cards.

What would that Christmas look like? Would it look like a Pinterest fail, or would it actually look a lot closer to how we remember Christmases feeling when we were kids? Carefree, fun, and memorable.

Would we have more time to sit down, and admire our favorite few Christmas decorations we put out this year? Would we engage more directly with those around us, instead of worrying about a half-hearted card in the mail? Maybe we would pick up the phone and call the few people we actually think about on Christmas. Or, maybe we’d have more time to think of more people.

What is your idea of Christmas Perfection? Is it something you can post on Instagram? Or is it something you have to be there to feel? Something only those around you can experience together?

Whatever it is, I wish you a lovely Christmas. And I wish you peace. Peace of mind and peace within yourself. I wish you a slow pace and a happy heart. And lots and lots of dessert.

Decluttering my life has brought me peace of mind and relief from the world around me. There’s nothing like walking into the space you created and knowing you have nothing more than what you need. I write articles to help others create that same feeling for themselves.

The speed you’re not used to

With all the holiday rush and the hundreds of things we think we need to check off our to-do lists, take a minute to read this quote from Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist:

paul coelhoSome people go through life like they’re in slow motion. For others, everything is a rushed blur. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle, but have days that lean to either extreme.

The holidays are the perfect time to slow down and savor every moment with family and friends, but usually the opposite gets prioritized, resulting in stress and fatigue. (tweet that)

This time of year more than ever, try and find pleasure in the speed you’re not used to. If you’re rushing more than usual, try and find joy in the experience. See if you can keep up your pace but lose the stress and the hectic state of mind. Embrace that this is your speed this time of year.

Or, if you can, slow down a bit. Go completely counter to what everyone else is doing and really be present this December. You might feel pulled to “do more” or be in ten places at once. But is that what will make you happy? Go slow despite the social pressures. Do what feels right for you. As Coelho says, allow a new person to grow inside of you.

On a related note, check out Sage On Earth, a travel blog I recently found about a family of four who combines simple living with family adventure, “discovering our beautiful world at a different pace.” P.S. They have a beautiful instagram, too.

Decluttering my life has brought me peace of mind and relief from the world around me. There’s nothing like walking into the space you created and knowing you have nothing more than what you need. I write articles to help others create that same feeling for themselves.

Only a few things really matter

I started re-reading Essentialism this week. Essentialism is a book by Greg McKeown about simplifying your life in all areas and prioritizing “the vital few” over “the trivial many”. It’s been recommended by The Minimalists and many others, and was given to me by a close friend.

About a third of the way through is the Essentialist principle “Only a few things really matter.” When I read that again last night, I right away thought about something I’m currently going through. I’m debating keeping one of my multiple jobs, because it’s turned out to not be an ideal fit. My hesitancy to leave comes, I think, from the idea that quitting would be wrong or somehow taking the easy way out. I know the right choice is for me to leave so I can pursue something that’s a better fit, but I haven’t been listening to myself. Instead, I’ve been making it a big deal in my mind and going back and forth.

Reading that only a few things really matter, I instantly realized that neither this job nor the stress I’m feeling about leaving this job are things that really matter. I like to look at the big scheme of things and think, “a year from now, will this even matter?” Usually when I ask myself that, the answer is no. That makes my decision a lot easier. (tweet that)

What are you making into a big deal in your life that doesn’t really matter?

Decluttering my life has brought me peace of mind and relief from the world around me. There’s nothing like walking into the space you created and knowing you have nothing more than what you need. I write articles to help others create that same feeling for themselves.

Your messy wallet, your frazzled mind

I work as a barista in a coffee shop. I see a lot of people come in daily to spend upwards of $4 for a cup full of fat, sugar, and a little bit of caffeine. As they get out their credit card, I notice their pristine manicure. I hear their keys as they set them down on the counter, because they need two hands to dig through their wallet. They’re looking for their customer loyalty card amongst dozens of credit cards, other loyalty cards, and receipts. Shudder.

“Maybe I put it in another side pocket,” they might say, unzipping a part of their handbag and revealing a second wallet.

“I remember you had it the other day,” I offer in support. I’m holding my latte art stamp at-the-ready.

More digging. Some exasperated sighs.

I watch and wait patiently, as this isn’t new for me. “Would you like to start a new card?” I suggest after a few moments, seeing a line form behind them.

“Yeah,” they say. “I swear I have like three other ones at home, I just can’t find them.”

“We can consolidate them if you find them,” I reassure them. And they seem to like that idea.

With a fluid motion I’ve done hundreds of times, I open the cash register, whip out a fresh loyalty card, stamp a leaf, and slide it over to them. “Thank you,” I smile, glad to get them and their stress-inducing handbag away from me.

Do you ever see someone rifling through a wallet, or drawer, or closet, and just feel like you’re in a bathtub of stress that you need to crawl your way out of?

The one thing I feel (aside from relief) as that customer walks away and the next one steps forward, is gratitude. Gratitude for the simplicity I have created in my life, and for the clarity of my mind and the orderliness of my possessions. I see these customers frazzled and can tell that their purses are a glimpse into their life. What chaos to be living with. What extra weight on their shoulders.

I feel sadness as I remember how stressed I was living in a cluttered space. I remember so clearly how it kept me up at night and gave me this sense of urgency even when I was just at home relaxing. I can’t imagine living that way now.

I sure hope those customers climb out of the bathtub and feel the relief soon. It’s so much better out here.

Decluttering my life has brought me peace of mind and relief from the world around me. There’s nothing like walking into the space you created and knowing you have nothing more than what you need. I write articles to help others create that same feeling for themselves.