It felt like school had just started. Then there was a chill in the morning air. And the leaves began to fall. Then, Halloween came and went. Each year, after the ghouls and goblins have been laid to rest and the last mini Snickers has been eaten (and, if you’re anything like me, you’ve once again sworn off candy, at least until, say… December?), I feel like all of a sudden it’s the holiday season. And my blood pressure starts to rise.
So it’s this time of year that I find it helpful to think about simplicity. There is so, so much to keep us busy, right? So much gifting and traveling and wrapping and decorating and feasting and crafting and shopping and… you name it. And, you know, we’re pretty good at being busy. Keeping up with the scramble can even be satisfying in a way, a victory of sorts. You crossed five more people off your holiday shopping list yesterday? Yessss. You ordered those holiday cards and went to your child’s soccer practice and made cookies for the bake sale? Oh yeah. But if we’re honest, we can admit that it also makes us a little crazy, and that our hearts are seeking different kinds of victories that don’t involve waiting in lines and fighting crowds and sitting in traffic and calming temper tantrums in the cereal aisle.
So, at this time of year, I try to think about what I can do to cut back on the mad rush and fill my family with what’s important–what’s really, truly important. When we become so good at being busy, we can forget how to be…not busy. We forget how to just be. This is something our kids still know so well, though. I was recently anxious that my boys didn’t have enough new toys to play with inside, now that the weather has turned and it gets dark so early. But the other day they spent the majority of the afternoon making paper airplanes and tossing them around the house, while several new things I’d bought sat quietly in their boxes. Sometimes just rearranging where the toys are kept in the house–giving them new “homes” so to speak–is oftentimes just what they need to feel fresh again. And then I can avoid the tantrums that are inevitable when I try to take the boys out shopping when they (and I) really would rather just stay at home.
I also feel called into the kitchen at this time of year. It just feels natural to be near the warm oven, to page through well-loved, batter-strewn cookbooks. Cadel has always enjoyed being in the kitchen with me. He grabs his apron, pulls up his stool, and gets to work scooping and measuring and and then sticking his hands in the bowl to feel the cool, soft flour on his fingers. It’s messier when he’s there with me, but that time together is well worth the clean up. Plus, it means I can get something accomplished and not have to worry about whether he’s painting frescos on the walls or putting new bumps on his little brother’s sweet head.
This month, maybe each of us can make a commitment to an action of simplicity–something that can both keep you sane and save energy and resources at the same time. I’ve made a personal commitment to avoid individually packaged snacks. This means my boys have eaten their last fruit leathers, unless we decide to make our own, which we just might do one of these rainy afternoons. In the meantime, I’ve bought some dried fruit in bulk, and they haven’t complained.
There are loads of great granola bar recipes out there, if that’s what your family likes. I’ve had good luck with recipes from Food52.
Or maybe being in the kitchen is not your thing. But maybe you live close enough to do an errand by walking or biking instead of by car. Maybe you can make a family activity out of walking to the bakery or the park or the library. Or perhaps you can scale back your driving just by keeping an organized list of what needs to be done and making fewer trips.
One last idea: talk to your family about simplifying your holidays. Several years ago, my siblings and I decided to forgo gifts for one another and instead donate the money we would have spent to charity. This has been a big stress reliever and time-saver for me.
However you decide to spend you time this month, I wish you and your families all the best that the season has to offer.
Yours in stress-relief and sustainability,