no regrets (or guilt) this holiday season

Source: via Stevi on Pinterest


Thanks for your patience with my unplanned vacation and offline time this month. It was great to see family, enjoy my beloved Vancouver and finally, after a day and a half of travel, return home. We’re now over the jet-lag and prepping for a quiet and relaxed holiday season. I’ll have a few posts in the coming weeks about keeping things sane and simple and our very merry minimalist holiday plans.

Please tell me no one camped out over night for Black Friday sales.

Hey, I love a bargain myself but really, are the savings worth a night in the cold, the crush of humanity and the hollow feeling of victory as you lay down your credit card at the till? Shopping shouldn’t be a sport. Or a hobby. Reports of pepper spraying and brawls just reinforced to me that Black Friday isn’t a bargain, it’s a sad commentary on consumerism.

I was excited to see Holstee shut their virtual doors on Black Friday (thanks Natalie for pointing this out).

You may have noticed I now have an ad for Holstee on this site. I am dipping my toes in the advertising pool and this is the first company I have come across that is selling, and living, a lot of things I value. Upcycled goods, supporting locally (American in this case) made, giving a percentage of profits to charity (Kiva) and, wow, not only not taking part in Black Friday but shutting their doors. For me, minimalism isn’t about never buying anything, it’s about feeling good about the purchase. Part of the feel good is buying from retailers that are doing good, like Holstee.

I’ll be writing more about holidays, gift giving and how I am managing the rest of the world’s expectations with my own, in the coming weeks. Here are some ideas for getting on track for a simple and joyful holiday season:

Know your limits. Some people can go out every night and still feel refreshed and on track. I’m not one of them. If I’m out of the house more than 2-3 nights of the week I get squirelly and run down. It’s not just about late nights, it’s about quiet time and recharging. While I like socializing and connecting with people I am by nature an introvert (for a real look at what it means to be an introvert or extrovert click here). I recharge with alone time. As a parent, alone time is at a premium. I usually find it in the early morning and after 8pm. Going out late at night and sleeping in a bit  takes away any of that time. So sometimes I say no to going out to keep the balance.

No regrets. Spend within your means. Avoid credit as much as possible. I say as much as possible because my mom used credit for a lot of Christmases. I know that for parents struggling to make rent this is a really tough time of year. They want to light up their children’s eyes on Christmas morning. So light them up with one gift, not many. One thing they really want. Fingers crossed it’s not an iPad

No guilt. If you are handed a gift and don’t have one to give back, do not run out to the store for one of those impersonal prepackaged bath and soap sets. Thank the gift giver and be gracious. True gifts are given without expectation of being reciprocated.

More doing, less stuff. The dinner table conversation this time of year can easily turn to countdowns to Christmas and wish lists. Stem the gift frenzy as soon as it starts. Plan some new activities, things you might like to carry forward as traditions. Family ice skating, a trip to the local mountains for fun in the snow or a late night walk through a neighborhood decked out for the holidays. This is also a great time of year to volunteer for a charitable organization. Family conversation should be steered toward doing, not buying. I’m still not sure what we will get Henry for Christmas but I am really excited for the Santa Train this weekend.

Be gracious when receiving. Don’t steal any joy from the person giving you a gift. Be thankful and excited. Even if you know the item is going to donations in January.

Get a daily dose of simplicity. A friend of mine signed up for Marianne Elliott’s (Zen Peacekeeper) 30 day holiday course this year. The course is about finding peace and zen in the holiday madness and the delivery method is one email a day for the 30 days leading up to Christmas. We’re having what most people will consider a quiet holidays season but reading about this course hit close to home. Who hasn’t set themselves up with ridiculously long baking lists and said yes to too many social engagements at this time of year? When you’re pulling sugar cookies out of the oven at 2am on December 23rd, it’s too late. Committing to a daily reminder for simplicity is a brilliant idea.

While this course is now closed you can still get that daily reminder of peace, simplicity and focusing on what really matters. Commit to 10 minutes of daily meditation, yoga or staring out the window with a cup of tea and letting your thoughts go. Find small ways to remind yourself that less is more for the holidays too and that by keeping plans simple and gift giving thoughtful and not obligatory, you can have a restful and joyous holiday season. If you’re already feeling overwhelmed create a mantra for yourself. Simple Christmas. Joyful season. Love not stuff.

How are you keeping the holiday season simple and restful?

PS. Still tweaking it but what do you think of the new look here? I wanted to move to something a bit simpler and easier to read.


Entrepreneur? Author? The Only 72 sale starts today.

Just a quick note for any budding entrepreneurs or authors, the Only 72 sale starts today at noon.

Last year the bargain sale was on minimalist and simplicity books. I bought $1000 worth of e-books for $97. Still very happy with the purchase and all the inspiration and how-to I got from it. Some of those books helped propel me past the I’ve done three trips to donations and now I’m in a funk stage of de-cluttering. I also read Adam Baker’s Unautomate Your Finances (sorry, no longer available) that was part of the package and got even more resolve to get out of debt.

This year’s book and course catalog is from online entrepreneurs and authors. If you’re starting a business, thinking about it or want to get published or self-publish a book there are some great tools here for you. These products and contributors cover an unbelievable variety of online business topics… everything from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIN to SEO, Niche selecting, blogging for business and productivity.

The Business “Launcher” Package is $1,033 worth of books for $97 (90% off for the 72 hour sale period).

The Business “Amplifier” Package is $4,344 worth of books and courses (including everything in the “Launcher” package) for $497  (89% off).

Contributors in the sale include:

  • Launcher Package: Tyler Tervooren, Nick Reese, Scott Young, Shane Ketterman, Sean Ogle, Chris Garrett, David Risley, Sean Malarkey, Lewis Howes, James Clear, Srini Rao, and Danielle LaPorte.
  • Amplifier Package: Chris Guillebeau, Pam Slim, Desiree Adaway, Ashley Ambirge, Johnny B. Truant, Greg Rollett, Laura Roeder, Corbett Barr, Erica Douglass, David Risley, Jonathan Mead, Jen Gresham, and Charlie Gilkey.

Quick reminder: these books are a great deal if you read them. I quickly tore through a handful of the books in last year’s package and got great value from my purchase. Make sure you are going to commit to using and reading the material before you buy. Otherwise it’s like buying books to dust (and I hate that!).

If you’re interested head over to for more information. And best of luck with your book and/or business!

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  • These two lines jumped out to me today and I’m going to try and remember them frequently this season and beyond:
    “For me, minimalism isn’t about never buying anything, it’s about feeling good about the purchase.”
    “True gifts are given without expectation of being reciprocated.”

    • Thanks, Ellen. Yes, you have taken the essence of this post away in those two sentences. Feel good about what you do buy and experience the true meaning of gift giving this season: giving for joy and without expectation. :)

  • Welcome back Rachel! …love the wreath on the picture.
    This year I managed to get all the shopping done by December, so I can spend Advent decorating the house and baking. (and studying).

    Hope you’ll have a wonderful Advent and Christmas in the IOM!

    • Hi Apple – did you sense us in your neck of the woods last week? Had an overnight in Dublin on the way back. Well done on the shopping. I need to square away a few things still but have a very short list this year. Enjoy Advent and Christmas and hopefully a nice break :)

  • Thanks for the lovely mention of my offering, Rachel. I wish you a peaceful holiday season (and plenty of alone time, as a fellow introvert I know the deep value of that one!).


  • Since I just started on my minimalist journey, I don’t expect this Christmas to be much different. My house certainly isn’t anywhere near where I would like it to be. Gift giving has become exchanging lists with very specific items on it, and receiving more Christmas decorations or clutter. One solution would be to make a bigger deal of our own birthdays and let Christmas be just a time to get together and share a meal, or use the money we would have spent on gifts to help a family in need. I don’t think I could convince my in-laws though!

    I did go shopping on Black Friday. I didn’t go out until the afternoon to return something and to get some skin care items on sale that day only. And since I was in a bad mood, I bought some tops either on sale, or on the clearance rack.
    To justify the purchases, I told myself that they went with my minimalist wardrobe plan of matching both black (my base color) and jeans. I still have a long way to go, but at least I have a plan!

    • Thinking about living with less stuff and creating a vision for it is the start. We didn’t change our habits or our home in one morning. It’s been a long process and lots of small steps. And we’re still learning! :) Good luck to you on your journey and let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

    • Thanks, Jillian. I’m getting better about accepting gifts too. This hasn’t just been a problem since getting into minimalism – I have been a terrible gift receiver for a long time. The worst came in my 20’s as I was brought into the gift giving circle of boyfriend’s families (the husbands). We didn’t grow up with extravagant gifts or lots of presents. So I was very uncomfortable and didn’t know how to react to all the gift giving. My husband and I even had a big fight early in our courtship when he gave me a gift that I felt was too much (spa gift cert for a much needed massage when I hurt my back). Slowly learning to accept with gratitude – no ifs ands or buts.

  • While I made the switch to no gifts with my family years ago (everyone lives many states away and I’m the only one with kids) with no ruffled feathers, we’re having more issues doing the same starting this year with my husband’s family (who all live within a couple hours from us). With my in-laws, a brother and sister-in-law and their 5 kids, the holidays and birthdays have gotten out of hand. We’ve avoided all the many fall birthdays and are considering doing the same for Christmas because of all the gift exchanging expectations. As Linda mentioned, more tend to be exchanging lists with specific requests which, to me, completely voids the concepts of giving from the heart. While we may get what we want if we hand someone a list, that’s more like having a free personal shopper than anything else.

    We plan to do as you’ve described and graciously receive with no guilt. Hopefully our actions will get others to think about the current “tradition” and maybe make some changes.

    Years ago, before anyone had kids but when everyone was getting married, we made the bold suggestion to switch from everyone buying everyone gifts (and not inexpensive ones) to a secret Santa program with a $50 limit. It went over well and has been continued for the adults but hasn’t been implemented for the 8 kids (all under 9 years old). Time for some new traditions.

    Thank you for reminding everyone that we should follow our values and not the traditions that go against them.

    • I’ve had a similar journey myself. My family has almost eliminated gift giving, saving it for when a ‘perfect’ gift is found or doing a fun gift exchange, while my in-laws are more traditional gift givers. Things are slowly changing. They kind of have to this year with us overseas (shipping is horrendous!).
      Hope you have a wonderful holiday season, Paige. Thanks for sharing here :)

  • Well said Rachel, i was reading it saying outloud ‘Yes, Yes’ Really agree with the downtime too. People are always surprised when i say i like my own company as i’m chatty, but i don’t like my own company, i need it. If i am out the house or if i get caught on the phone for two evenings on the run i’m not a happy bunny. My house has completley wound down by 7 pm this is when i really recharge.

    We are doing christmas much simpler this year, 5 gifts per kid, i’ve crossed some people off the gift list, and the biggy for me is no hosting, last year i did christmas day, boxing day and New years day hosting, i was whacked at the end of it. Hints have been made in my direction about hosting, but i’m not listening :)
    I was actually hoping to be invited, but i live in hope!!

    Here in the uk we don’t really have ‘Black Friday’ it’s boxing day sales, but they honestly don’t interest me.

    Sharron x

  • Good for you for getting some time away from the computer, Rachel. And I so agree about just thanking someone for a gift. A heartfelt card is more treasured than a quick return gift.

    Love the new look of your site! Clean and simple.


  • As we are going away to see family – our presents were 5 airplane tickets.
    To avoid many unused gifts we ask that extended family give money which is used to sponsor a family. We try to find a family with 3 children with similar ages to ours and then we go shopping for them – each child gets a small gift, a game, hats and mitts and the parents get a gift card to a grocery store. Seems good for everyone and the kids look forward to it.
    Santa will come but only bring things that can be consumed before we leave – art supplies, tickets to ballet etc.

  • Now that we are settled in our RV, we’ve decided to give our girls food as a gift. I don’t want one more thing in our home. Our girls don’t normally get sweets, so a cookie or a brownie would be a very special gift for them. Also, maybe a coupon to do something fun. They love this kind of stuff. Our girls are very easy to please. This Christmas I don’t need or want anything for myself. I already got my gift! After being in debt for 18 years, we became 100% debt free this past July. I’m still appreciating this every day.
    I really like your minimalist design. It looks very pretty!

  • We have been living the minimalist life for 2 years now and LOVE it. There is no other way to live. I only wish we had chosen to start earlier in our marriage. I absolutely LOVE your blog and will continue to visit often. Hope you will take a second to visit my new blogging adventure at I look forward to a relationship of sharing and learning from each other. Happy Holidays!!

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