Wishing You Well


It isn’t shiny but our kinda minimalist Christmas tree is beautiful.

I’m terribly un-crafty but the gingerbread ornaments, cinnamon sticks with ribbon and strings of cranberries were easy in terms of time and skill. My attempt at popcorn strings was a fail (took too long) and I never got around to making orange slices. Maybe next time.

Our tree lights, half dozen ornaments and tree star will easily pack up into one small box; a win for keeping our small front closet in order.

Been absent from the blogging world because I am a) officially on maternity leave and b) doing my best to enjoy this holiday season in a relaxed and not too busy way.

In my mantra to keep things simple and fun we’ve been sleeping in when possible and not seeing or doing absolutely everything available to us. So we didn’t make it to the Christmas Horse Tram this year but we did go to two family holiday parties and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It’s been a good time to do a bit less so we can enjoy more.

While I haven’t been blogging much I have read some great posts in the last week. Here are two of my favourites:

The Gift of Death George Monbiot (via Yaya Baby)

This isn’t a feel good piece but it’s an important one. As I read it I felt my heart sink a bit while at the same time I was agreeing with almost every word.

Bake them a cake, write them a poem, give them a kiss, tell them a joke, but for god’s sake stop trashing the planet to tell someone you care. All it shows is that you don’t. – George Monbiot

For something lighter with practical tips:

12 Tips for an Easier Christmas from Small Notebook

I link to Small Notebook a lot. Her posts resonate with me (and so many other readers!). The focus is on making household management easier while still having beauty, fun and joy in your life.

8. Keep family traditions flexible by asking, “What’s best for this year?” It’s okay if you need to skip a year. – Small Notebook

We’re still forming our holiday traditions as a family of three, soon to be four. This was the year of the advent calendar which has been a lot of fun for a very small investment of time and money. As our kids get older I might change up what’s in the calendar. The comments section on 24 Clutter Free Advent Calendar Gifts gave me a lot of ideas. Many thanks to everyone for sharing your wonderful traditions.

Wishing you well this holiday season.

It might be a bit quiet on this blog for the next little bit. The holidays and the impending arrival of my second child will be keeping me busy. All good reasons to step away from the screen, right?

Have a wonderful holiday season and hope there are a few great Christmas gifts for mom under the tree!


The 10 Signs of a Bad Gift

Just eight days until Christmas.

Eight days to get yourself in a panic when you unexpectedly receive a gift from someone and having nothing to give in return but your thanks.

Eight days to think “it’s just not enough” and heat up your credit card with impulse purchases.

Eight days to buy a bad gift.

A gift that doesn’t show you care about or know the receiver well.

A gift that instead of saying, I’m grateful for our friendship and appreciate you, says, I originally bought this for the dog walker, remember when we had a dog a few years back?, but forgot to give it to them and thought I would wrap it up and keep on hand should I be without a gift to reciprocate with.

Here are ten signs you’re about to give a bad gift:

1. It was purchased at a convenience store en route to a party.

2. It was sourced from a present stash: a closet the giver keeps stocked with random things they find on sale or that they bought for themselves, didn’t like and couldn’t return.

3. Accompanying gift receipt from the As Seen on TV store.

4. The gift giver says they really wanted it for themselves and are wistful when the gift is opened.

5. It’s a regift and the giver is as surprised by what’s under the wrapping paper as the receiver is.

6. The item has this slogan on it: “my _____ went to ______ and all I got was this lousy ______ .”

7. The gift is Poo-Pourri.

8. Two words: Christmas Cake

9. The gifts are given out en masse to open at the same time because “everyone’s getting the same thing this year.” Meaning the five year-old nephew and the 65 year-old grandmother are both getting their very own Elf on a Shelf.

10. It was purchased pre-wrapped.

You have eight days to avoid all of this.

Take a deep breath and repeat after me: I will not let myself give useless and meaningless last minute gifts this year.

I will not buy someone something just because they bought me something.

I will not keep a pre-wrapped box of chocolates on hand just in case someone ambushes me with a gift even though we had agreed that we weren’t buying each other anything this year.

I will be gracious and thankful in receiving a gift and tell the person how much I appreciate them and that will be enough.

Anyone been tempted to buy last minute “just in case” gifts yet? Or received a gift when you had nothing to give in return except a hug?

90 Clutter Free Gift Ideas

 90 Clutter Free Gift Ideas

Are you getting complaints that you’re impossible to buy for since you de-clutterred your life and home?

Or do you have a simple living enthusiast in your life that you’re struggling to find a gift for?

Here is a list of 90 clutter free gifts to give and receive this holiday season.

Things to nibble, sip, read, watch, learn, laugh, smell, relax, pamper, sweat and love. Nothing to dust.


Gifting something to eat or drink is a great way to introduce a friend to a treasured delicacy. The recipe links in here are from some of my favorite food writers. The peppermint bark is divine and I made many, many batches of the biscotti as favors for my wedding.

  • Wine
  • Chocolate
  • Chocolate, Cheese, Fruit, Wine of the Month Club membership
  • Flowers or Plants
  • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share or membership
  • Homemade Baking: peppermint bark, biscotti (keeps well), peanut brittle,
  • Homemade Food Gifts: soup ingredients in a jar, dessert ingredients in a jar, make your own Smores, hot chocolate mix, trail mix, peanut butter granola, a frozen meal that you have prepared with them in mind and that they can thaw out for an easy and delicious dinner amid the holiday busyness.

Experience Gifts

Tip: if you receive an experience gift make sure to send a review and some more gratitude to the person post-use. It will make the gift feel tangible and encourage more experience gift giving.

  • Tickets to a play, movie, event, concert.
  • Season pass or annual membership to a museum, art gallery, aquarium, science centre, amusement park or zoo.
  • Tickets or passes for ice skating, swimming, skiing, snowshoeing, indoor rock climbing.
  • Own a holiday property? Gift a few nights to a friend or relative.
  • Own a boat? Give an afternoon out on the lake in the summer.
  • Massage
  • Spa Treatment

Digital Gifts

It’s true, these gifts could clutter up a hard drive or someone’s spare time. But they won’t clutter up the home so I’m including them here. Sharing some of my favorite books and movies.

Gift Cards

Look into local stores that the recipient enjoys. Things like small cafes, specialty stores, hobby stores or perhaps a prepaid punch card for a drop-in yoga class.

The other way to put more meaning behind a gift card is to attach a note suggesting what the card could be used for. Ex. iTunes Gift Card: I know you’ve wanted album ______ – here it is! or electronics store gift card: A little something to help with the iPod you’ve been saving up for.

  • iTunes Gift Card
  • ZipCar Membership *gift your friend the opportunity to try out car-sharing
  • Fuel Gift Card (for their winter road trip!)
  • Bookstore Gift Card
  • Kindle Gift Card
  • Amazon Gift Card. This is pretty much the gift card for everything and anything. Include a note with a suggested purchase.
  • Starbucks Gift Card. For your friend that refuses to get their morning java anywhere else.

For Your Partner/Spouse

You probably know them best so what’s the one thing your partner always asks you for more of?

  • Massage (by the giver) Gift Certificate
  • Sleep-In Tickets. Great if you have children or a dog that needs walking in the early morning.
  • Foot Rub Tickets
  • Romantic Letter. Tell the person you love why you love them. Thank them for all that they do for you. I have a small box of letters my husband sent me when we were dating and all the ones since. I love to read them again once or twice a year.
  • Chore Tickets. Take over some household duties for your significant other. These don’t have to be big jobs like painting a bathroom. It could be as simple as doing their laundry or packing a lunch. Half the fun of the gift will be your spouse thinking up elaborate and hilarious chores before they simply ask you if you could unload the dishwasher.

Share Your Expertise

Everyone has some sort of expertise and chances are they also have a friend that wants to learn whatever the skill is. From baking bread to making homemade yogurt to decoupage to using PhotoShop, many of us have talents and knowledge that would make excellent clutter-free and useful gifts to our friends.

Read the rest of this post at Life Your Way: 90 Clutter-Free Gift Ideas.


5 Ways To Quell Gift Frenzy In Kids


My mother always wrapped presents and put them under the tree just a few days before Christmas.

As a parent of six children I’m sure she learned quickly that the longer the gifts were out and visible, the more worked up we would get. There would be more fights between siblings and more tears about if we were getting that hoped for gift. When one of us couldn’t take the tension of not knowing what was under the gift wrap a small tear might appear on a box.

Christmas was a season of joy and drama.

If you’re tired of the fights, tears and repeat conversations about what Santa will bring this year, try some of these ideas.

5 Ways to Quell Gift Frenzy In Kids


      1. Keep the gift conversation to a minimum. Focus household talk about things to do and enjoy instead of the upcoming gift giving. Remind your children about the highlights and chores of their regular schedule: the swimming lessons, the homework and the bedroom that needs to be cleaned.
      2. Set a space/item limit for wish lists. The Want, Need, Wear, Read gift philosophy is quite popular. This gives kids, and parents, a good start to shaping and limiting the amount and type of gifts children receive. There is a free printable here that would be great for this wish list.
      3. Make wish list writing a one time activity. No adding or editing once the list is finished. Post those lists to Santa the same day they are written.
      4. No gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve. I love this suggestion from Small Notebook to use the base of a tree as a library in the lead up to Christmas Day. For older kids put out board games and DVDs you already own. The sight of wrapped gifts is intoxicating for children young and old.
      5. Be charitable. Even my three year old understands the concept of giving and sharing. He may not understand the why of it all but if I gave him an unwrapped new toy to put in a donation bin, he’d understand that we were giving that toy away. There’s also a good chance he would cry about it of course. Have your children clear out toys and books from their own collection to donate to charity. Get a list from your local food bank of needed nonperishable food and take your children on a shopping trip for someone else.

We’re still in a sweet spot with our son just being three but I’m already doing a few of these things. No Christmas Wish List, books under the tree until Christmas Eve and we’re donating locally.

How do you keep the gift frenzy at bay at your house?

Just As You Are

It’s okay to buy gifts.

It’s okay to feel good about it.

If you’re reading here you might be feeling some guilt about holiday shopping.

Even if you’ve prepared with lists and budgets and made some new traditions with friends and family that replace gift giving, you may still be feeling a gnawing guilt that it’s still too much. That the super simplifying families are doing it better than you and that a plastic toy or two, the one your seven year-old has been desperate for for months, means you haven’t simplified enough.

Let it go.

We’re having our first ‘traditional’ holiday since moving overseas. There will be a tree. And turkey. And gifts!

While I read things like Buy Nothing Until 2013 and am inspired by the commitment, it’s not in my plans this year. It’s not in my plans and I’m not going to feel bad, or guilty, that my son is getting a Brio Babar train or that we’ll be indulging in luxury chocolate on Christmas Day.

Buying a lot less than a few Christmases ago is in my plans. And buying second hand for some gifts. And avoiding fluffy silly presents that end up in a junk drawer.

I had hoped to have our holiday shopping all done by now but illness and a bit of procrastination conspired against me. There are a few gifts still to order or pick-up. We’re also contributing to a charitable organization and I haven’t done any of the shopping for that yet.

Hopefully by the end of this week my debit card will be put away and there won’t be anything left to buy except our tree.

I’ll have more posts up about gift giving and quelling the present frenzy in children in this month of often excessive consumption soon.

Even if you’ve already slipped up and bought so many gifts that you’re storing some for birthdays next year. Even if you went on a rampage at the dollar store and need to buy bigger stockings for all the trinkets and toys Santa is bringing. Even if you just looked at your credit card balance and your heart skipped a beat.

As Mark Darcy would say, your family and friends love you just as you are.

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