Last night my husband and I were standing around the kitchen counter after we had put the kids to bed, looking at the calendar and discussing our plans for the upcoming weeks. There are school plays, Christmas concerts, holiday parties, school parties, dates with friends, the list goes on. It’s been on my mind to put together a piece about intentional slow living in the month of December, because let’s face it, the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ often turns in the most stressful and hectic time of year.
I put this post together largely as a big piece of advice to myself, and I’m hoping you’ll find it helpful too. As I’ve been filtering out my to-do list this month, and weighing whether or not to say yes to certain commitments, the things I am about the share with you have been impacting my decisions – for the good.
Here’s what I’m doing to try to keep our family’s December slow:
1. Shop online. Avoid the mall.
Use the internet to your advantage, when you need to. Don’t fight the crowds on the roads or at the malls (trust me, it will elevate your blood pressure). Shop early to reduce stress over delivery deadlines. Try hitting up a local craft fair/market with local vendors selling their goods. You’ll probably find a way better present than you would at the mall anyway. When shopping online Garmentory and Need Supply are fabulous places to hunt for unique gifts. (Buy this for your coffee/tea lover!)
Make time to visit your local toy or bookstore, but plan to do it during off-peak retail hours if you can (weekday mornings are good!). My husband and I had a sitter last weekend and we went to a local toy store and had the most wonderful experience. We were trying to find one compelling toy gift for each of our kiddos (the rest of their gifts are clothes and shoes!) and it was really nice to be able to shop a selection that varied from what I typically see at Target or other big box stores. Browsing toys is much easier in person than online because the collection is already curated. It was also nice to get a sense of the items by being able to pick them up and turn them over in my hands. My husband and I found ‘just the right things’ for our kiddos, and the kind folks wrapped the presents for us! All this to say, consider shopping small when you are looking for gifts for loved ones this season.
2. Examine your online habits.
It’s really easy to unwittingly play the comparison game this time of year. ‘Her Christmas tree looks professionally decorated!’ ‘I wish my kitchen looked like that’ or ‘I wish I had X to wear this holiday season. It looks so good on her.’ It happens quicker than you can blink when you hop on your favorite social media sites. I don’t know about you, but these sort of thoughts leave me feeling stressed out or bummed out. I’ve been consciously reducing the amount of time I spend on Instagram these last few weeks and it feels so good to engage more in real life and less in online life. Is your online time affecting your face-to-face relationships?
If you are looking to unwind and relax, ask yourself if scrolling actually helps you achieve that goal. Perhaps a book or a conversation with a loved one would be better. Or cuddling and watching your favorite Netflix show (with no phones in sight).
3. Know who you want to spend time with.
Goals are a wonderful thing, because they help bring clarity to daily choices. When you prioritize who you want to be around, deciding how you choose to spend time gets a little easier. If time with your young family is at the top, plan your time and dollars around what you’re doing as a group. Put a family date on the calendar. Mark the night you want to go look at Christmas lights. If time with your best friend is high on your list, set up a date and make a plan. Don’t wait for these things to happen because the rest of life will crowd into your calendar before you know it!
4. Think hard before you say yes.
In order to not live a life of flying from one activity to the next, it is imperative that we say “no” to good things. I think this is the hardest part about intentionally setting a slow December. Many of the activities we are asked to participate in are good things (a party at church, a happy hour with coworkers, taking a meal to a friend, making treats for neighbors). But if we say yes to everything, that’s when the busyness and stress sets in. As much as our hearts want to, we cannot do everything. This is why point #3 is so critical. When we prioritize who we want to spend our time with, we have a better idea where to say yes and where to say no.
5. Be intentional about allowing yourself white space.
As humans we all need time to rest, recuperate and recharge. As our days fill up this month, we must allow ourselves the freedom of mental downtime. This is where creativity and spontaneity are born. What if a need, you can easily meet, falls in your lap at the last minute? But your schedule is so full you can’t do anything but grimace about how you wish you could help. By protecting downtime we allow ourselves to recharge and we allow ourselves the capacity to serve others should the opportunity arise.
If this resonates with you, I’d love to hear how you’re being intentional about having a slow December. Please share in the comments!
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