Shop Your Closet #3: Decorations!

Are you still holding on to too many old holiday cards and little tiny figurines, toys & knickknacks? Turn them into decorations!

Photograph the ones you want to remember, but don't need to keep, and just put the picture up on Flickr with the story that goes with it.

Then cut out the pretty part of the cards (as Katie describes here), add a little twisted wire loop around the small objects, and thread a bright ribbon to hang them on your mantelpiece, in your windows, on a Christmas tree or from your picture rails.

Put some in your car or purse or backpack to give as a little gift when you visit people or attach them to presents instead of a bow.

At the end of the holidays, box away any you still love to use next year, save the ones you aren't quite ready to toss in a give-to-friends bag, and go hang the rest from parking meters or mailboxes!

The Hundred Dollar Christmas

Try this: spend $100 or less on holiday gifts this year. I think you'll find you can achieve a more rewarding holiday season by not making the silly assumption that the pleasure you cause and appreciation you demonstrate is directly related to the pain of subsequent credit card debt.

Here’s the bottom line: we have so much stuff that a pile of presents is no longer exciting, no longer novel. [Read more of this post from Bill McKibben]

What you may be really surprised to find is how little you miss the old way of doing things. My family gave up the gift thing in favor of just stockings a few years back and the holidays for us are now a relaxed, warm time to hang out together and share cool stuff like foods & music & books & movies we've discovered over the past year. A lot of the time we even just enjoy being together each doing our own things and occasionally piping up with good lines from books or a pretty new image found on Flickr. No big production, no big expectations, no comparing your stack against someone else's; just good company and tasty things to eat and the absence of obligation.

Shop Your Closet #2: Seasonal Clothes

Northern Hemisphere, now is the time to go through all those coats, sweaters, scarves, mittens, boots, etc. and decide what you're going to wear within the next 30 days.

If it doesn't make the cut, get rid of it. Someone else needs it more than you need to maintain the Museum Of Unwanted Winterwear.

Southern Hemisphere, as above, but bathing suits, shorts, lightweight dresses, halter tops, sandals, and t-shirts.

Shop Your Closet #1: games!

How about digging in drawers & closets & toy boxes and pulling out all those old games that have been mouldering away?

Start a Battle of the Games* with family and friends to decide on a few favorites to keep. Then donate the rest to a local homeless shelters to keep people, especially the kids, making the best of a sucky situation.

*Battle of the Games pits two games against each other. You play two random or similarly themed ones back to back. Then everyone votes on which was their favorite. That one gets set aside to be played again. The other gets voted on for a second chance or to be put in the donate box right away.

Good bonus rule: play for a few rounds, until everyone has the hang of a game, then have a quick thumbs up or down to decide if you should keep playing. Don't waste time on stuff no one likes; there are TONS of great games out there, so don't suffer with duds.

Please put your recommendations and warnings in the comments!

Recovery Day

Do what you need to do for yourself today (or as soon as you can if it's a travel day).

Eat lightly and blandly if your belly is weary.
Drink just water if your head is aching.
Sleep more if you're tired.
Be alone if you're tired of people.
If you're not, be with just those who give you energy rather than draining it.

Take whatever forms of rest you need. It's good for you to be good to yourself.

Anti-aggravation Week #4: Don’t sweat it

Today's a good day to get some perspective. A lot of things that aggravate us only do so because we have the luxury of not wrestling with bigger issues.

Today be thankful for everything you have: being alive, friends and family, health, a roof over your head, something to eat, clean water to drink, indoor plumbing, heating, air conditioning, clothes, shoes, a job, freedoms.

Many many people have it worse. That bad driver in front of you or annoying co-workers or technical difficulties really aren't that important. Yeah, okay, irritating, but important? No, not really.

Slow yourself down enough to look around and see the good things to be thankful for.

And just let the rest of that dumb stuff go; aggravation is a bad investment of your time and energy anyhow. Go make a pie instead – it's more fun and it sure does leave a better taste in your mouth!

Anti-aggravation Week #3: Find a little breathing room

Even the best families can be annoying sometime, so I encourage you to do two things at those big gatherings:

#1 – When you need a little space, find a way to take it. Good techniques: walking the dog, washing some dishes, amusing the little kids, pleading food-induced need for a nap, showing the newest family member around the neighborhood, running a last-minute errand, having a shower.

#2 – Make space. Build some alone time into your events. Don't make a fuss over people retreating from time to time. Rescue the stressed.

Useful phrases include
"Mmm, fantastic. Who else is ready for a nap break?"
"I need a little walk before the pie, care to come along?"
"Mom, I can do that for you, but sit down for just a moment and tell me again about the trip where you got this vase. That was just after you two got married, right?"
"Okay, that's got about an hour more to cook and everything else is all ready, so you all can just relax or read or whatever and I'll let you know when we get close to dinner time."