But infinite riches are nothing to someone who's always afraid he'll be poor.
God, help us not be jealous!
I've found myself observing career choices from a new vantage point lately. I'm noticing recent college graduates taking their first jobs + receiving their first paychecks. It's eye opening. Mr. Tribe + I chose to pursue jobs out of passion rather than consideration for compensation. As we took our first steps forward in our careers, we didn't feel as if salary was in our hands. We made our salaries work for us + made choices in accordance with them. It has not been easy + we've made mistakes, but God continues to show us the way.
I realize that ours is not necessarily the usual course of action...neither up nor down the economic ladder. We both have the advantage of college degrees. Even in our current financial state, we have a lot of privilege (where we live, the color of our skin, nationality, access to mortgages...). (Gross.) Many take advantage of this privilege + decide career paths based on the size of the paycheck to come...and (within reason) there is not a whole lot wrong with that (as long as those careers are not about using people).
I do want to share, however, something that my experience has taught me (+ RWE apparently): "Money often costs too much." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Doing a job solely for the money is a soul suck. Humans crave purpose...and making loads of money, in my opinion, is not purpose. Educating, caring for, helping, feeding, defending, enabling people is purpose. Providing for a family is purpose. Providing a huge house and fancy cars and designer suits and diamond necklaces and lavish European vacations is not purpose really. Yep, we need some money...but I don't want to become a slave to it.
My best tools for moving away from an all-consuming devotion to money are: simple living...making our needs few...learning to recognize enough...and simple pleasures...these things don't sound like much fun...but they enable our choices...and they are the most reliable bearers of joy. Less stuff, decreased commitments, less striving to impress others, less comparison...they mean less money going out which means less money has to come in. These tools allow us to know that money is not the entire goal...consuming is not the goal. They give us the freedom to prioritize love, compassion, generosity + passion rather than being slaves to "more"...and there is great joy in that.
Prioritize joy...not money. (Money doesn't create joy.)
The idea of simple gift giving always brings the Ingalls family Christmases in Laura Ingalls Wilder's books to mind. A peppermint stick (a rare treat), a new tin cup (so the girls wouldn't have to share one anymore), or a lovingly sewn rag doll (for a girl who had never had one before) brought such wonder + joy.
Many Westerners today have everything that they need...enough cups for everyone at the table to have their own...no shortage of toys...and candy more than once per year. Many of us just go to Target (or Amazon) when we want or need anything. There aren't too many needs left to fulfill with gifts. But we still enjoy giving holiday gifts.
A few gifting "categories" that speak to my zero-waste, simple, minimalist, environmentally considerate, plastic-free intentions ::
-something fair + lovely (want)
-something to do
-useful, lovely indulgence
I like reading about holiday gift giving formulas families use like ::
-need, want, wear, read
-gold (want), frankincense (something spiritual), myrrh (something for the body)
-want, need, experience to share
-a year of monthly experiences
I think drawing names or doing white elephant gift exchanges (maybe say that no one can purchase anything) are good/fun options for extended families. Maybe doing a big swap for the holidays would be fun...even little ones could gather a few toys + clothes to offer. This could be a great way to go home with only things one actually wants + to clear out some space (donate the leftovers) as the new year approaches. I also love the idea of everyone sharing names of favorite books, movies, music albums, restaurants, quotes, recipes, new discoveries, parks, etc. This is the stuff of the joy of life anyway, isn't it? A list could be compiled individually or collectively.
Let's try not to make gift giving about obligation. We have no obligation to enrich the economy...no obligation to amass debt...no mandate to compete with the most generous gift giver in our extended family...no reason to create someone else's idea of a picture perfect holiday. (There is still opportunity to return stuff + reimagine this holiday.) :)
Considering what gifts to give should be a joyful experience. It's an opportunity to share love + appreciation. We get to decide how that looks.
Some of the most beautifully curated vintage I've laid eyes on at Ralph Lauren in Malibu.
A new uniform. (Yes!)
Loving this series on growing fibers!
A quest for American flannel.
Keeping clothes out of the garbage is the goal.
Going make-up free...not to mention minimalist + zero-waste.
Slow down + grow something.
Hope you make some time to slow down + savor this weekend, friend.
Loads of love,
Washing clothes releases half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres into the ocean
every year, equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles. ~Ellen MacArthur Foundation (via)
Since modern plastic was first mass-produced, 8 billion tons have been manufactured.
And when it's thrown away, it doesn't just disappear. ~Christopher Joyce (via)
Holiday gift giving might be just a manageable area in which to engage ourselves in a little challenge. We've learned about the extreme reach plastic microfibers have...into oceans, fish + even our drinking water. We've seen the uncontainable nature of everlasting plastic packaging + products. Could we focus our consciousness with a plastic free gift giving challenge?
-Could we leave polyester out of our Christmas gift giving? That means no poly fleece tops, no polyester leggings, no acrylic faux fur slippers. How about an organic cotton flannel shirt or robe...a canvas tote bag or purse...cozy wool socks or slippers...?
-Could we eliminate plastic packaging? That means no plastic clamshell packaging to wrestle, no plastic film or shrink wrap. How about some homemade or local treats packed in glass or cotton bags...a special book or recycled paper notebook...package-free soap or small batch skin cream...?
-Could we bypass plastic bows + shiny paper + glossy gift bags? How about furoshiki...reusable bags...bento bags...left over muslin bags...reused packing paper + twine (tape can often just be omitted)...?
Leaving plastic packaging + fibers out of our gifts needn't be restricting. It might just shift our focus away from big box stores + onto independent makers or into our own creativity. Think paper, cotton, felt, wool, rubber, glass, wax, metal, wood, edibles, pages, natural dyes, scents, tastes, textures, cozy, breezy, warm, light, nourishing, useful, inspiring, educational, artful, creative, crafty, fun, pretty, vintage, reusable, experiences, adventure, anticipation...
Awareness is the key. Our society isn't currently constructed to promote plastic-free living, so it can be easy to just forget (especially in this most wonderful time of year). The above lovely photos (via links) hopefully offer a tiny bit of inspiration + a reminder that this needn't be too tough a challenge. Our beautiful world depends on us curbing our use of plastic. A beautiful, plastic-free holiday is possible!
Most of us know that we do not need boxes of stuff marked "holiday" in order to create a holiday atmosphere. The most natural (+ perhaps beautiful) holiday decorations do not need to be stored + are also quite zero-waste. Not only are these decoration festive, they are often tasty, aromatic, cozy, fun to make + recyclable/compostable.
A few simple, non-clutter holiday decorations ::
-a jar or two of red + white candy or cinnamon sticks
-oranges with leaves still attached
-dried orange slice, popcorn +/or cranberry garland
-a fresh green wreath or tree
-a beautiful branch or potted plant strung with snowflakes (made from sneaky junk mail)
-a tray of sage bundles, pretty crystals + candles
-meaningful scripture verses, poems or carols written
-cozy blankets + pillows
-found pine boughs tied together with twine
-a bowl of pinecones or pinecone garland
-received Christmas cards
-fairy lights (because they are lovely all year) :)
I mentioned last week that the decorations I really love for the holidays are lights + greenery. I'm happy that I figured this out early in the season, because now I have a plan.
I've decided to acknowledge + accept that simple does not necessarily mean free. I would like to indulge in a little live greenery...because it is compostable at the end of the season... it has less tendency to create visual clutter...it doesn't become stuff to store...and it is beautiful. This live greenery is not free (for me). I'm keeping my budget in check with my edited choices. I decided that I would like to purchase a small real tree + some greenery to make a simple wreath. These cost me $30. I'm accepting that these costs are part of the holiday experience that I'm giving my tribe as well, so the gift budget will respond appropriately (shrinking a bit). (A great way to gather a little free greenery is to pick up the fallen pieces around the fresh cut trees...or to gather them from an outdoor space where permitted. Another way is to use a hand-me-down faux tree...year after year. Both of these have worked for us in the past.) :)
Our holiday decorations this year will include ::
-tiny lights + fairly made brass bells added to our everyday front door wreath
-waxed candles all over the house + in the windows (operated by timers + rechargeable batteries)
-a small fresh tree in a steel bucket, decorated with lights + handmade clay stars made with the girls years ago
-a spruce scented candle for lighting
-a handmade fresh eucalyptus wreath (from the branches pictured)
-a handmade nativity
-handmade (by Julia) paper stars
-tinsel draped over windows
-an advent calendar that the girls + I stitched together years ago
-gifts under the tree (wrapped in reused brown paper + twine and starry baggu bags)
-vintage Christmas postcards I collected years ago, clipped onto some yarn garland-style
-hand-cut snowflakes in the windows (I often like to have these up in January/February)
Much of these decorations can be composted or recycled at the end of the holiday, + the rest will pack neatly into a couple of boxes for next year.
Here is where the decluttering part comes in. Right now is when the holiday decorations we no longer need...are useful to others. Our tribe doesn't have many decorations...but even so...I'm pulling them all out...unwrapping + considering each piece. Anything that we don't need is getting donated...pronto. (Faux Christmas trees can be listed on Craigslist or other local sharing site. Listing them for free will offer the greatest possibility of getting them reused + will share a little Christmas cheer as well.)
Each of us gets to choose how sentimental to be about saving + passing things on. As a girl, I loved pulling the same few decorations out of the boxes to decorate the tree each year. If my mom had saved all my childhood creations + offered them to me as a teenager, I definitely would have wanted to save them. I would have imagined pulling out the box with my children. The thing is that the reality of a situation like that would have turned out differently. My girls are not very sentimental in that way. Having pictures of them with their own creations + at the age they made them is enough (+ wonderful!). Not having to move + store mountains of decorations is nice too.
I say this only to remind us to think about who we are saving things for (for ourselves or for their future selves). If I had saved my childhood ornaments, I may have ended up picking a special one to keep. The rest would be a burden to pack + move + store. I've enjoyed choosing my own themes to decorate with + may have felt stuck or guilty if expected to hang all of my (or my husband's) childhood collected ornaments. On the other hand, if a family loves to pack that tree full of every ornament of the year every family member has collected...have a blast! It's just my hope that we don't have to feel obligated (+ choose not to place obligation in our sphere of influence), if there is no joy for anyone in that tradition. :)
One final note on those precious glittery, gluey, childhood ornaments :: no decluttering advice here...just a memory that I love. When one of our girls came home from kindergarten on her last day before Christmas break, I couldn't wait to see all of that bright, crafty goodness. Instead of a collection of popsicle stick frames + googly-eyed pinecones, she proudly produced one extremely long length of paper chain. She had just gotten so into making paper chain that she never visited any of the other craft stations! :)
What are your favorite simple Christmas decorations?
Following are two opportunities to speak up for garment workers. Neither action takes long, but lending our support will not only add to the number of voices calling for action + accountability...it will show garment workers that the consumers of their work value them + are willing to stand with them.
1. After the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh killed 1134 garment workers...unions, NGOs, + consumers demanded that apparel companies sign a fire + building safety accord. The accord was signed by more than 200 companies + now covers 1600 factories employing 2.26 million garment workers. The Bangladesh High Court is currently bringing a restraining order against the accord. We have until November 30 to speak out in support of this life-saving accord.
2. In 2013, H&M committed that they would pay their garment workers living wages by 2018. Research has shown that many of H&M's garment workers are still working for poverty wages. Let H&M know that we care about the garment workers who make our clothing + hold H&M accountable.
I'd encourage those who sign these petitions to customize their comments in some way, so that they stand alone + come across as sincere. Thank you for standing up + speaking out. Together our messages are stronger + more influential. Our message of love just might reach the ears + hearts (+ wallets) of the ones for whom it is ultimately meant.
I think that the holidays turned from something of utter delight to something stressful around the time that I went from being a consumer of all the wonder (a girl) to a producer of it (a mama). I realize that often I find myself stressed out in the moments when I am most trying to make sure that everyone is happy...silly really. What would probably make all of us the most happy would be just enjoying all of the messy goodness that there is to be had...together.
This year, I am trying to shed the expectation of producing a jam packed season of joy for my tribe. I am trying to step away from what is expected...and trying to see this as something I'm creating outside of expectation.
What do we love most about the holidays? I'm "sending" out a postcard (sliding it under doors)...What are 2 things you love most about the holidays? What is one good memory of the holidays you have? What are 2 things you would like to do? 2 things you might like to get? 2 things you might like to eat/drink?
With those things in mind, I will be able to feel that I've made some happy (whether that gets communicated back to me or not). I will not treat these returned postcards as a to-do list, but I will joyfully consider the feedback. :)
My holiday favorites:
-hot, spicy drinks
-cozy movie nights
-a few thoughtful gifts
-grasping + celebrating the gift of God among us
It's a simple list. I'm just going to go about bringing some of that home. I'm not really even going to think about the stuff that I don't like...or expectations...or what I'm not doing. And that feels good.
on a journey toward zero-waste, simplicity, + compassion :: daring to choose fair one choice at a time