holiday minimalism challenge

Hi guys! I hope your¬†week is off to a marvelous start! Our little apartment is officially beginning to look like the holidays. We strung up some colorful lights, hung a wreath on the door, and even got this adorable mini Christmas tree! It’s a potted pine, so we’re planning to keep it out on our balcony after the holidays are over. It’s leaning over a little bit and we can’t seem to figure out a way to make¬†it straight… but I think that just adds to its Charlie Brown charm, don’t you? ūüėČ

our-first-xmas-tree

This holiday season, I’m trying out a new challenge for myself. During the span of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am aiming to get rid of one item every day. {For those of you counting, that would be 31 items in total!} During this infamously busy time of year, my minimalism¬†challenge is making me feel energized. In a season of more-more-more, it is a way of¬†centering and reminding myself what truly matters. It is a way for me to practice gratitude for the abundance in my life. It is a way for me to physically clear out some clutter and make some space in my life.

Plus, I love the idea of someone else being able to benefit from something I no longer use, need or want. That is why I am donating all of these items, rather than throwing anything away. However, you could also use this type of challenge to recycle paper clutter, or even to clean out your pantry/fridge!

Here is my donation tally right now:
-5 books
-1 journal
-1 ornament
-2 shirts
-1 candle
Total so far: 10 items {approximately 1/3 of the way there!}

I will keep you posted on my progress!

An Intentional Holiday Season

Allyn and I are making minimalism a cornerstone of our holiday season in other ways, too. How? By trying to make intentional decisions. I think it is a fun challenge to make do and be creative with what we already have, instead of immediately running out to buy more stuff.

Christmas Ornaments

Since this is our first Christmas together, Allyn and I did not have too many ornaments to decorate our tree. {Part of why we opted for a small tree this year!} We like to buy a Christmas ornament as a souvenir on trips we take, so we had beautiful ornaments from our summer trip to Hawaii, our honeymoon to Yosemite, and our recent Thanksgiving trip to New Orleans. We also had an ornament I bought a long time ago on a trip to Belgium, and two ornaments I ordered as Christmas gifts to myself last year: a photo ornament of me and my sweetie, and one of me, Holly and Céline from college. {Hanging this ornament on the tree made me feel a little teary. Love you and miss you, Céline!}

celine-ornament

Still, that left us with a lot of bare tree! Rather than going out and buying ornaments that were not meaningful to us, I looked around at what we had to see if I could make any. I found a few paper gift tags we had saved from Christmas gifts we received last year, of adorable elves. They made great ornaments! I also found some miniature foam surfboards that had been used as place cards at a wedding we attended — all I had to do was attach ornament hooks and up onto the tree they went. I love these as ornaments because they bring to mind¬†my beachy hometown. We strung some Mardi Gras beads from our New Orleans trip around the tree, along with some pretty ribbon. Also, I had a couple pendant necklaces lingering in my jewelry box with broken chains that I’ve been meaning to get fixed one day. All I had to do was loop a bit of ribbon or an ornament hook through the pendants, and they morphed into lovely ornaments.

Wrapping Gifts

We are using up paper, ribbon, gift bags and tissue paper we already have {a lot of it saved from gifts we have previously received} rather than buying more wrapping supplies. It makes me happy to think of these supplies getting a “second life” rather than just being tossed into our trash can. Yes, some of the wrapping paper is a bit wrinkled, and not all of it is really holiday-themed, but in my opinion that doesn’t matter. I still think our hodge-podge gifts look pretty!

wrapped gifts recycled paper

Gifting Consumables + Experiences

We are also making an effort to gift consumables this year, such as homemade baked goods, granola, and spiced nuts. {Here is a favorite spiced nut recipe¬†that I recently made — so yum!} One thing I love about gifting homemade consumables is that you can reuse glass jars or other containers to “wrap” them in: looks nice, costs you nothing, and is eco-friendly. Win-win-win! I personally love receiving homemade gifts because they seem extra special and filled with love. When I bake something with the intention of giving it to someone else, the entire process becomes one of intentional joy and warmth.¬†I pour loving thoughts about the person into whatever I am making for them. It is a wonderful gratitude practice!

glass containers

Gifting experiences is another fantastic way to celebrate the holidays minimalist-style. Instead of spending our time at the mall shopping sales, Allyn and I are making an effort to spend as much time celebrating with the people we love. For example, for Christmas we are giving my grandparents a gift to the theater: we bought them tickets to see “A Christmas Carol” with us in a few weeks, an annual local performance¬†that my Grandpap has always wanted to see but has never gotten around to before. The gift is extra-special because we get to enjoy it with them. I can’t wait!

Questions of the day:

  • How are you being intentional and slowing down this holiday season?
  • What are your favorite holiday traditions?

year of kindness challenge: week 51

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone!

Today I brought some chocolates and cards to the local nursing home in honor of my dear friend Jewell, who passed away in 2011. I miss her every day, but especially at Christmastime. She was one of the most genuinely sweet and kindhearted people I’ve known! I’ve started a tradition of bringing holiday cards to the nursing home every year as a way of remembering her.

me and jewell

To make the cards this year, I upcycled wrapping paper scraps by cutting out holiday designs — Christmas trees, gloves, snowmen, snowflakes — and gluing them down to blank white notecards. Then I wrote holiday messages on the back, such as:

  • Hope your holiday season is filled with joy and laughter!
  • Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
  • A friend is sending you lots of love and blessings this holiday season.

candy for nursing home

upcycled cards

It made my heart happy to think of the residents smiling when they receive the holiday cards.

I finished wrapping all my presents yesterday, so I’m all set to go! The rest of my Christmas Eve was spent visiting with relatives, taking care of my poor brother who is sick, and baking! I made a pumpkin pie and funfetti cookies.

funfetti cookies

Now … on to the kindness challenge! We’re down to our final two weeks, can you believe it?

year of kindness button

Last week’s kindness challenge was to donate a toy or book to a child in need this holiday season, and/or to drop off a donation at a local animal shelter. I dropped off five boxes of new books {donated through my annual Holiday Book Drive} and three new basketballs to the local Boys & Girls Club.

The timing worked out perfectly — the manager told me she was expecting to get a large donation of children’s books from another source, but then didn’t receive nearly as many books as expected so she was left scrambling to pull together enough gifts for all the children. And the holiday party was that very afternoon! I could tell from her tone that she was feeling pretty desperate.

“I was hoping you would come,” she said as she helped me unload the books from the car. “I remember you from last year. You’re our book angel!”

I can’t put into words how joyful and fulfilled the experience made me feel. The universe is magical and things truly work out for a reason!

book drive

The Week 51 Kindness Challenge was inspired by Martha Richards, the¬†Executive Director of the WomenArts Foundation. In a recent newsletter, she wrote: “If you are like me, you are being deluged with funding requests at this time of year. If you are able to make cash gifts to women artists and women’s organizations, I hope you will do so. Most of us {including WomenArts} are working on a shoestring, and your cash gifts will really make a difference. ¬†But I also believe there is a currency of kindness that we can use to lift each other’s spirits whether or not we have any spare cash on hand.¬†I have seen it over and over again at WomenArts and in other parts of my life — you can often give someone the courage to keep working or try something new just by listening to them carefully, acknowledging their hard work, and finding kind, supportive things to say.”

So this week’s kindness challenge is to reach out to an artist whose work touches you and tell him or her what you love about their work.

As always, blog about your experiences and include your links in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an email at dallaswoodburn AT gmail DOT com.

Merry Christmas!
-Dallas

P.S.: Head on over to this Year of Kindness Challenge page to see all the archived posts from the previous 50 weeks!

Questions of the day:

  • What are you doing to celebrate Christmas?
  • What acts of kindness happened in your life this past week?