Holiday Guide for a Mindful Family

Holiday guide for the mindful family

This past year, inspired by Marie Kondo and Allie Casazza, I embarked on a journey of reviewing first our possessions (toys, clothes, STUFF I WOULD TRIP OVER DAILY) and then my habits and my narrative around acquiring or storing more of the above-said stuff.

I went through everything in our home, based on two questions:

“does this bring me joy?”
“am I using this?”

While it was quite challenging to start this process, continuing it, was incredibly liberating. I sold, gave away or threw stuff I was clinging on to for years. The house was finally airy, and my kids were happy to spend time playing in the playroom (!)

I asked myself many times “how did I end up having so much stuff?” and without any judgment, I started to think back to the times when I made the purchase decision. What triggered me? Why was I buying all of these things?

When the house was finally decluttered (it took about four months to go through everything), I sat down to examine my purchase habits and the stories I was telling myself around these.

Some back story first.
Even though I grew up in a middle-class family and I remember having shoes, or a new backpack at the beginning of the school year, the budget was tight. We had priorities, such as food, utilities, savings, things that were necessary and almost nothing left for what I perceived to be luxury – new toys, plenty of clothes, vacations, or entertainment.
If I needed a new pair of jeans let’s say, we were to go to the cheapest place in the city (open-air market) where we would examine the models and prices. We were to return home and debate over what we saw. We would go back a second time and re-evaluate. And finally, when it was payday, I would get to buy my jeans. As one can imagine, a lot of my time was spent imagining how awesome it will be actually to have those jeans.
If the purchase was more significant, such as a winter jacket, I had to wait a couple of months, and we would go around to various shops to find the best deal.
What I recognize now, in adulthood, as the tremendous educational importance of delayed gratification, back to my 12-year-old self who just wanted to fit in and have the same clothes as my classmates, this was torture.
There were many times I felt I was a misfit because of the clothes I had, and even more moments I made money my #1 goal in life. My childhood fantasy was to go to the supermarket, pile up my trolley without having to worry about the prices and then have the possibility to buy them all.

Eventually, at age 23, I reached the stage of abundant finances. For me, that meant I had some left after buying the necessities.
And while my family was extraordinary at budgeting and stretching a dollar to its thinnest, I had none of these skills.
So when I finally had enough money, I bought every single thing I ever wanted, never looking at the budget, prices or examining my real needs past psychological needs.
I bought more clothes than I could wear, more shoes than I could fit in my closet, more food than I could eat, and more books than I could read. Abundant times baby! I thought I made it.
It continued way past having kids – I bought the latest baby equipment, a multitude of toys and plenty of clothes, just because I could.

This, however, meant that I spent a lot of my time cleaning, tidying, arranging and organizing all of the things we had. It meant I was becoming overwhelmed.
My kids, however, didn’t give two damns about the latest colorful additions to our playroom. They would play with it for a little while, then quickly discard it, but play for days with the carton box where the toy was.

It also meant marital friction, as my accountant husband couldn’t really comprehend why after all of our hard work, we could barely contribute to our savings plan.

I had to return to the basics and ask the hard questions:
Why was I on such a shopping spree? What was happening underneath the desire to accumulate?

As the Christmas approaches, we have a new rule in the house. Everyone will get two presents. One that they REALLY want. And one book.

My daughter has been talking about getting a necklace for months now. Santa shall deliver it. And a book.
My little ones are starting to get more interested in LEGOs. So they shall get one set each. And a book. Each.
My husband had his eyes on something for years but never got it. He shall get it. (it’s a surprise). And a book.
I love surprises. And so Santa shall surprise me and bring me a book.

When we make these purchases meaningful, the enjoyment we get from actually having them is tremendous.

Also, this past year we started discussing with the kids about how we can share our wealth with other people. We regularly review our toys and give away what we don’t play with anymore, we talk to them about buying only what we truly need and why is that important, as well as what impact do we have on the planet with the choices that we make.

I had to make up my mind that scarcity doesn’t mean poverty. I also had to reframe my worth not being dictated by the clothes I have, the number of toys my kids have or the cars we are driving.
I had to rethink what money means to me and what do I want to feel on the topic of financial abundance.

So for these holidays, ask your children what they need. The one thing that if they had, they would be so excited and happy. Then buy them precisely that. One thing. And then for that one thing they get, let them choose one thing they can give away.

The dialogue around possessions needs to be constant. Of course, I don’t know how my children will perceive this. Later on in life, they might embrace it or go the opposite way. I don’t know, and I can’t predict with certainty what will happen. But the best I can do is fixing my issues around abundant possessions, and trying to teach my kids how to formulate a thinking process to help them make decisions that are grounded in reality. The rest belongs to their unique journey. And whichever that is, it will be their own.

Happy mindful holidays everyone!

 

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

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