Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Simple Christmas List

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. ~Confucius

When you take a second to look at the world we live in, the messages constantly thrown at us seem to be the way to happiness and success is through acquiring. "He with the most toys wins" so to speak. If you can just get enough money to get those few things that will cheer you up. Think of the well used term "retail therapy". When I used to live in Toronto, I remember the busiest place on a public holiday as the sun was shining outside would be the city's largest shopping centre, the Eaton Centre. There would be crowds of people, like little ants, scurrying from shop to shop, collecting bag after bag of "goodies" with the profits of a week's hard work. The strange thing is, the next day on the train to work, these same worker ants didn't look happier. Perhaps they just needed a few more weeks' pay, to buy a few more things, and then they'd look happy....I'm still waiting to see those happy worker ants.

Take a look at the people you know and their socio-economic position. I am blessed to have a range of friends from staving artists to those with high paying roles for luxury companies. What stands out is that the more you earn doesn't equate to less stress and more happiness. Rather those earning more just have different stresses. Yes, my poorer friends are stressed about making ends meet, but my friends with a bigger pay packet are getting bosses calling them at 930pm at night, have higher expenses to maintain their larger car, house and set of gadgets and seem to have less time to spend with those they care about. More income seems to lead to more balancing of responsibilities.

So are the richer happier at all? It seems more of a case of the happiest people don't have the best of everything, they make the best of everything. Think about what makes you happy, truly happy, and often the answers are simple things; spending times with loved ones, being in nature, music. The ability to simplify our lives could have the ability to make us happier. A simpler life also often means a smaller carbon footprint too! Check out this talk by Graham Hill on less stuff equals more happiness.

Here are some gathered thoughts they may help you simplify your life.

  • Do the things you own take away from time you could spend with the people you love? Washing the car, cleaning the pool, working overtime to pay for the extra "mod cons" can all just begin to feel like you are on a hamster wheel while trying to keep up with the Joneses
  • When you go food shopping do you buy more than you need? I have seen fridges where friends purchased mushrooms a month ago and they are still sitting in the fridge. If you plan what you are going to eat for the week  you save on food wastage, money, time to clean out the fridge and this isn't just good for you, it's good for the environment.
  • When contemplating a purchase, a friend and I challenge each other, "Do you want it or need it?" If I was to contact you in a year would you be glad you purchased this item?
  • Planning a party? Often simple ideas are the best. The more you include, the more you have to worry about. You don't want to spend the whole party ensuring everything runs smoothly.
  • Unclutter your house. Feng shui 101 says an uncluttered house prevents the flow of positive energy and can increase feelings of stress and being overwhelmed. If doing the whole house seems like a mammoth task, do one room per weekend. If you can send excess to recyclers or charities you get double points!
  • Have a place for everything...and put it there.This saves you from your space being cluttered with piles everywhere. If it doesn't have a place, create one for it or get rid of it.
  • One concept that I'll keep from my days at McDonald's employee is "Clean-as -you-go". Not only does it keep your house clean and uncluttered, it frees up time later to have to tidy later. You may still have to spend an time sweeping the kitchen and cleaning the bathroom but it'll be a lot less time than if you have to put everything away first.
  • Add another decluttering weekend to your computer.
  • And the biggest thing to unclutter is your wardrobe. For a new way of thinking about clothes checkout this talk by Jessi Arrington:
Consumerism is at it's peak at this festive time of year. It seems to be a traditional tune amongst the Christmas carols as people moan, "Christmas is not what it used to be.It's all about gifts, purchases and debt". This is a key time to contemplate decluttering and making this Christmas a little more simple. Ask yourself for Christmas, "what do I need, rather than what do I want". I asked myself this question and the answer I came up with, "there's nothing I need for Christmas".

This causes a problem as family will start asking for suggestions and you start racking your brain to give them a list. Otherwise you could end up with a pile of things you neither want, nor need. So I came up with a list. I want a polar bear, a tiger, a panda, a bilby, an orangutan and a gorilla. Well actually I don't the real animals, rather to adopt them (life gets a little more complex when you have a zoo in your backyard I am sure!).

There are many organisations that offer symbolic adoptions that will benefit animals around the world.

Here are links to some of my favourites:

Jane Goodall Institute: - from $15/month

WWf Australia: - from $50

WWF Canada: - from $40

Toronto Zoo: - from $25

Melbourne Zoo: - from $15/month

Australia Zoo: - for $50

Perth Zoo: - from $50

Oceana: - from $30

Free The Bears: - from $200

Australian Orangutan Project: - from $55

Adopting an animal for Christmas still gives family and friends an opportunity to give at Christmas, it helps you keep your life simple, it contributes to a great cause and is a strong message to others about what you stand for. So this year for Christmas, keep your list simple, and give to those who truly need.

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