Simple Living: Care to unplug?

It’s highly possible that you have been daydreaming about a less stressful holiday season, and it includes those memories of how it was for you as a child, when things were kinder and slower.


It’s not too late to rearrange your holidays to include more meaning and let go of emphasis on gifts as the focal point. It’s likely that no one really remembers the handful of presents they received but they do remember grandma’s cozy kitchen and the smell of allspice. Let’s simplify this Christmas.

By simplifying your expectations and schedules, you can free yourself to think about what is important. Here’s a book that helps you establish these more meaningful traditions — Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season by Jo Robinson and others includes some liberating ideas. Here are a few.

While children may be quick to tell their parents what they want is designer clothes, the latest electronic gear, and brand-named toys, underneath these predictable requests is an unspoken plea for four, more basic requirements:

1. A relaxed and loving time with the family.

2. Realistic expectations about gifts.

3. An evenly paced holiday season.

4. Reliable family traditions.

Let’s talk about realistic expectations around gifts first. It is possible to change the paradigm and measure love by something other than money. Getting into debt does not measure how much you love friends and family. In the early 1900s, Santa decorated the tree on Christmas Eve, and gifts were wholly contained in the stocking hung by the chimney with care. Since that time, we’ve gotten into an out of control tailspin regarding gifts.

The television tells you what you want, what to buy, and where to buy it — it tells you your vision. Setting a holiday gift budget will keep you in bounds and will allow you to be creative and clever — not cheap. Have your children make a list of gifts under $25 or $30. I know you just said “fat chance,” but you have to start somewhere with this. More and more people are doing their holiday shopping at second hand stores — without apology. So, in the spirit of reduce-reuse-recycle, new is not necessarily better and there are several local businesses which provide gently used merchandise.

Here are some ideas:

We have several women’s re-sale clothing stores in our area. Homemade baked goods are always welcome — make a tin of almond cookies.

The monthly flea market at the Haywood County Fairgrounds on N.C. 209 and various yard sales provide a yearlong supply of gifts. Many a pawn shop guitar has launched a rock and roll career.

Look into used sporting good stores. Visit the Habitat for Humanity Thrift Store in Asheville. Create a thoughtful poem, frame some photos, or give a book. There are plenty of used bookstores waiting for your business.

Enter reliable family traditions. While downsizing in the gift area you must put something back. So while spending less on gifts, be sure to add something better — more time together doing things you all enjoy, more effort into exercising compassion for each other and the world, more time spent celebrating nature. All of our local small nurseries have stocked up on potted evergreens for you. You might start a tradition of buying a live tree each year and after the holidays making it a family project to plant the tree.

One family I know names the tree they buy after a family member. One New Year’s Eve at midnight my mother created a family tradition by setting a little cake with a lit candle at everyone’s place at the table. We sat around our candlelit kitchen and made a new year’s wish together. It was sweet.

So, when asked by their peers after Christmas vacation what they got, your children can say that their family emphasizes family tradition more than gifts. A child who can stand firm in their values and principles is a human being in the making; a human being not interested in traveling with the pack. We need more of these independent thinkers with a rock solid sense of self, those who do not base their worth on receiving the gift du jour and the approval of others.

It’s easier than most parents think to give their children a natural Christmas. Give it a go this year and have a warm, happy holiday.

(Kathleen Lamont is a local organic gardener and owner of She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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