Wednesday, November 12, 2008

on simplicity and the christmas season

i found the coolest shop in manila in the new greenbelt 5 (man, that mall just grows and grows!). it's called brat pack and is actually a super cool concept for a store. it's mostly funky backpacks and bags and clothing and shoes and some accessories (think lomo cameras and stuff like the fab team manila clock i bought there). the stuff is there on consignment from various vendors, but must have to conform to some certain style guidelines, because it's all quite harmonious. check out the shopping bag for a taste of how cool the shop is:

anyway, i bought the simplify shirt above at brat pack. (and yes, i appreciate the irony of me feeling that i have to BUY something in order to simplify!) it's from a label called good karma by life is good, and the label says it's "environmentally friendly clothing for environmentally friendly people." in any case, it's super soft cotton and i love the shirt. and i bought it to remind me that i've been talking a lot this year about simplifying and paring down our lifestyle, but i haven't been doing a whole lot about it.

husband and i just discussed on monday that we don't want to engage in that whole christmas madness this year. that awful panicked feeling that you don't have enough or the right presents, so you rush out and buy a few more things that you don't really need at the last minute. we don't want that feeling this year. we actually pretty much have what we need, so we have agreed not to get presents for one another this year.

then, this morning, i read tara's thoughtful posting on christmas madness and sustainable living at eyeblog. as she says, it's actually about living so that your life makes sense. we'd all love to give only presents that we have made by hand, but who really has the time for that? the reality is that we have to live our lives and make them work too and if we sat around knitting and sewing for everyone all the time, would dinner get made or the laundry get done? as it is, i am a little fearful of looking under the chairs for fear of being attacked by giant dust bunnies.

like tara, i also worry about where the things i buy are made (admittedly not sure it's a good thing that my new simplify shirt was made in pakistan). i would say that i've tried hardest on that front with food this past year...i have made a real effort to buy produce that is produced locally. i've been learning about cooking with nordic ingredients--did you know you could make hawthorne syrup? and we've been learning to enjoy things when they're season and not buy them otherwise--therefore, only 2 glorious weeks of strawberries and the tomato consumption has tapered off significantly. we're finding it makes us appreciate the goodness of the food more. it's true that we'll buy those clementines as they come into season, so we're not entirely faithful. we buy ones that are from spain, so that they've only come up through europe and not been shipped across an ocean on a container ship. somehow the small, easily-peeled juicy deliciousness of those clementines just means christmas, so we're not really prepared to do without.

i had already vowed to give presents i've made to those i need to exchange presents with this christmas (tho' sabin will no doubt get some legos and probably some littlest pet shop). but i'm thinking of nicely framing photos i've taken this year, or having some photo albums made on one of those sites online. i'll also make some cushion covers and perhaps a lap quilt or two. i'm still rubbish at knitting, so no knitting hats and mittens, even tho' i'd actually like to do that.

how can we live more simply and sustainably at christmas? i guess with worldwide economic crisis, it seems easier to imagine paring down and not indulging in complete christmas madness. the truth is that we don't actually need any more stuff here at our house (tho' i did kinda want a red retro espresso machine--but wants are different than needs, aren't they and we do enjoy going out for a latte). but i am looking forward to having a big, lovely christmas tree in our new addition. we won't skip that, nor will we skip making wonderful christmas food. we're just going to try to be sensible on the gift front. thanks again, tara, for prompting me put some thought into this one again.


hele said...

What a wonderful idea. You have just inspired me to get only earth and people friendly products for Christmas presents this year.

Barb said...

Great idea Julie, I too would like to simplify, but it is difficult.

My daughter works hard to ensure that her children don't have a lot of very highly advertised commercial toys, but sticks with lovely handmade wooden toys which inspire the imagination. For example we gave our granddaughter a beautiful handmade wooden (unpainted) barn for her birthday and she is getting a handmade (unpainted) kitchen for Christmas.
These types of toys really inspire a child's imagination rather than leaving no room for thought with all the commercial, plastic toys that eat, pee, drive with a remote. We're debraining our children with all of these types of toys.

I find though that it takes quite a lot of imagination and thought to be more simple on gift giving occasions and handmade takes quite a bit of time and effort. I've been handmaking gifts for about a month now.

Once again, great post and very inspiring. Barb

Tara Thayer said...

Julie, I love your idea of framing your pictures...that's another great idea for the girls that I could do. One beautiful picture of each of them and they would love to see a gallery of themselves in our house-I did mention they were GIRLS, right?
Also, I love your new blog header.
Thanks, Tara

tangobaby said...

I've been cutting down on buying gifts for a while now, only because the cost of living here is so high and my income doesn't seem to keep up. What I've been trying to do over the past few years is giving the gift of an experience: a theatre event, a nice meal at a fancy restaurant...something that my family might not do on their own but would appreciate.

I realize that might not take the place of Legos and toys for the youngsters (I just had a very lucid conversation with a 2 year old last night who told me she wanted me to buy her a real phone) but for the others, it seems to be a nice option. I think I'll look more at donating money this year, too.