Creating a Life Free From Chaos

Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas

Last Minute Holiday Gift Ideas from Modern SimplicityChristmas is mere days away…have you made your list and checked it twice? If you’re still in need of a few last-minute gifts, consider these seven green ideas that are quick and easy.

  1. Handmade With Love.Grab a few supplies and make a quick gift the recipient will love. A knitted scarf, a wooden birdhouse, a photo scrapbook, painted glass ornaments, no-sew fleece blankets — there are lots of great ideas on the Internet for easy gifts you can make.
  2. No Crumb Left Behind. What’s your specialty in the kitchen? Baked goods such as cookies, cakes, and muffins are always a hit, but homemade goodies such as apple butter, jam, salsa, hand-churned ice cream, and garden-fresh pesto make yummy gifts as well. I LOVE food gifts because they’re consumable, which means tasty AND clutter-free!
  3. You’ve Got Talent. Have a particular gift or skill to share? Spoil your giftee with a live, personally sung Christmas carol, a video of a special dance number, or a concert featuring you playing the piano or guitar or saxophone. How about a framed copy of a poem written especially for them by you? Are you an artist who can draw, paint, or create other art that’s both personal and creative?
  4. Cherished History. Grab some printed photos and put together a memory book, with handwritten narrations of the photos. Take one cherished photo and frame it out just perfectly. Grab the video camera and capture Grandma’s best stories.
  5. The Gift of Time. Resurrect the old “favor coupon” idea and give the gift of free time, by offering your babysitting services, a car wash, an afternoon as an errand boy, a Saturday of making freezer meals, or some heavy lifting during spring cleaning time.
  6. The Infamous ReGift. Don’t just grab any old thing and wrap it and present it as new. Take some time to seriously consider if you have something you know the recipient wants. Has she always adored your blue cashmere sweater? Wrap it up with a note about how you know she loves it and you want it to be hers with love. Is he constantly borrowing a particular video game? Pair it with some favorite snacks and drinks for a gift you know he’ll use.
  7. Date Night. No matter who the recipient is, movie tickets, theater tickets, or restaurant certificates are always a hit. Consider tickets to a local museum or kids’ science center, the zoo, or an amusement park. Handwritten “certificates” for a girls’ day out shopping, a fishing trip for Junior, or a special playdate at the park are fun ideas that are easy on the budget and clutter-free.

For more ideas for an easygoing holiday, check out my book, Simply Christmas, with 101 ways to simplify the holidays. 

Merry Christmas! 

What Do You Do at Christmas if You’re a Minimalist

This is a guest post from Nicole Akers.What Do You Do at Christmas if You’re a Minimalist by Nicole AkersMinimalism. It’s an interesting word because you probably have strong feelings about it. Is it weird? Who wants less stuff? Maybe you embrace it because you live with less stuff and find it exhilarating. At either end of the spectrum, or somewhere in between, what do you do with minimalism at Christmas?

Christmas is a time when many give gifts. Lots of gifts. Parents and grandparents shower kids with stuff. Much of it gets stuffed in the corner of a closet or buried and never sees the light of day. The boxes and bows are appreciated more than the stuff inside them. Since you’re reading, I’m asking you this rhetorical question: Who just downsized rooms and closets in preparation for the holiday onslaught of gifts? It’s okay to raise your hand or nod your head in the affirmative. No one can see you. It’s our secret.

Here’s another question: Do you really want to keep repeating these same steps year after year?

If you’re ready to do something different maybe it’s time to be weird. “Weird.” That’s what our family calls us. Many friends too. Most of the time it’s okay, but sometimes it hurts. They called us weird when we sold our house earlier this year and moved to a 997 square-foot apartment. I’ve only written about the experience in guest posts, so it’s fitting I continue this trend. The background of how we began the experience is right here. And, I’ve described how we continue to be weird here. So glad Sandy is minimalistically weird, like me. 😉

Saying goodbye to stuff-minimalism

This year, as we pull out the Christmas decorations, everything feels different. We’re touching and using things we’ll never see or use again. It’s eerie and freeing at the same time. As we decorate the Christmas tree, we don’t have to be as careful with the glass ornaments. It doesn’t matter if our youngest hangs 12 plastic icicles crowded on four branches. We don’t have to obsess about the details. Nothing has to be perfect. It just gets to be enjoyed. We can move about and enjoy items in ways that we never have before. It’s nothing like Sandy’s house fire. The huge blessing and difference is that we get to enjoy using them one last time as we say good-bye.

We’re preparing for an adventure. We’re going somewhere, and it’s going to be a beautiful journey. When Mommy, Daddy, K, and C travel to the other side of the globe, or the other side of the Christmas tree it looks something like this.

What Do You Do at Christmas if You’re a Minimalist by Nicole Akers

I remember making those ornaments with the girls. We mixed the dough, cut “cookies”, and decorated them over the course of 3-4 days. Our Christmas tree is filled with them. Feel free to borrow our recipe if you want some too:

  • 3 cups applesauce
  • 3 cups ground cinnamon

Stir together until nice and firm. Roll out like dough and break out the cookie cutters, but don’t bake them. Make a hole with a toothpick or nail. Make the hole bigger than you think it needs to be because it will shrink as it dries. Let them air dry completely before decorating.

We used ribbon, puffy paint, glue, and glitter to make ours festive. It’s a great minimalistic way to decorate a Christmas tree. Now the tree is decorated, and we’re wondering what should go under it.

What do minimalists put under the Christmas tree?

“Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more, than packages and stuff that comes from a store.” ~The Grinch

Does that sound “Grinchy”?

For us this year Christmas might look like backpacks and hiking boots because of where we’re going. What might it look like for you?

Something you want

Everyone has wants. If you’re minimalistic and have young children this can be a challenge. Zero in on something the receiver wants. Kids have an endless list of wants. Pick one and fulfill it. My girls love jewelry. The 6-year-old wants “real jewelry” — the kind that isn’t a plastic toy ring or princess jewelry. She wants the kind her older sister wears. The oldest is a tween and she enjoys chokers and earrings. We stumbled upon a clearance rack at a department store on Black Friday and made a killing on jewelry that doesn’t break the wallet. At $2-$3 a piece, we found plenty to stuff their stocking. These items also already have a place in our tiny apartment and don’t take up much space.

Something you need

Most people “need” something. Maybe it’s a kitchen appliance, a pocketknife, or a car repair. Pick something you are certain the receiver needs. Have a conversation to determine needs. The last thing a minimalist needs is something he or she doesn’t need.

The last thing a minimalist needs is something he or she doesn’t need. ~ @TheNicoleAkers Click To Tweet

Maybe it’s a gift card, restaurant gift certificate, or a check. Everyone needs savings for a rainy day. One day kids will want to buy a car, and wouldn’t it be great if they could buy a car without debt? Talk about changing a family tree! We’re extra weird with money. If Grandma really wants to buy the kids a gift maybe it’s time to change her thinking. Saving for the future is a gift you need.

Something to wear

It is Christmas, after all. My oldest likes clothes, but she has more than she needs. She needs shoes, especially if she’s outgrowing the ones she has. It’s okay to splurge a little. Maybe a new coat is in order. This is a place where wants and needs can blur a little, if so desired.

Something to read

All great minds need books. Luckily both my girls love to read. If you’re not a reader it might be time to give it a try. One book a year won’t kill you. It can be a cookbook, or about professional or personal development.

“When I get a little money, I buy books. If any is left, I buy food and clothes”. ~Erasmus

“There is no friend as loyal as a good book”. ~Ernest Hemingway

“I am simply a ‘book drunkard.’ Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.” ~ L.M. Montgomery

I love her Anne of Green Gables series.

Great minds read books.

Plan an experience

If none of that fits quite right, then plan an experience. Take a small trip. Maybe drive to the beach, visit a museum. Scrap the gifts and go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. If you have kids who still believe in Santa, I’m positive he’ll find you with a special surprise that won’t leave you wondering how you’ll get it home.

How will you enjoy the holidays more minimalistically this year? Please tell us in the comments. It’s even okay to call me weird too. I’m used to it. ;-).

What Do You Do at Christmas if You’re a Minimalist by Nicole AkersNicole is founder of and spends her time helping writers grow their audiences through crowdsourcing readership. She’s also a health advocate at WeTalkHealthy who helps you tip the scales in your favor through healthier living. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

How to Survive the Busy Holiday Season

How To Survive The Busy Holiday Season * Modern SimplicityI don’t know about you, but December is by far my busiest month of the year. There’s such pressure to be all things to all people:

  • The perfect (and generous) gift giver
  • The gracious hostess
  • The devoted parent who attends all the kids’ Christmas pageants, band and choir concerts, holiday parties, and special holiday events all over town
  • The loyal daughter or son who attends all the family gatherings, even if it means flying across country to do it
  • The dedicated employee who attends all the company parties and puts in the overtime so others can celebrate with their families, hoping to grab some holiday days off yourself to spend with your own family
  • PLUS the added pressure of closing out the year and plotting out your dreams, goals, and plans for the next year.

Seriously, who can manage all that? Despite cultivating simple Christmas traditions (I even wrote a book about it,) I still find myself getting overwhelmed by the societal chaos of ALL THE HOLIDAY THINGS.

We have to remember this is a choice — we CAN choose to celebrate the holiday season with more peace and margin. Click To Tweet

We have to remember this is a choice — we CAN choose to celebrate the holiday season with more peace and margin. Sure, we may make a few people angry, and it may require a bit more planning on your part, but it’s totally worth it.

What can you do to ease the chaos of the Christmas season?

So what can you do to survive the holiday season? Here are a few tips to try out:

  • Be selective about the events you attend. You don’t have to go to every party, concert, or open house you’re invited to. Choose the ones that matter most, and give a gentle, but firm “no” on the rest.
  • Consider NOT hosting your own holiday extravaganza this year. I remember the movie “Christmas with the Kranks,” in which the main characters decide to “skip” Christmas, including canceling their big annual holiday party. The neighborhood acts like this is the biggest sin in the world, but you know what? Under most circumstances, you may actually be doing your friends a favor by giving them a night off as well. Don’t be pressured into hosting if you don’t want to!
  • Shop early, and cut way back on the holiday list. You do not have to get every person you know a gift, and you do not need to get your family a whole pile of gifts. Make the gifts you give mean more by shopping thoughtfully, with the receivers’ likes and needs in mind. And if they’re on their own quest for simplicity, consider giving an experience or consumable gift instead of more “stuff.”
  • Skip the Christmas cards. Yes, some people may think this is blasphemy, but we haven’t sent physical Christmas cards in years. This decision was not taken lightly, but in the interest of simplifying and living a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Most friends and family are on Facebook anyway, so post your awesome holiday photo as a message on your Facebook timeline instead.

Why should I simplify my holidays?

If you enjoy the chaos of the holiday season (and many people do!), then great! Don’t stress thinking you have to do anything different. But if you dread the craziness that can be common this time of year, and you’re looking for a calmer holiday, then here are just some of the benefits you can look forward to as you simplify your holiday:

  • More time to spend with your loved ones, playing board games, telling stories around the dinner table, or going out together for the holiday events you really don’t want to miss.
  • Some time to yourself or to spend with your significant other, drinking cocoa by the fireplace or watching favorite holiday movies together.
  • Having the margin to celebrate the holiday the way you want to celebrate, whether that holiday includes Advent, Santa, Hanukkah, or Kwanza.
  • The energy to hop in the car after dark to drive around looking at the holiday lights that decorate your neighborhood.

Interested in a simpler holiday? What are some things you can change to calm the holiday chaos?

If you want more information about simplifying your holidays, check out my 5-day holiday challenge below, or my book, Simply Christmas, available on Amazon.