Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Wrapping Paper

December 14 is World Energy Conservation Day. Wrapping paper (depending on the type) can’t always be recycled, and recycling uses resources and energy better spent elsewhere. Here are seven alternatives to traditional wrapping paper.

1. Newspaper (For those of us who still have access to newspapers!)

2. Gift bag (Many of us receive gifts in these, and they are easily reusable!)

3. Plastic bag (Many of us still have these floating around the house, even if we’ve already switched to reusable tote bags. This is a great use for them!)

4. Shoe box (You can even decorate them!)

5. Fabric scraps (These are a personalized, shabby-chic, kitschy alternative to wrapping paper!)

6. Make part of the gift the holder, as well (for example, a pretty basket, bowl, reusable tote, or flower pot) or wrap with part of the gift (for example, a blanket, pillowcase, scarf, or beach towel). This is a super fun, resourceful, and non-wasteful alternative to wrapping paper!

7. Hide presents around the house instead of wrapping them or cover them with a sheet, towel, or blanket. Such an obvious alternative to wrapping paper, yet it’s easy to forget about it!

What creative ways have you come up with to wrap gifts and participate in the magic and mystery of the season while committing to sustainable habits?

Thoughtful, Minimalistic Holiday Gift Ideas

Even as a minimalist, it’s hard not to get caught up in the spirit of gift-giving that permeates the Holiday season. But what do you do when you don’t want to spend money on meaningless stuff as a way to show somebody you care? Fortunately, there are a lot of thoughtful, minimalistic gifts you can give to friends and family.

Experiences are great gifts to give. These include gift certificates for salon or massage therapy services, tickets to a concert or a theme park, or a day filled with hiking, skydiving, rock climbing, etc. Whenever they think about the fun day they had, they will remember you. And they won’t have to store, clean, or take the gift with them when they move.

You can offer to perform a certain service for them, such as babysitting for a day or cleaning their house. You’re offering your labor and time instead of money you would have spent on a physical gift. This is an incredibly thoughtful gift because they know you can always make more money but will never get that time back.

You can make them a gift, such as a craft, recipe, letter, poem, photo collage, scrapbook, or homemade video. This is a very thoughtful gift because it takes creativity, time, and a personal touch to come together. These gifts tend to elicit warm feelings towards the giver and create cherished memories.

You can find them the perfect gift on a freebie site. One man’s trash is another’s treasure, and the internet allows people to advertise the possessions they don’t want anymore. You might find just what they need/want, perhaps something that is not being carried by stores any longer.

You can donate to a charity in their name. This is a very thoughtful gift that allows you to spend on a worthwhile cause while honoring their passions and principles, allowing everybody involved to benefit.

Some of the most memorable gifts I have ever received have been non-monetary and had a personal touch involved. Instead of simply aiming to cross your loved ones’ names off a list by buying them something generic from a department store, experiment this season with giving thoughtful, creative, personal gifts. It will be easier on your wallet, get your creative juices flowing, and prove far more fulfilling.

Ten Lesser-Known Holiday-Viewing Favorites of Mine

We all have our favorite Holiday-themed shows and movies to watch at this time of year. And while I enjoy all the classics — A Christmas Story, Elf, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, etc., I also have some favorites many people might not have heard about. Allow me to share them here, in no particular order.

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The Christmas List (1997) — This ABC made-for-television movie is better than many would suspect. It’s a cute movie that demonstrates the magic of Christmas and the fact that things will get better if you have a little faith.

A Season for Miracles (1999) — Another made-for-tv movie, this time by CBS. This film demonstrates the power of love needed to make it through life’s struggles and the importance of never giving up hope.

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Disney’s Christmas Fantasy on Ice (1992) — A special featuring characters from Disney movies and famous ice-skaters. This is sure to entertain and warm the heart, and it’s really easy to sing along.

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Snowbound (1994) — Based on a true story, this CBS made-for-tv movie demonstrates the importance of love, family, and never giving up, even when everything seems hopeless.

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Christmas Every Day (1996) — Here’s another made-for-tv movie that stands out from the crowd. I personally enjoy this movie a lot more than Groundhog’s Day.

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Twilight Zone’s Changing of the Guard (1962) — An episode of Rod Serling’s original Twilight Zone series that is sure to bring a tear to the eye and never be forgotten.

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Annabelle’s Wish (1997) — A direct-to-film movie with a beautiful soundtrack. Although marketed to kids, I love it just as much now that I’m an adult.

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A Garfield Christmas (1987) — This half-hour tv special is another of my Holiday-viewing favorites. I enjoyed it as a child and still try to watch it every year.

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Black Christmas (1974) — If you’re looking for something a little different this season, you might be looking for this film. It’s a Christmas-themed horror film. And it’s really good.

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From All of Us to All of You (1958) — This tv special made by Disney is great viewing for the whole family. It includes different sketches or skits with different characters. Now in my late 30’s, it’s also one of the first shows I remember ever watching on tv.

Do you have any lesser-known favorites you’d like to share with me?

How to Decorate for the Holidays as a Minimalist

It’s easy to see a minimalistic lifestyle as limiting instead of freeing. It can be difficult to figure out how to participate in the festivities of the Holidays without accumulating and owning a lot of things. So how can you celebrate and enjoy the magic of this Holiday season while sticking to your principles, avoiding unnecessary spending, and keeping your physical and mental spaces clear?

red pillar candle on white table cloth

Instead of buying items that are specifically made to be used as decoration, find decorative ways to use items you already have. For example, pretty candles can be used not only as decoration, but as light sources and to make your home smell pleasant. Placemats, tablecloths, bedding, and couch throws all can be used for both their original purpose as well as decoration. Photos, postcards, and greeting cards can also be displayed and used as decoration. White lights can both be used to decorate spaces during the Holiday season as well as other times of the year. Many people use them around their bed, photo collages, plants, and other areas around their homes to add a little extra charm year-round.

leafless tree on white wall

Another tip is to keep your home clean and uncluttered. That way, even if you have only one candle decorating a room, it will stand out and make the whole room look and feel festive. This can seem a lot more special and definitely more aesthetically-pleasing than a mantel full of knick-knacks. Natural materials like branches, burlap, pine cones, and twine give your home a comfy, not overly-done-up vibe.

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You can also make your own decorations, which is more economical and eco-friendly than purchasing materials. It’s also a fun activity to do with family or friends. For example, I am planning on making a gingerbread house with my 3-year-old niece, as well as making ornaments for the tree.

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Choose decorations that can be used all season long, if not all year long, instead of for one specific holiday. For example, choose snowmen, which can be used all winter instead of Santa Claus, which doesn’t apply after December 25.

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Only have a certain amount of decorations. I know one person who has so many Christmas decorations, she is never able to use all of them and often forgets what she has. Keep a small collection of your favorites and focus on quality over quantity. Even a simple wreath hanging on the front door can transform the looks of a house.

Please let me know any tips you have for making your home reflect the beauty and cheer of the season while keeping your minimalistic principles in mind.

Eight Tips for Staving Off Depression During the Holidays

While the Holidays are touted as an inherently happy, uplifting time of the year, for many people it is anything but. In fact, it can be a depressing time that many just try to “get through”. This time of the year can highlight the things that are wrong in your life, such as a lack of money or family or love. So what can you do to ease the pain?

Be grateful. I know this wisdom can often come off as trite and preachy, but it has worked for me. Whenever I am feeling disconsolate, that the world is against me, that nothing ever goes my way, I think about the positives in my life. I think about what I have that many other people lack. I think about the ways in which I’m fortunate, what I’ve achieved, what I’ve been given, and the ways in which my life is a lot easier and fuller than other people’s. I don’t do this to gloat but instead to foster a grateful attitude in myself and to avoid encouraging negative thinking patterns. And it almost always works. Don’t criticize yourself for not having what others have. Others might have more money, closer families, and better love lives. They most likely also had different upbringings, experiences, and opportunities in life. They also likely face struggles you don’t know about. Keep your focus on you.

Don’t overextend yourself. It’s not worth getting into debt or stressing yourself over money in order to spend more than you can afford just to fit in with everyone else. Avoid getting wrapped up (pun unintended) in the commercialism of the season.

Don’t concentrate on the past. Times might have been better back then. Holidays past might have been a lot cheerier. Thinking about those times might remind you of what you had and what you lost. We can’t go back, only forward, so concentrate on the changes you can make NOW to ensure happier future Holiday seasons.

Make your own traditions. Maybe your family didn’t have any or you don’t subscribe to them. Make your own and start a new generational tradition among your family or friends. Post about it on social media if you have an account. Start a trend. Inspire others.

Attend to self-care. Be extra gentle with yourself around this time of year. It can already be a dreary, cold time. Don’t beat yourself up for having a different life than others or for not being able to enjoy the season the way many others can.

Avoid over-indulging in sweets. While they make you happy in the moment, the inevitable crash can lead to depression. You don’t have to totally deprive yourself unless you have an issue with self-control around food, but make sure you’re not using sweets to fill the void in your life that this season can trigger.

Keep yourself busy. Attend to tasks you’ve been putting off like cleaning or donating unwanted items. Use this season to concentrate on productive pursuits instead of allowing yourself to wallow in self-pity.

Be open to happiness and light. Don’t harden your heart or allow resentment to occur. Consider attending a Holiday party, inviting a friend over for dinner, or taking a drive to see the festive lights and decorations many people put out this time of year. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or help an elderly neighbor. Embrace the good parts of the season even though you might find it sorrowful, as well.

I hope everyone celebrating Thanksgiving today is having a wonderful holiday. And I hope you’re taking care of yourselves in all of the most important ways, including attending to your mental health, and that you will continue to do so throughout this Holiday season. Stay safe and warm!