Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Category: Holidays (page 1 of 3)

Birthday Time!

birthday presents

Remember when you were a kid and it was your birthday?

Did you wake up early to find a heaping pile of presents waiting for you next to your spot at the table?

Did it seem like an eternity before your parents woke up, cooked breakfast, got ready, and finally declared that it was time to open presents?

Do you remember each and every gift you ever got?

Did you always get what you wanted?

Did you cherish each item?

Did you play with them all year?
For a few days?
A few hours?
A minute?
Not at all?

Are your memories more about the anticipation, the excitement, and the fun of having and opening presents?

Do you remember the event more than what you got?

I do. There are very few presents that I actually remember receiving for my birthday. I remember the tricycle I got when I was three. I came around the corner to the kitchen and there it was.

I also remember the birthday before I moved to Rochester, MN for my first internship when I got a bunch of pots and pans, a strainer, and toilet paper (yes, toilet paper). I was thrilled!

But mostly I just remember getting presents, not having them. I remember the fun event; the experience.

My oldest daughter turns 6 years old today and she’s also got a pile of presents. She’ll be getting three sets of legos, a scooter, some clothes, and a few other random items from her loving extended family. Then she’ll have a party tomorrow and she’ll get more things. In five years, she probably won’t remember any of them.

What if next year I asked everyone to get her an experience gift? A ticket or photo or teaser of the experience could still be wrapped up, but instead of clogging our closets, the presents would clog her memory bank and photo albums.

Would she then remember our presents and not just the event?

Four Sane Ways to Celebrate Black Friday

Utah HikingBy “celebrate Black Friday”, I mean ignore it. Here are a few great ways to spend your time off that won’t overwhelm you with useless stuff or bleed your wallet dry.

Opt Outside

I am a huge fan of REI’s #OptOutside campaign. Not only do I believe in having less stuff, I believe in the amazing power of getting outside. Kudos to REI for closing its doors on Black Friday and urging people to spend time outdoors! Hiking is an awesome fall sport. If you’re lucky enough to have snow already, find a place that rents snowshoes or go sledding. Go for a walk or a run. Go to the zoo. I may not do an all-day hike, but I’ll probably take my daughters to the playground on Friday. I love, love, love #optoutside. Thanks, REI.


My family’s Christmas cookie recipe takes three leisurely days to make and I have three days off after Thanksgiving. The kids and I are super-excited about baking cookies this year – an activity that has become a welcome tradition (despite all of the hard work involved).

Baking Cookies

Make a Donation

Help someone else by clearing out some room in your home! I’m finally going to take a huge trunk-full of the items I set aside this year to Goodwill. Yelp and The Washington Post have a great list of places to donate in DC. Apartment Therapy has a list for the entire country.

And don’t forget about donating blood or getting ORGANized (by pledging to donate organs at Both take very little time and could save a life.

Family Fun Day

Too cold to get outside? Make Friday a cozy indoor family fun day. Make some popcorn, watch a movie, play a board game, or do a Power Hour together and get some nagging tasks done! We spend so much time running around. Why not stop and pledge to enjoy one whole day without obligations?

What will you do this weekend?

The Gift of Time

Nathan and I are celebrating our 10th Anniversary today! No presents, just quality time spent together (and a few days without the kids for the first time since they were born)! There’s a reason that time seems to move more slowly when you’re younger and you can get that feeling back. Give yourself the gift of time!

gift of time

One of the highlights of our marriage so far: Uhuru Peak, Mt. Kilimanjaro

Gift of Time

It seems cliché, but wouldn’t all anniversaries be better if, instead of buying presents, we did something special with our favorite people to commemorate the day? A picture or memory is worth a thousand gifts. For Mother’s Day this year, my mom flew to DC and we all went to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. While she also got a present personalized by my kids, I’m guessing the part she appreciated the most was the trip. I know I did.

gift of time

Memories in the Making

I recently read a fascinating book by Joshua Foer called Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art & Science of Remembering Everything. He, somewhat accidentally, discovered the world of competitive memorization, trained for a year, and won the American Championship. During the year he trained, he wrote about all of the memorization techniques that help us remember things on a daily basis. For people like me that have a hard time remembering names, this book is filled with great tips. One of his mentors also discussed an interesting theory on how to elongate your life and slow down time. Our brains are very visual and, the stranger and more unique an image is in our brains, the better we remember them. The same is true for experiences. That’s why we have a hard time remembering what we had for breakfast (routine memory), but an easier time remembering our vacations (something different and interesting). That’s also why it seems like time is moving more slowly when you’re younger: every day brings something new and your brain holds onto it. Therefore, by doing something interesting and distinct with your life more often, you’ll remember it better and make time feel slower.

So, instead of automatically buying a gift for your next holiday, try the gift of time. Find something unique and exciting to do and enjoy a less materialistic life.

My Minimalist Birthday

minimalist birthdayI didn’t have to remind people about my minimalism project. I didn’t even notice that something had changed until several days after my birthday.

When I first started this project, holidays would roll around and people would joke about getting me extravagant or highly unnecessary gifts (like a second pitchfork) and probably spent more time than they should have wondering what to get me that would be minimalistic enough. Some friends and family bought normal, material presents anyway, but some found creative ways to get me experience gifts (there are some great minimalist birthday gift ideas here and here). The idea that I didn’t want a real present bothered some people.

Now, eight months later, with all the fanfare of a slug falling asleep under a leaf, my birthday rolled around and everyone automatically went minimalist. That’s right! I got amazing gifts from my family and friends (thank you!), but absolutely nothing material. What’s even better, no one even mentioned my minimalism project. No one, except my good friend, Maureen, who brightened my day with an offer to get me Marie Kondo’s new book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and made sure she got it in the best, most minimalist format (kindle). (So thoughtful!)

I also removed my birthday from Linked In and should have done the same for Facebook. While the onslaught of wishes seems nice at first, it’s nothing compared to hearing a sincere ‘Happy Birthday’ from someone who cares enough to remember it without a Facebook prompt.

So, while I may not be changing the entire world with this project, it seems I am changing my little piece of the world, which is enough for now.

Seven Ideas for a Simpler Holiday

HappyHolidays - MinimalistinDC

No matter what you celebrate – Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, or something else – enjoy this holiday season. This blogger is going to get some much-needed rest and relaxation through the end of the year and will pick up writing again in 2015.

This is a crazy season with, traditionally, a lot of expenses and obligations, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are some ideas to promote a happier, simpler holiday without breaking the bank or running around like mad.

Seven Ideas for a Simpler Holiday

  1. Visit family or friends – Go see the people you really care about. Not the ones you feel obligated to see, but the people you truly miss and enjoy. Don’t plan any specific activities, just visit and let the mood of the day determine what to do.
  2. Read your kids a book – I just began Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with my oldest daughter and we both love it. Dust off your favorite childhood read and share it.
  3. Drink a hot beverage by the fire – I’ve just begun to realize why so many cultures love hot tea. Tea, hot chocolate, and hot cider are just a few of the beverages that take a hectic day and make it tranquil. Snuggle up and enjoy!
  4. Work out – Get a jumpstart on the rest of the world’s resolutions. Exercise is a mood and energy booster. If you feel run down by your activities or hit a sugar low, a short run, swim, game of tennis, or other activity is a quick mood-enhancer.
  5. Breathe – In the middle of your most hectic holiday tradition, close your eyes and take five deep breaths. Reap the relaxation rewards.
  6. Re-gift a present – We all get things at Christmas that we don’t need. Find someone who does need it and brighten their day.
  7. Say No – Pick one thing on your calendar or to do list and just say no. It’s a fantastic habit to start and you can start it with one “No”.
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