Investing in Relationships

Last time I wrote about simplifying our holidays, and one of the things I mentioned was giving fewer, but more heartfelt gifts. My daughter has a quirky habit that whenever she introduces herself to someone new, she follows immediately with something along the lines of, “What’s your favorite color? Mine is green.” And I realized, I don’t know even this most basic information about the likes and dislikes of many of my friends and family. It seems like a simple thing, and I guess it is, but if I were choosing a birthday card, or wanted to knit a scarf, or buy a blouse for a friend, wouldn’t this be good information to know?

The thing is, knowing little details about people takes TIME. We have to invest time in the relationship to know what their favorite authors, movies, shows, hobbies, activities, and styles are. Unless we are just unnaturally lucky, we can’t really get them something they like if we don’t know what they like! I can’t pick something that you would want to hang on your wall if I don’t know how your house is decorated. And I don’t really want to spend the time to knit you a sweater in your least favorite color.

So I guess I’m starting a New Year’s resolution a little early. Especially during the holidays, and then continuing throughout the year, I’m going to try to pay a little closer attention to what colors and styles people wear, what programs/movies they watch, how they decorate their homes. Because even if it’s a small, inexpensive item, it will be much more appreciated if it’s a clear sign that you know what they like. That you care about them enough to invest the time to really “get” them.

How do you plug in to your loved ones to learn what they like? How do you keep track of it all? I’m considering keeping a year-round “gift-giving list” for just such a purpose. I’d love your input!


Peace During the Holidays

As some of you know, there have been a lot of things going on in our household as of late, some of them huge. We haven’t had as much time as we’d like to spend with the people we love, which we definitely aren’t happy about. But as we have just wrapped up Thanksgiving and are heading towards Christmas and New Year’s, I’m thinking a lot about how simplicity contributes to peace during the holidays, no matter what holidays you celebrate.

Holidays have the potential to bring us a LOT of stress. We may be hosting a big get together, or interacting with family members that we’ve had friction with in the past, or frantic about getting cards out or finishing gift shopping. Whatever has us stressed out this season, simplicity can go a long way towards relieving at least some of that stress.

I don’t know about you, but I find that perfectionism hits me the hardest when I’m hosting a party. I want everything to look perfect, to taste perfect, to be perfectly timed without a hitch, and so on. Rarely do I come even close to this ideal. But I find that if I refuse to allow myself to obsess over the details, I enjoy the day AND my time spent with family and friends so much more. Sometimes it’s not easy to remember. But it’s definitely worth it.

Rob and I have been trying for the last few years to really simplify our lives. It’s been a challenge at times, and we have a long way to go. But I encourage you to think about ways to simplify your holidays. Is your guest list, your gift list, or your card list too long? Can you choose fewer, simpler, but more heartfelt gifts? This requires being closer to our friends and family, knowing what they like and don’t like, what their favorite things are. Do we know about favorite colors, favorite authors, favorite stores? For instance, some people hate getting gift cards (my daughter for one) but I happen to like them. But we have to really invest in relationships to learn these things about one another. This is another thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and maybe I’ll tackle that idea in my next post.

I challenge you to take some time over the next few weeks and find ways to simplify. You can even look ahead to next year and consider things you might do differently. Don’t let the exercise bring added stress, just see where you could cut back, slow down, and really enjoy the time with the people you love. Because isn’t that what the holidays should be about anyway?

What are your favorite stress-relieving tips or ways to simplify during the holidays?