Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thoughts on simplifying

Dearest Crafty Cousin Overseas (yes you, the one who sews) and Smarty Cousin Who Works and Goes to School (yes you, the one who loves lamp) I was going to write this to you in an email, but I thought it might make for good blog fodder. So this one's for you two!

It it weird to think that we are so deep in the Christmas season that we are beginning to see the other side (only 8 days!). I've been wondering why its weird to me, and I think that a big part of that feeling results from the fact that I have yet to embark on an all-day get-everything-at-once shopping haul like I usually have to do this time of year. I am one of those procrastinators who, without meticulous planning and constant calendar-checking and list-making, just lets time get away until deadlines are looming over me sapping my peace, joy and sanity. I LOVE creatively wrapping gifts, but when I have to wrap all 27 NOW so we can load the car and drive 3 hours to Family Get-Together #1, followed by a few hours sleep and a 4 hour drive to Family GT #2...well its just not so fun anymore.

How did I arrive at this point in the season further ahead of the game than I realized?

As look back I realize I actually started thinking about the people on my gift list earlier this year. Hubs and I are pressing on in our war with our clutter which carries over into our gift giving as we want to give gifts that will be delightful and truly useful to the recipient. With this in mind I had to start earlier than usual thinking about what to get that would meet those criteria. Just reminding myself who all I wanted to give to kept my brain working on the possibilities and ideas for what to get popped into my head when I least expected it.

I've allowed myself to go with my first instinct on gifts whereas in the past I have agonized over whether or not this item would be that person's most favorite gift of all time. Realistic goals, anyone? I've come to believe that its all about telling the recipient that I thought he or she would like this item and that it comes with my love, no matter how large or small the gift. Am I right, people??

For example, and I'm only telling you this because I don't think he reads the blog, I bought 2 bars of soap for my grandpa. These weren't just any soap; they were of the handmade variety from Dennis Anderson's Etsy shop, and they were made using beer! Grandpa enjoys a beer now and then, and I'm pretty sure he uses soap. This soap will be better for his skin than many of the varieties in the stores which contain harsh chemicals (for real; google it), and its a bit of a novelty. Maybe it will take the mundane task of showering and put a little zip into it. Maybe he'll open it and think I've very weird (I did feel the need to put in a note letting him know this was not a hint; he's a feisty one and I'd never hear the end of how his supposedly loving granddaughter let him know she thought he smelled bad). :) Like it or hate it, he'll know that I put some thought into the gift and that I love him, so its wrapped and under the tree and I'm not worrying about it.

One of the most helpful tools that has simplified the gift giving process is our budget. Hubs and I have a strict budget for Christmas gifts. I LOVE seeing just how much I can get for my money; not much makes me happier than snagging something fabulous that's perfect for one of the people on my list and getting more than seems possible for the money allotted.

I've been much more creative in sourcing my gifts this year:

--Thanks in large part to all you fabulous lady bloggers out there (I'm sure there are fabulous men bloggers out there, I just haven't found any in my home decor/craft line of interest yet) I've been thinking more and more about what meaningful gifts I can make for those I love. A couple people on my list will indeed be receiving gifts I personally have worked on.

--I am absolutely head-over-heels in love with Etsy, the web marketplace for all things handmade (and that would be thanks to those two cousins mentioned at the top of this post). I log on every weekday and some weekends to check my favorite sellers and see which of my favorite items are still hanging around tempting me. A couple people on my list will be receiving wonderful items handmade by some talented person out there.

--A few people will be receiving items I scoured the internet to find, often at better prices than I could get from a store and some items that would be impossible for me to obtain at all otherwise.

--We even found one of the best gifts we'll be giving this season on Craig's List! How green is that!!

Yes, I have ventured to the stores for some stocking stuffers, and I have a couple more things I need to pick up, but there is no list that I have to knock out in a 6 hour marathon. Now if I get a chance to go to a store I can stroll through and look at all the shiny stuff for my own enjoyment. If I see that perfect item, great! If not, no big deal!

It's been an adventure to arrive home from work this last week or so to a new package (or 3!) sitting on our front steps. Packages are just plain exciting even if the contents are a gift for someone else. Plus they come in their own handy box which means I don't have to scrounge up my own box or wrap an oddly shaped lump. Its been great!

Next year I hope to make the majority of my gifts. That means I'll need to learn some new skills and get comfortable with some new tools in 2009, but it'll be worth it to see the smile those gifts will bring.

I just have to remember that it's a love thing, not a card to be punched or an ordeal to be endured.