December is crazy. It’s chaos for most American families. We’re rushing from one party to the next, getting the shopping done, and wrapping up the year at work and at home, hopefully before we have all the kids in the house full-time for their two weeks off.
December also tends to highlight our consumeristic tendencies. We go from celebrating thankfulness and contentment on Thanksgiving to the mad dash for cheap stuff on Black Friday. Just take a glance at the condition of the Nike Outlet Store in Seattle after Black Friday shoppers went a bit mad…
— Sneaker News (@SneakerNews) November 27, 2016
If you don’t think consumerism is that much of a problem for us, consider some highlights of this story from Becoming Minimalist‘s website: 21 Surprising Statistics That Reveal How Much Stuff We Actually Own:
There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).
The average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year (Huffington Post).
Women will spend more than eight years of their lives shopping (The Daily Mail).
Here’s my conclusion…
- We have too much going on, but keep stuffing our schedules.
- We have too much stuff, and still want (i.e. “need”) more.
- We have created a pace of increase in our standard of living that might be unsustainable for the long term.
This isn’t a bah humbug post. I’m not merely writing to complain about how we are. I think there’s actually a lot to celebrate about our culture. And there’s also a lot we can work on together.
Here are a few of my personal suggestions on how to create some space and some peace in the midst of a hurried, consumeristic culture.
1. Schedule what is most vital.
You probably have school musicals, office parties, and various functions with family and friends to attend. So put it all on the calendar, and also slot some non-negotiable time for some other things.
- Each day I will have a half-hour for prayer and quiet reflection.
- I will have a date night or three with my spouse.
- We will have some time as a family to drive around and look at all the pretty lights.
2. Whatever you buy, shed at least that much of what you have.
We try to get our kids about five gifts each. To some, that’s a lot. To others, it isn’t much. It’s all relative, but we’ve decided that our kids stop remembering what they just opened after the fifth gift. It’s enough. Plus, they usually receive from other family members and friends as well.
Then we give stuff away. We box things up and give them to charity for two reasons. First, the item that is now boring and uninteresting to us may be new and exciting to someone who has never had it before. And second, we want to de-clutter as much as possible to create a peaceful space.
3. Practice generosity.
It’s imperative that we find ways to give away our time, our talent, and our treasure. But let’s be honest: Giving away our treasure is probably the toughest part. Giving money away, to church, to charity, or to someone going through a tough season — it stretches our budgets. And ultimately, that’s good for our faith.
It’s also wise to force our focus away from receiving and onto giving. I won’t lie: It’s fun to get neat stuff, new gadgets, and even cash and gift cards. That’s human. But Jesus taught us that it’s even more fun (more blessed, more joy-producing) to give!
4. Remember the reason for the season.
Yep. Jesus. You may not be a Jesus-follower yet, but if you are, it’s a good time to celebrate what the Church has traditionally called Advent (I recently wrote a post about it). With your family or friends, talk about the four gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love, and talk about how Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of each one.
I would highly encourage you, if you’re a Christian or are at least open to the possibility of becoming one, to spend each Sunday morning (or Saturday nights in a few churches) gathering with Christ-followers to celebrate Jesus as the virgin-born Savior and King. It’s a great way to not shop and run around like crazy and instead pause, praise, and pray while hearing some encouraging truth for your life from God’s Word, the Bible.
Whatever you have going on this year, I hope you find ways to make this Christmas season awesome!