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Why is it that so many Americans seem to work too many hours for too little pay and then have almost no free time?

Do we really need all the “stuff” we buy? Is it really making us happy?

Could we reduce our spending to a point where we don’t need so much income and can perhaps work less hours? Why is it that we don’t think more about how much money we really need instead of about simply getting a big paycheck job? Are we questioning how many of our hours we give to our bosses versus those given to our families?

Do we need all the separation we have? Could co-housing or multi-generational housing bring more happiness and socializing along with lower costs and added adult resources?

Can we look at what we truly want and need rather than what society tells us we do?

Take the holidays.

Do we need lots of decorations? Or can the few special decorations from the past suffice? Especially if they have connection to those we love? And aren’t the faces of our friends and family the best decorations in our homes?

Winter Solstice Owl by Laura Burlis
(Minneapolis polymer clay artist)

Do we need to cut down a tree this season? Or can we simply enjoy the beautiful pines outside, in their natural snow-covered beauty?

And what about gifts? The focus in consumption-driven America is often on quantity. But do all gifts bring happiness? Have you ever gotten a gift that seemed like just a “thing to unwrap”? Why do we feel this compulsion to give so many gifts? For me, the best gifts are a hug, a smile, or a story from a friend. Sharing time is the best gift of all.

Yes, there are many things that can bring comfort or joy. And a gift that fulfills a need or wish can be wonderful. But if I get a gift that seems like a financial stretch for the giver, or one that is simply something I do not need or want, the gift becomes a burden. I’d rather have a story, a hug, or a smile. These are free blessings and they come with the added benefit of not putting more pressure on our already struggling planet.

This holiday season, I hope for less materialism and more love. I will focus on spending time with friends and family enjoying simple pleasures.