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Escaping the post-holiday "I want"s

I'm feeling it as much as (or more than) my kids some years -- the post-holiday "I want"s. These come from such innocuous activities as talking to my friends, browsing Twitter, or looking at the Facebook photos of my community. So you got a Garmin, hmmm? I could have used one of those! A new iPad? Never mind that I already have an iPad (it's a work tool! I swear!). Somehow the fact that someone else got one for Christmas puts my own gifts in stark relief. Let's just say, regarding my Christmas take, that "modest" is an understatement; though yesterday I felt warm and happy and loved thanks to just those modest tokens of generosity.

And those photos of Christmas dinner! My parents us invited us to their house for my mom's longed-for new "tradition": cooking a lasagne for Christmas dinner. But we didn't have transportation and, well, Thanksgivingtime was oh-my-god-stressful. We had dinner at home (roast pork loin and apples from my tree -- which turned out fantastic, and easy to boot, and all out of the pantry or freezer so there was no new expense: frugal!). So when I opened Instagram to bountiful pics of rare roast beef and fancy wines and well-dressed families around a big (and, note: clean) dining room table, well. My heart twisted a little with the desire. I ate on (lovely) thrift store plates while watching Leverage with the boys who hadn't fallen asleep yet. I drank tea.

My kids want a Beyblade top, each. They want 2000 or 3000 Nintendo coins for new games. They want another remote control for the Wii (the big present my husband bought this year -- against my early best judgment). I wish I'd got them Legos -- not in the budget this year. They want more gummy bears and to go to Starbucks and to order pizza. I want new yarn and a new pair of running shoes and wouldn't it be nice if I had some new books to read?


I don't have the money for any of it (well, maybe the gummy bears, but I said "no" on principal of "too much sugar already"), so I'm having to take a deep breath and get away from the wants somehow. Here are a few ways I escape:

  • Going for a run. Even if I don't have the latest gear or running shoes without hundreds of miles on them, running clears my head and gets me wanting only more running.
  • Reading a book. I know, I'd like new books! But I have a bunch of old ones that could enchant me perfectly.
  • Organizing something. I have any number of corners and shelves and whole rooms which could benefit from a deep clean and organization. And I always discover things I (or the kids) have forgotten about -- satisfies the "I want" urge too!
  • Make something new out of something old. I have a pile of pants to patch or hem, and an equal pile of old clothes and thrifted bits of things ready to be used for something. I made a couple of pretty potholders out of some old quilt squares of my grandma's, and that was ridiculously satisfying -- and quelled my desire to buy some potholders with graphic (and brand-new) fabric.
  • Give something handmade or unneeded. It's amazing how giving something to someone else can reduce your wanting for things. Something about how generosity fills you up instead of shopping. Is that a real thing? Oh well. I like it.
  • Practice. What is your practice -- a musical instrument? Yoga? A foreign language? A craft? Meditation? Prayer? Calligraphy? Knitting? Or even, just seeing the world around you? Practice it. Become the person you want to be.
  • Asking yourself, what would I do with a gift of time? Remember when I had that day alone? Almost all of the things I wanted to do didn't involve any expense, and none of them were acquisitive. Your ideas were equally nonmaterialistic. Consider this time a gift, and use it accordingly. (And if you can get a spouse, family member or friend to give you a truly free, kid-free amount of time, do one of those amazing luxurious things!)

Now: to practice what I preach. Off to sew, run, and organize my kids' book nook!


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I'm kinda the opposite... I see all the stuff and don't feel like I want all that much. I do have moments though all the time where I realize I'm wearing 20 year old clothes, old technology, out of touch on hipness around town, etc.

For me, I feel like I've hit a place in life where I know my budget, and I know what I can work into it whenever I want. Given that, Christmas doesn't hold any false allure in terms of splurging on something I can't afford and/or purchase any other time of the year. Don't read that to mean I get to buy whatever I want because I certainly don't! I just know that maybe someone else is getting something really wonderful, but if I really want it too I could work it into the budget at some point so it doesn't leave me feeling "wanting." That, and no debt was incurred for the holiday. Best gift ever. My favorite gifts are the little treats that my sweetie finds, a piece of jewelry, or something that I would never think to buy for myself any other time of the year. We do a pretty modest holiday overall. For the kids, they are used to using their allowance to buy the things they want, so I think the same principle applies to them. Save and you can get something through the year. Christmas isn't the only time to get new things. We usually do something big for them, but it's usually something we would buy anyway (like a bike one year, that kind of thing). So far it seems to keep the "I wants" at a distance for us.

Since Christmas decorating is my very favorite thing (seriously, EVERY room is decorated in my house), I don't even bother resisting during sale time. Since I'm working again, it's nice to not have to!

The other option is also returning stuff you don't want (my brother-in-law's family always gives my daughter a heinous Barbie that turns into Nintendo points) or selling old books back to Powell's and then getting new used ones. Last summer we spent a Sunday afternoon doing just that and we really did enjoy ourselves. Or trade at Village Merchant's on Division. Or hosting a swap with other moms and "shopping" in one another's homes.

Meanwhile, I'm too busy just sitting dreamily, enjoying my fabulously Christmas-tized house

Running is #1 for me, too. Puts everything in perspective and makes pretty much anything manageable. And those would be my #2 and #3 as well... especially organizing - we don't have the money for the work we want to do to our house and garden, but simple organizing makes things feel newer, nicer. I'd also add - working in the yard/garden - love the physical labor, fresh air, and making things look prettier outside.

So timely thanks. I get those same envious feelings when I see people's pics of extravagant Christmases and the perfect looking table. I always end up having to go down my "grateful for" list. It helps put life in perspective and for me to look at the true priorities in my life such as my family's health and happiness, etc. We scaled down considerably this Christmas not because of the desire but budget restraints. A smaller Christmas tree, less gifts under the tree. Part of me felt torn, like, "Maybe this isn't enough for the boys." But it was just enough and they were happy and didn't seem to notice the difference at all.

If you envy the pictures of the beautiful table, just remember, even a beautiful table does not make a dysfunctional family functional for holidays. If that doesn't convince you, just imagine that the hostess probably had a sink full of dishes at the end of the night and was pissed because no one offered to help clean up.

Have you ever considered your local library to help with the desire for new books? I'm constantly reading but actually almost never buy books thanks to my local library.

I have been doing this as well for the past 16 years with my family and I guess escaping the I wants even just for this year is fun! I still enjoy it anyway, just want to do something out of the ordinary.

I went to the mall twice in one week and almost found myself wishing I were a more commercial/glamorous mom. Someone in heals, make up and new clothes. Yikes. Or maybe just feeling frumpy - trying to grab a couple of things with a fussy baby and a whinny preschooler.
I did resolve some "I wants" by organizing a closet and finding clothes I'd forgotten about (having been pregnant last winter it had been awhile since they fit).

I try to turn some of those holiday wants into new year's resolutions. If I feel lacking in any way, I have the power to change it in the new year. As for stuff, there are always things we want, but those also are goals we can work towards. Sometimes those wants serve a good purpose in helping us prioritize what we want most, and what we just want because it seems to make others happy.

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