2020 will live in all of our memories as "that year."
The year of COVID-19. The year of quarantine and social distancing, of cancelled gatherings, cancelled concerts, cancelled sports events, and cancelled trips. The year of struggle and loss.
In May, a Twitter survey asked "What do you most look forward to doing when shelter-in-place guidelines are lifted?" The most common answers were "Hang out with friends," "Visit family members," "Take my family out for dinner," "Go to a concert," "Go to the library," "Use our city parks," and "Hit the gym."
Does it surprise you to know that almost no one answered, "Go shopping?"
Shopping for new stuff is apparently not something we missed during the COVID-19 crisis. Sure, we bought food, and cleaning supplies, and toilet paper. Maybe we downloaded some movies or books, or ordered some hobby supplies online so we could spend our free time creating something.
But when it comes to increasing quality of life, it turns out that shopping for clothes, furniture, electronics, cars, and all manner of inessential tchotchkes isn't necessary. Accumulating more physical stuff doesn't really matter all that much.
What we're really longing for is personal connection and enriching experiences. What we really miss is people, not possessions.
Of course, this doesn't mean we will never go shopping again. As the holidays approach, there will be relentless advertising and pressure to spend more than ever for gifts, décor, food, travel, and entertainment. It will be considered a patriotic duty to overspend. And if we think that buying something will make up for the disappointments of this past year, or that it will at least make us feel better about them, we might be tempted to go crazy for Christmas. But we know in our hearts that there are things far more rewarding than a bunch of new stuff.
What have you been missing about pre-COVID life?
- The freedom to call a friend and meet for coffee or lunch?
- The freedom to enter a store without wearing a mask?
- The freedom to attend a movie, concert, play, or sporting event in a theater or arena?
Perhaps you've missed steady employment, and if so my heart goes out to you. My son, a massage therapist, has been unable to see clients for most of the last six months. Another friend, a musician, has had all of his engagements cancelled until next year. They and many others are struggling right now.
But for those of you who have been able to continue working, perhaps you've been a little less rushed. Maybe you've had fewer appointments and obligations. Maybe you've found some time to rest, think, read, and grow. You may have missed going to church, visiting your mother in her assisted living facility, or relaxing with your friends at the neighborhood pub, but you've likely not missed the mall.
It would be fantastic if the events of 2020 have taught us appreciation for all of the little things. What a blessing it would be to celebrate those things that really matter this holiday season. In the "new normal," I hope we treasure:
- Dinner with friends
- Children playing in the park
- Teens playing sports or hanging out together
- Meeting with colleagues at work, instead of interacting on a screen
- Time spent creating, not because we have no place to go, but because we realize that life is more than work and shopping
- Physical presence more than physical possessions.
The revised and expanded edition of my book, Minimalism for the Holidays (paid link), helps you identify the traditions that hold the most value for you and learn to say no to the rest. It arms you with practical strategies that help you focus on what brings you joy. It can be your guide to remove clutter and prepare your home for Christmas, budget money and time for maximum satisfaction, deal gracefully with difficult relationships and sad memories, discover that the most wonderful parts of the season have nothing to do with gifts, and so much more.
Minimalism for the Holidays is full of ideas and inspiration for a simpler, more meaningful celebration. It's available now on Amazon in both a Kindle edition (paid link) and a beautiful paperback (paid link).
Photo by Lingchor on Unsplash