The winter holidays are here again! Can you believe it? After a highly unusual year of changing routines, different schedules, and tremendous strength in the face of uncertainty, getting into the spirit might seem like a challenge, especially since the comfort of our traditions may hang in flux.

But where the year-end holidays and family gatherings are so often about excess, elaborate meals and gifts, and “doing the most,” keep it simple to stay focused on what matters this holiday — health, cheer, and quality time with friends and family.

Here are our tips for an easy, slower holiday season:

Enjoy the mid-season weather.

Go outside. That’s it, that’s the tip.

In all seriousness, the opportunity to get away from work, school, and screens is often restricted by time. So allow yourself to take some set aside for hustling and bustling and gift yourself some long walks and opportunities to sit on the porch and rest your eyes on evergreen trees, winter birds, and the loved ones you’re with.

For children especially, consistent year-round time spent in nature, or even in eye-shot of nature, has been associated with better school performance, better sleep, more friends, less hyperactivity, and the development of habits for happy, healthy adults. So depending on the weather, suit and scarf up to prioritize outside time, no matter your age.

Make your own gifts and decorations.

Speaking of time, we often buy things we usually don’t have time to make ourselves — or, have time to learn to make. Now is the moment to try your hand at pouring thought and care into gifts and decorations that come straight from your heart, head, and hands! DIY is truly one-of-a-kind, especially using items you already have. 

Look no farther than your kitchen and backyard for all the materials to create festive holiday decor with pine cones, dried citrus, evergreen branches, and more. Jar up homemade sauce or jams in upcycled glass containers, and wrap gifts in cloth napkins or newspaper. These little touches will carry so much meaning while slimming down your shopping list. 

Here are some TerraCycle step-by-step DIYs and videos for inspiration. 

Keep snacking simple.

Food brings us together, especially around the holidays. While you may not be hosting a house full of friends and family this year, you can still look forward to celebrating with different versions of your traditions and simple snacks enjoyed together. Bake cookies over Zoom or share treasured recipes over email to stay in touch and keep the food memories alive.

For the small gatherings you do have, instead of cooking and baking up a whole feast, you can prepare just the right amount and avoid excess food going to waste. For easy apps or on-the-go snacks, include Lightly Salted Harvest Snaps owned by our partners at Calbee; perfect for family during the holidays, it encourages sharing and reduces packaging waste due to its larger sized bags.

When finished, the packaging is recyclable nationwide through our free program, which lets you earn points for your favorite charities the more you recycle, which is perfect for the spirit of giving

Shop small, buy local.

With a shorter grocery shopping list, use the time and money saved to create added opportunities for togetherness (or alone time!) by exploring your area’s farms and other local businesses. Why stop at Small Business Saturday (the day after Black Friday turning the shopping focus to small businesses and local stores) when you can use locality as a simple shopping strategy?

Whether online or the brick-and-mortar the town over, when you shop small, you invest in the types of businesses that drive the economy forward. You can create teachable moments for children and young people learning how to shop. Plus, the more local you go, the lower the transportation carbon footprint, the fresher the food, and the more homegrown the goods!

Take the time to soak everything in!

All of this is to say that some of the most important things in life, highlighted by the significance of the holidays, are made better with time. All year, we go for speed, convenience, and ease to save time in busy schedules packed to the gills. Now, allow yourself to take the time, be it by shopping more slowly, looking through your things to see what you already have, or walking instead of driving.

Over material things, time is the most precious gift during the winter holidays — or on an ordinary day! Keeping it simple earns us more of that, and helps us appreciate the things that matter, like family, friends, and hope for a better future.

What are you doing to keep it simple this holiday season? Tell us in the comments!

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