Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ You Can’t Push a String

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom

You can’t push a string…

Different people have different styles, styles of gift giving being no exception. In my family, specific (extremely specific) gift requests aren’t considered out of line. In my husband’s family, many gifts, all surprises, are the norm. Well, we all know what happens when people you rarely see or talk to give you “surprise” gifts, right?

It took me years of interacting with my in-laws before I realized that I could not control them, I could only control myself. (Some very obvious lessons are nonetheless hard to learn.) I started announcing in November that we would only be giving to charity, or that we would be giving only homemade gifts, or that we would only give food gifts. That way they knew what to expect from us and could chose to match our smaller gifts, or not, but they surely wouldn’t be surprised.  Over time, everyone has decreased their giving. Last year, each of the girls received a gift from their Aunt and Uncle, and my husband and I received a lovely box of chocolates. That was all, and it was perfect. My in-laws took the girls to the mall and bought them two gifts each. This worked for everyone because the grandparents knew they were getting something the children wanted and because the girls don’t go to the mall often (and certainly never with the grandparents, who live far away), so it was a big treat for everyone, even for Dan and I who got a few hours alone.

So how should you handle people who give differently than you would like to receive?

  1. If it’s grandparents wanting to load up the kids, make your boundaries clear. You are the parent. Say, “No more than X gifts.” Or “She wants a X, but I don’t think it’s appropriate, so please do not purchase it for her.”
  2. Or (one I used) “Do not buy any little plastic crap.” Yeah, maybe I should have said it nicer, but all those cute little impulse items are here one minute and gone the next – a waste of money and resources.
  3. If it’s your girlfriends, suggest a meal out together or a trip to get your toes painted or something else that is fun and not material.
  4. If it’s your family, suggest drawing names so that you only have to give a gift or two.

I think the biggest key is..

  1.  If you’re changing your usual pattern, let those who will be affected know in advance. Now is not too soon. That gives them time to adjust too, and
  2.  Remember that you can not change other people, you can only change yourself.

You can’t push and string, but you can pull it.

Today’s Declutter Item

Oh, if only making Christmas uncomplicated was as simple as pressing the Easy Button. Well you know what it isn’t that much harder, all you have to do is convince yourself and lay down as little ground work like Cindy suggests above. This button was a silly fundraising gimmick from Staple office supplies years ago and I must admit we did have fun with it for a while but it is now being passed on to a friend who also found it amusing.

The Easy Button, oh, if it where only that simple!

Something I Am Grateful For Today

I bought a nice little summer dress at the thrift store last week for $4 even though it was slightly too big. Today I used the skills my mother taught me and took it in on the side seams. The dress now fits perfectly and I am so pleased. I love it when you need something and it materialises, inexpensively and sustainably. 

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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  1. Fantastic and timely article Cindy! Thanks!

  2. You just about covered everything. I have nothing to add.
    But- there still is this small girl in me, who would wish to give at least a few gifts and- receive one myself.
    So, I buy a few ( one for each close family member ) and one for myself ( I like to think that it is from my hb ).
    Christmas cards yes/ no. I have reduced the amount year after year, and now I´m sending only one or two.

    • I’m glad I covered everything. The point isn’t to NOT give or receive gifts, it’s to remember that gifts and debt do not equal love, and that the holidays don’t have to be mindless, buying frenzie occasions.

      I stopped sending cards, mostly because it seemed harder and harder to get around to. I have thought about sending holiday cards for Valentine’s Day or some alternative holiday, but thinking is as far as I’ve gotten. And actually, except for a few older folks, I email my cards – part of my effort to reduce pollution and clutter – and they always contain a personal message.

      • i send about 25 cards annually, half overseas, half interstate. To be honest, I do it to maintain contact, and tell them all my news. And so I can visit them when I do travel. I prefer it to facebook, and with some of them, I have seen them mid year (on a holiday) so there’s less to write. Actually I did about 5 last night – and I bought some in the sales last year that had mounted stuff on the front – which means I can’t write on the ‘wrong’ side anymore – which stops me, cause I would, if I could!!

  3. Colleen, snap to your grateful comment! Last week I bought a pretty long sleeved blouse on the $1 rack at our local opshop. It fitted perfectly, but had no give across the shoulders when I put my arms forward (my husband and I hug a lot so this is important!). I simply cut the sleeves off and hemmed them. Voila: an hour’s work for a valuable addition to my wardrobe (which is pretty minimal thank goodness).

    • Well done Janetta. Don’t you just love being able to do these tasks for yourself. I also love my mother for teaching me to be so self-sufficient. I will tell her again next week when she comes to visit.

      • In my humble opinion, that’s the best gift a parent or a grand parent can give. Spending time together, transferring knowledge, experiences and passion: sewing, stitching, gardening, cooking… there are so many things to share.

        • I agree wholeheartedly Natalie. I often think how lucky I am that my parents taught me so many things. I think our kids have learned different lessons from us. I only wish they had been as keen to learn to practical things I did.

  4. Colleen, I once got a shot from a nurse who had an “easy” button. When you were done with your shot, you got to push the button.

    • Ha ha, Cindy, that is funny. We did enjoy that button and now it is going to my old work, I just know Donna will amuse herself with it. She also wears shiny red shoes some days just so she can tap them together and say I wish I was home, I wish I was home when she has had enough of the place. 😆

  5. Cindy, I love the way you have such great ideas about how to inform people about gifts. We have a couple of people who really want to give at least something. So this year I am going to create a list of “Stocking Stuffers” that would come in handy and send it to them. They aren’t really junk things but things I know we could really use-like a particular lip balm I like or a particular candy bar Mom likes or small penlight flashlights for our purse. Things that are small, don’t cost a whole lot but that we really would like to have. This way they can get something but it will be something we want.

    Colleen, like you I get such a happy feeling when I can find something I really like at the thrift shop and fix it to fit me.

    • Hi Deb J,
      I like your practical wish list. And it is a good feeling to not only be able to fix things but to get a bargain when you need something. I needed two cotton summer dress (You wouldn’t believe what a challenge they are to find for someone of my age group) I bought one at the shops for $50 and one at the thrift shop for $4. I am far more pleased with my thrift shop buy for both reasons above but mostly because it will be just as useful for a fraction of the price. My hubby loves it when I where dresses, so he wins too.

    • Great gift, practical gift ideas Deb J and thank you for the compliment.

  6. For Christmas, we asked people to do something nice for someone and write us a letter telling us about the experience. I look forward to reading the letters on Christmas day and won’t have lots of clutter after the holiday season.

  7. Hi Cindy,
    I have never heard that expression before ~ You can’t push a string. I like it!
    I also like that against all adversity you have managed to convince others to finally conform to your real Christmas wishes. Good for you. Actually it is funny (annoying actually) that people always ask you what you want for Christmas but then when you tell them “less gift giving” they suddenly don’t want to conform to your wishes. And yet how much easier would that be for them to make you happy. Mind over matter I suppose.

  8. Colleen, I’d like to see a picture of the dress you bought! I’ve decided that I require a sleeveless, maxi summer dress, as Melbourne’s weather is already too oppressively hot for me. Don’t usually have any luck at the op shops with nice dresses, but I’ll start there, then move onto “Tree of Life” and “Ishka”, my favourite hippie shops 🙂

    • Hi Loretta,
      hopefully I will have a good hair day again tomorrow and I will take a photo of me in the dress. It is black and white floral with a little cup sleeve and come to just above my knees. I took the hem up on another of my dresses too and am hoping to get more use out of it this year.

  9. Hi all,
    Great post Cindy and a great post from Colleen, love your Chrissy Preparations, I have not done anything yet, haven’t even been anywhere to find a bargain op shop or otherwise except for milk and bread. We are happily still making our way through the freezer and so far all I have bought this month is milk and bread. I have pledged to buy nothing in November and so far I haven’t, (except milk and bread) I will admit it was tough to start but it made me get creative in the Kitchen and we’ve had some rather weird dinners hahaha, my hubby loves it cos he’s getting fit and my son gets the chance to help and serve up some rather interesting concoctions! We are still alive though 🙂

    My friend lent me the new book ‘Lighten Up’ by Peter Walsh, and I am really enjoying it. I think I’ll suggest it as my Christmas Gift coz I do believe I will read it again and again. Check it out if you can.

    On the de-clutter side of life I have sent 321 things out of my house and on to various other places. Still spinning but not so dizzy now!

    Have a beautiful day everyone 🙂

    • Hi Dizzy you must have missed this post as you were reading through the archives. It is a book review of Lighten up by Peter Walsh. I read it earlier on in the year and it really is the best declutter book I have read so far. I had never read any of his book but he and I seem to have very similar ideas. And he doesn’t mind dishing out the odd home truth either. Must be the Aussie in us. I used to watch his show years back in Seattle and I liked him them. I can’t remember the name of the show though.

      Sounds like you are having some interesting dinners. I am curious as to whether this exercise will change the way you store food. If you are coming across items in the freezer that haven’t seen the light of day for some time them just how much did they need to be there in the first place. Why don’t you write me a blog post about your experience. I you choose to accept this challenge please try to keep the post to 600 words or less. Include your thoughts on why there was so much stored, how long some of it was there. Why things hadn’t been rotated sooner. Will you change your food storage habits in the future. How much easier it was to find things in there once it started to become less cluttered.

      No pressure of course, but I would really appreciate it. 😉 Beg beg, grovel grovel.