You may be familiar with the saying:
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
We tend to associate it with situations of dire financial need…the extremes, the Great Depression…times like that. In reality, this spirit of resourcefulness and responsibility can be our goal at all times, in all areas of our lives, no matter our current financial situation. It threads through my mind and hands as I nip, tuck, pin, stitch, and knit our home and lives together into something simple and beautiful. It threads through my thoughts as I work to create a handmade life and childhood for my littles. Remembering these simple but resonant words helps me to remember the incredible blessings that I, and my family, enjoy. Remembering that each of the blessings that we enjoy has been given to us by another, and that we are responsible for how we use those blessings, is essential to me. The stewardship that we have over these immense blessings needs to be handled in wisdom.
Stewardship may not be a word or concept that we use regularly, but it is a powerful reminder of our roles and responsibilities. Stewards are managers, those put in charge of the affairs and properties of another. From multi-level international corporations, to a corner market, to a home (for me…especially in a home), sound management reduces waste and ensures an appropriate return on invested resources. In a very real way, we, as women, as mothers, as individuals, are stewards over the immense physical, spiritual, and temporal blessings in our lives. I am grateful for and solemnized by the responsibility I have for the little souls, and many joys in my life, knowing that we are responsible, and will be held responsible for the manner in which we respond to our unique stewardships.
During the holiday season it becomes especially urgent to focus on a wise stewardship over our blessings. It is so easy to get caught up in the excitement, glitz, and glamour, and even the true and honest sprit of the season and over-extend our stewardship. Perhaps, (but not likely!), I am alone in being susceptible to over-booking my energies with extensive project lists, cookie exchanges, people to give to, bits and baubles to buy, and the many, many joys of the season. Without careful and intentional reflection and sensible decisions, I find myself very quickly moving from joyfully busy, to tearfully overwhelmed. (Literally!).
Whether it is our time, energy, or financial resources, there is no glory in over-extending our stewardship…and we are always, (as stewards)…in one way or another, held responsible.
So how do we wisely oversee our stewardship this holiday season?
From loads of trial, even more error, several bursts of inspiration, and a few cut-to-the-core self-reflections, I have come up with a few questions to ask yourself as you work to create an authentic, joyfully-under-control, and wisely stewarded holiday.
Keep things in focus, keep things real, by asking yourself these questions:
Who do you need to give to? – While there are many, many, people in our lives that we love, interact with regularly, and truly appreciate, it is not always necessary or prudent to exchange purchased gifts during the holidays. Although I find it very difficult, and you may too, we need to remember not to spread our circle too wide and over-extend ourselves in regards to gift giving. As women, I am sure that you join me in rejoicing in serving and giving to others…and that is something we should most definitely focus on during the holidays. But keeping it real is the key. Decide what you can realistically do by wisely utilizing your time, talents, and resources and then draw the line! Don’t stop loving and appreciating…just stop spending…time or money!
What do your recipients need, want, and realistically care for? Keep in mind that after the gift is received it is then the responsibility of the recipient. Be careful not to place undo (and unintentional!) burden with your gifts. For me, that would mean nothing alive,…no barks, purrs, or squeaks! Along with keeping in mind the personal preferences or aversions of the recipient, I try to remember the dire situation in our culture regarding over-consumption of goods. This reckless trend can be reversed with careful decisions. As I focus on simplifying the home of my own family, I work to remember to help reduce waste in the homes of others by carefully choosing simple, practical, and timeless gifts.
Why are you giving to that person? Why do we give at all? If it is given because you are expected or required to give it, rather than an opportunity to show others how much we truly love and care for them, then try to adjust the situation. I ask myself each season if doing/giving something, anything¸simply because I am “supposed to” is worth it.
One season while I was in High School, I found myself involved in four different Secret Santa gift exchanges. Seriously…four. Among my Church Youth Group, work associates, Spanish class, and a school club. Each involved a gift each week during the month of December. It was too much. I was earnestly saving every penny for college, I had a large circle of family and friends to make or purchase gifts for, and was, quite frankly, overwhelmed by all of these extra, and superficial gifts to come up with. It was not simply the expense…which could have been kept quite minimal…but the time and effort it would take to come up with, make, or purchase all of the trinkets for four Secret Santa exchanges that for me, perhaps because of the sheer number, felt hollow. Tragically, this was not the intention of any of the organizers, but it really took the spirit and fun out of it for me. With the imagination and resourcefulness I have developed since then (especially since becoming a mother) I probably could have handled the situation with a bit more ingenuity…but as an already very over-extended teenager I simply rotated the gifts from one exchange to another. What I received on Sunday went toward a gift on Tuesday morning, and Tuesday evening’s went towards Saturday morning’s, and so on and so on. It was quite the juggling act!!!
How to keep it real? Whether it means closing in your circle, learning how to make gifts, setting a strict budget and sticking to it, simplifying your gift ideas, or any other adjustments unique to your situation…do it. I find such true and lasting joy in making with my family a truly authentic holiday. You, and all your loved ones can notice and appreciate the difference it will make, too!
I have collected quite the array of gift ideas over the years that can be simply, economically, and resourcefully put together as a family. No matter your budget, these gifts can be adapted and personalized to suit both giver and receiver. There is such joy to be found in gathering, making, and giving these creative gifts together.
The magic of these simple ideas is in the presentation. It’s taking practical, everyday, simple items and turning them into beautiful and treasured, wisely-stewarded gifts. Look around you to the beauty of the season in your area and include them in your gift decorations. It doesn’t take much to infuse a gift with the true and lasting beauties, and pure magic of the holiday season.
- Date In A Can: Gather a movie or game, candy, yummy treats, a homemade hot cocoa packet, etc, and “can” them all in a #10 food storage can. Put on a fun personalized label, and decorate it.
- Family Night in a Bag: Work together as a family to put together a family night activity for another family. Include your families favorite game and some treats, or supplies for a fun family adventure. Pack it all up in a unique container and decorate. Ideas for family activities, and area specific adventure ideas are available in abundance online.
- Sweet Indulgences Basket: Gather a scented candle, handmade soap, a lavender scented rice neck sack, a corn heat bag, lotion, and bits of herbs, sweets, and other lovelies. Package it all in a natural basket.
- Canning Jar Baked Goods: Layer the dry ingredients of your favorite cookie, granola bar, play-dough, really any! recipe, in a glass canning jar. Decorate with fabric or paper draped and tied over the top and attach the recipe and instructions. This is a very fun activity for children and the skies the limit with what you can package!
- Family Favorites: Gather a collection of the things that your family has discovered and experienced during the year. Whether it be a quart of the perfect blue paint, a new fantastic salsa, a fun game, or a brochure and snacks for a great new hike you have discovered. Package it all together in a creative way and share a bit of the joy you have discovered this year.
- Canned Goods: Canned preserves, fruits, sauces, and vegetables make beautiful gifts when presented well. With a circle or square of fabric that is cut 2”wider than the lid of the jar, draped over the top, and tied tightly you can create a truly stunning presentation. Choose, or make beautiful papers and experiment with different presentations.
- Holiday Meal: Gather all the yummy bits of a favorite (and simple) holiday meal and package all together in the bowl or pan needed to prepare the dish. This is a great way to share some of the comforting and traditional holiday meals that your family treasures.
- Beautiful Breads: A beautifully made, beautifully presented bread is hard to beat! Try out new ways of forming your favorite bread recipes to make them extra special.
- Frozen Cookie Logs: Make a batch of your favorite cut-out cookie dough and form into a log. Roll in parchment paper and freeze. Wrap in butcher paper, twisting the ends and attach a label including baking instructions on beautiful paper. Combine several of the logs together for a larger gift. These make quick and easy hostess gifts for holiday get-togethers and parties.
- Pomanders: Poke whole cloves into an orange, lemon, or lime to make a beautifully scented gift. Cloves are easier to poke in if holes are made beforehand with a small nail. Adorned with ribbon, stacked on top of jars of jam or home canning, or arranged in a basket, they are a timeless holiday delight.
My hope is that you are inspired by some of these ideas and can incorporate them in some way into your own giving this season, making wonderful, lasting, holiday gift giving traditions.
Enjoy a wisely stewarded, authentic, and truly beautiful holiday season!
Hannah Robinson is the mother of two very spirited children, and the wife of a very sensible man, living a very simple life in Western NY. She has a degree in art education and uses it daily as the artist in residence, and personal tutor for her kidlings. She is the author of the popular blog A Handmade Childhood where she chronicles the adventures of a family life centered on a quest for homemade, creative, tied-to-the earth goodness.