For me – like many of my modern American peers – the holidays have become synonymous with frazzled travel, frantic list-making and anxious overdoing of gifts and goodies. It’s exhausting and not at all celebratory. This year, I’ve been inspired our clients at The Center for a New American Dream  and their campaign to simplify the holidays. With their support and resources I’ve been able to focus on what really matters: more fun, more community, more connection.

Also as I’ve learned more and more about the sharing economy from our clients at Peers, I’ve come to find a new freedom in applying the principles of sharing to all corners of my life. This holiday, I am trying these ideas on for size, with the goal of spending more time with the people I love, sharing laughter and making memories.

More social through swapping

There’s no getting around some holiday chores, so my goal has been to make them more fun.

One of my favorite new holiday traditions is hosting a holiday card swap. I invite my friends to bring whatever mismatched, random holiday cards they have left over from previous years. We toss them all in a pile that anyone can pick from. Then, we spend an afternoon together writing our holiday cards— with plenty of eggnog and potluck snacks for fuel. We spend as much time talking as writing, but the chore becomes more enjoyable because it’s done while connecting with friends. Sharing builds community.

You can find many more fun ideas like this one in The Center for a New American Dream’s Simplify the Holidays guide.

More love through less stuff

Christmas gift giving used to be hours of shopping and wrapping, a brief fury of exchanging and unwrapping gifts, followed by hours of cleaning up (and, I confess, trips to return gifts). My family and I realized that all the gift giving meant we spent more time apart than together at the holidays.

So, we reduced our gifts down to stocking stuffers. This was a fun change of pace for a few years, until we all felt we’d gotten enough keychains, jewelry, and novelty silliness.

This year, we’re working together to pick a charity to support as a family. We’re having lively conversations about what causes most move our hearts, all the while learning more about each other’s volunteering and community involvement. Giving less stuff during the holidays has brought our family closer together.

More giving gifts

And if I need to give actual gifts, for collaborators of the LightBox Collaborative, for example, I make a point of purchasing from companies that align with our shared values, especially small businesses that are working to create broader opportunities in their communities. Last year, we gave locally-made gourmet treats from La Cocina, which helps low income microentrepreneurs incubate and launch successful food businesses.  This year, we chose Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, whose Guiding Principles state “it is our chosen responsibility to make substantial and significant contributions in order to strengthen the health, social, educational, and cultural fabric of this community.”

For those folks who just have to get me a gift, I send them over to SoKind Registry, where they can pick an alternative gift from list of secondhand items I need, fun adventures I’d like to share with a friend, and a few things I could use help with (dog sitting, please!).

Photo courtesy of Flickr member  Dan McKay.

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Holly MinchHolly Minch is LightBox’s founder and board member of The Center for a New American Dream. She hopes this holiday you are able to focus on what really matters: more fun, more community, more connection.