minimalist holiday cleanup

5 Things To Do This Holiday Season (That Aren’t Shopping)


Minimalism gives you more free time regardless of the season. You’re probably finding it easier to clean a minimal house, quicker to cook in a minimalist kitchen, and faster to get dressed with a minimalist wardrobe.

If this is your first holiday season as a minimalist, you may have found more time in your schedule for another reason. Where you used to shop, shop some more, and then go shopping, minimalism is all about going the other way. Instead of spending time and money on “stuff,” a minimalist holiday is all about what actually matters: being happy, seeing the people you like and love, spending time doing things instead of buying them.

According to a Pew Research Center Survey, what Americans like least about the holidays is shopping, spending too much money, and crowded shopping malls and stores — in that order. See how being minimalist puts you way ahead of that nonsense? You probably won’t be shopping at all (or at least not nearly as much as you once did).

So now you want to know:

“What do I do instead?”

We’re so glad you asked. Whether you have extra time off or not, or whether you’re single, a couple or a family, these 5 activities will make sure you get the most out of your holidays.

1. Get Local

Most cities have great events going on for the holidays. Check out a tree lighting ceremony. See what your city means when they call something a “festivals of lights.”  Zoos will often get bedecked in lights and let you stroll the grounds at night. Hayrides, sleigh rides, music festivals and parades — we promise, if you give your city a quick web search, you’ll find great stuff to do (much of it low-cost or free) for the holidays.

Here are a few things going on this year in various cities across the US.

Kansas City, MO — Holidays at Union Station

West Orange, NJ — Holiday Lights Spectacular at the Essex County Turtle Back Zoo

Albuquerque, NM — River of Lights at the ABQ BioPark

Silverton (PDX), OR — Christmas in the Garden

Knoxville, TN — Christmas in the City

Fort Lauderdale, FL — Chinese Lantern Festival

San Diego, CA — 25 Free Family Events for the Holidays

Minneapolis, MN — Holidazzle at Loring Park

2. Get outside

Sure. It’s cold. Going outside might not sound quite as fun as it does in summer. But we’re sure you’ve heard the expression, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.” Hopefully in your journey towards a minimalist closet, you kept one solid winter outfit. If not, give yourself permission to acquire one. The benefits of getting out in nature are worth it.

A hike in a forest boosts your immune system. A walk in nature improves your mental health. Getting yourself surrounded by trees boosts your short term memory.

The easiest way to get outdoors this holiday season it is to bundle up well, then find some nature and walk around in it. An easy nature hike can invigorate, restore and revive. Take it as slow as you like. To get the most out of it, just remember to pay attention. Think about what you see, what you hear, what you smell. It’s a simple activity (which is partly why we love it) but the benefits are pretty amazing.

Of course you don’t just have to walk. If you live in snowy places, rent a sled. Go skiing or snowboarding. Find an ice skating rink and practice falling down. Or just have a snowball fight. No snow? No matter. Just get out there!

3. Volunteer

Before you skip this one and head to #4, consider this:

Volunteering leads to better health and increases well-being and happiness. Minimalism is about clearing out the unnecessary so you can focus on the necessary: feeling better, happier, and calmer — giving a little of your time will do all of that.

The thing that might come to mind first is helping out in a soup kitchen. And while that’s a great way to go, there are many ways to spend a few extra hours or an extra day helping out others.

Give some time to the Humane Society, help out through the United Way. Or head to VolunteerMatch where millions of volunteers are matched up with the organizations who could use their help.

4. Open your home

A holiday open house is the minimalist way to have a holiday party. It’s easier, lower stress and probably more fun.

Instead of having a set time, a million decorations, a ton of food and drink, an open house is just that: pick a day and tell your friends and neighbors that your door is open whenever they’d like to swing by. There’s no need to make it fancy or extravagant. Tea and coffee, a few snacks, a little music playing. Throughout the day, people can filter in and out again, come in out of the cold, have a cuppa, and be on their way.

Host it on a Saturday and make your home a calm reprieve from the madness of the shopping malls for your friends. If you haven’t gotten to know your neighbors yet, an open house is a fantastic way to meet them.

Tell your friends, family, neighbors: Come as you are. Come when you’d like. Just come.

5. Get out of town

Yes, we know: if you were going to go on a holiday vacation, you’d have planned it by now. What we’re talking about here is simply a mini-getaway. Even if you don’t have extra time off from work, you can still get out of town for a night.

Consider a two hour drive or so with a reservation through Airbnb or HomeAway. You’ll eat at a different restaurant, take a stroll through a new city center, check out a museum, see a movie, sleep in.

It doesn’t have to be Paris or Cancun to be worthwhile. A day or two in a different city will change things up a bit, give you new perspective. With no massive pre-planning required.

It’s all about doing

Holidays as a minimalist may be a bit different than you’re used to. That might be a good thing. Instead of amassing more stuff that will fail to make you happier, you’ll be doing things, creating memories, enjoying the world and the people around you. Sort of what the holidays are all about.


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