Thursday, December 18, 2008

Discardia Returns, Just in Time

I've mentioned Discardia in a previous post, but this is definitely the right time for a reminder.

Discardia was the creation of proud "web geek" Dinah Sanders on December 25, 2002, during what must have been a particularly interesting Christmas holiday experience for her. Here's the short explanation (although I highly recommend that you click on the link and read the full story):

"Discardia is celebrated by getting rid of stuff and ideas you no longer need. It's about letting go, abdicating from obligation and guilt, being true to the self you are now. Discardia is the time to get rid of things that no longer add value to your life, shed bad habits, let go of emotional baggage and generally lighten your load."

Discardia is a seasonal holiday, celebrated four times each year during the days between the solstices & equinoxes and their following new moons. So, the winter Discardia of 2008 begins on December 21st. For those who are looking for a simplified holiday season, keeping in mind the Discardian principle of letting go of stuff rather than acquiring more could be very helpful.

Discardia also reminds us that this is supposed to be a season of joy not obligation. So if you're feeling particularly stressed, this is a good time to remember the spirit of the season. Cutting back not only on shopping for gifts, but also on demands on your time and energy, will make the holidays something you anticipate happily rather than something that causes anxiety or even dread.

Whatever holiday you'll be celebrating, I offer my best wishes for health, happiness and peace.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"Experience Talks" Radio Essay

My next radio essay, "Juxtapositions," will be on the December 16th broadcast of "Experience Talks" at 2:00 p.m. on KPFK-FM, the Los Angeles and Santa Barbara Pacifica Network affiliate station. (We were pre-empted for pledge breaks and election coverage last month.) The essay is about the extreme disparity of wealth in our multi-cultural City of Angels.

You'll hear the essay at the end of the show, which will feature interviews with musicians Andy Hill and Renee Safier, and with author and elder card specialist Stella Mora Henry. You can listen to the show streaming live online or as a podcast after the broadcast. If you're in the LA area, just tune your radio to 90.7 FM.

I was delighted recently to have been made an official part of the "Experience Talks" team, so I'm now included on the Our Team page of the show's website.

I hope you'll have a chance to listen and, as always, you are welcome to share your thoughts here in comments.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Simple, Uncluttered Holidays

On a quest for a simplified, uncluttered holiday season? You've undoubtedly figured out that it would help to minimize the decorating, share the holiday meal preparation, and make sure that you don't over commit yourself to social events. But what about gifts?

If you're determined that your holiday gifts won't be a hassle to buy or create clutter for you, your family or friends, check out Jeri Dansky's terrific Clutter-Free Gift Guide. You won't find a better assortment of ideas anywhere for gifts for everyone on your list. You'll also find an excerpt from an excellent article by San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll about the "malaise of materialism."

Of course, there's also regifting, an option I wrote about in my previous post.

If you're really committed to cutting back on your gift-giving, you might want to investigate "Buy Nothing Christmas" and help spread the idea from Canada to the U.S.A. Here's the background story of this movement (and, yes, the idea also works for those who celebrate a secular rather than a religious holiday):

"Buy Nothing Christmas is a national initiative started by Canadian Mennonites who offer a prophetic 'no' to the patterns of over-consumption of middle-class North Americans. They are inviting Christians (and others) all over Canada to join a movement to de-commercialize Christmas and re-design a Christian lifestyle that is richer in meaning, smaller in impact upon the earth, and greater in giving to people less-privileged."

But what if you buy a few gifts -- can you still participate?

"Definitely. We are all going to have to buy some things. When you do buy things, we encourage you to remember principles like buying locally, fairly-traded, environmentally friendly packaging, recycling or re-using, buying things that last, and so on. The main aim of this campaign is not to save money (although that can be a side benefit), it's not to slow down the pace of Christmas (although that can be a side benefit), it is to challenge our over-consumptive lifestyle and how it affects global disparities and the earth. So, even though you might buy a few things at Christmas, it's important to think in these global economic terms."

If you'd like a few chuckles about how totally insane consumerism has become at this time of year, check out Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping. The "Reverend" (a character created by NY performance artist Bill Talen) has been around since 1996, but now he has a gospel choir and a group of "true believers" assisting him in his mission:

"The Church of Stop Shopping is a project of The Immediate Life, a New York based arts organization using theater, humor, and grassroots organizing to advance individuals and communities towards a more equitable future - starting today. We partner with citizens, grassroots organizations and progressive visionaries to produce dynamic, informed public campaigns that enact our core values - participatory democracy, ecological sustainability, and the preservation of vibrant communities and local economies."

Academy Award nominated documentarian Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) produced a docu-comedy feature for The Church of Stop Shopping entitled, What Would Jesus Buy? The promotional tag is, "The movie Santa doesn't want you to see!"

I don't agree with that. I think Santa is probably tired of having to act jolly while he lugs around tons of excess stuff that we don't need or even want. He deserves a break -- he's one of those rare public figures in big business who isn't being indicted or asking for a bailout.

© 2008 Cynthia Friedlob

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

National Regifting Day

There are other holidays around this time of year and I'm not just talking about Hanukkah.

Yes, National Regifting Day is coming up on December 18th, the Thursday before Christmas. The folks at have created this holiday "in honor of holiday office parties and the 'unique' gifts exchanged at them." According to their research, "4 in 10 regifters (41%) target coworkers as the recipients of their regifts."

The website offers free customizable gift tags you can print. They've even conducted surveys to discover how people feel about regifting. Here are a few of the survey results:

"The majority of people (62%) say they regift because they think the item is something the recipient would really like; this is up from 53% who answered similarly in 2005.

"More than 4 in 10 people (42%) say that they regift to save money; this is up 27% since 2005 when only 33% claimed to regift for monetary reasons.

"More than half (60%) of Americans think regifting is becoming more accepted."

Those were the results last year -- pre-financial meltdown. I expect that there will be more regifting going on this year in an effort to save money. And there's nothing wrong with that as long as you follow some important regifting rules. The Motley Fool has a useful article and list, greatly condensed here:

Don't confuse "barely used" with "brand-spankin' new.”

Do not pass off items that were clearly purchased for you.

Don't declare, "It's vintage!" when it's really just plain bedraggled.

Do keep a flow chart of gifting so you don’t regift the original giver.

Triple-check for all telltale regifting signs such as gift tags stuck in the bottom of the box.

Give with good intentions, as if the gift were new.

But the final rule is the most important one that we should remember:

Give it away anyway. Even if the item isn't in perfect condition, someone, somewhere will be delighted to have it. Pass it on to a family member who would enjoy it or hand it over to your favorite charity.

You might be feeling a bit strapped for cash this holiday season, but it's still likely that there's something (more likely, plenty of somethings) you already own that you can let go. With so many people struggling through lay-offs, cut-backs, foreclosures and other difficulties, now is the perfect time to "pay it forward."

© 2008 Cynthia Friedlob