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Holiday Simplicity

Updated: Apr 3, 2019

Begin this holiday season by asking yourself “Could our family benefit by simplifying how we celebrate our holidays?”   In one of our favorite books, the Zero Waste Home, author Bea Johnson shares how reducing waste and clutter can simplify life.  Bea has learned from experience that “Focusing less on wasteful, stressful and complicated activities can open up time and resources for more meaningful traditions, based on simple guidelines: Be kind to ourselves and to others.” 


Here are a few tips from the Zero Waste Home to free your self from stress and clutter this holiday:

Include “acts of kindness” in the holiday schedule and bring compassion to the season

Volunteer in your community, write a note of appreciation to someone who serves you or whose efforts you appreciate, or participate in a gift drive.  Here are some opportunities in our community:

Issaquah Food Bank- they work with volunteers who are 16 and older and have a variety of opportunities during business hours M-F, 8am -4pm and weeks Sat & Sun 9am-12.  Volunteers are needed to help sort and organize all incoming donations.

Join the “Caroling at the Depot” event on Thursday, December 18th, 7pm at the Train Depot in downtown Issaquah.Eastside Baby Corner - organize a collection event with your neighborhood, church or business.

Pay it forward – offer to buy groceries or coffee for the person behind you.Donate to a local charity or to the Issaquah Sustainability fund.

Keep traditions simple

Greeting cards- since photo paper is not recyclable consider a recyclable greeting card, reusing cards to make new ones, or electronic delivery.  Sending a personalized email message and attaching a photo will make your greeting meaningful.  The recipient has the opportunity to share and keep the photo with no carbon footprint.Decorations- it can be overwhelming as you begin bringing out all those boxes and bins; simplification in this area can be achieved by asking yourself these questions:Is it in working condition?  Broken lights can be recycled through the Recology CleanScapes store in Gilman Village.Do you use it regularly? Anything you have not used in the last 2 years, consider donating.   Household items can be dropped off at the Blue Truck at the Pine Lake QFC parking lot or visit the Goodwill truck located at At Work  just off Gilman Blvd.   Both are available 7 days a week.Is it a duplicate? Do we really need more than one tree?Do you keep it out of guilt?  Keep the ornaments that you love and donate what you would not have purchased yourself.Is it worth your time and space storing and dusting items like dishes and serving pieces that you will only use once a year?Is it reusable?  Holiday paper napkins, plates and wrapping paper are expensive and not as pretty as reusable alternatives (and take up a lot of garbage space).  Consider learning the art of “furoshiki” and wrapping your gifts in reusable flour sack towels or cloth napkins.

As for gifts:  Experiences always create more memories than stuff, and will not add clutter to your home

Create a holiday carbon footprint challenge:  choose experiences or items that are re-used or handmade  instead of buying new manufactured gifts

Consider giving an “SFA”- Surprise Family Activity

Attend the Village Theater, ballet, a concert, or a local sporting event- Go Hawks!Good deeds- gather together and do something nice for someone. Bike ride- check out the Duthie Hill bike park or the newly paved Lake Sammamish bike trail, or ride to a fun restaurant you’ve never tried.Visit a museum, the Cougar Mtn. Zoo, Experience Music Project, ride The Duck or the Seattle Ferris Wheel.Fishing- explore our local rivers and lakes.  Fly fishing lessons are available at Creekside Angling Co. in Issaquah. Family fun night- designate a weekly time for the family to gather and play a game, watch a movie, cook dinner together.  Take turns choosing and planning.Rowing- Sammamish Rowing Association offers a “Learn to row for a day” class on Lake Sammamish.  ( sports- Lake Sammamish State Park offers lots of options ( tag, go –karts, kite flying, foraging, or hike the popular Poo-Poo Point trail and see the view, maybe some paragliders too!Overnight fun- spend the night at Tree House Point in Preston ( - kick off the New Year with tubing on New Years Eve at Snoqualmie, or get a day pass for skiing at our local summit.Skydive at iFLY or indoor rock climb at Stone Gardens in Bellevue.Visit the Snoqualmie Falls and make a day of it by eating and staying at the Salish Lodge or visit the Snoqualmie Brewery up the river.Build community – invite another family over for games, cookie exchange or potluck soup party.  Consider this idea for groups of co-workers, neighbors and friends instead of individual gifts. 

The average American generates 25% more waste per week between Thanksgiving and Christmas than the rest of the year.  We can enjoy and share the spirit of the season without added stress or giving the burden of clutter.  Cheers to creating a more peaceful and joyful holiday instead of a “haul”away. 

Brenda DeVore is the Retail Manager at the Recology CleanScapes store, Issaquah, WA

Photo Credit: Recycled Christmas Ornament by Ruth Hartnup


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