How to Make the Most of the Holidays: the Minimalist Way to Getting What You Really Want

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, I’m guessing that your holiday season is jam-packed with highs: happy reunions with friends and family, never-ending treats at work or school, surprises in colorful packages waiting to be unwrapped.

On the other hand, daily life suddenly becomes flooded with even more urges to buy, consume, and hit the sales while you still can! Marketing campaigns go bezerk, fueling your need to have more stuff, eat more stuff, and give more stuff.

You’ve probably found that it’s astoundingly simple to throw moderation out the window in December. Psychologically we’re quickly swayed to abandon the healthy practices and daily rituals we’ve set up throughout the rest of the year. Company parties and the barrage of celebrations centered on bottles of champagne make skipping your morning run or yoga class incredibly easy.

You’ve heard it before: “Everything in moderation. Even moderation.”

I disagree. Moderation allows you to say, “I’ll have to have at least two glasses of that wine – it’s not really that much, and anyway, it only starts to taste good after the third!”

Here’s a new way to look at it: minimalism. Minimalism, with a sharp focus on the quality of what you spend your money on and/or consume. If you’re wondering where the highs of your holiday season are supposed to come from with this approach, think: a moderate amount of a fantastically good thing is so much more stimulating than a barrage of mediocre stuff.

Minimalism + quality will, for example, have you drinking a more expensive wine that you love and want to savor, leaving you fit as a fiddle for the next day.

Here’s the thing: most people don’t want to give up their guilty pleasures.  You can probably think of a time where something you bought really did bring you happiness/pleasure (a new game console, a puppy, whatever). That’s fantastic – props to you for finding some stuff that enhanced your quality of life.

On the other hand, you might remember having the feeling that at one point, you simply had too much stuff. Your stuff was weighing you down or it just wasn’t enhancing your life anymore. Did you try to get rid of it?

Quality-focused minimalism is so useful because it doesn’t require you to give up those guilty pleasures, and it can be applied across the board, to enhance all aspects of your life. It’s certainly not limited to surviving the holiday season, but for the moment it’s the most relevant for all of us about to open our wallets (and mouths) in the name of seasonal good cheer.

Over the past year, I’ve incorporated this type of minimalism into my life with excellent results. I lost 10 lbs., managed to catch a mere 3 colds (down from one every two months!), and I was able to afford trips to 6 different countries.

I’ve now begun implementing minimalism in my career/social life to focus my scattered energy and boost my productivity and positive output.

It’s ironic for an article about minimalism, but this post is purposefully longer than usual. If you take a minimalistic approach to this article, just read the bold bullet points. If you want the full story, read the content following each point for background information.

A comprehensively integrated approach to minimalism was most effective for me, and I hope it can be for you too. For starters, you can use it to hack your holidays and get what you really want…

Check out how this simple approach of quality-focused minimalism can increase your mental and physical health and leave you ahead of the game for 2013.

(Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This article provides information that has personally helped me develop and sustain a healthier, more energetic body and mind.)


Boost your internal fitness – the extremely simple way to be healthier

1. Focus: minimalism + food

  • Buy what is necessary to healthfully give you the most energy.
  • Eliminate empty calories from your shopping cart & cupboards.
  • Pick your guilty pleasure food. Find the very best kind of it. Buy a smaller amount than you normally would. Smile, eat, and enjoy the hell out of it.
  • Eat only what is necessary to keep you satisfied (read: 80% full) until the next mealtime.

Extra tip: get to know your body better
Find out if you are putting extra stress on your body by eating foods you’re intolerant of. Experiment with subtracting one common food allergen for two weeks (peanuts, milk, eggs, nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, or wheat). Assess your energy level and weight before and after.

You might not be allergic, but you will probably find that you digest certain foods more easily than others. Eliminate those foods, and you naturally eliminate stress on your system, leaving you physically lighter and internally more energetic.

Background context
It was after an appointment with an osteopath in Germany over a year ago that I really started paying attention to what went in my mouth. On my osteopath’s advice, I eliminated all cow-milk products to discover that once I did, I no longer had the coughing and congestion that I used to.

I started adjusting other food choices, swapping rice for wheat, buying more in-season, organic produce. Minimalism crept into my food planning. I started noticing how much unnecessary “food” was in everyone’s piles at the grocery store check-out and often, the correlation between it and the lackluster appearance of whoever was buying it.

It was a quick and easy decision to switch to buying more real food and more slow food, checking how many different ingredients were in whatever I was buying (generally speaking, the fewer, the less-processed the food).

Quality-focused, minimalistic grocery shopping means that I eat almost everything I want, just in smaller amounts. It’s a budget-friendly system too; I am spending less money than before, even when I splurge on the best dark chocolate or when I buy only organic meat and produce.


Become mentally lighter

2.  Focus: minimalism + information

  • Assess the amount of information, news, articles, advertisements, blog posts, emails, texts, etc. that you ‘consume‘ each day.
  • Determine which sources/types of information give you the most energy. Which ones increase your knowledge or quality of life? Keep these.
  • Determine which sources/types of information deplete your energy or your mental sense of well-being. Eliminate them, or avoid them as much as possible.

Background context
I always used to feel annoyed and massively uninformed after watching the nightly news on TV. It rarely offered depth and consistently lacked coverage on issues relevant to my life.

I decided to cut the nightly news out of my routine and spent that time reading or watching more informative journalism found elsewhere (Aljazeera’s English site often did the trick).

Though getting slightly lost in amusing YouTube videos or my Facebook newsfeed is still a problem, I’ve found that simply by asking “what’s the point?” before reading or watching something, I’m able to easily avoid information overload and wasting huge chunks of time.

Simplify your informational consumption. Ask yourself if what you’re reading or watching serves a positive, useful purpose for you. If not, ignore it and move on to something that does. Result: You’ll have more time and mental energy for activities that you actually care about.


Have money for the ‘things’ you truly want

3.  Focus: minimalism + possessions

  • Set aside a chunk of time to think. This can be 10, 30, 60 minutes, whatever you can manage.
  • Assess your own personal “pile of worldly stuff”. Of all the physical possessions you own, which serve you on a daily basis? Which regularly help maintain or increase your mental/physical well-being? Keep these.
  • What is the rest of your “pile of worldly stuff” doing for you? You get to be the judge. If your possessions are not significantly increasing your quality of life, they are likely not worth keeping. Get rid of extra stuff, donate it, or give it to someone who can truly benefit from it.
  • Avoid new accumulation of stuff. Don’t bother buying what you don’t need or what won’t boost your overall quality of life.

Extra tip: buy experiences and knowledge. (They make fantastic gifts!)
If you are more passionate about doing things than owning things, then shift your purchases to those activities you want to learn about or experience. If you have always wanted to go bungee jumping, do graphic design, or overcome your fear of public speaking, you might consider ‘investing’ your money in activities that intrigue or inspire you.

Apply minimalism to your shopping trips or wish lists and you’ll radically increase your happiness around the holidays. Everything you give and hopefully, the gifts you receive will have more relevance and generate a bigger positive effect for you or whichever lucky person is getting a gift from you, the new-and-improved, quality-focused minimalist :)


What’s the point?

Quality-focused minimalism serves you in regards to health, finances, and stress. You can apply it to all areas of your life to increase your intake of truly feel-good things, information and food, and simultaneously cut out, throw out, and ignore everything else that does not serve you. It’s a personalized system, which lets you take control to boost your physical health, mental well-being and get back to the basics of surrounding yourself with whatever you know is absolutely AWESOME.

…and with that, I hope you have a high-quality holiday season and a fantastic new year!

See you on the other side,

P.S. If you already take a minimalistic approach to your life and it has helped you towards a more feel-good lifestyle, let me know in an email ( or in the comments!

About the Author

GingerGinger is a Peak Potentials Coach and the Feel Good Team’s resident nomad. Through her coaching, she helps you navigate major transitions, whether to new locations, new jobs or to new phases in life. Ginger also coordinates with writers for The Feel Good Lifestyle so that you have fresh, inspiring content.

Twitter: @ginger_kern

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  • Great post Ginger! My mom took me shopping yesterday and she wanted to buy so much stuff.. and this post was totally in my mind. Ended up picking up only the essentials and leaving behind some stuff that was nice, but that I really didn’t need. Thanks for opening my eyes.. and consciousness :)

  • Haha, my mom is the same way :) I’m really glad you were able to use the ideas from my post that work well for you — thanks for the feedback! Merry Christmas & enjoy the time with your family!

  • This is a great article! I totally agree with the idea of buying experiences rather than buying things that just fill up space. This past summer I went to a lot of concerts and a music festival, and people were asking me why I was spending money on all these outings. I told them I wanted to spend money on an experience and an event I’d remember instead of random.

    I read this after Xmas, but this is an article that would definitely help others change their mind not only about the holidays, but lifestyle as well.

    • Hey Kyle,
      That’s what I’m hoping for! With buying experiences you get the pleasure of the moment AND all the good memories…double win!
      Keep it up in 2013 and see how much adventure you can have!

  • Hi Ginger,

    Great article :)
    I started to read about minimalism earlier this year and started throwing away stuff. I gave half of my clothes to charity, i’m in the process of giving or selling my CDs, DVDs, books and other useless gadgets, I throw away all the souvenirs that didn’t serve any purpose and were just collecting dust. I cleaned my desk at my place and at my (now former) workplace: this generated a lot of comfort and focus when working… and also a lot of questions from my coworker (“where are all your stuff?..”)

    I still struggle with minimalism+food though… But hey, 2013 will be awesome, and I intend to get that under control. I’ll try to apply your advices on that matter.

    Thanks for this! Can’t wait to read your next article :)
    Have a nice last day of 2012 and I hope it was a great year for you.

    • Hi Gilles,
      Give minimalism a try when you’re shopping next time; you’ll find it’s easier to consume real food. I’m sure you’ll end up at the register with a kick-ass selection!
      Love that you gave your stuff to charity and made some money at the same time – way more efficient than letting it sit around and do nothing for you :)
      Onwards and upwards, then!

  • Thanks for this post, I love the idea of minimalism and also find this blog which you may know of already as a great inspiration –

    It´s really easy to be drawn in to this mentality of having stuff “just in case” and then have junk accumulating in your life whether physically or metaphorically.

    Living a minimalist lifestyle is something i´m constantly working on!


    • Hey Diana, thanks for sharing the site. Yeah it definitely takes practice to crush that “just in case” mentality. Much better just to chuck the stuff weighing you down! Good luck doing just that :)
      You might enjoy this site, btw:

So, what do you think?