The Daily Gazette
The Locally Owned Voice Of The Capital Region
Margaret Hartley's Greenpoint
by Margaret Hartley


A Daily Gazette community blog
Ideas on greener living

Some advice for the holiday rush: Slow down

With Thanksgiving behind us, the holiday season is officially here, and with it the parking lot fender benders, the same five songs on the radio, and the constant push to rush, rush, rush and buy, buy, buy.

It’s the time of year when I remind myself to just slow down.

I love the holidays, I really do. I love winter and fireplaces, baking and visiting, making wreaths and making cards. I love visitors and cookies, walks in the woods to gather pine cones and walks around the lake to look at the ice and the water.

I love watching the hawks fly over the naked forests, finding the red surprise of berries on a bush in an otherwise gray field. I love the singing and knitting and reading aloud, the nieces and nephews flying in from all the places where they’ve made their homes.

Just don’t make me go shopping. Don’t make me drive around and around a crowded parking lot looking for a place to park. Don’t make me wait in line. Don’t make me look at impersonal gift items, packaged up pretty for that someone you need to buy something, anything, for.

We know the stats. Americans increase their waste output by 25 percent from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, because of that felt obligation to buy something, anything, for everyone. Part of that is food: ’Tis the season of feasts and the season of food waste. Much of that is packaging — everything you buy is wrapped, boxed, clam-shelled, bagged to within an inch of its life.

So many people I know spend the weeks before the holidays cleaning up and cleaning out. Some measure their progress in the number of bags of garbage they’ve thrown out and the number of useful but unneeded items they’ve donated.

Do they need more stuff, to fill up all the space they’ve just cleared?

Slow down. Think. If you have time off, use it to enjoy time with friends and families. Isn’t that a gift? Bake together, walk together. Take your old aunt out to lunch. Meet your old friend for a cup of soup. Teach your kid how to do something your grandmother taught you to do.

Make a charitable donation in someone’s name. Or find something someone will really use, really wants, will really love. Something that will last. Not just more stuff.

Maybe it’s just me. I understand there are people who actually like shopping, and those people might enjoy meeting like-minded friends and doing it together. That’s a gift too.

And even shoppers can slow down, think for a minute. Does that colleague/acquaintance/teacher/paper carrier need this wrapped and packaged thing? Will they like it or use it? Will it bring pleasure to their lives? Is there some other way you could express love or gratitude?

My neighbor started a tradition a few years ago: a Christmas morning get-together. We walk the mile to her house, and have a fizzy drink and some cheese and crackers, visit, talk and laugh. Sometimes we exchange gifts too, but generally small, useful things — last year she gave my son a capo and my daughter some measuring spoons; I gave her some applesauce I’d made and canned, and a pretty jar with some fresh-ground coffee for her coffee-loving husband.

It’s festive, it’s social and we get outside on Christmas morning. It’s a nice start.

Greenpoint now appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on Dec. 11. Reach Margaret Hartley at or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

Photo: Toa Heftiba/

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