Category Archives: Books

The celebration jar: An alternative to meaningless gift-giving (and other gifts I love).

I splurged and went shopping recently. Like, real shopping--whatever "real" means. (Isn't the act of spending a day inside of a privately-owned mall slightly strange?)

I did things I hadn’t done in years. Wandered through big-box stores, large crowds, jingly Santa Clauses, screaming children, and wafting Cinnabon flavorings fuming into the crowded halls to make parents miserable. (I lasted about two hours-- the smell and the onslaught of horrible stimulation gave me a headache within a few hours).

And I bought stuff. It was kind of delicious, scrumptious, and wonderful.

Warm winter jacket for New York? Check. It's down, its fluffy, it's got zippers, it's got pockets, and it keeps me warm every day in this snowy season. Neon running outfit? Check. Running in the snow. Yes, yes, yes.  

While I'm not one for huge purchases or shopping--I'd rather scrounge in Goodwill for some third-hand shirts I can mend up and call my own-- sometimes it's nice to buy a thing or two.

But when is the right time to buy, and when is the right time to remember that you already have everything you need?   

1. For me, minimalism isn’t about restriction or restraint. It’s about freedom and joy.

It’s about not drowning in stuff—and knowing what you need. It's about remembering that shopping isn't the answer to your sadness, and that gifts don't replace love.

One of my favorite quotes of all time reminds me of what I strive for:

Twitter-Bird Social_Media_Icons_CtrlAltDesign_V2-19"The antidote to consumerism isn't minimalism--it's art."

So as you're winding through your December journey into the advertising-laden world of spending and celebrating, consider how you're spending and what you really intend behind your season of gifts. Is it made with love? Is it sent with love? And, if it's coming into your house, is it ART?--is it something you will cherish, love, and adore? Then yes.

But it's not even about gifts or things. One of my favorite ways to celebrate the holidays--beyond the delicious new coat that I got--is to remember what I already have that I love.

And, as a gift from me to you, here are ways I love thrifting--and putting a twist on--the season of gifts:

2. The celebration jar: wrapping up all your celebrations.


We’ve been talking a lot about presents in my house, mostly because I’ve got so much stuff and I don’t need more of it--I need less of it. But I adore celebrating the seasons and celebrating each other. I also love gifting.

So we pulled out a jar--a vase. We wrapped a bow on it. I ripped up some old paper bags and we started scrawling things we're happy for and grateful for. Each item gets its own note.

We fill up the jar for two weeks. We'll open it on Christmas. (You can do this Christmas week, if you'd like, or pick a day to fill the jar and pick a day to empty the jar.

On our Christmas day, we'll unwrap things we love--things like:

I love that you make the bed every morning.
My new warm jacket keeps me warm and toasty during New York winters.
Being able to see my family.
Morning snuggles on weekend days (and some weekdays, too!).
Knowing my neighbors.
A reading nook to read early in the mornings. 

What are you grateful for?

What can you celebrate this holiday--that you already own?

3. Things you can do and ways you can love--beyond traditional gifts: 

  • A card of all the things you love about someone.
  • A hand-written letter or gratitude card.
  • Date night and a home-cooked meal (also great for friends!).
  • Sauna night or gym night--pick a friday, go to the gym, soak in the baths, have conversations.
  • Movie night. Even cheesy or terrible movies.
  • Coupons or gift certificates for services, even of your own doing. (I used to give my mom coupon books for cleaning the kitchen and vacuuming the house all the time).
  • Books (see my list, below).
  • A reservation for a night away in a cabin for New Year's.
  • A celebration ceremony with a gratitude jar.
  • A date for visioning, journaling, and planning during the new year.
  • A massage or a back rub for friends that are working hard.
  • A buddy yoga class--head there with your friend.
  • Donating food to those in need.
  • Spending time or volunteering at a homeless shelter
  • Volunteer for youth. (I'm donating time to my yoga studio's Lineage Project--a volunteer project that serves incarcerated youth in New York City.

4. But gifting is fun! (You bet it is!) That's why I also made a short list of alternative gifts for the loves on your list.

Gift-giving can also be wonderful. Want some great ideas for gifts? Here are my favorite ideas of things to get--if you're a thing-getter. Perhaps an investment in your self, your soul, your brain, your body, or your well-being is the best way to go. Some ideas to fuel your inspiration:

  • The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte: Start with the book ($22) and a workbook if you're the kind of person who hates writing in books ($12). Grab a day planner if you're feeling like you want to re-invent 2014. Write all. over. it. Dedicate January to revealing your feelings and starting the year with a bang.
  • The January Joy-Up with Hannah Marcotti ($29). A magic-making mastermind with daily collage and journal prompts. It's $29. I'm already signed up and I've ordered a set of extra-large moleskines precisely for the act of visioning in January. I'm stacking up books, glue, and scissors (and a cutting mat!) so I can dream, dream, dream. I want to dream of speeches, books, essays, weird multi-media projects, business dreams, life dreams, and all of the other beautiful things we can manifest in our lives. Because thinking makes it possible.
  • The Joy Up Equation with Molly Mahar of Stratejoy ($149). This woman is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. So many women I know are. I am grateful to the internet for connecting me to them. With her, you'll listen to your soul, journal for a month, discover more of who you are, figure out what brings you joy. (Pick one of the above and get INTO it already! Your life is waiting!)
  • The Writer's Workshop: The January Edition. (My course, of course!) Our third cycle starts January 13th. A four-week course with our own private community, video lessons, weekly writing assignments, and heaping doses of honesty and inspiration. The course is $400 if you register before December 28th--$500 for regular registration. Take a class as your holiday gift. (PSST: Watch for a wicked sale coming out Friday, December 20th.)
  • The Content Strategy Course: A new course I'm teaching this February 17th--how to develop content and storylines for thought-leaders. Jam-packed with marketing wizardry, communication templates, and ways to get your voice heard. It's also $400 as early-bird registration ($500 regular). (OH: And I'm announcing some CRAZY discounts Friday for the rest of 2013 if you've been itching to take courses with me. Pay attention.)
  • The Holstee Reclaim Frame ($44) and Art Subscription or Mindful Living Calendar -- a new card each month that you slide into the frame, pulling out the previous one as a reminder to send a note to someone. (A great way to practice gratitude!).
  • Inquiry Cards ($25). A new form of meditation--in the form of questions for you to ponder and consider. Great for spiritual healers, coaches, visionaries, or anyone with an inkling to look... inwards.
  • YOUR version of freedom--whatever that means to you. Maybe it means nothing, maybe it means something, maybe it means savings. It's your money. You choose. Do what's right for you. These are just ideas.

A note of love, too: spend money consciously. Choose wisely. Whenever I purchase something, I also plan for the amount of time I'm committing to doing the project. Sometimes I know I don't have enough time, but I sign up anyways because I want the taste of a few days. Other times I'm gunning for financial freedom and bigger goals, so it's "nope, not this time."

Do what's best for you.

The point isn't about just having to give something (or get something). It's about giving with love, nurturing yourself, and remembering the spirit of the holidays.

Choose wisely, spend lovingly.

5. And...I'll probably never be minimalist about books:

You caught me. I love books so much. (This is my current Amazon Book Wish List, and yes, you can totally buy me a book -- I'd be honored).

I've read several books this year and last year that have been absolutely phenomenal, and I'm working on a master list that you can reference. Right now, I'll whittle it down to my favorites, a sneak peak:

Philosophy and Spirituality:

  • When Things Fall Apart
  • The Untethered Soul
  • The Gifts of Imperfection
  • The Four Desires


  • Jab Jab Jab Jab Right Hook
  • The Small Business LifeCycle
  • Body of Work
  • Leaders Eat Last
  • The Sketchnote Handbook
  • The Year Without Pants
  • Growth Hacker Marketing
  • 99U: Maximize Your Potential

Fiction (or Narrative Non-Fiction):

  • Cuckoo's Calling
  • The Fault in Our Stars
  • The Glass Castle
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers
  • The Longest Way Home
  • Bend, Not Break
  • Ender's Game

See more of my book list here: Sarah's big beautiful book list of joy.

5. Even though I'm fairly minimalist when it comes to some things--I still love everything about gifting, celebration, and surprises of kindness.

So, par for the course: free book giveaways for the holidays!

I love giving things away. Actually, I love giving YOU things. There's surprise and delight in gifting and telling people that you have a present for them.

Here's what I have this month to give away to three of YOU:

  • The Sketchnote Handbook, by Mike Rohde (print version).
  • The Untethered Soul, by Michael Singer (kindle version).
  • The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg (kindle version).

What should you do to win one of these books?

Leave a note in the comments--and do it by December 28th, midnight, EST. Tell me what you're grateful for this holiday season. Surprise me.

With big holiday love,

sarah signature





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