This article first appeared in Texas Lifestyle Magazine on November 13, 2019.
Jen Hatmaker is a New York Times bestselling author, wife, mother of seven, podcast host, blogger, speaker and social experimenter.
The Texas native was inspired by her book, “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess,” to take her social experiment of restraint and turn it into thoughtful and practical ideas for more generosity. She wanted to capture the true spirit of Christmas!
In her latest book, “7 Days of Christmas: A Season of Generosity,” Hatmaker discusses the seven key areas—food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste and stress—needing an overhaul in almost every family.
The “My Big Family Renovation” star provides readers with tips for not only surviving but thriving this holiday season by embracing simple acts of generosity and simplicity through reflections and recollections of her own holiday memories.
Which of the seven areas is most important?
Huge question! Without a clear answer! For me, the area that impacted me the most was spending. I tallied up the previous 12 months of bank statements and realized I spent money at an average of 66 places a month. 66! Not counting repeat expenditures! So the practice of slowing down the constant, thoughtless spending in a mindful way was so meaningful to me. As it turns out, spending is not equivalent to contentment. Who knew?
How did your kids feel about this experiment?
When you introduce restraint in areas marked by mindless consumerism, it can feel a little weird to the kids in the family. But the greatest part of this book is not just quieting all the chaos but replacing it with connection, generosity and peace. What kids really want is not more stuff but more togetherness. Giving them the opportunity to serve and give lights them up more than any other Christmas thrill.
What’s your favorite suggestion for restraint during the holidays?
A few years ago, after surveying an entire living room full of immediately discarded gifts, we began a new gift-giving tradition. The kids now receive: something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. These are the categories! Expectations are nicely managed, the buying insanity is under control, and we get to redirect a ton of energy toward making memories and loving our community. Greatest decision we’ve ever made.
Was your question, “Is there even such a thing as enough?” answered?
No! There is never “enough” when we think the solution is stuff. There is always more stuff! It’s a terrible race around the track with no finish line. I didn’t even realize how much emotional energy this pursuit required. With two of our five kids already out of the house, I get it now: family, connection, love, kindness—this is the stuff. If we aren’t careful, we can miss everything that matters chasing a million things that don’t. I don’t want to wake up in 30 years and realize I chose the wrong things.
What new perspectives did you gain?
A great deal of my mindless consumerism centered on keeping up, keeping my kids up, and keeping appearances up. Turns out, no one cares! That is all fake. What counts is how people feel in our homes, how they feel in our presence, how they feel in our communities. Not one person is served because we spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need, but they will never forget being loved well. It is all that will last. It is enough.