Monday, December 7, 2015

2016: Year of Connection & Gratitude - Challenge Guidelines #ycg16

In my last post (click "last post" to read said post), I share the backstory of our journey toward our 2016 plans to live lives of gratitude and connection - and to not make any purchases in 2016. We've come to realize we're raising entitled kids and that our "stuff" has begun to rule our lives. We're taking that back.

I also shared that a few friends of mine are teaming up to do this with me through a Facebook support group. Related side note: how blessed are we that we get to live in community??? Click here to join us, if this challenge sounds interesting. We'd love to have you.

Here's what we've done so far, and what we're planning to start on January 1. If you'd like to participate with us, you're welcome to join in what we're doing, or modify to fit your own family's needs.

Step one: get in alignment.

We're not necessarily in the "we must do all things with our spouse at all times" camp (my hubby is an only child and I'm the independent oldest of 3 - we need our space!), but this is one time where we feel it's extremely important to be in 100% alignment. This kind of a thing is just too hard to do alone! Let me just say, though, in the less than 24 hours that this has been "out there" it doesn't seem like any of the men are having a hard time getting with the program!

Step two: draft a family mission statement.

To tirelessly seek God's will each day by living lives of Holy Spirit-led integrity, honoring God with our health and wellbeing, owning what we have with contentment, growing together in faith, and committing our time, talents and treasure to serving Christ and His people.

If you're in a mixed spiritual situation at home, or aren't currently walking in a relationship with God, don't worry about developing a faith-based mission statement. The important thing is to decide who you want to be as a family together. Use whatever language works best for you. I pray and hope for all my friends to come to know God as the source of all contentment, but if that's not where you're at right now, you're still very welcome here and this challenge will still work to drive you toward a life of gratitude and contentment.

Step three: agree on a list of spending guidelines. 

Ours are:
- We'll only buy things that we consume - food, personal care items, gas.
- We'll fix things that break - and evaluate broken items according to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. If anything breaks that relates to our survival or safety, we'll fix it or replace it immediately. Any item that breaks and doesn't support those two bottom levels will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
- All gifts will be "experiential" in nature - tickets to an event that can be enjoyed together, a special day trip, a gift card for a meal. No items of any kind.
- We won't buy any clothes for ourselves or the kids unless there is absolutely no suitable replacement in the house.
- We'll limit eating out as a family to twice a month - both my husband and I will take bag lunches to work (him) and school (me). The only exceptions will be when meals out foster connection - with a seminary friend, for example, who couldn't otherwise afford to eat out, or treating friends to gelato at the neighborhood market, where we find truly authentic meaningful friendship.
- On Saturdays, we'll eat "leftover meals" that use up whatever we have left in the refrigerator, in an effort to cut down on food waste.
- We'll evaluate all tentative travel on the calendar and cut whatever doesn't build authentic connection.
- We'll set budgets for personal ministry and business expenses and agree to stick to them.
- Filter all purchases through two questions: do I need it? and if it wasn't an option, what would I do (for example, if I couldn't buy a thank-you card, would I make one myself? do I need store-bought almond butter or can I use the giant bag of Costco almonds sitting on my shelf to make my own in my amazing Vitamix blender)?

Your guidelines might look different than ours, or you're welcome to use exactly what we've written. Whatever works is fine. The really important ones are the first three, in our opinion. If you stick to those, you'll go a long way toward a more contented and connected year.

Step four: agree on a start date. 

We're going with January 1. It's easy and it's soon. We know that if we delay our start date, we won't do it.

Step five: share your plans with community.

For us, this means telling our extended families, our close circle of friends, and, obviously, the blogosphere. Letting folks around us know will help keep us accountable. We're going to want to slide, obviously, so we're putting safeguards in place that can at least help prevent it in a small way.

So there you go - the five steps that constitute "the plan." If you're signing up to do it with us, we'd love to hear what you think the comments section below - or in our Facebook group.

P.S. I drafted the guidelines from two books: Scott Dannemiller's "The Year Without a Purchase" and Kristen Welch's "Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World." Both are wonderful and would be amazing additions to your home library, but you don't necessarily need either to complete the challenge.

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