Photo by Kari Walker  
My view hiking the Backbone trail in the Kisatchie National Forest  

Monday, Dec. 2, 2013
Written by Kari Walker

I recently went on my first overnight hiking trip in central Louisiana. I filled my pack carefully with only items I would need — there’s no room for excess when you are the one carrying the load on your back. I’m normally a girl who likes the luxuries in life, and by that I mean a big hot meal and a shower, but on this hike it didn’t matter. The trees and the rocks and only the sounds of nature brought me out of the land of excess that weekend. I had shelter, clothing, food and good company of friends around a campfire. We talked almost the whole time on the trail about some of the best food we ever ate, but when it came time for dinner, we were ecstatic about rehydrated beans and rice, a peanut butter cup and a cup of hot cocoa. The moral of the story is this: We have too much stuff and can get by with less.

I wouldn’t say I’m a hoarder, but nonetheless we are drowning in excess. Maybe it’s a learned behavior or maybe it’s the American way, but living this way is setting the pace to raise a daughter who will also have too much stuff.

We sold our home earlier this year, and the packing process revealed after five years in our modestly sized home, we were hanging on to things for no good reason. We purged out some of the clutter, but it has crept back into our townhouse in the form of new shoes, multiplying T-shirts and hand-me-down toys. Did I really need another pair of boots? Probably not. And we certainly do not need all the Mardi Gras beads we can catch again next year.

People say: “If you have children, you will have stuff everywhere.” I disagree.

We allow ourselves as parents to let the toy room resemble Toys R Us on Black Friday because we think they need all the toys to encourage creativity and imagination, but what’s really happening is we are breeding a culture of excess. We should instead encourage our children to be content with less — less toys, less stuff and in turn more joy. Last Christmas we decided we would only give three presents to our daughter and this year will follow the same practice, but will also include her in an act of giving. Stella isn’t yet 3 years old, but I think she already understands how giving can make someone’s day.

As an only child, it’s important she understands how to share and give but not be boastful of her actions to seek attention. My hope is as she grows she will want to participate in selecting how we give as a family. This year we will give the gift of food to FoodNet — our foodie family sometimes lives to eat rather than eats to live, but some families in our area don’t know where their next meal will come from.

I hope the basket filled with foods we select will bless someone’s holiday table by meeting one of life’s basic needs.

Lifestyle Writer Kari Walker has a 2-year-old daughter, Stella. When she’s not photographing her food or twerking, she loves CrossFit, running, travel and hashtags.

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