Gifts, the dilemma of dilemmas for aspiring minimalists! Giving, receiving – it all becomes fraught.
Personally, I wouldn’t be without gifts at Christmas. I love watching my Dad trying to guess all his gifts before opening them, and seeing my Mum coming into the room late in the day having just found that gift she bought for me months ago and had stashed in a “safe place”.
But then there is the other side – the gag toilet seat golf set from Secret Santa or another hand cream. You do your best to keep things minimal all year, only to be defeated by Christmas clutter creep.
You don’t have to be a Grinch to be a minimalist at Christmas. Here are some tips to help you through.
There are a few very special people in my life and it is such a pleasure to give them a treat. Being forced to find the perfect gift by 25 December is not always such a pleasure!
• Start early – it can be difficult to materialise a thoughtful and meaningful gift at the last minute. Also, decide what you are going to buy before you go shopping (online or in person). If you have a tendency to what to buy random stuff when shopping, these mantras to stop impulse buys may help.
• Consumables – if you don’t want to add to someone’s clutter burden, then going with consumables can be a good approach – food and beverages are particularly good. Nice toiletries are also an idea – these are easy for people to donate or re-gift to share the love.
• Experiences – experiences are another great alternative, from simple things like movie tickets, to more adventurous like piloting a glider (Dad didn’t guess that one before unwrapping it!) – the options are wide open. Buy two tickets and it’s a great way to give your most precious gift – your time.
Take a deep breath – you’re probably going to be gifted some new clutter this holiday season!
• Acceptance – to quote The Minimalists “You can’t change the people around you, but you can change the people around you” – except at Christmas, you’re generally stuck with the family that you have. Their views on the giving and receiving of gifts and yours may differ greatly – that’s life.
• Grace and gratitude – while you may have little control over what gifts you are given, you do control how you receive them. Marie Kondo’s approach to gifts is helpful here – joy is in the act of giving – receiving the gift with grace and gratitude is what really matters to the giver (rather than if you display the gift in your living room for eternity). Be thankful for the giver’s time and effort in selecting the gift for you, regardless of the nature of the gift itself.
• Hints – tell people what you want. Saying you want nothing is generally ineffective. From my experience, it’s better to say what you’d prefer than to be silent! Your family and friends will get used to your preferences over time. Go easy on them, and make it easy for them by politely giving them some direction. I’ve been fairly minimalist since my teens and my family is used to my preferences. They ask for a list of ideas and I provide one. My mum would love to give me more gifts, but she knows I don’t want them. Instead she shares stories about how she almost bought me stuff!
The thing to remember in all of this is that stuff is just stuff. The purpose of minimalism is to transcend stuff – to not get weighed down by the pursuit of stuff, and not to derive meaning from mere stuff. Focus on the love and meaning this Christmas, and don’t sweat the stuff.
What’s your approach to Christmas gifts? Are you dreading or looking forward to Christmas?