Minimalism as a counter-cultural movement has been increasing in recent years. Perhaps you’ve jumped on the minimalist bandwagon and are happily downsizing, reducing your consumerism, and creating less waste – all of which gift you with more time and energy to enjoy the most meaningful things in life.
But now it’s time for Christmas.
If you’ve recently begun converting to a more minimalist lifestyle, the holidays present a formidable challenge in the form of traditions, ‘obligatory’ shopping, and avoiding hurt feelings. The core values of the holiday season – giving, expressing love, cherishing faith, and spending time with family and friends – can still be enjoyed as a minimalist, but the more visible elements of consumerism, debt, waste, excessive marketing, and the accumulation of useless possessions are in direct opposition to its key principles. How do you enjoy the core values of Christmas without succumbing to all the rest? Here’s how to have yourself a minimalist little Christmas.
Remember that buying does not equate with giving.
You can still give to others and receive in return without contradicting your minimalist values. In fact, toning down how much you purchase for gifts (or, if you’re brave enough, not buying gifts at all) can help the true meaning of the practice.
If you have kids who expect gifts, start setting limits
Admittedly, it can be shocking to stop giving or buying gifts for Christmas completely, especially if you have kids who expect presents this time of year. Start by setting a limit on both the number of gifts given/received and the total amount spent. For instance, one minimalist mother sets a $100 limit for total spending per person. If your gifting habits have been extravagant in the past, you may need to gradually decrease the number and cost of gifts rather than changing everything at once. Talk with your kids about the changes you’d like to make to gauge how they feel about it – they might be more on board than you expect.
When gifting, aim for usefulness (whether needs or wants) over dollar amount
It’s easy to get stuck in the mentality that we need to spend $20-$25 per gift, or choose meaningless gifts just to get people ‘something’ (this is where gift set manufacturers make their money). This mentality results in a lot of waste on both ends. If you don’t know enough about what a person wants or needs, ask (do this covertly so they don’t know; it’s more fun!). If you’re struggling, think about what the person does for a living, their hobbies, the foods they like, and the tools they use all year long for ideal gift ideas.
Gift an experience
Experiences create memories, won’t be thrown away when they’re outgrown or broken, and don’t have to be dusted. Think about gifting favorite venues, trips, and unique learning experiences that provide opportunities for growing relationships.
Handmade gifts are some of the best around, and cherished more than purchases. Be sure you still research on a person’s interests and needs though – market research reveals very few people really want crocheted toilet paper holders.
Some people would actually prefer that you give to a special charity on their behalf. For instance, my grandmother dislikes personal gifts, but enjoys knowing that I make a donation to a reputable organization that helps those in need. Set the example in your family by asking for this type of gift yourself, and be sensitive about who you gift by giving.
Replace shopping with other activities.
Purchasing fewer presents means less shopping, a common social activity around the holidays. Use this time to have more meaningful experiences with your family, such as Christmas caroling, having a movie/popcorn night, choosing and cutting your own Christmas tree, or any number of new traditions to replace the shopping void.
Minimalism and the holidays don’t have to conflict if you don’t let them. Spurn consumerism, excess spending, and the accumulation of meaningless stuff by gifting meaningfully and focusing on faith, experiences, and relationships – after all, that’s what this time of year is truly all about.
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