WASTE (of money, time, resources) & STRESS during the holidays.
This has been heavy on my mind for the last several Christmases. So many years of buying junk just to have something to pad the amount of gifts per child to increase the Christmas morning “MAGIC FACTOR”. It has always caused me to pause and regret. More and more as each Christmas morning passes, as I survey the damage and pick up the trash…and realize how fast it goes and how little it means.
I don’t want gifts given out of obligation. I don’t want to be just another name on someone’s shopping list either, adding to their stress and taking money out of their bank account. I want to take that pressure off of others. I also know that it isn’t possible or even practical to expect a meaningful, thoughtful gift EVERY YEAR. All the more incredible when a gift is placed on my lap. Knowing it meant something to the person giving it.
Watch this video that Patagonia sent out today and think about how you think about gifts and giving. Think about what really matters for your family. Think about what the IDEA of gifts really means, and see if you can find a way to recreate that in other ways throughout the holiday.
SOME EXPERIMENTS THAT MIGHT HELP:
Talk to your family about this subject, ask for support.
Gently set a present limit for extended family members who are buying for your children. This takes pressure off!
“We will be citizens and ambassadors, each with a destiny of our own, but with a common pledge to honor life, and nature.”
Name swap with big groups. Each person gets one gift per person, thus creating more time and energy to purchase thoughtfully.
Plan a family talent show for Christmas morning after the gifts are opened.
Dim the lights, light the candles, and crank the Christmas music. Put on socks and slide around the kitchen (or wood) floor, sharing your best dance moves as you make breakfast after the presents are opened.
White elephant parties. This can include gag gifts of real gifts. Especially fun when alcohol and obnoxious people are involved.
Shop for gifts second hand. A special trinket or vintage treasure from the heart.
“This is something we can do. This is something we are called to do. And if we are quiet we will surely hear it.”
Host a “favorites party”. Each person brings multiple amounts of ONE of their favorite things, under a certain dollar amount. Everyone at the party shares, you go home with some meaningful swag.
Time spent together throughout the month in what I call “spontaneous delight”. Usually means you are doing something new or something old with a fresh twist. Can be something as simple as a new board game, just take it off the table and onto a picnic blanket outside (or inside in front of the fire). Ask the kids to prepare “fancy snacks”.
Take more care to find things with meaning through the year, and not just in a mad rush at the big red store at the last minute.
Ask your spouse to write you a letter and place it in your stocking Christmas Eve. Do the same for him or her.
“Living is not buying. To be a citizen of the earth is to put one’s brief life to the use of one’s dearest gifts.”
If you know someone who has a need for a big ticket item, organize a donation fund and gift the person with cash to go towards their purchase. Put the cash in a fun container, and give it in a fun way. (Put a bunch of $1 bills in a huge jar, send them on a treasure hunt.)
For people in your life with children, give them the gift of your TIME, and set up a day (or weekend) to babysit for them. (Trust me, this is better than ANY gift certificate to ANY store.)
In creative friends/family circles, host an entirely handmade holiday. (My friend Emily is involved in a handmade holiday online workshop with tutorials for holiday decorations, ornaments, and other goodies)
Make lucky bags.
Give the gift of your own must haves. Think of the things in your life that you use every day. Is there anything you just couldn’t live without? This could be ANYTHING: a super plush towel, the perfect wallet, or an AMAZING ice cream scoop. If you love it, it will be something that ANYONE on your list would love to have. You can give everyone (or small groups of people) the same thing! This does two things – eliminates stress and offers them something on your “best of” list. Label the tag and let them know why it is one of your must haves.
“Gives nature a chance to rest, and time to heal.”
Host a stocking stuffer swap with other creative friends. (organize a group of friends, tally the number of children, set the dollar amount, every adult chooses a single item to make for that number of children. Share and you receive an eclectic mix of things to fill up the stockings Christmas morning.
Plan advent activities, like our Bernard The Christmas Elf.
If you are in a service industry (photography, landscaping, sewing, carpentry, cooking, massage, graphic design…), gift that service to someone on your list on a smaller scale than your average job. Or, go for the gusto and remodel their entire kitchen. ;)
And, from the Patagonia video: reduce what you buy, repair what you can, reuse what you no longer need, recycle what’s worn out.
“PURSUE NOT WHAT WE VAGUELY WANT, BUT WHAT WE DEEPLY NEED.”
Most of all, deep breaths, we can do this again, and I wish you ALL a sweet and simple holiday.
PS : I would love to keep the ideas coming in the comment section. If you have anything to add, please share!
PSS : Someone privately emailed and said this way of thinking was even more pressure on her – that it’s easier for her to just buy and not think too much. I empathize because I am just trying to figure out a way to make this time less stressful for me. My advice to her was to ignore this post completely. ;)
Obviously, to each their own, whatever works for you is what works for you.
This wasn’t about putting MORE pressure on anyone, certainly!