I’ve been struggling to come up with a good idea for a post about how my thoughts on the holiday season have changed since I’ve embraced minimalism. Last year, my entire family adopted the idea of a “Minimalist Christmas” where we could only ask for a few things we really needed and couldn’t ask for more than $100 worth of stuff in total. I’m pleased to say it was a success, and we ended up having one of our best Christmases ever – all because it wasn’t centred around gifts.
This year, I imagine our Christmas will look fairly similar, but there are only 32 days to go and we’ve barely talked about what our plans are yet. For years, one of my holiday rituals was to finish all of my Christmas shopping before December 1st. I would start bugging my family for a list of what they wanted in October, compare sales prices, buy everything and usually even have it wrapped by the end of November. Now? I doubt I’ll have even started shopping by then…
I don’t know why but the holidays just aren’t really on my radar yet. I didn’t even start thinking about them until I did 24 back-to-back interviews with CBC Radio stations across the country last week, talking about both the shopping ban and ways we can all rethink our holiday gift giving strategies. As I’ve mentioned before, the shopping ban was never meant to affect other people. I still buy gifts for family and friends year-round. However, the types of things I buy has changed.
For example, I used to try to spend the same amount of money on my brother and sister (or at least get them the same number of gifts), so neither of them would feel like I’d favoured the other. I’ve been doing this since they were kids and had no concept of how much things cost. Why!? It just made me feel better, for some reason – even if it meant I was adding random $5 or $10 things to their gift, to somehow “complete it”, all of which I’m sure has since been tossed.
Fortunately, those days are long gone. Now, I prefer to buy one of two things: something that will be useful or an experience. I don’t care if I’m just fulfilling one of their “wants”, versus a need, per se… so long as they actually use it, it makes no difference to me! I just don’t want to give something that would be added to anyone’s pile of clutter. I know how much guilt I felt while holding onto so many things I never used, and I don’t want to burden anyone with gifts that could do the same.
So, that’s how I’m approaching the holidays again this year. It’s not about the number of gifts or how much each one costs. I simply want to give a few useful gifts to a handful of the people I love. Tack on the handwritten cards I love to send out, and I think I can do the whole thing for around $400.
As for what I’m asking Santa for? Honestly, I have no idea. You’d think that with the shopping ban being in place for a second year, I’d have a list of stuff I want… but I don’t. Actually, I only wanted one thing: a new duvet. When I told my mom that, she offered me one she’d used for just a few months and didn’t love but couldn’t return. So, I donated my old one and took hers. Done and done. And now what was once a useless object to someone else has become useful for me. :)
I’m sure I could come up with a list of books I want to read, or ask for a puzzle or subscription or something like that… but at the end of the day, it’s all just stuff. Instead, I’d prefer if people donated money to one of my favourite charities, so the money can help someone who really needs it. Two long-time favourites that I give to monthly are the Victoria BC SPCA and the Love of Reading Foundation. I’m also looking at the UNHCR and their work with Syrian refugees, as well as The Hope Effect.
Would it be weird if I didn’t open any gifts on Christmas Day? Maybe. But all I really want this year is for my family to maintain some of our traditions, spend time together and be happy. It’s been a big year for us, filled with lots of change – not all of it good. I just want us to be together and be happy. <3
I’m sure it’s obvious, with the title of this post, that there’s another reason I’m sharing all of this with you. As Jay informed us last week, the “shopping holidays” have arrived… and the big ones start on Friday. Or, should I say, they start as early as Thursday afternoon, which is Thanksgiving for my friends south of the border. I don’t even want to acknowledge Black Friday; the whole premise of it, and the crazy things it makes people do, makes me feel a bit sick.
What I do want to acknowledge is some of the fantastic ideas and posts my friends and favourite bloggers have shared on the topics of Black Friday, gift giving and how to simplify the holidays. Rather than go shopping this week, I hope you’ll check some out and find inspiration for how you can change your strategies this year. As Robin said, “the words that should describe the holidays, such as peace, joy, family, family and giving, often become replaced with stress, anxiety, debt and wants.”
Let’s change that.
Happy Thanksgiving! And Buy Nothing Day and Month – Mr. Money Mustache
Holiday Shopping: We Can Do Better – Becoming Minimalist
Let’s Talk About Black Friday – The Minimalists
November is the New December – Raptitude
The Black Friday Experience – Break the Twitch
BONUS: #StayInTheBlackFriday – Payoff (Campaign)
Christmas with the Minimalists – Rowdy Kittens
How to Save $2,000 This Holiday and Make Everyone Love You Forever – Far Beyond the Stars
The Case Against Buying Christmas Gifts – Zen Habits
The Other List – IKEA (Video)
What to Get Everyone for Christmas – Raptitude
BONUS: Gift Guilt and Holiday Conundrums – The Slow Home Podcast
The Holiday Season
5 Questions to Simplify Your Life During the Holidays – Zen Habits
7 Ways to Simplify Your Holidays – Embracing Simple
30 Simple Ways to Take Care of Yourself Over the Holidays – Be More With Less
Free Ways to Have a More Meaningful Christmas – Blonde on a Budget
Keeping Your Main Thing the Main Thing During the Holidays – Becoming Minimalist
How are you approaching gift giving this year?