It’s almost that time again. Christmas time of course! (For all those who observe it.) Unfortunately though modern western Christmas traditions don’t usually mix well with minimalism. Decking the halls and gift giving can easily get out of hand. However, with that said you can find a balance for the holidays that wont result in excess consumption and boxes of decorations that are only used for 1/12th of the year.
As stores have started to go full tilt into Christmas related merchandise you can see how easy it is to get carried away with decorating. There are new ornaments, garlands, tapestries and stockings available for pretty much every style and taste. However with that it can become easy to purchase too much or to buy enough decorations that will require a trip back in January to buy storage tubs for all the items you picked up this year. So before purchasing new decorations it is useful to ask yourself, is this worth it? Meaning is it worth the price, the effort to store and put out every year and will it give you a lasting sense of joy and happiness. By ensuing you only buy items and keep items you currently have with this criteria, you should be able to keep your decorations to a smaller more manageable size.
Another aspect to keep in mind before making purchases is assessing the quality of the item. Is the quality enough to last as long as you want? Will it stand the test of time or is this a cheap decoration that will deteriorate by next year or even in the days leading up to Christmas this year? Buying quality is something we talked about previously and something really everyone should follow to enable a better quality of life (less stress, less issues, less money spent on replacements). So be sure to consider quality before buying into any of the deals and decorating ideas you see in stores.
Remember, decorating is a personal choice and there is no reason to fully refurnish your home every December for a single holiday unless that’s your priority and joy to do so. Additionally feel free to swap decorations or omit items that detract from the season. Yes, that means you can avoid putting up Christmas lights this year if they cause you more grief than good. You don’t want to spoil the seasons emotions by tainting them with frustration and anger at putting out decorations. Continuing with the lights example, maybe doing your whole home is too much work, so settle for only a portion of it, or swap out your lights for candles in the windows. Don’t have the budget to change up your decor? Try lining your windowsills from the inside with your outdoor lights(so long as it doesn’t pose a fire hazard) to reduce the chance of them going out and having to get out the ladder to fix them. Get creative and mix it up with something easier. Remember, the season isn’t about having the most impressive decorations.
Gift Giving (And Receiving)
Gifts of Lasting Value
Gifts with value can really be split up into a few categories, so let’s review each one.
First and foremost, the best thing you can do for yourself and others is buy quality products. This will mean they will last well into the foreseeable future and provide lasting value to the user. Cheaper products can tend to break more easily or have design flaws leading to repeated frustration even though they may still function. Think of any of those kitchen gadgets you may have used that have to be aligned just right to work properly. Products of good quality will provide a hassle free value add to someones life for a good amount of time. Also it would be rewarding to see someone still using your gift years down the road no? So, be sure to buy right the first time to maximize their happiness with your gift. Of course for them to be happy, it does also mean it needs to be something they will use.
Walking around our local malls and stores I have seen far to many gimmicky one off disposable items designed mostly for novelty. Please do everyone a favor and avoid purchasing these items. Many of the times these items are not of quality and only fulfill a very niche use (toilet golf sets really that useful? No seriously, anyone really want to use that for more than a week?). Yes, it’s the thought that counts, but another way to look at it is what does this novelty gift really say you were thinking about? I would bet most people would enjoy something that is a permanent value add in their life than something one off that will make it to the landfill before next year is over. So carefully consider who you are buying for and try to get something they actually need. If they seem to already have what they need, then maybe a gift card to their restaurant of choice or local grocery store would be better. Hey, we all need to eat, so it’s not a bad choice compared to toilet golf.
Sometimes The Best Things Aren’t Things at All
Another aspect to consider is that sometimes the best things in life aren’t things at all. This time of year it’s easy to get caught up in consumerism and gift giving. If you can’t find anything quality that is something someone needs, perhaps instead decide to make their gift a little more personable. A night out or coffee together, your treat. Or perhaps even helping them by providing a service; fix cars, computers, plumbing, electrical? You could offer to help them or teach them your skill. The time and experience spent together will more than likely last a lifetime, which should be far more than anything you can buy for them. Or perhaps you can talk to those you give gifts to and see if just meeting for the holidays would be enough of a gift that everyone doesn’t need to swap gifts this year.
For You(the Minimalist)
OK, so the ideas on gift giving may be ideas you were already thinking about. But what about dealing with unwanted gifts or items that don’t add value that you may receive? Well, there are a few ways to try to ensure you don’t end up with clutter from the holidays. First and foremost, don’t be shy about using wishlist’s. Be proactive about gift giving and ask others what they would like and if they have one, then toss yours out there for them to review. No one would want to get you something you wont enjoy so don’t be afraid to call it out. Even if all you want is cash to put toward an item, just make sure you make it known.
Aside from making it know, depending on your relationship, you may also want to consider being able to return unwanted gifts. This isn’t something that is easy for sure, but an option especially if you don’t need the item. You could even use your minimalist lifestyle as the reason for declining it, but also being very grateful for their gesture and kindness. Always remember to consider how the giver will respond though as there are other ways to ensure that gift goes to good use. If it may not end well for your relationship, perhaps accepting it can donating it to someone in need would be the better option. After all, it’s not about getting things of monetary value, our relationships with our friends and family are worth so much more.