I started getting into minimalism a little over a year ago and I’ve definitely evolved into my own little version of minimalist pretty nicely. That’s not to say I have all the answers. I still engage in impulse buys, I still have trouble sticking to a budget; but I’m growing and that’s what matters.
So the holidays. This is a big topic for minimalists.
I think it’s really difficult for minimalists to bridge the gap between their lifestyle and consumerist traditions. A lot of minimalists are that way because they had a problem with buying into what consumerism told them they needed. We’re all trying really hard to discover what truly matter to us outside of what has been a traditional “necessity.”
It’s difficult for me at least, because I’m a bit of a shopoholic and I’m trying to be better. It’s almost like Christmas is an open bar when I’m trying to do really well in rehab.
So last year, I wanted full control. It was my first Christmas as a minimalist AND my first Christmas with a baby. That is a recipe for stress. Everyone wants to contribute to a baby’s first Christmas, but I felt the need to limit their contributions and looking back, that’s really just no fun for anyone.
I FEEL LIKE A GRINCH WHO’S HEART GREW 3 SIZES THIS YEAR.
This year, we’re mostly spending the holiday season as a three-and-a-half-some. Because of our move coming up in January and the fact that I am a little over halfway through this pregnancy and all of our family lives far away, we’ve decided to stay home.
It’s a little bitter sweet. Traveling is stressful, especially when you add a one year old to the mix so it’ll be nice to have some time to rest and indulge in time when it’s just the three of us before our newest addition arrives. Plus we can form some mini traditions of our own which is always fun.
But we will miss everyone dearly. Namely, all the family we don’t get to see on Ian’s side. The niece and nephews we don’t get to see lit up by all the presents under the tree. The grownups we already don’t see enough as it is. The fact that they won’t be able to be there to indulge in Oliver’s first Christmas where he may actually be a little aware of what’s going on.
So after some conversations with family members and hearing the words, “I still want to be able to spoil the kiddos.” come out of my mouth, I’ve changed my tune to the whole presents thing. I think there is a balance that can be struck to make everyone happy.
WHY I STILL BELIEVE IN GIFTS AS A MINIMALIST
When I originally thought about the holiday posts I could write, I thought about a general letter that you can give your family for the holidays explaining all the reasons, in the nicest way possible, why they shouldn’t give any gifts. I’ve thought about all the ways I would write that, envisioning giving the letter to everyone in my family.
When I sat down to actually write it, I hated it. I hated the attitude I had when thinking about it. I hated the feeling that it was all about what I wanted Christmas to be. And honestly, I hated the idea of having no gifts for any of us under a tree. Not because it’s all about the gifts, but because it’s a fun part of the holidays for everyone.
I remember what it’s like to be a kid and see a tree with presents underneath. The whole family gathered together, engaging in an activity that truly creates a lifetime of memories. I think about the fact that it’s important to me to be able to contribute to that moment for my sibling and their kids.
Then I remember that there are people who feel exactly the same about us and our kids.
I understand how fun it is to give gifts, so why is it so important that I deprive the people who care about us that same joy?
It’s not just my Christmas, you know? It’s not just about me and my lifestyle.
I think it’s so easy to get wrapped up thinking about the money that could be wasted or the clutter that could build up. It’s so easy to focus on the potential negatives of having a little less control that we forget we’re taking control away from other people.
There’s always a compromise. Always. So that’s my new mission for a holiday post: Finding the compromise in gift giving.
BALANCING MINIMALISM AND THE HOLIDAYS
MAKE A LIST
I know this may not sound super fun. It’s a habit I picked up from my in-laws that originally, I felt really weird about.
That first Christmas with Ian’s family was full of a little guilt on my end because they were giving me these gifts that I specifically put on a list and asked for. I felt like I was taking from them and that my presence was all about the presents. Of course, they weren’t creating that atmosphere. It was just me getting used to a new way of doing things.
Over the years, I’ve come to understand the value in making a list for people who want to give you gifts.
It’s almost an extra layer to making the giving and receiving of gifts extra special. The person giving the gift can know they are adding the maximum amount of value to your life through the gift and you can go into the holidays knowing that you won’t have to feel riddled with guilt donating something very thoughtful, but very not-useful for your life.
Basically, everyone wins. You can’t expect that the perfect gift for everyone will come around every year and you can’t expect to know exactly what someone will truly value, so why not ask and then why not give an honest answer when you’re asked?
You can be extremely specific with links to the exact items you want, or you can generalize it. Suggest a specific store you know you love everything from or a brand or a category or style of something you like.
And for your kids, just think of stuff they would like and give a list to your relatives.
Then, they get to give something they know you’ll love and you don’t have to feel like you’re bringing in a bunch of waste or clutter into your home.
SET A BUDGET
Whether it’s one you keep to yourself or share amongst everyone, budgeting is always a good idea.
I’ll tell you, I go into every holiday season stressed out. I think about all the money we have to spend and it makes giving gifts very tedious. In general, I love gift giving; but simply spending a little here and there with no plan for how much you can spend takes all the fun out of it.
This year, I made a list of everyone we want to get gifts for and then I set a budget for each of them. I even set a budget for wrapping paper and shipping since we won’t actually be there to physically hand out the gifts this year.
I also had an idea of how much I’m comfortable receiving from everyone else so I think about that when giving gift ideas for me, Ian, and Oliver. You don’t even need to explicitly say, “I only want you to spend this much on us.” A simple, “Hey, we want this thing” will help to give ideas within your comfort zone.
Setting a budget has really helped me find gifts too. I know what stores I can go to and what stores to avoid. It helps narrow down your options which can actually help you to be more creative across the board.
I’d even recommend this for your decorating budget. A paint pen and windows can really go a long way!
REMIND PEOPLE YOU’RE STILL STAYING MINIMAL
This is where you can to add a little bit of your minimalist desires to the balance.
Compromise is definitely important, but that also means others need to be willing to compromise with you too. Communicating your lifestyle and values for your home early on and often is a great way to keep that minimalist tune to your holiday season.
So, along with being far more tolerant and open to gift giving this year, I also decided to reiterate a few things when I sent out a list of gift ideas for the three of us:
I simply expressed that I don’t want to deprive anyone of giving or receiving gifts from us. That I understand the value in being able to give gifts, but I would really appreciate it if people would stick to the list.
I think it’s a totally fair way for everyone to get a little bit of what they want. And once it’s said, it doesn’t need to be said again. As long as everyone is respecting what everyone wants out of their holiday, you’ll all be able to focus on the time spent together and the value of giving rather than argue about who’s lifestyle or values are more important.