I’m a bit of a Grinch, I don’t like the music and hate the shopping crowds (don’t get me started on the ads). We have a small 1 ft. fake tree and a wreath that goes on the door and that’s plenty of decoration for me. MadMan is the same way, he hates the music as much as I do and doesn’t care for the decorations either. Neither of us are religious, so the holiday has, until this year, been about gift giving and receiving. This year, we set to change that.
It’s about to be past Halloween which means retailers will be going right into Christmas, bypassing Thanksgiving all together in some places. That’s why, today, before that happens, I am urging you to try something new. This is my case against presents. It’s infused with the arguments of other bloggers, celebrities, and humans. Think about it, decide, maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store.
What are the Holidays about anyway?
“He puzzled and puzzed till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!”
~ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Was the Grinch right after all?
If you look past the commercials and the media’s rendition of the holiday, then you might see that it’s about much more than unwrapping gifts from under a tree.
Spending time with those you love.
Seeing people you haven’t seen in a while.
Taking a break from work and school to simply relax and have fun.
If you’re religious then the whole point of the holiday is celebrating the birth of Jesus (if you are Christian) or many other reasons if you are another religion.
So, why does that mean that gifts are bad? What says that by not getting gifts you make Christmas more meaningful?
Case & Point: The Bad Parts of Gift Giving
- It’s more about us than others. This season, Sprint is calling the holidays “iPhone season” in their commercials that you can view here. This really strikes a chord. It’s no longer about giving gifts to others, but getting the latest and greatest. It’s about getting a reason to get ourselves what we have been wanting all year, though we may not need or use any of it in three months.
- When we do get gifts for others, it’s more about the buying than the giving. We go out and shop like there’s no tomorrow. We buy gift for our friends, family, roommates, co-workers, friends children, and even more. We get gifts for our children teacher and sometimes even the doorman of our building. All of this starts in good ideals, yet as people get out there it turns into a frenzy of buying with a seemingly lack of care about the original intent. By the time we open and trade gifts, we have almost forgotten about them completely. By the next month most will be up in a closet never to be used again. Is it about the joy of giving or about the fun of shopping?
- When it comes to getting the gifts, we think about what is coolest or “the best deal” and not what we can use. As a minimalist, I believe in getting what I can use. I don’t get MadMan a new gadget or video game, he won’t use them in a year. Rather we spend time together. If we choose to get something for each other we make sure it’s either something off our list of needed items or something that will add value to our lives (He likes books, I like bath bombs and face masks.)
- It’s just adding the clutter in the end. We all have that one family member who either has everything or has everything that they want. It’s hard to find a gift for them, so instead of spending time and money to find something, why don’t we all just vow to spend time with that person? Even when it’s not that person, most things we buy our friends and family for Christmas (even the best intended gifts) go in a closet within a few months.
- It’s bad for the environment in more way than one. Between the waist of the paper, the plastic, the cardboard, the twisty-ties, the ribbons, and even the gas and plastic bags. It’s not just the trash for Christmas day we have, it’s also the gas and bags from traveling and shopping. Think about it from another note, how much gas do you use traveling from place to place to get everything you need? That’s all part of your Christmas budget too! (Traveling to see family is different than just traveling to shop.)
- Think that buying online is still okay? Buying online enables you to spend more without thinking and is even worse for the environment than traveling to the store. There is double or triple the packaging, the transportation to your door, and the subsequent wrapping of the box in more paper. When we shop online, we see everything we’ve ever wanted in one spot. Websites even know what to show us based on history to get us to buy something else, it’s a way that we can often end ourselves spending more rather than saving.
How to Make Christmas Mean More?
It’s true, the Grinch was right, the best version of Christmas doesn’t come from a store. There are many things that can still be done in place of buying tons of gifts. Here is a sampling.
Rather than giving a present try these:
- Cook a meal
- Donate to their preferred charity
- Babysit one night so they can go out
- Spend time with them
- Take them to their favorite breakfast spot
- Get outdoors together
- Go volunteer
- Go caroling
- Have an experience together (aquarium, zoo, national park)
Minimalist options for giving a present:
- Bake them a gift
- Give them an experience (like going to the botanical gardens, the zoo, or sky diving)
- Get them something that they will really need
*Something they really need could be new wipers for their car or a gift card to where they get their groceries. It shows that you are giving and gives them something that really will help.
- Have a gift swap instead of getting everyone a gift
Q: What will my family think?
A: More than likely they will think that you are a bit strange. Explain to them that you are interested in spending time with them and are not interested in swapping material gifts this year. Send them this, explain what minimalism is.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter what you family thinks about your strange new ways. Some will judge, and some will accept. It’s something we’ve gotten used to over our year of minimizing. Regardless of what they think, they will be okay with a gift or two less.
Q: How do I broach the topic with my SO?
A: Tell them that you value their time over material possessions and make sure to be open, honest, and kind. Accept any gifts they may give, yet be firm in explaining that you would rather do something with them or cook them a nice meal over buy them something.
It’s something that, if you truly believe, will have to be talked about. While you can live and marry someone that is not a minimalist, I believe that something as big as a lifestyle should be shared to ensure a happy life.
Q: What about my kids?
A: I don’t have kids, yet I plan to in a few years or so. When I do, chances are they won’t get gifts from us either. Recently, Mila Kuniz and Aston Kutcher announced that they were not giving their kids presents for Christmas (read more here). This post on Zen Habits (the one that I used to help me write this and the one that we used to decide how we felt) talks about how he doesn’t give his six kids presents.
Rather than give them a gift, why not spend time with them doing something they love. Why not take them to a place they think is awesome, to create memories not more stuff. In all, it’s a day in a kid’s life. You might be giving them things they like, but you are also teaching them that material possessions and consumerism are important and valid ways of living. While it might not seem that way since it’s just a day, but they watched you shop for a month, as they do every year. It adds up, kids are perceptive.
In the end, it’s about realizing that the ads mean nothing. It’s about realizing that even with nothing, you can enjoy time with family and friends (ultra-light backpacking can help with this realization.)
This year I issue a challenge. Two actually.
(While a don’t use social media much in my personal life, the Ice Bucket Challenge proved just how effective social media can be for creating a change.)
- This Thanksgiving celebrate #giveawayfriday after Thanksgiving. Rather than go out and buy things, go through your closet and get rid of things you haven’t worn in a year. Shed a bit of clutter. Take them to the donation center. Give your time to help a food bank or a homeless shelter. Give your help, your non-used items, and your love away, freely.
- For Christmas #ChristmasGrinch. Buy nothing from a store and spend time with your family rather than time wrapping gifts. Go out and play soccer (if you are in the south) or make snowmen (if you are in the north.) Prove to the rest of the world that maybe, after all, Christmas doesn’t come from a store.