If you think about Christmas and the holiday season, different things come to mind. Family, love, being together and of course… presents and Christmas shopping. We are so conditioned by society that Christmas has turned into a materialistic event where we need to buy a bunch of material things to show people we care about them. Each year we get stressed worrying about whether we got the right thing, if they will like what we bought, did we spend enough, how much did they spend and is it kind of similar… So many thoughts that have nothing to do with Christmas.
When trying to live a minimalist life it can be quite difficult to navigate the holiday season out of worry you might “insult” someone’s feelings. People will want to gift you items out of love and appreciation, but for you they might just take up space. While they may be cute, they don’t really fit into your life. You then graciously accept the gift, because you know why they gave it to you. Best case scenario—you actually can use it and it brings you total joy. Worst case scenario—it ends up collecting dust. It might be easier with close family and friends because they know you better, but many people have an extended group of people that expect to give and receive presents. If you don’t know someone all that well, how do you know what they actually want or need unless they specifically say so. People might be disappointed if they get something they really do not like and the gift-giver might feel embarrassed or bad if they realize this.
Not everyone will know that you are trying to live a minimalist lifestyle. They might not know that many items will just end up somewhere else. People give gifts because they love you and that of course, is a beautiful thing that should be appreciated and respected. If you do not want to receive any material gifts, tell the people that you know exactly that. Say, that you really, 100% do not want this and that you much rather do something else. Avoid the classical: “Oh, no we generally don’t gift ourselves anything.” Or a simple: “I don’t want anything.” While this could technically be enough, so many people say it like that and they actually do expect a gift or others do not take it seriously and will still buy something. Really make it clear, tell them about the way you live your life and explain, why certain items do not fit.
Of course, material items can hold a lot of meaning, but for me personally, there are many other gifts I can get or give that are so much more important to me. I’d much rather have someone gift me some of their precious time, for example. Do fun things together, spend the day together or maybe just grab a coffee or dinner to catch up. Ask people to donate to your favorite charity or a good cause instead of giving you presents (this also works for any other special occasion of course). That is also a good way to take the pressure off of people who might not be able to afford a big present. If you ask for donations, no one has to know how much (if at all) someone gave and everyone can decide for themselves without feeling guilty. Doing something like that gives most people a lot more joy than buying a random piece of decoration and putting it on a shelf.
Some people might expect to receive a gift and that is ok. But before you go out and buy something completely random, it is totally fine to ask them what exactly they want. Tell them, that you as a minimalist don’t want to buy anything that does not bring them joy in the long-term so if they can give you a couple of ideas of what they want or need it can be a great help. You can also skip the material gift and also give them your time. If they are a close friend of yours that you don’t see often, they will appreciate you making the time to really be present with them. If it’s a friend you see daily and want to make a day together special, come up with something unique and super fun to do. Do something together you haven’t done yet. Maybe do a treasure hunt through the city together or something like that. Anything, where you can be really there with your friend.
Christmas is a beautiful time of the year and the stress around presents sometimes taints the season a bit. There is no need to spend hundreds of dollars on gifts for everyone and there is no need for you to receive random items that you cannot use or simply do not need. If you love material presents that is totally fine, but if you don’t, that is also 100% ok.
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