≡ Menu

Christmas with the Minimalists

Recently, I’ve received a lot of questions from the media, readers, and friends about how we handle Christmas and other gift giving holidays. I have to admit I’m a little surprised by all the questions, since it’s only mid-October! So I decided to compile some of these questions into a blog post.

I hope this helps you out. If you have additional questions, please leave them in the comments section. 🙂

***

Reader: What does Christmas mean to you?

Tammy: For me Christmas is about spending time with family, eating good food, taking long walks, and unplugging from Internet. I’m not religious; at least not religious in the traditional sense. I don’t think I have to go to a church to develop a relationship with the divine. That can be done through meditation, yoga, and being in nature. With that being said, we don’t go to church on Christmas. We focus on spending time with family and friends.

Reader: Do you give gifts at Christmas? And do you have rules or principles according to which you would choose gifts?

Tammy: I do struggle with the tradition of gift exchanging during Christmas. The holiday has been co-opted by large corporations, who care more about their profitability than the planet. I’m not against gifts, but I am against mindless consumption to maintain the status quo. For instance, I don’t want anymore plastic stuff made in China that is designed to break and enter the landfill after a few years. Its such a waste of resources!

Everyone we know already has too much stuff and adding to that is not a consideration. Plus, I don’t want or need more stuff. So we encourage friends and family members to donate (time or money) to a charity or give educational savings bonds to the kids. And if they have to give us something, we request cookies, wine, or a dinner date in the new year.

In the end, people aren’t going to remember the new set of pajamas they got on Christmas morning. But they will remember a wonderful experience (like sharing a holiday feast or the amazing batch of cookies you made).

Reader: Do you think Christmas is really about peace and happiness, especially since our culture is so focused on “gift giving”? And if I don’t want to celebrate Christmas what are some alternatives?

Tammy: It’s up to us as individuals and community members to make the “peace and happiness” message of Christmas authentic. For example, rather than buying the latest gadget, go volunteer at your local domestic violence shelter or serve meals to homeless in your community. There are so many people who need help. Giving the gift of time is much more powerful than buying more stuff. Also research shows that you get more happiness and satisfaction from constructive experiences and charity than you do from shopping.

Personally, I enjoy hanging out with my family on the holiday. But if the idea of a traditional Christmas doesn’t appeal to you, then organize a volunteer outing on Christmas day. For those of us who have safe, warm homes, and more than enough money, I think it’s our responsibly to give back to our community.

Another alternative is creating your own Christmas tradition! For example, a few years ago Logan and I “rebelled” against Christmas. We decided to stay in Sacramento and have a “staycation” rather than traveling.

Reader: How does minimalism help you prioritize and remain mindful during the holidays?

Tammy: For me minimalism goes beyond stuff and decluttering. It’s about being mindful of how consumerism and advertising impacts our everyday lives. So rather than buying a lot of stuff on the holidays, I stay out of the mall and focus on cultivating good relationships.

I keep coming back to cultivating meaningful relationships because that IS the KEY to happiness. If you read any of the latest happiness research, scholars point out again and again that humans are social beings and without meaningful and stable relationships we become very unhappy and succumb to feelings of inadequacy.

Reader: What is your superpower and how does it help you make the most of Christmas?

Tammy: I’m a connector. For example, I have a lot of friends in the virtual and physical worlds. So I do my best to connect like minded people with each other. And that also comes in handy during Christmas. During the holiday, I focus on being present with my friends and family and helping them connect with each other in more meaningful ways.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • lisasfoods October 18, 2010, 8:23 am

    Tammy, great ways to address the issues of consumption and capitalistic greed during the holidays.

    For the last few years, I’ve made a point to buy more experiences than gifts…tickets or subscriptions to a theater, meals out (either with the receiver, or as a gift card to be used later), and the gift of time. So many of us have more than enough stuff; what we need is more connection-building time.

    This post also reminded me of the Nearings’ tradition. If you’re not familiar with them, do a Google search on this ahead-of-their-time homesteading couple. On feasting holidays, they made a point to fast. I have never done this, but think of it when Thanksgiving comes around.

  • Heather October 18, 2010, 8:32 am

    I am just starting to broach this subject with my family. We all have a history of going way overboard with gifts during the holidays. Now my family know we are trying to cut back on “stuff,” and they are baffled about what to do for gifts this year. I’m not sure what to tell them, except to maybe give us booze. We will find a way to use it, and we will recycle the glass bottles after.

  • JeffS October 18, 2010, 8:54 am

    We have struggled with this and our families are not taking it well.

    Santa has been the biggest sticking point. At our house, Santa is just another storybook character. Gifts come from family. Our daughter returns from her grandmothers (either, they both do it) saying things like “santa doesn’t come to our house”. No baby…. Santa isn’t a real person and Nana is a big fat liar. Ok, so I haven’t said it yet, but it’s coming. The same woman who insists on trying to force-feed her vegetarian granddaughter meat.

    Our efforts to get people to reduce their gifts to us have been largely ignored. While the time it takes to return, donate or freecycle these items is annoying, I am most bothered by the waste of money. I wish they would just keep it and use it for something they need. I can only hope that they are getting some form of enjoyment out of the gifting.

    • Amy November 7, 2010, 3:42 pm

      Hey Jeff,

      I feel your pain. We have a 2 yr. old and the gifts are crazy. We are Christians and feel to use Christmas as a time to reflect on Christ’s birth and be charitable to the less fortunate…this hasn’t always gone well with others. We decided that instead of gifts for our child we would take her with us to shop for another child (ex: angel tree) and model charity….the response from others was…weird..lol. Questions like: Why buy for them and not your own? What! you’re not teaching her about Santa!!?

      I encourage you to just keep persevering in your practice of having a low key Christmas and about not lying about Santa. Eventually they will come around and realize that it’s just the way things are going to be…like it or not.

      If they insist on giving you or your kids gifts, perhaps opening a savings account and directing them to donate for a college fund might be a happy compromise. They can give and you can feel like the money is going to good use (plus you avoid the Santa down the chimney thing).

  • The Tiny Homestead October 18, 2010, 9:02 am

    I’ve been wondering lately what you and other minimalists do in terms of decorating? I hate spending money and resources on silly single-use decor, but at the same time I do like the idea of having my home reflect the current season. Any thoughts or ideas?

    • Tammy October 18, 2010, 1:47 pm

      @The Tiny Homestead – I’m not a big fan of decorations. So I don’t have many helpful tips to give.

      Does anyone have decorating ideas that are minimal and low-cost?

      • ET October 18, 2010, 2:55 pm

        clean (seasonal) tablecloths
        candles
        seasonal plant based decorations that can be composed or replanted
        very few seasonal items

        tidy the house

        • Val October 18, 2010, 9:23 pm

          I don’t claim to be a minimalist expert, but I have several landscape photos up on my walls. Larger prints, I think they’re about 8×10 look the most like they’re professional, instead of taken by me.

          Curtains instead of blinds can be nice. I think that having plants makes a place feel more alive.

      • Brian October 18, 2010, 5:23 pm

        Having grown up in the county (and never left) it has always been my dream to order a small evergreen with an attached root ball wrapped in burlap as my tabletop Christmas tree, and on New Year’s Day to plant it, with my family. This way my family and I can remember each year’s holiday as they drive through the property.

        A few years ago we bought and have displayed a small evergreen on our doorstep. Since it has grown very well in the past few seasons, this year we are going to move it inside and begin my long awaited holiday tradition.

        • devlyn October 27, 2010, 7:22 am

          I grew up with living trees as christmas trees. We lived in northern California, where we were able to plant the trees within a few months after christmas. I never really had any attachment to them, per se, but I always thought that dead trees were incredibly wasteful (coming from a kid who had pretty much everything she ever asked for!). ^_^

      • Amber October 19, 2010, 8:30 pm

        When decorating for fall, you could gather up some leaves from outside and string them together and decorate your house with them. When winter arrives you can put them with your compost. While I haven’t tried this idea yet, I have thought about it for a while.

        • Sarah November 4, 2010, 9:56 am

          We do a similar thing at our house. The kids gather “treasures” (acorns, leaves, interesting twigs, my favorite was a large sheet of a wasps’ nest outer paper–beautiful and fascinating) and we display them on the mantle. We do that in the fall and then when we have the first fire of the winter season, we add our treasures (not the wasp paper–I kept that one, maybe I’ll frame it) to the fire with the thought that the bounty of the harvest season can symbolically warm us through the winter. The kids love it.

  • Carolina October 18, 2010, 9:31 am

    Hi, great post.
    I just have one question: what to do when your family doesn’t agree with the minimalist way of celebrating xmas?
    I also hate all the gift shopping (which I see as a huge waste of time and money), and once I told my family we should all give just one gift randomly (“secret santa”), and they didn’t like the idea at all, and we didn’t do that. It was very frustrating to me, and I ended up buying lots of gifts and spending a lot of money because I couldn’t be the only one in the family who didn’t give gifts.
    I would appreciate some insight on this matter.
    Thanks in advance!

    • Tammy October 18, 2010, 1:56 pm

      @Carolina – the best advice I can give is: communicate and talk to your family. Some of our family members don’t agree with our philosophy and that is fine by us. But they also understand we do not give traditional gifts.

      By actively talking with our family, it’s been very very helpful.

    • Logan October 19, 2010, 12:45 pm

      @Carolina,

      One strategy that seems to work for us also is that we visit the stubborn traditional giving “stuff” side of the family during a non-gift holiday like Thanksgiving. During Christmas we visit other Family who can’t afford traditional “stuff” gifts and prefer a low-stress holiday. That way we still get to visit with everyone in our lives but don’t have to worry about arm-wrestling them over their values. 🙂

      Cheers!

  • beowuff October 18, 2010, 9:37 am

    I stopped caring about Christmas a long time ago. My favorite holiday of the year is Thanksgiving. I’m in the US, so for any non US readers, that’s the fourth Thursday of November.

    It’s my favorite holiday because I spend the whole weekend with family. We cook, eat, and play games together in a huge house one of my Uncles owns. No pressure to by gifts. Just spend time together and think about what you are grateful for in your life.

    To me, Christmas is a time to take advantage of sales for things I need to buy anyway. For example I just signed up for my first triathlon through Team in Training. I need a wet suit and think I’ll be able to grab a nice one for a great deal around the holidays. If people want to give me a gift, I’m going to point them to my TnT donation page ( http://pages.teamintraining.org/wa/nbhtri11/yburns ). It’s to raise money to fight Leukemia and Lymphoma.

    I get to go suffer through the amazing experience of my first triathlon while helping fight cancer. I can’t think of a better gift for me!

    Just remember, with sales, your not actually saving money unless you were going to buy it anyways.

  • Cindy Douglas October 18, 2010, 10:22 am

    This is great, Tammy. Thank you for this post. I’m grateful that I found your blog – it sure makes one think. It makes total sense to me that Christmas should be about the important things in life and not about giving and getting more stuff.

  • Heather October 18, 2010, 10:53 am

    We’ve been having a family game night on Xmas Eve which has been a lot of fun. Everyone has to contribute 3 odd/funny prizes of things they have lying around. Ziggy stickers from 1975 anyone?

    Also, if I did have money to spare, I’d get everyone a trip somewhere. I agree that it’s the experiences that count.

  • Janice MacLeod October 18, 2010, 10:57 am

    I love your idea of decluttering. I’m inspired to look through my things and deliberately regift… not to pretend something is new, but to give someone something I’ve loved, something that comes with a story, something worth sharing with a good friend. That’s what I’m going to do. YA!

  • Vicki A October 18, 2010, 11:54 am

    Thanks for sharing this! I have been cutting back on the amount of “materialism” in my holiday each year. Three years ago my family decided not to give gifts to anyone except the kids under 18 – none of the adults want or need anything other than spending time together during the holidays. I felt awkward not reciprocating gifts from friends but last year I made a point to only give baked goods, wine or charitable donations in their name. Kiva gift (www.kiva.org) certificates are my favorite to give because they create a pattern of giving – I received one two years ago and I am now on my 20th charitable loan. I also gave charitable donations from Heifer.org and carbon offsets from TerraPass. I am so relaxed and Christmas now that I stopped spending time and money in the mall.

  • Nathalie Molina October 18, 2010, 12:44 pm

    I wrote on the subject last year and it stirred up a lot of wonderful conversations. I am still passionate about the idea of doing something different, and taking the opportunity to show people you care about them by engaging in meaningful exchanges. Thanks for starting the season (albeit, I agree, a bit early!) on this positive note!

    http://globalmisfit.com/2009/11/29/christmas-manifesto-no-more-stuff/

  • Miguel de luis October 18, 2010, 12:56 pm

    To me, Christmas is still the coming of the Hope of the ages, the birth of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Everything else, at least to me, stems from this root.

  • Edie October 18, 2010, 1:31 pm

    Our family makes an effort to spend lots of time together and lots of time outside skating, curling or tobogganing. Over the years, we have continued to simplify or eliminate gift giving. Two books that have been helpful to me are Unplug the Christmas Machine, by Jo Ann Robinson and Hundred Dollar Holiday by Bill McKibben.

  • Jason C. October 18, 2010, 2:10 pm

    I’ve been wanting to tell everyone to just make a donation to a charity that I like but know that my parents (both hoarders) will still likely buy me something I don’t really need. Do you politely reject gifts?

    I’ve been struggling to come up with ideas for my nieces and this article gave me the idea to give an
    “experience” gift certificate: movies, bowling, roller derby…

    • Logan October 19, 2010, 1:01 pm

      @Jason C.,

      We do our best ahead of time to request that folks not give us anything that is not consumable or an experience. When folks misunderstand and give a traditional “token” gift of stuff regardless of our wishes we accept the gift gracefully and then donate it as soon as we get home to the appropriate charity. When the gift givers ask about the gift at a later date we casually mention that we had to donate it to a good cause because we just couldn’t find a use for it. After several years of this its starting to sink in and folks have stopped giving us traditional stuff because they know it will not stay with us for long. 😉 I’ve finally converted my Mom and this year for my birthday she gave some education money to the children in the family with my name associated with it. 🙂 It felt great!

  • Trish October 18, 2010, 2:46 pm

    @lisasfoods, I am a big fan of the Nearings, and had not come across that info about them fasting on holidays before. What a statement! As if most of us really need a huge meal anyway, in this country at least.

  • Rebecca October 18, 2010, 2:46 pm

    The things that I ask for from friends and family are pictures and handmade art pictures from the kids that I can frame and use for decorating my house. Kiva.org and Heifer.org are also great gift giving alternatives that get people involved in helping others. Remember Christianity is about the two things that Jesus taught about–peace and fellowship with others.

  • Laura M. October 18, 2010, 7:29 pm

    Thank you for this post! Although it isn’t even Halloween yet, the thoughts of gift-giving during the Christmas season have been coming into my head. Not only am I trying to live a minimalist life (well, I’m early on the path to a clutter-free lifestyle), but I’m also trying to save money. I’ve set a goal not to spend money on anything aside from transportation, food, and bills until January 1st. If it works out, I plan to keep up with it. This also includes the holiday season, and my mind was wrecked with how friends and family would feel if I decided not to purchase items for them. I’d rather purchase ‘experiences.’ I am hoping they will go along with it. This post helps to explain what’s on my mind – I’ll be linking to it! 🙂

  • Jaione October 19, 2010, 12:11 am

    Hi Tammy!
    This is Jaione, from Spain : ) I have loved reading this last post as me and my husband are really struggling with the “gifts-matter”. It´s good to hear that other people are living just the same. Thanks!
    In our case, Christmas is not a problem so far, as we don´t exchange gifts between ourselves nor with our families / friends (but in the case we do, it´s always something handmade).
    The BIG problem right now is that I´m pregnant and our friends, family, familiy´s friends, and everybody around us wants to buy us a present. We even wrote an e-mail begging for no gifts and explaining our reasons, but anyway we have received a couple of them until now. But here is the point: we don´t agree what to do with the gifts we have already received. Last week my husband brought back one of those presents and gave the money to charity, but it was really hard to tell the other person our decision. But, what should we do? Should we keep the present? Lie??? I would really appreciate other people´s and your opinion or ideas on this. And thanks a lot!

    • ET October 19, 2010, 6:59 pm

      To lie is never/very seldom the answer.
      Regifting with a polite explanation if needed, perhaps?

  • Angela October 19, 2010, 12:27 am

    I have a big family and we were all struggling with finding enough money and time to buy gifts, so now we do Secret Santa, using an online programme which emails everyone with their ‘person’ and that person’s gift ideas. We have a spending limit, which can be ignored if you want, but means there is no pressure.

    It’s amazing how you really enjoy Christmas shopping for ONE present, which can be wrapped beautifully, and then how much you appreciate the one present you receive.

    With friends, I buy small ‘treats’, and I limit those in number – it’s rude but just one Christmas of not buying someone something and they will never buy you anything again, which suits me! I don’t want to have conversations about it as I feel that is too much of a fuss.

    Gifts I don’t want go straight to the charity shop or are re-gifted, but these are getting less and less. The fewer gifts I receive, the more I appreciate the ones I do get, and not really for the gift, but for the thought and kindness and symbolism of someone wanting to make an effort to treat me with something. This means my appreciation has vastly increased. I’m ashamed of the casual way that I used to receive gifts, toss them in a cupboard and forget about them.

    Lastly, because I am so frugal there is now usually quite a few things that I need, so gifts are really appreciated and used.

  • Tanja October 19, 2010, 1:28 am

    Great post and right on time! As we see, our parents are another generation. I try to reduce the gift flood every year. It didn’t work until my mother-in-law died, may she rest in peace. She is really missed, but her gifts are not. I don’t want to be rude here, just make an obvious point.
    What I like as a present at any time and what I like to give for birthdays, as souvenirs, for christmas and all the other opportunities ist stuff that disappears automatically. Chocolate, homemade cookies, other stuff to eat (like noodles in special shapes and what else there is), plant seeds, candles, ….

  • Thea Easterby October 19, 2010, 11:45 am

    Hi Tammy

    Just wanted to start by saying I really love your blog!!

    Thanks so much for the Christmas post. For me personally I find Christmas can be a hard time of year (as I am sure many people would agree). My family members who I love dearly are not that keen on each other most of the time, so Christmas can be sort of a ‘pick a parent’ situation (knowing full well that I will disappoint someone every year). Not fun! Add spending a lot of money on buying gifts that I can not afford to the mix and things can get messy. Sometimes I feel like boycotting the whole event to be honest (and on the odd occasion I have, choosing to spend Christmas day at home by myself with visits from my closest friends).

    This year I am in a different financial position (trying to save money to change careers) so I will be talking to everyone early and letting them know that I would rather not do the present swap thing or that perhaps we could do something else. Your post has given me some good ideas.

    Years ago I took a long trip overseas and spent a lot of time in countries a lot less fortunate than my own. It really opened my eyes. That Christmas I really struggled with the whole consumer capitalism issue and suggested to one of my family members that we pool our money and give it to a charity. Unfortunately he could not quite get his head around that idea (or more his kids that were quite young at the time would not be happy without piles of presents) so the idea was dropped. Now that they are older it might be a great time to revisit the idea.

    Thanks again for your great post. It certainly has me and other people thinking.

    Cheers
    Thea

  • matt picio October 19, 2010, 2:56 pm

    There are some exceptions to the “kids won’t remember the toy you got them” rule. A good friend of mine has a young son, and I wanted to do something special for them for Christmas a few years back. I remembered that my grandfather made my set of wooden blocks for me when I was a young boy, and I’m a big believer in getting kids something that they can build with, which doesn’t have a single purpose. My father does some woodworking, and is the “Tim Allen” (Home Improvement – remember “Tim the tool man Taylor”?) of the family, and was generous enough to make a set of wooden blocks when I asked. It really is the gift that keeps on giving – the boy I gave them to still plays with them after 3 years, and they serve as props for his dinosaurs, ramps for toy cars, and dozens of other uses. And my dad knows that there is a little kid enjoying the fruits of his labor.

    I guess my point to this is that rather than buy stuff for other people for Christmas, start looking for opportunities to make something for someone – maybe something that has more than one use. Wood blocks are local, reusable, renewable, sustainable, non-toxic, and if they are no longer usable, can be burned in the fireplace for fuel. (maybe you should wait a couple years before telling the person who cut them if you use them for that purpose!) Blocks are just one of many possible “traditional” toys, and there are plenty of things people can make for adults that serve more than one purpose – if you or someone you know has a talent, it’s another option which is non-commercial and benefits more than one person.

    best,
    -Matt

  • Rachel October 20, 2010, 6:37 am

    Funny how people are asking about Christmas before Halloween. Everyone wants to get started on their shopping.
    This is a great post. I’ll be linking to it on Facebook closer to the holidays to hopefully inspire friends and family.
    My siblings and I decided years ago that traditional gift giving was wasteful and not that much fun. Instead we connected with a family in need and bough them gifts and food. Most of the kids just wanted clothes, warm jackets and shoes, to get them through the winter. It was so much fun to shop for people that actually needed items than to stress about what to give each other.
    Without all the gift opening time at Christmas there was more time for board games, walks and catching up.

    • matt picio October 20, 2010, 8:50 am

      I’ll bet many of us remember when Christmas stuff didn’t appear in the stores until the day after Thanksgiving. Wasn’t that the point of Santa showing up at the Macy’s parade in NYC? In recent years, it seems like the Christmas onslaught has crept further back each year. I remember being surprised when the Christmas seasonal items appeared immediately after Halloween – and I kind of wonder if they’ll even wait that long this year.

      I’m actually wrestling now with getting rid of my Christmas decorations, since I haven’t done a tree in over 5 years. My parents gave me most of them as Christmas presents, some are over 30 years old. A couple of them I made myself in elementary school. It’s hard to deal with items that have some sentimental value – they still cause stress from having to store, organize, display and protect them; and I’m just really not sure anymore if I want to continue dealing with that.

  • Arron October 20, 2010, 10:29 am

    Well, Christmas does seem to get here earlier and earlier each year. The Halloween decorations are being pushed off the shelves by Santa and his minions and the aisles echo with cries of “I want THAT for Christmas, Daddy!” Ah. I dread Christmas. The stress of putting up with the professional shoppers, the worry over whether or not you’ve bought the right gift…who needs it? I look at Christmas as sort of like “Thanksgiving, Part II”. To me, it’s about family. I’m not religious at all and we don’t really celebrate anything other than the fact that we, my family and I, have found a day to set everything aside to get together. We don’t decorate the house because the Jack Russell thinks the glass balls on the tree are toys, and we don’t buy gifts for the adults. This year I am making homemade onion relish and pickled jalapenos for my parents and siblings, my partner and I aren’t exchanging gifts (if we truly need something, we can buy it ourselves) and the kids will get what they need, not necessarily what they want. When we began minimalizing our lives together, we hadn’t really thought about Christmas so this year will be the first year we begin to winnow out the unnecessary materialistic trappings that we’ve turned this day into. Should be fun. We’ve started warning people that we aren’t doing gifts this year and although their response has been positive, I’m sure there will be a few “Bah, humbug’s!” and furrowed brows. They always say it isn’t about the presents….until they don’t get one.

    Make it about family, that’s the most important part to me.

  • Chris October 20, 2010, 11:26 am

    Tammy,

    Let me first say I am a huge fan of your blog! I have been a long time reader.

    Second, this particular topic is a huge point of contention with my family. My parents, particularly my mom, feel obligated to give material gifts each year to each one of us. She often buys stuff we don’t need but she assumes we do need. For example, almost every year I get a six pack of Costco socks! I have told her countless times that I do not need more socks but she still gets them for me 🙂 I also dread hearing the words, “what do you want for Christmas this year?” My response is always “nothing” or “I don’t need anything, thank you.” Unfortunately this does little to dissuade them from buying the trinkets to fill the stocking and random gifts to place under the Christmas tree.

    Anyway, when my wife and I got married we decided that we really wanted the change our family Christmas tradition and began by setting an example of how we would like to experience the holiday. Every year we donate to a charity of our choice in our families name and give this as a gift for Christmas. Our hope was that other members of the family would choose to do the same and forgo giving material gifts but this has yet to happen. I guess family traditions are not easily broken. Part of the reason I started my blog http://www.pursuitofless.com was in response to a family that adored clutter. I have chosen to live a life of less and I hope someday they see why I feel its so important. Thank you for your post!

    Chris

  • Brooke October 20, 2010, 1:10 pm

    Thank you for writing this post. It feels as if you have put all my thoughts into words. My husband and I are drafting an email, and including this post to share some of our feelings, and values with family, in a honest and respectful way. It will feel good to be able to express myself, and to take the opportunity to get closer to family members by sharing this part of our lifestyle.

  • Heather October 27, 2010, 5:24 pm

    Here’s an idea for a free Christmas present. Some of my favourite presents when I was much younger were mix tapes from friends, and that’s basically what this is. A few years ago my husband and I gave each other words–I think mine was “cosy” and his was “sublime”–and combed through our music to create a playlist that evoked the word. Then on Christmas night we listened to our presents. It was lovely and simple but took thought and effort.

  • Julia October 29, 2010, 7:22 am

    For birthdays and Christmas gifts, we’ve been requesting subscriptions to magazines and the local newspaper from our gift-oriented relatives. Both of these can be enjoyed, then repurposed, then recycled!

  • Sarah November 4, 2010, 12:54 pm

    We’ve done this with birthdays for the kids. I don’t need a bunch of random (token gift) toys cluttering up the house. I’ve been at it long enough that our friends know our philosophy and are respectful when we request no gifts for the kids. (One friend had some ice cream coupons that was her middle ground between no gifts and a gift that’s not clutter.) The kids, of course, didn’t like it at first because they go to their friends’ birthday parties and see them opening tons of presents. But, they are used to it now. We have a “Birthday Book” for each child and friends write a nice thing about the birthday child. It’s about celebrating the child and friendships–not stuff. The message is sinking in, gradually. They’re getting it.

    So this year I’m extending that further into our Christmas celebration. They probably won’t like it at first, but, after a couple of years it will be tradition and they won’t know any different. We are fortunate to have extended family who are similarly-minded.

  • Amy November 7, 2010, 3:32 pm

    Love this post! My husband and I live simply and weirdly…we don’t text message and try to avoid the social networking thing and are considering ditching the cell phones once the contract is up. We don’t have a t.v. and it’s been a blessing for us, especially when it comes to our 2 yr. old daughter. I don’t have the problem of her throwing fits in the store over toys because she isn’t consuming the child marketing campaigns so prevalent today.

    Despite our lifestyle Christmas brings a little anxiety for me as well. Though we are Christians and celebrate Christmas as a remembrance of Christ’s birth, so many friends and family make it about gifts. Why can’t we just make a big meal, invite each other over and enjoy some good fellowship?

    So this year we said…NO! No more gifts for the adults and we decided to only buy books for our niece and nephew this year. Instead we will bake for family members and try to focus on the relationships with them. We’ll see how it goes. Maybe we might even influence them to come on over to the simple side of life!

  • Hydra November 11, 2010, 12:37 am

    I’m a huge fan of not getting a ton of stuff for Christmas, but I do admit that I love the surprise and the gift-giving process. Something that we’ve done at work for the past couple of years, that I love, is this: We do a secret santa, where we draw the name of another person in the office. BUT rather than try to find a gift they’ll like, we give it a twist. You buy a toy that you think that person would have liked as a child. It makes you think. It makes for a pretty tree with presents underneath. You get to open a present, but then we donate them to charity. A little wasteful on the extra wrapping paper, yes, but it’s much more fun than the old Secret Santa where everyone walks away with some piece of crap they didn’t really want.

  • Jeff Parker November 22, 2010, 2:59 pm

    Tammy – we are so on the same wavelength!

    I also had to chime in with my own article of Christmas shopping ideas, tips & tricks for minimalists.

    I hope this serves your readers well:
    http://www.expatyourself.com/2010/11/how-expats-go-christmas-shopping-part-2/

    Thank you for being there!
    -Jeff

Simple Share Buttons