Thanks to Val for suggesting this topic.
Since the annual gift-giving frenzy will soon be upon us, I am thinking about how to prevent more STUFF from coming into my home and the homes of people I gift to – STUFF that may be unwanted and unused and that requires time to be managed (moved, dusted, organized, donated, etc.). Ideally, I want $ spent on gifts by me or for me to be impactful – whether by donating to charity, giving a practical item, supporting local artisans, or not contributing to consumer debt.
My family has scaled back considerably, but we all agree it is time to go further this year. If you’re ready to make changes too, keep in mind that people often have emotional attachment to gift-giving traditions so we need to communicate sensitively, give loved ones alternatives, and express that the best gift they can give is to respect our wishes.
Before gifting more STUFF, I’ll consider:
- Making or asking for charitable donations rather than material gifts.
- Asking for or making a wish list.
- Giving cash or gift cards.
- Giving an experience, like a spa service or special restaurant meal.
- Not worrying about being thought uncreative, cheap or lazy.
- Thinking about what the recipient wants, not what I think they should want.
If I feel the situation calls for something material, I’ll consider:
- An item from a wish list, preferably with no room for subjectivity (like a book title).
- Quality over quantity.
- A consumable item.
- A unique item – homemade or crafted from the Farmers Market or a local artisan.
- The manufacturer meets both the recipient and my standards.
- Including a note to say I encourage re-gifting!
Thoughts on other gifting situations:
- Travel – I’ve stopped buying mementos to bring back as gifts. And I don’t want anyone using a minute of their vacation time gift shopping for me, even in the airport.
- Illness – if giving a material gift, I try to make it personal. Depending on the situation, there are websites to collect donations to help with medical expenses.
- Children – discussing with parents first to understand their wishes is helpful. A donation to an education fund could have a big impact in the future rather than an abundance of new toys.
On the receiving end, when I am gifted something I don’t want from someone I’d feel uncomfortable asking to exchange it, I offer thanks and then get it back into circulation quickly by re-gifting or donating – it doesn’t do anyone any good sitting in a closet unused for years. Yes, at first I felt guilty, but it gets easier. Otherwise, I will feel guiltier every time I stumble upon it in my management of STUFF.
I am going to have a lot less $ for gifting in two years in my simpler living plan, so it’s good to start reducing further now. The seasonal tradition in NA of stressful shopping, excess and consumer debt is a choice. I am grateful to my family for being open to simplifying our giving even more this Christmas, so that our $ has more impact and we all have more joy during this holiday.
If you are concerned about offending someone by donating or selling a gift they gave you, check out point 5 in Your son/daughter is a minimalist. This is good news by Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist.