This post is part 2 of 3 in my Simplify The Gifts Holiday Mini-Series
The easiest way to simplify this is to not give any gifts.
But we may feel like that’s not really an option.
Buying gifts should be done from the heart. If you do not enjoy giving gifts or cannot afford gifts for extended family, then it’s definitely time to reevaluate what is going on.
One suggestion is to unite the extended family in a charitable venture like donating money toward animals or a freshwater well in an impoverished area. In this way, everyone gives what they can and is still part of something special.
If you have a large extended family — like I do, (there are about 40 us) — a name exchange is a great way to shorten the gift list.
If you feel comfortable with it, you can also make a charitable donation on behalf of family members. Imagine the simplicity: hop online, pick out of a gift, enter in your payment info, type in the name of the person you’re giving in honor of, and ta-da! Christmas shopping is done.
What if they don’t want to simplify the gift-giving?
If there are people in your life whose love language is gifts, suggesting that you not exchange gifts may make them feel unloved and rejected. Regardless of the frustration, please don’t allow the gift exchanges to drive a wedge between family members.
In my previous post, I asked you to write out a Christmas gift list. Pull that out for a moment and look at all the names on the list. Ask yourself if there are people on the list that you don’t want to buy for? Scale it back. There is no need to participate in every single gift exchange. If you have lost touch with a person and only ever exchange gifts, this is a good time to gracefully end the practice. Try something like this:
Hey, we’re changing the focus of our Christmas and I’m determined not to be out shopping during all my free time, as I have in the past. I would prefer not to exchange gifts this year. I would love to meet you for coffee instead and catch up. Can we schedule a time in January?
Most friends would welcome such a call.
One of the consumption standards we’ve internalized — thanks to very clever marketing — is “Christmas is about the gifts given.” This idea has permeated our lives to such a degree that no matter our financial situation, we still feel the need to perform to that standard.
And every over-the-top holiday is a non-stop advertising to our children that this is normal. This is how we shop, this is how we spend, this is how we consume. We’ve taught our children — at the marketers’ behest — that gross materialism is normal.
Much of the busyness of the season is the mad rush to buy, buy, buy! Sometimes we’re shopping months in advance as well as binge-shopping on Black Friday. And for what? In 15 frenzied minutes on Christmas morning, people rip open boxes and bags only to forget about it by the following day.
When did we start putting more effort into the buying and less into the actual giving?
Which brings us to an important “why” — why we have been compelled to accumulate in excess, and why we’re struggling so hard to declutter and simplify our lives.
And why we — you and I and people around the world — must tell a new story, a true story.
We simplify our lives so that we have time to devote to the things we value.
When we declutter and remove unnecessary things from our schedule, it frees up time. So essentially, we are giving up consumerism and materialism and replacing it with relationships and the time it takes to build those relationships.
We can change this story of materialism and consumption. It has to start somewhere. This year, it starts with you.
Know your “why.”
When you decide to cut back on gift giving, it’s important to know your “why.” Your “why” might be different from my “why.” And regardless of what the reason actually is, the “why” should be positive. That is how we are going to inspire others to change with us. I’ll give you some examples:
- Do you want to cut back on gifts because it has become a stressful chore? Then your “why” could be “I’m striving to make the holidays a joyous celebration.” In this case, you will focus on removing anything that prevents it from being a joyous celebration.
- Are you simplifying the holidays because you’re sick of consumerism? In this case, your “why” could be “I’m striving to bring the focus back to the important parts of the holidays.” And you will probably focus on homemade gifts or activity gifts, acts of service, and religious rituals.
- Do you see entitlement in your children? Do you want to change the focus from self to a focus on kindness toward others? Your “why” could be “I want to share my abundance with others and find contentment in what I have.” In this case, limiting material gifts, decluttering possessions, and engaging in service would be your focus.
- Do you want to make sure your Christmas celebrates the birth of the Savior? Then your “why” could be “Christmas is the time to celebrate the Lord and all He has given.” Shed the materialistic influences and instead focus on Advent and the story of Christ so that all your traditions, or most of them, are centered in Jesus.
When you talk with friends and family about simplifying Christmas, give them your “why.” If they bring it up again and again, gently remind them “why.”
You may not see a change from friends and extended family this year, but having the conversation is where change begins.