I’ve never really thought of myself as a minimalist until I discovered the blog Becoming Minimalist. Every post just seemed to resonate with me: I’m the girl who won’t buy another bottle of shampoo until I use up the one I already have. If something in my house doesn’t have a purpose I’ll give it away. I even get a bit nervous when I have one too many unused apps on my iPhone.
I guess if we’re going to use labels I am a minimalist through and through.
The funny thing is, my greatest challenge is not living with a limited number of material items. It’s dealing with people who aren’t minimalists. And when the holidays roll around it’s hard to see eye to eye.
My mom is a woman who loves to make others happy, so when the chance to gift her loved ones comes up she’s all over it. She’ll come up with any excuse to give presents. I love her generosity but it bugs me that she’s wasting her hard-earned money to buy me things I don’t need or want. My parents aren’t well off by any means so I know they just don’t have money to throw around.
Preventing my family from needless gift giving
A couple of times I’ve told my family to not get me anything for Christmas and you could imagine the uproar that came from that. They feel like I’m trying to “save” them from spending or that I have gift recipient guilt.
So I tell them to get me something like a wool mittens or movie tickets (basically something under a modest budget) and they’ll add on other items because for some reason they didn’t feel getting me what I wanted was enough. Clearly the value of the gift here matters more than how much the gift would be valued by me.
Finally, the third and latest tactic I’ve tried – I told them to pool whatever money they were planning to spend and donate to a bigger cause known as my student debt. If there’s anything I want most in this world is to pay off my student loans and finally be debt-free. Then came the eye rolls. They thought I was a total prude and my sister suggested that I “live a little”.
Seriously, what does it take for a girl to get what she NEEDS for Christmas?
Finding a happy medium
I appreciate that my family enjoys giving gifts. I know that feeling; as a hostess when I have friends over, I love to cook for them and see them enjoy my food. It’s a great thing to know you can do something so small to make others happy.
We’ve settled on this: I would supply a wishlist of things that I want and they can’t include lame things like a can opener or flashlight. My family will then be able to gift me something and not on anything wasteful or unwanted.
It can be difficult for non-minimalists to understand my “less is more” motto. We live in a consuming society so it feels almost counter-intuitive to live with as little material items as possible.
Sometimes my minimalist ideals come off as self-righteous in that maybe the things I’m gifted don’t meet my standards. Obviously we need a certain level of material items to get by in today’s modern society and anytime I do need something I will usually go out and buy it. It’s not that I have high standards but I like to know everything in my home serves a purpose. Anything else is just clutter.
Give the gift of experiences
A gift can sometimes tap into a need I had no idea I had or make my life easier in some way. I usually have a good sense of what I need so when this happens it’s great! But if you ask any minimalist, the best gifts are experiences, not things.
Examples of experiences are:
- Tickets to a concert or event
- A creative outlet like a cooking or painting class
- An educational exhibit or lecture
- Going out for coffee so you can catch up and spend time together
- Foster an endangered animal under their name
- Homemade gift certificates for snow shoveling or your cooking services
Experiences are not wasteful. They don’t clutter your life but add to it, whether it be a positive or negative one. Most minimalists believe that experiences are what adds the most value to your life so this kind of gift is the most cherished of them all.
Do you have any minimalists in your life? What are you getting them for Christmas?