I want to preference this by saying that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with gift-giving. In fact, gift giving is one of my top two love languages, along with acts of service! I love to give and receive gifts, and I think skipping gifts altogether by choice is a bit Scrooge-y.
But one thing I don’t like is waste. I don’t like consumerism. I don’t like the constant push to have more and the constant flow of junk from factory to store to home to landfill. I am as guilty as anyone of falling into the trap of impulse buys and the power of suggestion. I have my own fair share of stuff, much of which I am slowly going through and sending off to charity. I’m doing my best to minimize my impact as a consumer. I want to create less waste, use less plastic, and have fewer possessions so that I can have more life. Of course I still have a couple of items on my Christmas list, but for the most part they are items that will be used by me for a long time.
I’ve been thinking about the various ways to minimize consumerism and still give and receive gifts as we get closer to Christmas, so I wanted to share a few idea with you to help you ditch the commercialism and still have a holly jolly holiday.
1. Emphasize quality over quantity.
Christmas should never be about the number of gifts under the tree in the first place. So instead of trying to fill up space with tons of boxes and bags, focus on buying quality gifts that will last for a long time. This can include any number of things in nearly all categories, because the emphasis here is on the quality of the thing, not what the thing actually is.
Things to ask yourself to determine quality: Is it well made? Will it last a year or more (with the exception of children’s clothing)? Is it useful? Will it retain some value over time? Is it a fad? Are the materials it’s made from sustainable, biodegradable, or recyclable? An item doesn’t have to necessarily check all the boxes to be a quality gift, but it’s good to assess these things.
2. Avoid single-use items and plastic.
Some plastic is unavoidable, but I think we can all agree that we as a collective society use too much plastic. And that plastic ends up in landfills at best or in our rivers and oceans at worst. It’s damaging to our environment, it’s not sustainable, and it’s not as high quality as other materials like wood, metal, or glass. When you can, swap out plastic items for better materials like wood, hemp, bamboo, wool or cotton (instead of synthetic), glass, metal (stainless steel, cast iron, copper), etc.
And it goes without saying that we shouldn’t be giving each other single-use items as gifts nor should we give gifts that encourage single use. Swap that Keurig for a French Press (the coffee will taste better, anyway!). Trade those store-bought bath bombs and toiletries for homemade or small businesses that package without plastic. Reusable, renewable, and long-lasting is the aim here.
3. Go thrifting!
There is no shame in my thrift game. First of all, it generally will save you money to buy used items rather than new (with the exception of high-quality antiques, but even then, see point number one!). Thrifiting also gives second life to something that’s already been used once. Just because an item is no longer useful to its original owner doesn’t mean it’s lost its value. Think about how many things you’ve bought and discarded that were still perfectly fine!
Another thing I personally love about thrifting is finding unique things that you don’t see every day in everyone’s home. Call it an ego trip if you want to, but I like to have a few oddities that I know not many other people have. No luck in your local thrift shops? Check out online sources like Etsy for a broader shopping experience. (Etsy is a great place to find one of a kind and unique items made by individuals, too!)
4. Give handmade gifts.
Handmade gifts can be especially meaningful when they’re made with the recipient in mind. There can be a stereotype that something handmade is a “cheap” or “shoddy” gift, but that is totally off base. The materials to create a handmade gift often cost just as much (or more) than buying the item outright, and if you put in the time and care the quality can be even better than mass-produced products.
Giving a handmade gift eliminates necessary plastic packaging that gets tossed in the trash. It also gives you complete control over your materials and their sources. Crochet or knit with cotton or wool, make handmade jewelry from natural stones and metal, or bake something delicious.
5. Give experiences instead of possessions.
Can we agree that we all have too much stuff? Sure, we have things we need and want, but most of us are doing pretty well. So what do you get for that person who has everything they need? If you’re scratching your head, why not consider giving them an experience instead of an inanimate object? This could be anything the person is into or anything they’ve wanted to try. Concerts, events, classes, road trips, a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant — the possibilities are endless. An added benefit is that you can participate in their gift with them, depending upon your relationship with the person. You can learn to kayak with your best friend, take a cooking class with your mom, or take your dad to his favorite steak house. They’ll get to spend quality time with you in addition to the activity!
Bonus tip — watch out for that packaging. Use reusable shopping bags when you’re out on the town, avoid individually wrapped items, choose paper for wrapping instead of plastic bags, and stuff with paper or cardboard instead of bubble wrap if you’re shipping gifts.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Joyeux Noël, Mele Kalikimaka, Feliz Navidad, Happy New Year and