Zero Waste Wreath

I fancied a wreath for Christmas this year, I’ve bought cheap (£6-7) before and they’ve fallen apart in about a week being outdoors as they are just glued onto polystyrene. I also wanted to avoid plastic, as much as possible aiming to be zero waste. I had half fancied making my own, but I’d left it a bit late this year. Plus, a wreath holder costs around £5, plus any other materials on top – even if I foraged the natural materials and raided my fabric scraps for ribbon, I would have wanted to buy cinnamon sticks and oranges. Cinnamon sticks are not cheap – around £1 for 3 or 4. This option was starting to look expensive.

I found this wreath going in Morrisons for £5 instead of £15- it was from their ‘The Best’ range. I think I bought it about 2 weeks before Christmas, so maybe that’s the time to look? It is comprised of natural foliage, with cinnamon sticks, pinecones, ribbon, raffia and yes, unfortunately just a few polystyrene and plastic adornments. However, it was the best option I could find. As you can see, it was all sitting on this wire frame which I plan to re-use year after year. It is painted green to blend in with the foliage.

In taking the wreath apart to compost the foliage, I was able to learn about its construction – vital as I will be making a homemade version each year from now onwards. It was actually comprised of very short sections of foliage, each clamped between the metal prongs that stick up. These are easily bent down with pliers. Then the decorations are wired and simply push into the foliage. I have carefully removed all of these and stored them in a cardboard box for next year. Rather than buying an expensive wreath hanger, we simply wrapped a long piece of twine through the wreath, over the door and tied it through the letterbox. It didn’t budge, even in strong winds!

So this is my top tip for next Christmas, or any other time of year you fancy putting up a wreath. Buy a good quality one, on sale and re-use the parts. Or maybe you can find the parts on sale? This frame could be re-used for any occasion – maybe I’ll try a Valentine’s wreath next?

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Fighting for a Simpler Christmas

Season’s Greetings to one and all! How has you Christmas been? I’ve come on here to air some of my frustrations about being a Minimalist at Christmas. I know you’ll understand.

We’ve been Minimalists for 4 years now and certainly our wider family and friends know about this by now. We are the butt of regular jokes about Minimalism which we try to take with good humour; since we also laugh at some of the lavish spending of our family and friends. However it really does start to grate with me now, 4 years on when we’ve specifically asked for people to respect our lifestyle and values at each seasonal celebration when we still get gifts we’d rather not be receiving. With the odd and rare exception, however thoughtful people think they are being, they are buying something that quite bluntly – we don’t want!

The fact is that we buy the chocolate we like to eat and don’t particularly enjoy the seasonal boxes of chocolates that people like to give. If we need biscuits, we go out and buy the ones that we love to eat. If we wanted seasonal fruits and nuts at Christmas, we would buy them. Inevitably also, all these things come wrapped in plastic which we try so hard to avoid with all our purchasing. We don’t want wasteful novelty gifts – no matter how much fun the giver thinks they will be – they will end up going to charity and I strongly suspect they have to bin them. We’d rather they weren’t created and resources weren’t needlessly wasted in the first place. Whatever hobby we have, we buy the tools that we have researched and would like to have, so it’s not helpful when people give us more. Do I sound ungrateful? Because I worry that’s how it comes across to family.

Sadly, they all seem to think we’re boring asking for gift cards  and ‘need’ something to open on Christmas Day (which we don’t and have tried with all our might to get this across). So every gift card seems to come attached to a box of chocolates, box of biscuits or other Christmas novelty – sigh. Actually the best gift we received this year was from a family friend, who via Unicef had donated a pair of warm, winter boots to a child abroad in need. Opening that card gave me a really warm feeling on Christmas Day which I didn’t get with any of my other gifts.

The trouble is that whether we don’t create a list and ask for nothing, or whether we create a very specific list – we still end up receiving gifts that we don’t want and then have to dispose of in a responsible manner. However for the largest part, our family did stick to either money or gift cards (although I worry  a little about the plastic waste those create, but surely a little plastic is better than whole items you don’t want or need?) A friend of ours (who is not a Minimalist) only ever asks for the essentials at Christmas, like socks and deodorants. That way he never has to worry about buying them for himself and gets to spend all his money on computing which is his first love. So perhaps I will start asking for bags of flour, oats, sugar and that kind of thing instead?! My family will probably then start to assume we are living in poverty but hey ho!

My husband and I have agreed that we need to try and find some alternative traditions to fill up Christmas Day with. We always enjoy a couple of good meals together, a short walk and usually a board game. Perhaps we just need to accept that that is special enough. Since most people do congregate under a loaded Christmas Tree and that is some sort of expectation around which the day centres. How do you deal with it, especially when celebrating with non-Minimalist family members? I promise I’m not Scrooge really, but still aligning my newer Minimalist values with older traditions. Any tried and trusted methods to get family to STOP buying you things you don’t want or need?

Bah humbug! 😉

False Advertising

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What’s with all the Christmas advertising this year regarding having your best Christmas ever?! It seems worse than usual to me, it’s the mainstay of several UK stores campaigns. Wilko’s tagline is “Bring home your best Christmas”. Asda’s tagline is “Christmas made better”. Swarovski are saying that you must ‘give brilliant’. Since when did stores get so arrogant? I’m all for retailers helping you to achieve ‘Christmas’, after all we all want to buy a little special food to celebrate the day. We may wish to buy a few gifts, or experiences. That’s what makes Christmas different from every other day of the year. But it’s this year I’ve really noticed them piling on the pressure for people to buy more and more. Maybe it’s just that I’ve got fresh eyes now I’m further down the road on my minimalist journey.

In fact the only retailer I’ve seen peddling a different message is Sainsbury’s, who are pioneering an advertising campaign centred on a harassed dad who’s trying to find his family ‘the greatest gifts’. It ends when he discovers the greatest gift he could give anyone is his time. It’s refreshingly different, even if I find the song that accompanies it rather irritating. At the end of the day, a huge part of Christmas is meeting up with people you love and sharing a meal. I think that is a truly great thing – sharing conversation, food, laughter, a few silly hats and a walk in the afternoon.

But, Christmas IS just another day – albeit a special day – but it doesn’t need to be perfect, you don’t need to keep ‘besting’ last year and no amount of stuff, including food is going to stop the odd family argument. After all, you’re probably going to be couped up with these people for a few days! So relax, enjoy it for what it is and take it as it comes. Happy Christmas Everyone!

Why You Don’t Need To Do Christmas Eve Boxes

I have probably been living in a hole, or maybe it’s just the fact that I don’t have kids. But I only heard about the trend for ‘Christmas Eve boxes’ this week. I thought maybe it was just a thing for celebrities, until I overheard a mum in the Post Office saying she had got the Christmas Eve presents sorted.

Now excuse me whilst I scoff, but I find this trend laughable. I think I would, even if I were not a Minimalist. Why on earth a child would need presents on Christmas Eve is beyond me; talk about taking away all the thunder from Santa Claus and Christmas Day! The excitement of Christmas Eve itself is enough – you can watch a Christmas movie on the TV for free, or watch a DVD that you already have or have borrowed. You do not need to BUY your child a new DVD each year! We have a tradition in our house – we watch The Snowman every year on Christmas Eve. It is usually on TV and my Grandma loved it so much (I do too). I also find it a lovely way to remember her each year. Or why not take some time to be reflective and go to a Christmas Eve service at a local church – there are many different styles of service.

Your child also does not need new PJs every year on Christmas Eve – the ones they have are probably just fine. They do not need a Christmas themed box which will either just get chucked or stuffed up in the loft. They are likely to get more items than they need on Christmas Day itself and why add to your own workload or increase your financial pressures, at this already stressful time of year? They most definitely will not be needing more sweets at this time of year and they certainly don’t need anymore toys or other useless stuff, like reindeer food. Santa Claus still appreciates a mince pie as much as ever and the reindeer love a carrot, I am reliably informed! 😉

I suggest taking some time out to spend with friends and family, perhaps quietly at home. Hanging out stockings is enough of a ritual at this time. If children are over-excited, perhaps giving them some colouring to do would be calming? There are lots of free printable available on the internet. If needed, you can look to other countries or cultures for inspiration. The Swedish for example always share a meal together as a family on Christmas Eve. The little girls dress up in traditional costume. You could allow your children to dress up, or just wear a Santa hat for the day. I’m sure there are lots of other lovely traditions out there, maybe you could incorporate something meaningful into your routine?

Swago: Unwrap Your SB Bonus

It’s time for you to unwrap your SB bonus this Christmas courtesy of Swagbucks.  This month’s Holiday themed Swago board offers a possible 200 SB Bonus!

What is SWAGO you ask? It’s a bingo-inspired promotion run by Swagbucks, a website that rewards you with points (called SB) for completing everyday online activities. When you complete a task, watch that square change colour like a twinkling Christmas light. You can then redeem those SB for free gift cards. If you’ve never used Swagbucks, participating in SWAGO is a great way to learn how to use the site, and it’s a lot of fun!

Here’s what you need to know to get your 200 SB Bonus:

  • Swago will begin on Monday 19th December at 4pm, make sure you hit “Join” otherwise you won’t get credit for completing the action items.
  • Each square on your Swago Board will contain an action item to complete. Once you complete the action item in a particular square the square will change colour signifying the action item is complete. You have a limited amount of time to mark off as many squares as possible so use your time wisely.
  • Be mindful of the patterns and their corresponding bonuses located on the right of your Swago Board. The patterns will vary in difficulty and bonus value.
  • Once you’ve achieved a pattern the corresponding “Submit” button will light up. You can have multiple patterns available for submission, however, you can only submit ONE pattern so choose wisely. The game ends on Boxing Day at 8pm. So make sure to hit “Submit” on the pattern you wish to submit. If you don’t hit “Submit” before the game ends you won’t receive your SB bonus.

Swagbucks Team Challenge: Dashing Through the Dough!

Who doesn’t love a friendly competition? Especially when the prize is points to redeem towards free gift cards!

Join the Dashing Through the Dough team challenge hosted by Swagbucks, a website where you can earn cash back on everyday tasks you do online. It starts on Monday 12th December at 4pm GMT and goes on until Friday 16th December, so you have a whole week to contribute points to your assigned team. It’s so much fun to see which team you are placed on, and discover all the ways you can earn SB while you contribute to your team’s goal!

There are so many ways to earn points for your team – watching videos, completing surveys, shopping online, to name but a few. These activities and more will help your team to get ahead. Not to mention, Swagbucks will help you to get ahead with your Christmas shopping. I just paid for all my Christmas gifts using the free gift cards  I have earnt in the past month or two.

If you’ve never used Swagbucks before, now is a great time to join, especially if you participate in the Team Challenge because it’s an opportunity to win an extra bonus for trying out the site. All members who participate and contribute at least 300 points to their team’s total will receive an SB bonus in the form of a rebate on their next gift card! I can’t wait to help my team come in 1st place for that 40 SB rebate. The challenge lasts until December 16th so log in or make a free account. Pre-registration is open now! Which team are you on? I’m in the Cupcake Clique!

Get 500 SB When You Sign Up For Swagbucks in December

Well here we are in December – can you believe it? Since this time of year in particular is a good one for having some extra money, Swagbucks is offering a 500 SB Bonus to people who sign up through me this month – it’s the biggest bonus they’ve ever offered!

I’m sure you know by now that Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for all sorts of things you’re probably already doing online, like shopping, discovering deals, taking surveys, watching videos, and more!

Then you can turn your gift cards in to PayPal cash or gift cards to places like Amazon, Starbucks, and more!  Here’s how you get your bonus:

1. Sign up using this link

2. Earn 300 SB total before 1 January. You’ll get a 300 SB bonus for it!

3. When you do your holiday shopping, spend at least £25 through Swagbucks Shop* and you’ll get another 200 SB bonus on top of the cashback you’ll get from shopping.

Here’s the best part – if you refer someone yourself and they do steps 2 & 3, you’ll earn the same bonuses they do, so it really adds up! That’s it. It’s super easy, and Swagbucks is for real. I use it myself, and I’ve earned over £1500 to date. Every year Swagbucks enables me to pay for Christmas without touching my savings. Wouldn’t that be better than copying the 1/3 of British people who will get into debt to pay for Christmas this year? A little bit of effort now, will save you having to make some difficult New Year’s resolutions.

*You must receive your shopping SB before 1 February