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?

Cyber Monday Deals

Looking for the best deals on holiday shopping this Cyber Monday? Swagbucks is offering increased cash back from stores like Amazon, Argos, Marriott, or Thompson and get (Paypal) cash back or gift cards to your favourite stores! Swagbucks will also offer amazing one-day deals to try out new products and services, earning you even more free gift cards.  This page has everything you need to take advantage of some great “shopportunities” for Cyber Monday!

I must confess that I have purchased a photo book from Truprint over the weekend. It was something I was intending to do anyway, as a memento of my beautiful cat Willow. You can read more about her here. They are offering 50% off everything site wide with the code MEGASALE16. My top tip is to always read the small print when looking at cash back sites – some sites will not let you combine offers and some cash back sites state that if you use a code not posted or approved by them, you will invalidate your cash back. You want to get the best deal you can and not be disappointed if your cash back doesn’t show up. It’s also a good idea to always clear your cache, before clicking through. This ensures that the website can properly track your purchases and you have a higher chance of receiving your payout.

If you’re new here and you haven’t heard of them, Swagbucks.com is an easy, quick way to earn cash back and gift cards by shopping online or doing other everyday activities like taking surveys or watching videos. When you do those things, you earn points (called SB) that you redeem for PayPal cash or gift cards to places like Amazon, John Lewis, Argos, Starbucks, and more!  Just for signing up through me, you can earn a 300 SB bonus if you earn 300 SB before December 1st – if you spend at least £25 shopping through Swagbucks during that time, you’ll get another 200 SB bonus!  Take advantage of these great deals – sign up now.

Black Friday is finally here!

So, Black Friday is finally here and will put an end to all the hype. Did you make any purchases? I heard on the radio that most shoppers are choosing to make their purchases online this year, rather than in-store. I made none this year, I honestly couldn’t see a genuinely good deal out there for me and besides, there was nothing I needed to buy.

 

Quidco suffered a massive fail, as there site went down (presumably couldn’t cope with the volume of traffic! However, if you need to make a purchase then you may like to go through Swagbucks to get cashback. I can see that Holland and Barrett is offering 10% cashback today. And Thornton’s (which might be good for Christmas gifts) is offering 8% There are also some good deals with holiday sites like Thomson, if you fancy planning to get away from it all! Did you make any purchases? Why don’t you share some of the great deals you have found? Let me know.

Just for signing up through me, you can earn a 300 SB bonus if you earn 300 SB before December 1st – if you spend at least £25 shopping through Swagbucks during that time, you’ll get another 200 SB bonus!

Black Friday- Deals Week

You may sigh about Black Friday making its way across the pond. But if there is something you need to buy or perhaps you like an early start on Christmas gifts, it can actually offer a genuine opportunity to make some decent savings. I would absolutely prefer to do my shopping from the comfort of my sofa, rather than brave the craziness that goes down at the shops! I don’t shop Black Friday every year, but I may buy a few gifts this year. Aside from retailers slashing prices, you can make sure you get an even better deal by shopping from home. Always, always, ALWAYS click through a cashback site when shopping online – those extra pennies and pounds really do add up.

If you’re looking for the hottest cashback deals, especially with Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming up- you should take a look at Swagbucks. They are offering increased cash back from stores like Amazon, Argos, Boots, or Debenhams. You can turn this into cash back from Paypal or gift cards to your favourite stores!

Swagbucks will also offer amazing one-day deals to try out new products and services, earning you even more free gift cards. This page has everything you need to take advantage of some great “shopportunities” for Black Friday and Cyber Monday and the entire week leading up to them! The page will be updated each day with new deals and opportunities to get free gift cards. So remember to keep checking it!

If you still haven’t heard of them despite how much I rave about them – Swagbucks.com is an easy, quick way to earn cash back and gift cards by shopping online or doing other everyday activities like taking surveys or watching videos. When you do those things, you earn points (called SB) that you redeem for PayPal cash or gift cards to places like Amazon, John Lewis, Argos, Starbucks, and many more!

Just for signing up through me, you can earn a 300 SB bonus if you earn 300 SB before December 1st 2016. If you spend at least £25 shopping through Swagbucks during that time, you’ll get another 200 SB bonus! Why not take advantage of these great deals and sign up now?