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! 😉

Radical Simplicity

I’ve just finished reading Radical Simplicity: Creating an Authentic Life. My reason for reading it was simple- when searching my local library for minimalist reading material, this was the only book they had on the subject! I must admit that is a little disappointing because his isn’t quite the brand of minimalism I am aiming for. However, it was an uplifting read- he still had to get rid of a lot of belongings to live in a teepee, shed, hobbit hole etc!

I loved his explanations of simpler living, like having a fire for heat and not cooking so much. He was so much more in tune with nature than we are today, living in our hermetically sealed boxes. The most profound point I will take away from this book, is what he said about needing to work for something to appreciate it. His example is around obtaining water for his shower/ bath, needing to wait for it to heat- his shower was hard earned, long awaited and all the more sweet. In today’s world, everything is instant and someone or something else does the hard work for us. Therefore, we often don’t appreciate what we have. Ponder that thought for a while!

I was disappointed by the quality of the photos- seeing as he was once a photographer. They were all black and white- simplistic- yes, but not easy to see. I really wanted to witness more of the detail of his radical way of life.

I’ve got a few other books that I’d like to read, but they will currently have to re-side on my wish list. I refuse to buy more books, when I am trying to thin out my belongings and get rid of so many. It seems to defeat the point. Also, they are all relatively expensive and there doesn’t seem to be a second hand market for them here in the UK. This means it will be harder for me to re-coup their value if I decide I don’t wish to keep them forever and they are more expensive to buy in the first place.

I’ve been shipping out more stuff, mostly via eBay and it really is starting to feel like I’ve made a dent in my stuff! It has also occurred to me that my brand of minimalism is going to look somewhat more excessive than others. I can’t abide the thought of having bare surfaces all around. I need some well chosen objects to act as inspiration and give interest to my life.