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! 😉

Acknowledging & Accepting Change

For Christmas I received the book The Joy of Less. I’ve been wanting to read this for some time, but have been trying to work my way through the books I already have. But Christmas is a good excuse to be indulged, as our close family members always want to buy us something.

I was struck by these words in chapter 21.

“Our tastes change over the years, we grow tired of the music, movies and pastimes we once loved. Yet for some reason, we often hold onto these out-of-favour items- whether from guilt for the money spent, or with the hope that we’ll regain interest in them”.

These words really struck a chord with me. Early on in my purging of unwanted items, I let go of my collection of dance music CDs and vinyl. It felt really, REALLY tough because these signified my teenage years and music that I had absolutely LOVED. At that time, in those moments- I literally felt that music took me to another worldly place. I felt it completely expressed me, what I was feeling inside and who I wanted to be. Whilst I still love dance music, I just don’t listen to it as often and it really doesn’t provoke quite as strong a reaction in me. Maybe that’s because I’m older- I’m certainly not experience the tumultuous emotions of adolescence anymore (thank goodness!) , maybe I’ve found other ways to express myself, maybe I don’t need to express myself in my choice of music anymore- who knows?! But I experienced what Francine is talking about when I came to let go of those CDs and records.

I think a lot of it was tied up to the cost, each double album cost me £15-£20, with the vinyl singles between £5-£10 each originally and on eBay, I recouped only £1-5 for each. It was also that I felt that I was letting go of that part of my life, that I could never get back. But I had to admit, I hadn’t listened to most of these albums in years and that I wasn’t really going to either. The way we listen to music has also changed and now, these tracks- should I desire to hear them again are instantly accessible on-line and for free! So I let them go, to other appreciative homes and freed up shelves on my hifi unit. I’m experiencing similar feelings when I go through my books, DVDs/ videos or craft drawers.

However, I also have to admit that a lot of who I was- even as a young child, has not changed. I’ve loved roller skating, ice skating, sledging and skiing since I was 4 years old. My life became instantly more fulfilled and happier when I recommenced those activities. I’ve played the piano since I was 3- I can’t imagine my life without that. I’ve always enjoyed crafting, completing sequin art from the age of 7 and still taking as much enjoyment from it. From a similar age, I learnt to cross-stitch and do tapestry- I still do from time to time now.

The key here, is recognising in which areas of your life you have changed and need to move on, and in which you simply need to rediscover your true self. You will be so much happier for it! Here’s to a minimalist 2015- HAPPY NEW YEAR to all my readers!