‘Tis the season…? To steer clear of shopping malls. ‘Tis the season of giving… stuff away.
It’s nice to give gifts, but not so nice to shop for them in crowded malls. What’s more, I’m finding it ever more challenging to figure out what to give to family and friends who, like so many all over the world, already have so much. I don’t know what they would really want and they seem to have what they really need. I doubt I’ll find anything in a shop that will fulfill them.
I’m not talking 1-percenters here. This applies to all of us who have ever considered the need to de-clutter our homes. You don’t have to be rich to have a lot of stuff. In fact, having a lot of stuff is a bit like obesity. Ironically, it does not only afflict the wealthy.
So what kind of stuff to give to the overstuffed? That is an awful question to be asking yourself while circling a shopping centre’s parking lot in December. Or any time from when they start playing Christmas carols in November through January’s post-holiday sales.
The older I get, the more the concept of Less Is More makes sense to me. (The phrase from a Robert Browning poem was used by German-American architect Mies van der Rohe to describe minimalist design.) So here’s my Less Is More strategy for the holidays.
Holiday No-Gift Strategy:
1. Let your friends and family know that you do not need to be given any presents this holiday season. Make sure they take you seriously.
2. Launch your own seasonal mall boycott. Abandon any belief that you’re missing out on anything pleasurable. Just ask anyone returning from a recent shopping trip what it was like, from the search for parking to the queue to pay.
3. Do not allow yourself to experience FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Especially not about holiday sales. “Don’t get distracted by the razzle-dazzle of double-digit percent off,” warns an expert in The New York Times, in an article buried amidst the holiday sales ads. “Otherwise you’ll get lost in a sea of apparent discounts that are most likely not good things, or not good prices.”
4. Now you’re worried that following 1-3 above will make you look a bit Scroogey or Grinchy when a gift is expected. So figure out something to give that you don’t have to buy. You can make or bake something. You can write a letter and put it in a personalised card which you could even make yourself.
5. Still stumped about what to give? It’s okay to buy from a shop when your gift is consumeable. More becomes less once it’s eaten or drunk. You can also buy used things from a charity shop. This is a great idea because you’ll be supporting a good cause rather than a company. Or you could make a donation to a charity as a gift.
6. Another gifting strategy can be to give away something of your own. It should be something you believe will be appreciated, ideally an item in decent condition although there’s no need to hide its previously-owned status. If it causes a pang of regret for you to part with it, all the better. This shows you’re giving from the heart, not just recycling something you no longer need. (Although the latter is also acceptable.)
7. Yet another kind of gift can be an experience rather than a thing. You can offer to do something together with a friend or family member, a fun activity, taking someone somewhere. Or you can offer to do something for someone who can’t easily do it themselves.
8. Since it’s said to be better to give than to receive, please note that the minimalist holiday giving outlined above is no less satisfying than the conventional mall-bought kind. Subtracting something from your life and adding it someone else’s can certainly be fulfilling.
9. You can extend this kind of giving beyond friends and family and give some of your possessions to people who need them. To people you don’t know, AKA The Needy. This way you can do some de-cluttering at the same time. You can go through your own stuff and give away what’s in good condition, for someone else to use, while throwing away what’s not in good nick. All in one charitable, green swoop.
10. You could instead dream up your own approach to a Gift-Free Holiday. However you decide to implement your Less Is More plan, revisit 1. above. Re-think your reasoning for not buying presents so you can be ready to explain it and engage in discussion and debate about how best to give.
I’m keen to try a Less Is More approach not only during the festive season, but all year round.