As a self confessed shopaholic, and also as someone who usually has a little too much month left at the end of their money, I know that the consumerism that seems to take over most of us at this time of year (or any time of year for me actually) needs to stop. I feel pulled towards simplistic and minimal spaces, yet my own is full of clutter and tat that I just can’t resist from the shops. I want Dilan to value things like spending time together and having new experiences over buying the latest toy from the shop, but I still feel compelled to have the latest things waiting for him under our tree. I want to stop contributing to the damage we are doing to the planet when we purchase products covered in unnecessary plastic, but I struggle to resist the thought of buying new stuff. It’s really hard, and for me pressure comes from both sides, so this year I’ll be aiming to find a healthy middle ground as we attempt to simplify our family Christmas for the first time.
This year, inspired by some of my favourite Instagram accounts I am attempting to strip back this Christmas in a number of ways. I want to reduce the amount of stuff we are buying, make sure what we are buying is ethical and as waste free as possible, and truly focus on everything that Christmas should really be about.
The Ethical Hierarchy of Gift Purchasing
There’s a brilliant infographic circling Facebook currently, showing ‘the ethical hierarchy of gift purchasing’ and I think that it’s message is really important. At the top of the hierarchy is giving memories and giving time – this includes gifts like event tickets or season tickets, or offering your time and your skills/services. Below that is upcycling and repurposing things that you already own, then buying second hand or making/baking your own gifts. These things actually require far more effort and more thought that selecting something new from the shelf, and to me that’s the sign of the perfect present.
The very last resort is to buy new, and this should be done as ethically as possible. Most of us will want to buy something new this Christmas and we don’t need to feel guilty about that, but we can choose where to spend our money carefully. By supporting ethical brands and businesses, shopping independent and locally this Christmas, we can make sure that the money we do spend as the most positive impact possible. The meme about people doing a happy dance every time you buy something from a small business is true, and if I am going to spend money on something brand new I’d rather the money went somewhere like that.
So that’s my aim for this Christmas – to buy, or to spend, as little as possible. To offer my time and to gift experiences as a priority, and when purchasing stuff to buy second hand wherever possible. I think that the benefits of doing this are going to be huge for us all, and hope that some of you reading this will have a go too.
Reasons to Simplify This Christmas
One of the most obvious reasons to consider simplifying this Christmas and focusing on pre loved or handmade gifts is to reduce the harm we are doing to our planet. Dil and I have been speaking a lot lately about reducing the amount of plastic we use, and working towards making changes to our daily habits so we can do this. It seems pretty counter productive then to go and buy plastic encased toys and wrap them in even more plastic ready for him to open on the big day. Buying from charity shops generally means items come packaging free, and even if it’s plastic toys you are buying – at least you’re saving them from heading to landfill. Handmade gifts, or offering experiences or your own time as gift instead has even more benefits for the environment, and actually offers so much more value to both the receiver and yourself.
Another obvious benefit of stripping back this December is to reduce the amount of money you’re spending on often unnecessary things. We all know people who save all year round, just to be able to afford to fill the space under the tree with piles of gifts. It’s never sat right with me, that we would scrimp all year round missing out on things we wanted to see or do, just to blow all those savings on one day. Whether saving money at Christmas eases the financial strain you usually feel at this time of year, or it means you can actually save a bit of extra money for a rainy day later on in the year – it’s win win.
Presence Over Presents
Shifting the focus from material gifts means you put the really important stuff into the spotlight. Spending time together; savouring moments, creating memories, enjoying each other without the noise of all the other stuff. When our children look back on Christmases gone by I’d like to think they will have fond memories of laughing together around the Christmas tree, watching a Christmas movie cuddled up in front of a fire or walking through the village looking at all the Christmas lights, rather than unwrapping the latest expensive toy on Christmas morning. All things that are free and simple but actually will hopefully end up meaning the most.
I believe that teaching Dil this now at a young age, and making these values part of our Christmas every year, will mean that he really understands the meaning of this season and possibly provide some kind of antidote to the consumer driven way we live today.
I think that truthfully it’s obvious that the stress and the pressure lots of us put on ourselves at this time of year isn’t beneficial, and the minute that we decide to simplify things some of that weight is lifted. Instead of beating myself up for not being able to afford to spend hundreds on Christmas presents this year I am recognising that there’s absolutely no need to do that even if I had the cash, and with a little extra thought and effort we can have the most incredible Christmas with much less stress. I feel better already by reducing my own expectations of myself, I’m spending more time thinking about each purchase, and I feel really good about the things I have bought because I know they will truly be loved.
As I said, it’s a middle ground that I’m going for this year. I know there will be things I’ll want to buy new, I know some of the things on Dil’s list will go against the tone I’m trying to set. I know that I can’t promise to be completely plastic free this Christmas, just like I can’t promise to always remember to not ask for a straw. I won’t promise that I’ll only buy Dil a set amount of presents, even though I know it wouldn’t take very much to bring him joy. But I can take some real steps to simplify the holidays this year. I can ensure that I am purchasing things responsibly, reducing waste where ever possible and, when buying new, supporting local and independent brands. I’m doing this because it makes sense for us – financially, from an environmental point of view, and for my own mental health.