It’s that time of year again.
The Christmas catalogues are out in full force, the shops are decorated with tinsel and baubles.
Christmas carols are once again starting to infiltrate the musical repertoire of kids everywhere.
It's easy to be swept up in the magic of Christmas: the shiny decorations, the big presents and the endless food.
But there is a lot to be said for having a minimalist Christmas. And please, stay with me before you label me the Grinch!
3 Tips For A Minimalist Christmas
To embrace a minimalist Christmas, we must first know what minimalism is (and no, its not all about bare white walls and empty shelves).
There are many definitions, but I love this one from The Minimalists:
“Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.
“There are many flavours of minimalism: a 20-year-old single guy’s minimalist lifestyle looks different from a 45-year-old mother’s minimalist lifestyle.
Even though everyone embraces minimalism differently, each path leads to the same place: a life with more time, more money, and more freedom to live a more meaningful life”.
More Than We Could Possibly Need
Several years ago, my kids and others in our extended family sat amongst a sea of gifts and wrapping paper and to be honest – I felt quite sick at the sheer volume of ‘stuff’.
Although my husband and I had not bought too many gifts, by the time our children had visited grandparents, aunties and uncles, the presents were piling up.
I instantly thought about the children living in poverty all around the world. They would not be receiving any presents at all. And although we work hard for what we have and should be able to enjoy the benefits of that hard work, I couldn’t help but feel it was all a little unnecessary.
So how do we change it?
In the season of excess, it can be daunting to do the opposite and pare things back. Here are 3 tips to help you have a minimalist Christmas:
#1: Fewer Presents, More Presence
Have you ever given a little one a gift, only to find her more enamoured with the box or wrapping paper that it came in? Simple things delight children!
It seems every year toys are becoming more extravagant and more expensive, but children and the way they play haven’t really changed.
Do you know what my 7 year old asked for this year? A box of chalk for drawing outside on the concrete. It’s a simple gift, which will get a lot of use and costs very little!
Each year, we hear shocking statistics on how much Australians spend at Christmas, and on the inevitable credit card debt across the country.
But deciding on minimalist presents isn’t simply about reducing the cost of Christmas. It’s about being more mindful about the choices we make.
Some suggestions for minimalist Christmas gifts include:
- Vouchers for a day out (zoo, movies, theme park etc)
- A family holiday
- Baked goods in a re-usable jar or tin
- Lessons (art classes, piano, sport)
- A mini garden kit (seeds, pot and tools to plant a small herb garden).
You might even consider following the ‘4 things’ approach, and give your children:
- Something they want
- Something they need
- Something to wear
- Something to read.
If your kids have previously received a mountain of gifts, this approach might take a little getting used to. But, with some conversation and time, you will see the benefits.
Although we don’t strictly follow the ‘4 things’ approach, we are quite minimal at Christmas. We have also set limits with extended family, and we are really noticing the benefits.
#2: Fine Tune The Food
According to OzHarvest 30% of all food produced is wasted. To put a dollar figure on it, Australians lose about $3,800 each year due to food wastage. From an economic standpoint, and from the perspective of social wellbeing, something needs to change.
Christmas is typically a time when we gather with family and friends for meals. With Christmas parties, dinners and long lunches, the festive season can be a non-stop food fest. Many of us are guilty of going just a wee bit overboard.
This year, let’s stop and ask ourselves if we really need ham and prawns and turkey, seven types of salad and four different desserts. Rather than stuffing ourselves to the point where an afternoon nap underneath the Christmas tree is almost a necessity, let’s just enjoy a meal with friends and family. Let’s scale back the feast and reduce the waste!
#3: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
While we are on the topic of reducing waste, Christmas is a great time to remember the three R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle. Often we jump straight to the third R – recycle. But, if we start with the first two, there is less need for the third, and the impact on the environment is heavily reduced.
Some simple, sustainable ideas are:
- Gift wrapping – use fabric sacks for gifts and re-use them each year; wrap small gifts in newspaper and add a sprig of greenery for some colour.
- Make your own decorations – buy wool from an op-shop and make pom poms for your tree; paint some leaves or bark and hang them with string.
- Re-gift – yes, this is a controversial one. Many people don’t agree with re-gifting, but I would rather give a gift to someone who'll use it and appreciate it, than leave it sitting un-used in a drawer at my house for years. (Just keep tabs on who gave you the gift and who you re-gift it to!)
The Benefits Of A Minimalist Christmas
Now we know how to have a minimalist Christmas, but what are the benefits?
Benefits for parents:
- More money in your pocket
- Less ‘stuff’ to clean up
- Children who are more appreciative of what they have
Benefits for children:
- Time spent with loved ones. Child development experts tell us this is what children want most – our time
- They are less overwhelmed. Many children have so much to play with, but continue to say “I’m bored!” This is primarily due to being overwhelmed with choice. A few quality, open-ended toys reduce that feeling and increase creative play.
Benefits for the planet:
- Reduction of our footprint: less food waste, less plastic in landfill.
- More to go around: when we limit our spending on ourselves, sometimes we feel more able to give (time, money or gifts) to others, particularly those in need.
You don’t have to make huge or dramatic change this year, but there are small things that you can do. Choose one area where you would like to take a minimalist approach this year, and add another next year.
You might try the ‘4 things’ approach to gift buying, or decide not to buy commercially made wrapping paper or bags. One small change can have a huge impact – on your wallet, your wellbeing and the world.