I’m Dreaming of a Minimalist Christmas + 15 Posts to Read Instead of Shopping This Week

November 23, 2015

simple-christmas

I’ve been struggling to come up with a good idea for a post about how my thoughts on the holiday season have changed since I’ve embraced minimalism. Last year, my entire family adopted the idea of a “Minimalist Christmas” where we could only ask for a few things we really needed and couldn’t ask for more than $100 worth of stuff in total. I’m pleased to say it was a success, and we ended up having one of our best Christmases ever – all because it wasn’t centred around gifts.

This year, I imagine our Christmas will look fairly similar, but there are only 32 days to go and we’ve barely talked about what our plans are yet. For years, one of my holiday rituals was to finish all of my Christmas shopping before December 1st. I would start bugging my family for a list of what they wanted in October, compare sales prices, buy everything and usually even have it wrapped by the end of November. Now? I doubt I’ll have even started shopping by then…

I don’t know why but the holidays just aren’t really on my radar yet. I didn’t even start thinking about them until I did 24 back-to-back interviews with CBC Radio stations across the country last week, talking about both the shopping ban and ways we can all rethink our holiday gift giving strategies. As I’ve mentioned before, the shopping ban was never meant to affect other people. I still buy gifts for family and friends year-round. However, the types of things I buy has changed.

For example, I used to try to spend the same amount of money on my brother and sister (or at least get them the same number of gifts), so neither of them would feel like I’d favoured the other. I’ve been doing this since they were kids and had no concept of how much things cost. Why!? It just made me feel better, for some reason – even if it meant I was adding random $5 or $10 things to their gift, to somehow “complete it”, all of which I’m sure has since been tossed.

Fortunately, those days are long gone. Now, I prefer to buy one of two things: something that will be useful or an experience. I don’t care if I’m just fulfilling one of their “wants”, versus a need, per se… so long as they actually use it, it makes no difference to me! I just don’t want to give something that would be added to anyone’s pile of clutter. I know how much guilt I felt while holding onto so many things I never used, and I don’t want to burden anyone with gifts that could do the same.

So, that’s how I’m approaching the holidays again this year. It’s not about the number of gifts or how much each one costs. I simply want to give a few useful gifts to a handful of the people I love. Tack on the handwritten cards I love to send out, and I think I can do the whole thing for around $400.

As for what I’m asking Santa for? Honestly, I have no idea. You’d think that with the shopping ban being in place for a second year, I’d have a list of stuff I want… but I don’t. Actually, I only wanted one thing: a new duvet. When I told my mom that, she offered me one she’d used for just a few months and didn’t love but couldn’t return. So, I donated my old one and took hers. Done and done. And now what was once a useless object to someone else has become useful for me. :)

I’m sure I could come up with a list of books I want to read, or ask for a puzzle or subscription or something like that… but at the end of the day, it’s all just stuff. Instead, I’d prefer if people donated money to one of my favourite charities, so the money can help someone who really needs it. Two long-time favourites that I give to monthly are the Victoria BC SPCA and the Love of Reading Foundation. I’m also looking at the UNHCR and their work with Syrian refugees, as well as The Hope Effect.

Would it be weird if I didn’t open any gifts on Christmas Day? Maybe. But all I really want this year is for my family to maintain some of our traditions, spend time together and be happy. It’s been a big year for us, filled with lots of change – not all of it good. I just want us to be together and be happy. <3

I’m sure it’s obvious, with the title of this post, that there’s another reason I’m sharing all of this with you. As Jay informed us last week, the “shopping holidays” have arrived… and the big ones start on Friday. Or, should I say, they start as early as Thursday afternoon, which is Thanksgiving for my friends south of the border. I don’t even want to acknowledge Black Friday; the whole premise of it, and the crazy things it makes people do, makes me feel a bit sick.

What I do want to acknowledge is some of the fantastic ideas and posts my friends and favourite bloggers have shared on the topics of Black Friday, gift giving and how to simplify the holidays. Rather than go shopping this week, I hope you’ll check some out and find inspiration for how you can change your strategies this year. As Robin said, “the words that should describe the holidays, such as peace, joy, family, family and giving, often become replaced with stress, anxiety, debt and wants.”

Let’s change that.

Black Friday

Happy Thanksgiving! And Buy Nothing Day and Month – Mr. Money Mustache
Holiday Shopping: We Can Do Better
– Becoming Minimalist
Let’s Talk About Black Friday – The Minimalists
November is the New December – Raptitude
The Black Friday Experience – Break the Twitch
BONUS: #StayInTheBlackFriday – Payoff (Campaign)

Christmas Gifts

Christmas with the Minimalists – Rowdy Kittens
How to Save $2,000 This Holiday and Make Everyone Love You Forever – Far Beyond the Stars
The Case Against Buying Christmas Gifts – Zen Habits
The Other List – IKEA (Video)
What to Get Everyone for Christmas – Raptitude
BONUS: Gift Guilt and Holiday Conundrums – The Slow Home Podcast

The Holiday Season

5 Questions to Simplify Your Life During the Holidays – Zen Habits
7 Ways to Simplify Your Holidays – Embracing Simple
30 Simple Ways to Take Care of Yourself Over the Holidays – Be More With Less
Free Ways to Have a More Meaningful Christmas – Blonde on a Budget
Keeping Your Main Thing the Main Thing During the Holidays – Becoming Minimalist

How are you approaching gift giving this year?

65 Comments

  • Reply Bri November 23, 2015 at 4:06 am

    Love this! I made a donation in the name of all my family members and friends to Raw Hope, an NGO who works with Syrian refugees and children on behalf of my family this year, plus sponsored a child in another vulnerable community inside of spending that money on small gifts and baking supplies :)

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 23, 2015 at 7:43 am

      That’s wonderful, Bri! Did you sponsor a child through Raw Hope as well, or another organization?

  • Reply Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor November 23, 2015 at 4:33 am

    I love this! Just posted today on why “The Best Black Friday Deal is Freedom.” Not sure how America got from “freedom and opportunity” to crazy shopping day, but I’d rather have financial freedom than anything I’ve seen advertised for Black Friday.

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 23, 2015 at 7:49 am

      I’m with you, Kalie!

  • Reply Christina @ Embracing Simple November 23, 2015 at 5:20 am

    Thank you so much for including my post in this Cait! :)

    Slowing down and really savoring the holidays is so near and dear to my heart, and I loved seeing this awesome roundup of ways to simplify Christmas this year.

    Although I love giving Christmas gifts, I’ve definitely pared down the amount of gift exchanges we participate in. It’s made the holidays so much less stressful for me and allows me to truly enjoy this time of year instead of feeling anxiety and dread. Instead of exchanging gifts with most of my friends now, we typically opt for a nice meal together instead. Quality time spent with loved ones is the greatest gift of all!!

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 23, 2015 at 7:53 am

      Of course, Christina! I saw you tweet it, loved it and knew I had to include it. I don’t exchange gifts with any friends, except for one: and it’s typically just a candle and/or some socks (inside joke but we buy good pairs that last!). I do like to give a few gifts to my immediate family members, but don’t need anything in return. Like you said, quality time is the best gift of all. :)

      • Reply Christina @ Embracing Simple November 23, 2015 at 6:58 pm

        I completely agree Cait! I much prefer to give gifts than receive them any day :) And candles + socks are my FAVORITE gifts to receive. My Mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year and socks were literally at the top of my list, LOL! A nice quality pair of socks is so awesome to receive! Or maybe that’s how you know we’re getting old ;)

  • Reply Rob November 23, 2015 at 5:22 am

    “How are you approaching gift giving this year?”

    The gift of self, Cait. Last year I helped paint the inside of our church. This year, starting this week, I and a friend are painting the inside of a house that will be made available for a refugee family to live in over the next year until they can get established here in Toronto. Listened to your CBC interview – well done friend!

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 23, 2015 at 8:07 am

      Rob – thank you for doing this. I knew you were a selfless person… but I’m a bit speechless, right now. You are making a huge difference, in more ways than one.

  • Reply Kate @ Cashville Skyline November 23, 2015 at 6:01 am

    My family’s adopting our very first gift-free Christmas. My father was a little hesitant at first because it’s our first year without my grandmother. And watching her open her stocking was an annual tradition. But we realized we’re all entering different financial phases of our lives – my father just retired, my sister’s going back to school, etc. And we’re just grateful for the opportunity to spend some time together. Instead of opening presents, I think my sister will cook us a really tasty breakfast :)

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 23, 2015 at 8:08 am

      Mmm, well I like the sounds of that, Kate! I think I’ll do the same for everyone. My dad will be at sea, so we won’t be able to see him… all the more reason to try to keep our other traditions alive. <3

  • Reply MrRicket November 23, 2015 at 6:18 am

    I totally agree with you. Thanks for your article. This Christmas, my dearest and I will spend a day baking mince pies and other goodies and those will be our presents to our friends and family!

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 23, 2015 at 8:08 am

      That sounds lovely! :)

  • Reply Kathy November 23, 2015 at 6:30 am

    I’ve been on a shopping ban since we moved into senior housing. Downsized everything. Gave most of our stuff away including furniture. Moved to apartment with one dresser, bed, love seat, two cups, six glasses, only two colors of towels (my husband used to buy towels like a crazy person….suffice it to say my 3 grown kids inherited a lifetime supply ) two frying pans three pots two small sheet pans a 1 medium Dutch oven (gave large one to daughter, consequently had to buy one for the other) one set of plates and bowls. 2 sheet sets. 2 blankets
    I bought a bistro table for two….glass top on kijiji. I gave our ironing board away to daughter so one day my husband started ironing on top of the glass top table with just a towel on the glass and started shooting steam and yes …shattered the glass
    Who irons anymore?…my husband is the last person on earth obviously
    Anyway didn’t replace it…just dragged the TV trays that we gave away back…from the daughters basement.
    Haven’t really bought anything since March 2014.
    It’s so liberating. I visit my mother and sister (that both live alone in 3 bdrm houses) I get overwhelmed being in their homes with all their stuff.
    I buy food and gas and that’s about it. Clothes must be on sale with the $.50 rule. And that’s usually at Costco winners or superstore. And if something new comes in. Something old must go.I refuse to buy books or mags…it’s the library for me. I copy recipes into binders (I’m a foodie) or online recipe holding sites. I’ve been known to snap a pic of a recipe with my phone if I’m stuck in a lineup at the market. Or a particularly interesting craft projects I even take a pic of several pages of directions.
    I’ve only bought 3 wants ….a new sewing machine, a new fancy nikon, and a new laptop.
    I’ve been a mad quilter for 20-30 yrs, but haven’t bought any fabric for years. Just used the huge supply I accumulated. And purchase craft stuff from thrift stores and garage sales. that I do with my gkids. I repurchase stuff. It’s amazing all the crap out there.
    This is getting to long…
    I have a longstanding rule for my gkids….”baba doesn’t buy toys…and baba doesn’t buy crap from China unless it’s used” and they know better than to ask.
    One gson birthday coming up he’s 7…he’s getting guitar lessons, and the family already has 2 guitars. For Xmas all 6 gkids get socks and underwear only. My grown kids and spounces have got nothing for Xmas or birthdays since they were 20.
    They get my time instead. I’m the emerg daycare and primary babysitter I will give my time no questions asked. Anytime …and have a small apartment full of gkids sleeping on foldout cots on weekends….it’s been wall to wall gkids under 8 yrs old several times when more than one of them have had conflicting plans. And there’s another one due in June.

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 23, 2015 at 8:12 am

      Sounds like you have all your priorities set, Kathy – and your time IS the most valuable thing your kids and family members could get from you! My grandma took care of us after school for many years, so I can certainly understand and appreciate all the love/effort that goes into that. The visual of your apartment full of kids was wonderful; jam-packed full of love. :)

  • Reply JoAnn November 23, 2015 at 6:50 am

    Our Christmas has a very different feel this year. My kids are officially old enough to no longer believe in Santa, so that changes the dynamic immensely. They don’t want toys and hardly need clothes. My son wants a camera, which is on sale at a nice discount. My daughter wants a North Face jacket, which typically don’t go on sale, but I was able to find 25% off. I bought it big so it will last her, and her old puffer coat is going for donation. They are each getting a fan for their rooms, and my daughter wants a waffle iron, things that they will use for years to come. I am proud of them for wanting practical useful items. Sure they want iPhones, but they understand that they cost more than we can afford. All items will be paid for in cash, with money I made throughout the year during surveys and rebates, so our budget doesn’t suffer. Even my dad is asking for a food processor, and we will share it as needed.

    HOWEVER, I must contend with the rest of the family. My husband wants a million presents under the tree, even if they are $5 crap. My mother-in-law is clueless, (even with a detailed list of what to buy and not to buy) and most of her gifts to us end up donated in six months. Every year we make a pact with my sister-in-law to not exchange gifts, but yet she buys us stuff anyway, mostly just to show us up and make things awkward. And they place no value on homemade/handmade items.

    I have been telling them about my efforts to purge the household, the peace I find in opening a cupboard and seeing empty space, how I have been reusing, repurposing and donating. And I’m willing to bet that it has fallen on deaf ears. But, I won’t let all of their nonsense get me down. Christmas is still beautiful to me, even if it has changed.

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 23, 2015 at 8:40 am

      “Christmas is still beautiful to me, even if it has changed.” I couldn’t agree more with this, JoAnn. Sometimes, I’m amazed how early all the good feelings that come with the holidays kicks in for me. Just talking about it with you all this morning has filled me with… how would you describe it? It’s almost like butterflies in your stomach. I love the magic of all the lights, love and good cheer. Presents don’t cause that. :)

    • Reply Shari November 23, 2015 at 8:55 am

      My sister and I decided that we didn’t want to buy or receive presents about 10 years ago (in our early 20s). My grandmother was like your mother-in-law, she would buy us useless crap and alot of it. For the first couple of years, we couldn’t get her to stop. Finally, we told her that we didn’t even open them. Just took them to charities. She got the point eventually.

  • Reply Tonya@Budget and the Beach November 23, 2015 at 6:58 am

    The only gift giving I do (I send my parents cards or homemade things) is helping with an adopt a family program and donating a gift to toys for tots. I haven’t opened anything on Christmas day for years!

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 23, 2015 at 8:41 am

      Just another reason you are so awesome. :)

  • Reply Stephanie November 23, 2015 at 7:37 am

    Is there a Canadian equivalent of Black Friday after your Thanksgiving? Or is that just a strictly ridiculous American thing?

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 23, 2015 at 7:42 am

      We have Boxing Day on December 26th, so the day after Christmas, but the sales aren’t quite as “good” as what you can get on Black Friday. (And who needs to buy more things AFTER Christmas!?) I avoid that one, too!

    • Reply EJT November 30, 2015 at 11:21 pm

      Unfortunately Black Friday has made it’s way to the UK, even though we don’t have thanksgiving. In previous years it’s been crazy but I think this year it’s calmed down. A lot of boycotters and not as well attended and even some stores decided not to do it this year. Hideous idea!

  • Reply Annie November 23, 2015 at 7:43 am

    I’ve been feeling this way for the past few years. I’m trying to keep my life and home simple and clutter free. So this year I told my husband I wanted my gift this year to be a Letter from Santa. Each year the United States Postal Service receives thousands of letters to Santa from kids who will likely receive nothing at Christmas, not even necessities like warm coats or winter boots. You can go to a participating post office and choose up to ten letters to fulfill. You shop, wrap, and the pay the shipping. The Post Office does the rest. When the program starts we will pick out two letters and fulfill them as best we can. I know we won’t be able to see their faces on Christmas morning as they open their gifts, but we will still feel a sense of joy and warmth in our hearts.

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 23, 2015 at 8:56 am

      How wonderful, Annie. I often purchase 1-2 gifts through our local Santa’s Anonymous, which gives gifts to kids whose families can’t afford them. You’re right: you won’t be able to see their faces, but the feeling of being able to provide someone else with a Christmas miracle will stay with you. :)

  • Reply Cat@BudgetBlonde November 23, 2015 at 8:02 am

    We’re planning to keep Christmas pretty small again this year. The kids just don’t need a lot of stuff, so we’ll probably stick to the 4 gift rule again this year: Something they want, Something they need, Something to wear, Something to read.

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 23, 2015 at 8:57 am

      Yes, I’ve read about that idea before and think it’s a great option for people with kids! Four gifts, cover all the bases, done and done. :)

  • Reply Maggie @ Northern Expenditure November 23, 2015 at 8:24 am

    This year, I’m declaring Black Friday our “‘Enough’ is a Feast” day. I love that Buddhist proverb. “Enough” is a feast.

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 23, 2015 at 8:59 am

      I’ve never heard that before, Maggie… it nearly stopped me dead in my writing tracks! You should write a post about it :)

  • Reply Danielle D'Ornellas November 23, 2015 at 10:09 am

    I’ve been fairly lucky as an adult for Christmas because my family isn’t very gift-y anyway, even when I was growing up. On my mother’s side, there aren’t really any kids at our family gatherings, and with so many family members on limited incomes and disability, I started a White Elephant swap with my family so we could have a fun way to each leave with a cute gift, and remove the stress of gift giving. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_elephant_gift_exchange) It was hard the first year but now it’s been WILDLY SUCCESSFUL. I couldn’t stop my grandmother from still giving us socks, chocolates and soap, but I could at least stop my aunts and uncles from feeling obligated to give grown-ass adults in their twenties and thirties, unnecessary and unneeded gifts.

    (Also, thank you for the shout out to UNHCR, I work with them at work and they do amazing work. Literally they are screening hundreds of people a day right now to help people get to North America and Europe and they deserve every penny.)

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 24, 2015 at 9:41 pm

      A white elephant gift exchange would be fun! So long as the gifts are actually useful. ;) I’ve participated in ones at old offices where they were all c.r.a.p. haha.
      Thank YOU for telling us you work with UNHCR! I will definitely be giving to them this year.

  • Reply Sarah Noelle @ The Yachtless November 23, 2015 at 10:12 am

    I seem to have the opposite situation as most people, as my family has very little interest in celebrating any December holidays and so none of us really exchange gifts. However, I do just want to say that donating money to an organization that is helping Syrian refugees sounds like a fantastic idea, both in general, and this week in particular. Thanks for the idea. :)

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 24, 2015 at 9:42 pm

      You’re most welcome! I don’t know what organizations you have down there, but am sure the UN, Red Cross, etc. are all doing something!

  • Reply Tawcan November 23, 2015 at 10:28 am

    Just because there are sales it doesn’t mean that you have to go out and spend all your money. It’s totally OK to keep your money and invest for the future. It’s too bad too many people don’t get that. Instead they focus on “oh boy, I save $500 on this brand new TV, it’s a crazy deal!” yet these people don’t realize that they already have a TV or they don’t need a new TV.

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 24, 2015 at 9:45 pm

      Yep, I couldn’t agree more. I understand where it comes from, and why people are persuaded… advertisers have been in this game for a long time! I think it takes a true sense of gratitude for everything you already have to get past the feelings of needing more.

  • Reply Alyssa @ Generation YRA November 23, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Ah, I love all of this – & you successfully managed to plant ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas’ on repeat in my head lol! Saving money has allowed me to release myself from the scarcity mindset – especially during the holiday season. During this time, instead of stressing on buying gifts I try to find even (more) ways to give because I have the financial freedom to. I know some of my actions may be small, but if I can find a way to alleviate stress for others I try to do so! Hopefully enough combined actions of help from all creates one bigger movement. :) On Friday my fiancé & I bought hot coffee & hot chocolate for some street performers downtown to stay warm, yesterday I jumped on CharityWatch.org to find one of the most beneficial places I can donate my money to for the Syrian Refugee Crisis. A couple years back, all of this money would have gone towards gifts. Now, it’s given to others in need because our families have transitioned into only doing a 1 present gift exchange. Even though I feel a heavy heart for people who are struggling during this time, I feel light hearted to help in any way that I can try. Thank you for this post, Cait. <3

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 24, 2015 at 9:47 pm

      Haha, glad I could help put a song in your head! You’ve done it to me many times before. ;) (Also, can you explain the 1 present gift exchange? Does each person get just 1 present, like Secret Santa?)

      • Reply Alyssa @ Generation YRA November 25, 2015 at 10:54 am

        Yes, exactly! Just like Secret Santa. :) Now, there’s apps/platforms online that help you to keep it even more secret. This year we used Elfster.com – where each person that is participating logs in, and the app randomly selects your Secret Santa and emails you who your assigned person is. You then add items to your “wish list” (whether it’s through their prearranged set of items, or links from online sites) – that way you don’t have to awkwardly ask others/or make a shot in the dark of what your Secret Santa would like.

  • Reply Kathryn November 23, 2015 at 11:44 am

    Our family has shifted in recent years to buying mainly for the kids rather than the adults and while our extended family hasn’t embraced minimalism, my husband and I have radically changed how we give gifts to our kids. My nephews will get gift cards for the movies and we will take them along with our kids. They all have more than enough Lego:) My husband and I don’t give each other Christmas gifts, rather we try to get out for a nice dinner together sans children. Our kids are getting used ski equipment, our first time buying second hand gifts rather than brand new.

    Overall, we are trying to focus on people rather than stuff, less on the dollar value of each gift and more on the value it will bring to the recipient.

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 24, 2015 at 9:49 pm

      Second hand! That’s a great idea, Kathryn – especially for something like ski equipment, which doesn’t stay pristine for long. Sounds like you’ve set some good intentions for this year!

  • Reply Laura J. Tong November 23, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    I love the Christmas spirit you’ve captured in this Cait. A simple holiday built on sharing love above gifts. We’re looking forward to opening one present each on December 25th surrounding by everyone we care about.

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 24, 2015 at 9:50 pm

      That sounds lovely, Laura! :)

  • Reply Rusty November 23, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    Good stuff Cait I used to think I was the only one… Now I don’t feel so weird about not wanting to spend or to be spent on. One Christmas when one of the family was out of work we agreed no expensive gifts – anything handmade or charity shop purchase only. I got half a dozen savoury pies from my mother to put in the freezer – I was working full time with two school age children – it was my best ever Christmas present! Every time I put one in the oven I’d be reminded of her thoughtfulness. I gave my brother a hand made recipe book, with arty pictures of food I’d taken and photoshopped myself , I am not sure who enjoyed that present more, him or me.

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 24, 2015 at 9:51 pm

      Haha! Those are great stories, Rusty – especially the latter and you loving the recipe book. Did you print a copy for yourself!? Homemade food from mom sounds like a great gift to get any time of year. :)

  • Reply Our Next Life November 23, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    I’m super excited that our whole family has agreed to do fewer gifts generally, and to do gifts of experience via the So Kind Registry for the few gifts we do exchange. But NO STUFF. If we can get no dumb stocking stuffers from the in-laws, I’ll be super happy — that’s the final frontier. :-)

    Thanks for the great reading list! Hope you’re doing well, Cait!

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 24, 2015 at 9:52 pm

      Hahaha… stocking stuffers can be the worst. Fortunately, for years, all we’ve put in ours is bath products (razors, soap, etc.) and chocolate. In case Santa is reading, I’ll still take some of that! ;)

  • Reply Jaymee @ $mart Woman November 23, 2015 at 6:47 pm

    Hey Cait, I enjoyed reading this post! I’ve been having similar thoughts as you about Christmas, really pondering about what I want it to mean to me and my family as the years go by. This Christmas, I’ve decided to just ask my family members what they want/need because I definitely want to cut down on things we don’t really need. And we’ve come to a point where we are redefining what Christmas means to us… now that all 3 “kids” in my family are over 20 years old :P

    Thanks for sharing this! :D Looking forward to going through those posts you shared as well!

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 24, 2015 at 9:54 pm

      Yea, the fact that we are all ages 20-30 now makes the whole gift-giving part feel a bit silly now, eh? We all have money and can buy what we want when we want it! What more is there to give!? I hope you have a wonderful (and more minimal) Christmas this year, Jaymee :)

  • Reply Serenity Bohon November 24, 2015 at 7:01 am

    I found your post through bloglovin. Thanks so much for writing it and for sharing so many great tips about how to be minimalist over the holidays. I feel sad every year that Christmas seems to demand over-spending. I am always looking for ways to make it (and the rest of life) filled with less stuff but more meaning.

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 24, 2015 at 9:55 pm

      I hope you’re able to pull some inspiration from the posts I’ve shared, Serenity! I know I’m taking a few ideas away from them. :)

  • Reply Margaret November 24, 2015 at 7:17 am

    I just discovered your blog and I loved this post! My husband and I have always had a minimalist approach to Christmas (we exchange one gift each, and if we take a trip, that’s our present to each other). If we can, we like to go away for Christmas, even if it’s just a weekend trip to the mountains. Now that we have children, they each get one present. We often don’t even buy these gifts! Many hotels give small presents to your children if you stay over Christmas, and if kids have more than one present, I find that they enjoy them less, because they get overwhelmed (and that’s not just true of kids, but adults, too!).

    When I was growing up, Christmas presents were a huge deal, and I hated watching my parents go into debt each year so they could have a lavish Christmas. To this day, Christmas excess bothers me. I always send cards to my family, and financial gifts to those in need – but that’s it. I wondered initially if my kids would care about not getting lots of presents, but they just enjoy spending time together as a family. And thankfully, my husband and I both feel the same way – it would be hard if one of us wanted to open tons of gifts on Christmas morning!

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 24, 2015 at 9:56 pm

      It sounds like you’ve set great examples for your kids right from the start, Margaret! Now think about this: imagine how minimal their Christmases will be with *their* kids, because you’ve shown them more “stuff” doesn’t make things better. That’s pretty cool. :)

  • Reply Shelly November 24, 2015 at 8:10 am

    I started to comment on here yesterday and it was turning into the length of a blog post so I deleted it. LOL. Christmas to me has always been presents under the tree, whether they are $5 or $500. It’s the excitement on Christmas Eve and leaving milk and cookies for Santa. Still to this day I can’t sleep on Christmas Eve!! My 14 year old daughter doesn’t write a letter to Santa anymore, but she still won’t admit she doesn’t believe, lol. My 10(11 in a couple of months) year old daughter I think is on her last year of believing. :( It makes me realize that they are growing up and that’s a bit sad. Ok, its a lot sad.

    Christmas is also about family and friends. We don’t spend a lot. Mostly on the kids. We have three sets(couples with kids) of friends who we exchange gifts with and only spend about $10-$15 on the kids and $10 on the couples. Our families aren’t big spenders either. My mother-in-law gives us money to buy gifts because its to much stress for her to try and figure out what to get everyone. She gives my husband and I $50 each and the kids $25 each. I already have a set of books for my youngest from her that I know she will love.

    My husband’s winter shift at work is one week on and one week off. Last year he was working Christmas Day but because the weather was good, he was there for present opening and dinner later that day. This year he is off the few days surrounding Christmas, so I know there will be a lot of visiting of friends and family. He lost his twin brother to cancer 11 years ago, and with the losses since then, family is more important than anything. All the presents in the world can’t replace family and friends.

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 24, 2015 at 10:03 pm

      I can’t remember how old my brother and sister were when they stopped believing in Santa… I was 8, and I figured it out in the weirdest way. One day, in the middle of the summer, I noticed a piece of paper that had my mom’s writing on it. I don’t really remember this part, but I guess I went up to her and said something along the lines of, “you have the same writing as Santa” – and that was that, lol. I had some cool memories from when I did believe in him, though. Like the year we had a huge 4-point buck in our snowy backyard on Christmas Eve! “I’d better go to bed or Santa’s not going to come inside!” :)

      • Reply Shelly November 25, 2015 at 5:19 am

        You had your very own reindeer one Christmas! That must have been an awesome sight to see!

        Haha, yes, you have to be very careful that your writing doesn’t match Santa’s! My daughter is already very suspicious. She asked me a couple of days ago if Santa was real. I work for Canada Post so I get to reply to my own kids Santa letters! I usually use all capital letters, or write really fast. LOL I am expecting a shipment of 30 letters to reply to. Can’t wait to answer them all!

  • Reply Linda Sand November 24, 2015 at 4:37 pm

    When our families decided we were done with gift exchanges I took the money we would have spent and shopped for Toys for Tots. One year I bought lots of small Lego sets. One year I bought basketballs and diaries for the older kids. One year I bought books–Harry Potter and Junie B were big that year. It’s more fun to give to those who wouldn’t otherwise get.

    • Reply Cait Flanders November 24, 2015 at 10:04 pm

      I love that you focus on giving to kids, Linda. It’s so nice for them to be able to open at least one gift. <3

  • Reply Louise Rayner November 25, 2015 at 8:49 am

    I too haven’t thought of Christmas yet. Since my birthday is at the beginning of December, I don’t start till after this. For my birthday my husband has bought me (ok I bought it, but it’s from him) an original drawing of two of the orphans I fell in love with when I visited Kenya in 2014. The drawing was done for a calendar that has been prepared with proceeds to the orphanage. The cost of the drawing will also be donated to the orphanage. It’s a win-win for me, a lovely reminder of my time with the kids, plus more funds to support them. Honestly, don’t need another thing in December.

  • Reply Ulrika November 25, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    Hi,
    I just started reading about minimalism and come acros this post. I started to think why I get so stressed when Christmas approaches. Thinking what that holidat means to me and why I celebrate it. Asked my kids what they think of and gifts are of course what they want. But I loved the IKEA link and it made me tearful. Having made Christmas cookies with my son today I realize that time spent with my children is worth much more than any bought gift, despite what they think. Thanks for your thougts and love from Sweden.

  • Reply michelle November 28, 2015 at 1:26 am

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this too. All year long I’ve been spending much less and sort of reached this minimalist peaceful harmony and the holidays feel like a big jolt to all of it. We must remind ourselves to not get swayed by black friday too much. Thanks for your post.

  • Reply Stephanie L November 28, 2015 at 7:43 am

    Nieces and nephews get something personal for their birthdays. For Christmas, they each get a bookstore gift card. They love picking out their own books (even the kindergartener), and my husband and I are so happy to encourage their love of reading.

    My parents and in-laws get food from us – box of citrus, box of steaks, whatever. The in-laws because they love it, and my parents because I think finances are tighter than they’re letting on.

    As for me and the hubs, we haven’t decided. We may decide to take a little trip as our gift to each other.

  • Reply Kristen November 29, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Because we ended up discussing it too late, this is the last year my sister, her husband, my husband and me are exchanging gifts. We are going to do experiences together going forward. Everyone will pay their own share of the experience. I will still get my niece (and next Christmas other niece or nephew) something and my sister will still give me holiday pictures of the kid(s), but no gifts. I hope to plan the same with other people. We have a generous family who always gives us money. The last 2 years we have really needed furniture, so it has helped. This year we want a camera and will save the rest of a kayak (as we live on a lake). They are wants, but things we will enjoy. Enjoy your quiet Christmas.

  • Reply Amanda November 30, 2015 at 4:48 am

    I needed this. Over dinner, I brought up the concept of a “gift free Xmas” and it was shot down completely. The men in my family like to shop! But maybe if I frame it as a minimalist Xmas, I might get more leverage. I just don’t want to buy-in. Black Friday makes me sick, too. I told my students before break, “Be safe on Black Friday.” Like it’s a dangerous time to be out in the world! (Since it kind of is.) Anyway, I will be moving away from purchasing gifts of “stuff” and working more toward gifts that really make someone’s life better.

  • Reply Lissette Rijna December 15, 2015 at 9:17 am

    Your stories are like I told you my story and you wrote it down…… Happy to read them cuz it make me realize a lot of my own struggles.
    Thank you

  • Reply Audrey Wanders December 22, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    Great minds think alike! My family and friends are used to getting quirky “gifts” from me for Christmas or birthdays. For the past several years, I have either 1) donated to a charity the person would support or 2) taken them on some kind of adventure. In the process, I’ve discovered Little Kids Rock, an organization that donates musical instruments to school districts with limited funds. I took my friend to a lavender farm to pick lavender for the few weeks they were open to the public for the summer… The list goes on.

    I’m a fan of creating memories or putting good back into the world rather than spending it on physical things that have little value.

    Cheers to a minimalist Christmas, Cait!

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