Christmas is next month! This year I decided to take a different approach to Christmas and the gifts we give or rather, we are not giving our children. If you have anxiety whenever you open the kids toy room afraid of the toy explosion that may be behind the door, you are not alone. I have had enough toys bombarding our already small apartment. Yes, every toy has a home, but those specific places are full and overflowing. No more toys! I find myself saying over and over during the day. Sometimes, I want to burn the house down (okay not really!) but I want to start over with just the necessities in our home… live like a minimalist! Is that even a possibility for a family?
What is the minimalist mentality? What does it mean? I went straight to google and was immediately met with lots of blogs and articles filled with information. After spending hours reading over lots of opinions and lifestyle choices, here’s what I learned:
- Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. (Source)
- Minimalism means owning less than 100 items and those items are a necessity.
- Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom. (Source)
Pros of living like a Minimalist:
- Eliminate discontent
- Reclaim time
- Live in the moment
- Pursue passions
- Discover a personal mission
- Experience real freedom
- Create more, consume less
- Focus on health
- Grow as individuals
- Contribute beyond ourselves
- Rid of excess stuff
- Discover purpose in life
Personally, I would like to live with less, but could not take it to the extreme of 100 items or less. So, what if I took a baby step toward minimalism? Could I start with a popular holiday that is over commercialized, leaves my bank account depleted and my house filled with waaay too much junk? Could I pull off a minimalist Christmas?
From what I’ve learned about minimalism, the key to living like a minimalist is to keep only the necessities. Translating this mentality over to Christmas gifts would mean- only giving my children the things they need. So, toothpaste, tooth brush, shampoo, conditioner, clothing- but these things I already provide for my children- would they enjoy unwrapping these items? Probably. But I’d rather spend my money on something they need but also something they’d want… I need to think about my focus of the holiday.
Where do I want my family’s gift-giving focus to be this Christmas? What do I want to give my children that is not needless junk, but means something instead? I have been thinking about this post a lot. I have lots of ideas on what or where to spend my money this year, but honestly, I’m scared to take the leap into a minimalist Christmas! I’m worried about my children having expectations of Christmas (from previous years) and being disappointed with this years change.
- (Clarification: My kids are not spoiled brats. My kids would seriously be happy with a big cardboard box and a packet of markers. They do not have high expectations of Christmas and gifts. However, going from one Christmas of a pile of presents vs another year of just five presents… it would be a hard adjustment for any child. And yes, I know some children only get five presents for Christmas…but can we get back to the problem at hand?)
How do I find the balance of a minimalist Christmas for my children in America?
1.) Service. Last year our family had the unique opportunity to participate in a secret Santa for a family in need. Although our funds were tight (it is Christmas after all) I learned a valuable lesson.
- The money I spent on another family did not take away from my children in anyway. In fact, I took my children shopping and they got to think of someone else’s Christmas list and choose special items for them. Later, my kids were so excited to deliver these items. By sharing my Christmas present budget last year this gave me the opportunity to focus on the items I purchased for my kids.
2.) Identify the Focus. If my focus this year is to avoid junk/needless items gifted at Christmas- what should I spend my money on? My wheels have been turning for months and I have thought about the new year and what I would like to do and accomplish with my family. After lots of thinking and discussing ideas with my husband, the conclusion we have come to for Christmas gifts this year is to provide fun family experiences and create life-long memories with our kids.
- Recently, I saw a friend declare birthday presents insignificant. Instead, she took the money she would have spent on parties, cakes and presents and spent it on family outings and experiences. The response from her children and the adventures they go on for their birthday is fantastic! What if I duplicated this birthday theory for Christmas presents instead? What adventures does my family enjoy taking? And then, how could I wrap those adventures and leave them under the tree?
3.) Finding Balance. As a child, one of the best parts about the month of December was slowly seeing presents appear under the tree. My sisters and I would take turns shaking the packages and try to figure out what package belonged to who and what was inside. I know my children feel the same way about December. How could a minimalist Christmas still stimulate the excitement and anticipation of present opening while staying true to my focus?
- Solution… what if I wrapped gift cards with items that belong to my kids? Example: my kids love when our family goes bowling as a family so what if the present included a gift card for bowling and a pair of new socks for all members of the family. Another example could be giving a desired movie and a cozy big blanket to replace an old blanket. I would be combining the necessity of something the family needs while fulfilling the experience or fun category as well. AND there is still a present under the tree waiting to be unwrapped.
4.) Communication. I am a firm believer in talking things through with my kids. Not full-disclosure all the time, but sharing with my kids how Christmas would be different this year will be helpful and could hopefully avoid discouragement.
- So, one night my husband and I sat my kids down and said they can write their list to Santa and we will see what he brings them. (In our home Santa fills stockings and brings our kids one-two presents.) And then the rest of the presents under the tree from mom and dad would be presents for the whole family to enjoy. The reaction from our kids was a sense of panic, again not fully understanding the change we would be attempting this year. Overall, I believe as long as there are presents under the tree to open the kids won’t notice a difference. My pocket book, however will see a difference- which is another wonderful benefit of the minimalist Christmas.
This is the first year we will attempt the Minimalist Christmas theory. I’m hoping through effort and perhaps even some failure we will have success balancing our needs vs wants around Christmas. I want my children to focus on making life-long memories that are worth more than the items that are long-forgotten on the toy shelf.
Has anyone tried a Minimalist Christmas? What did you do? Share your tips and feelings below!