Finding freedom from all the stuff during the Christmas season seems impossible. Not only do we want to buy that perfect gift for each of our loved ones, but we also feel the pressure of creating a memorable experience. While there’s nothing wrong with either, we can do a disservice to ourselves and those around us if we focus on the material and ignore feelings of being overwhelmed or dissatisfied while trying to check off our holiday list.
If you need to find reprieve from the demands of consumerism before December 25th, then applying a minimalistic approach will allow you to be intentional about what you buy and how you invest your time this season. To start the process, here are five questions to ask yourself now that will positively impact not only your resources, but your well-being, too.
Who are you buying for and why?
Reexamine your gift-giving motives. If you’re on autopilot mode or simply purchasing for someone because that’s what you’ve always done, then pause. Don’t cut back out of stinginess, but do give yourself permission to reassess what you buy and why. This type of self-assessment will also allow for personal growth.
For example, if your gift giving is based on unhealthy feelings of guilt or inadequacey in a relationship, take action outside of the store as well. Or if you find that you’re continually stretching yourself financially, then perhaps you need to set up better boundaries. Explain to the recipients that you’re cutting back to stay within budget. Set a gift limit with your loved ones on how much you all will spend and then ask everyone to stick to that so no one goes beyond their monetary means.
Will this gift be used and is it sustainable?
Plan on more time for thoughtfulness. If you’re under a deadline and rushed, you’re primed to spend more than you normally would. Not only that, but anything bought in a hurry that may not be personal or well-thought out, could mean clutter for the recipient. Part of applying a minimalistic approach is to give fewer, more meaningful gifts that will last. There are even great finds at a thrift or antique store. This way, you’ll be repurposing one-of-a-kind items.
Those gifts don’t have to revolve around an object, either. Suggest an alternative route to gift giving, such as getting together at your favorite restaurant for a meal or getting tickets for a concert in the New Year. Or if you buy lots of small gifts for one family, consider doing one larger item instead. This could also free the other person or family from feeling like they have to buy for you just because you buy for them.
Are expectations being put above relationships?
Focus on relationships, not getting everything right. Christmas is a holiday where we get to enjoy time with family and friends. Maybe they’re only in town for a short while visiting, or this is the first vacation from work you all have had in a while together. Instead of being discontent because things aren’t perfect, focus on living in the moment with the people you love.
Remind yourself that just because great-aunt Susan insisted on four different types of pies growing up doesn’t mean you have to make all four to be a good host. Don’t allow the traditional expectations of the past to dictate your future. You can still create a special experience without all the “fixings” and getting everything just right.
Is kindness being practiced?
Give yourself and others an extra measure of grace this season. If you find yourself judging someone else who might not have put in as much effort or money as you think they should, then remind yourself why you even celebrate Christmas in the first place. It isn’t about the food or gifts.
Plus, by focusing on others you can find a new purpose you might not have discovered otherwise. Perhaps you’ve saved money by cutting back and can donate to a meaningful charity or nonprofit. Or instead of exchanging gifts with friends you all can meet to volunteer at a local food bank to give back. If your schedule is too busy during the holiday season, schedule a date later in the New Year.
Are there old gifts I no longer need or want?
Sometimes we hold on to gifts longer than we should because someone we love gave them to us, or we think perhaps they’ll come in handy later despite the ring of dust from never being used. Free yourself from the obsolete stuff. Besides, donating them to a local nonprofit or dropping them off at a thrift store gives someone else the opportunity to use or cherish them.
And if you want to exchange something, return it without guilt. Untie yourself from the “things” cluttering your home. This minimalistic mind-set will in turn give you beneficial habits and free you from all the stuff long after Christmas is over.
Katie Connors is a social media director and writer in Nashville, where she drinks a lot of coffee and gets overly excited by whatever book she's reading. You can follow her travel adventures and book reviews on Instagram @kickinkate.