In keeping with our general theme of reducing the quantity of our belongings, Brian and I decided that we wanted to have a gift-free Christmas this year. After having packed up all our stuff and moved it twice in the past six months, we feel even more strongly about continuing our mission of the past five years to get rid of all our extraneous material belongings. Brian has been busy cleaning out and organizing since we arrived in Seattle; our goal is to reduce the amount of stuff we have by 50% between now and June. So far so good, but in order to accomplish this goal we also need to reduce the flow of stuff into our lives.
Since both of our families are making the trip out to Seattle to be with us this Christmas, we thought this would be a great opportunity to begin a new tradition of making the holidays about spending time together instead of about consumption. Since we’re all adults, we often buy the things we want for ourselves throughout the year anyway, which sometimes makes the holiday shop-a-thon more of a burden than a joyous occasion. I would rather buy gifts for people when I’m out and about and see things they’d like, and give them the gifts just because, than buy gifts at a certain time of year because society says I should. I really feel like the holiday season has become too commercial and I don’t want to feed the monster. Additionally, gift-giving and receiving has lost some of it’s charm as we’ve gotten older due to over-reliance on gift lists. While we often do surprise each other with creative gifts, a lot of the holiday shopping is based on lists that everyone makes of the things that they want. Sometimes, the gift exchange feels too much like just going through the motions and can lack the meaning and feeling that make giving and receiving special. Shopping from a list does ensure that I always give people things they want, but in many ways I miss the challenge of thinking of the perfect gift for each of my loved ones.
In November we proposed the idea of a gift-free Christmas to our families. Some of them were into the idea and we agreed to simply enjoy spending time together this holiday season rather than buying each other gifts. Some of them were not into the idea at all and we agreed to go ahead with the gift exchange with those family members. While we wanted to stick to our principles and go 100% gift-free, we felt like like we were ruining Christmas for some of our favorite people every time we asked to not receive gifts this year. Part of enjoying the holidays is spreading joy, and we didn’t want to take anyone’s joy away, so we’re doing a partially gift-free Christmas. I feel good about our decision. Finding a middle ground that works for everyone is better than getting my way at someone else’s expense. Besides, maybe next Christmas we can direct the gift-giving towards the baby instead! And please don’t remind me that Brian and I will still be responsible for dealing with all the baby’s stuff at the end of the day!