As a kid, when Santa came to my house I'm pretty sure he dropped off ALL the children's toys and games under our tree and then went home – NOT so minimalist Christmas.
I never minded, of course. A massive dump truck worth of wrapped presents brought so much joy on Christmas morning. But after tearing open the gifts, I would always feel a little empty, like all of the thrill and anticipation had left me with a lot of loot but not an equivalent amount of satisfaction.
Fast-forward a couple of decades when it came time for Santa to leave presents for my own kids. Naturally it seemed like excess was the only way. But then I remembered the post-Christmas-morning-blues, and I started to consider what it all means.
The whole point of Santa Claus is bringing magic, hope, and light to the darkest time of year
Did you know that the average American spent $271 per child last year on Christmas gifts alone? This is an average with many families spending much, much more. Now, I'm all for supporting the economy, but I don't think buying boat-loads of plastic toys from China are really going to help. And a bunch of holiday debt is certainly no way to start the new year with hope and optimism. So…
Here's my 3 step plan to an minimalist Christmas…
I promise that you won't turn green and grinchy if you follow along, but you just may find the simple joys of the holiday without all the clutter.
#1 – Give less presents
A new plan for us this year for the kids' presents, we will be instituting Santa's new 4-gift plan. Each child will receive:
Something they want
Something they need
Something to wear
Something to read
Though a minimalist at heart, this will be challenging for me since I've been particularly attached to the tower of gifts as a Christmas morning staple. I'm hoping this new tradition will begin to cultivate more appreciation for the individual presents (as well as save Santa a few bucks too!)
While we're on the topic of less presents, I highly suggest initiating a “Pollyanna” gift exchange (a.k.a. Secret Santa) in any group that gifts are typically exchanged – including office and big family get-togethers. If you're not familiar with this tradition, everyone pulls a name in advance (sometimes with a wish list) and a price range of gifts is set by the group. On the given day, each person receives one gift. Brilliant minimalism.
Finally, just because it's the season of giving does not mean that you need to give everyone you know a gift. Smiles, hugs, and time spent over a cup of tea are wonderful ways to share in the holiday spirit.
#2 – Don't go shopping
… Especially to the mall! This is a rule that I've followed for years now, and I find that it really takes the anxiety and pressure out of the gift giving experience. Rather than risking road rage in the mall parking lots, my family does most of our shopping online or in small local stores. For unavoidable commercial purchases you can't beat Amazon.com Prime and their free two day shipping with Amazon Prime.
For more unique gifts, I LOVE Etsy.com – where I have purchased everything from personalized napkin rings, iPad cases, and wall art to vintage table cloths, handmade dolls, and gorgeous Christmas ornaments. Can't decide? Get a a gift card!
If you've got the time and interest, you can always make your own presents – here's a great list of homemade holiday gift ideas to get your started – just make sure you don't take on more than you can handle, which definitely defeats the point of a minimalist Christmas.
#3 – Just say no
This may sound simple, but it's really the most challenging and most essential part of practicing a minimalist Christmas.
In order to do this right, first ask yourself – Is this thing/activity/obligation important to ME and my family?
If baking cookies seems like a holiday essential, but you dread the effort and mess… SKIP IT.
If you throw a big Christmas party every year and end up stressed and drained because of it… CANCEL IT THIS YEAR.
Guess what… You don't have to send Christmas cards. Really, this is true.
Instead, send out one short and sweet email to everyone on your list saying:
This year I've decided to dedicate as much time as possible to enjoying the holidays with my family.
So, don't be sad, but you won't be receiving my Christmas card this year to adorn your mantle. I still love/like/appreciate you just as much, and I hope your holiday is merry and bright!
Emily [<– your name here]
Whether you don't really want to trim your entire house in lights or you can't bear the thought of shlepping it through airports this holiday season, YOU HAVE A CHOICE!
For me, I love to geek-out on decorations, bake some cookies, visit Santa for pictures, and play just a touch of holiday tunes.
Figure out what will make your season warm and bright, and celebrate a minimalist Christmas this year. My guess – there's going to be a lot more jolly to show for it come Boxing Day.