How I Avoid Getting More “Stuff” During the Holidays

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How I Avoid Getting More Stuff During the Holidays

For me, the Holiday season always makes me worry about the amount of unnecessary stuff I’m going to acquire. Clutter has never been good for my mental health and Holiday consumption is a minimalist’s worst nightmare. As a society, it’s out of control. Holidays sales for 2017 are projected to be around $1 trillion!

My feelings are always so conflicting. Shouldn’t I feel grateful and happy that I received something from someone? Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond thankful for people’s generosity I would just prefer a plate of cookies or just time together as a gift.

I think more people are at this point with holiday gift giving and receiving. But maybe the problem is, we’re just not all on the same page. We all just assume that we need to buy all these things because we see it in commercials, on movies, on TV shows. You know, the picture-perfect holiday. Gifts stacked to the ceiling and everybody holding hands while singing Christmas carols in their matching sweaters. We are letting marketing shape our ideas of what the perfect holiday is. It’s ingenious and sad at the same time. Marketing is VERY powerful.

News flash. What you see on TV isn’t the “perfect” holiday. That’s only what corporations want you to think because how on earth are they supposed to hit their Q4 sales goals if we don’t go out and spend hundreds of dollars on gifts?

When I started my zero waste journey, I knew Christmas was going to be a challenge. And it was the first year. Changing something like how to exchange presents during the holidays isn’t the easiest thing to do when your family has done things the same way for decades.

To bring the idea of not giving gifts to the table was blasphemy. They all thought I was insane.

This advice isn’t going to solve your stuff getting dilemma immediately but it will plant the seeds necessary to start the transformation.

Announce Your Anti-Gift Request Early

Obviously, you will want to make it known to everyone around you that you do not want any gifts. That doesn’t always work so be prepared to give people a list of things you would love to receive like cookies, candy, experience gifts, etc. To most people, at least this is the case in my family, when you say you don’t want anything it just translates to, “You don’t have to get me anything” which means they still will. Giving someone “Nothing” literally does not compute. I’ve found that when I specifically say what we would like to get, it helps tremendously. For inspiration, check out my 101 zero waste gift ideas.

Talk About Your New Lifestyle A LOT

I mean all of the time. Constantly mentioning our consumption and waste issues will eventually convince those around you that buying so much might not be the best thing to do. I’m certain I talk about zero waste to my family and friends every time I see them. Most of the time, they are the ones who initiate the conversation. I’ve found that most people are genuinely interested in the concept and want to learn more about it – perhaps even jump on board.

Get Your Friends and Family Involved

Get them involved with your zero waste lifestyle. I constantly ask my mom and grandmother for blog quotes and advice. Making your friends and family feel like they are apart of this big picture will lessen your chances of getting “stuff” for the holidays because they won’t want things either.

Be Thankful for the Holiday Stuff

If you do get some extra things for the holidays just be thankful. This isn’t the time to refuse or hurt anyone’s feelings. We need more generosity and kindness in the world so don’t worry. There’s always next year. The seeds have been planted. It’s up to you to keep nurturing a different mindset.

If you don’t need the items you were gifted, simply return them for cash, regift, or even donate them to someone in need. Holiday consumption is a product of decades worth of successful marketing campaigns to convince us that the reason for the season is copious amounts of stuff. Don’t beat yourself up – changing this mindset is going to take a lot of work and a lot of time. With persistence, you will get there.

How do you avoid the “stuff” during the Holidays?

7 thoughts on “How I Avoid Getting More “Stuff” During the Holidays

  1. Iam a ZWN. We make each other vouchers, wash your car, do the dishes, foot massage, vacuum the house, and so on, give of yourself

  2. I did it! I posted on Facebook to my family and friends (and contacted a few of them) to let them know to “Please only gift me seeds, secondhand, local, donations, experiences, or myhanky packs!” It seems to be well-received, but I’ll probably repost a couple of times closer to gift-giving times. I liked your suggestion that it’s easier to recommend healthier gifts than to outlaw gift-giving. Thank you!

    That said, this past holiday was pretty great. My siblings and I did a secret Santa with a budget of $20-30! It made the holiday a lot more manageable. (There are four of us!) And we pulled together to get our parents a hotel stay near some beautiful trails for snowshoeing. I wonder what I’ll do for my friends next year? Maybe spa days or something!

    My aunt and uncle went gift-free a few years ago and I’ve been giving a donation on their behalf to different places every year. That feels really good.

  3. Hi Magean! I know this problem, because i have also my birthday in Christmas time, so i always get double presents from everyone but ! When I was living with my parents we had a “way ” to do with presents. There were 4 people coming to christmas dinner to our family (friends of my parents without childreen) for the last 25 years, every year, and we thought that this is unfair that they need to make us all presents only because they are coming for one dinner, so we had an idea that everyuone of us is making a present for only one Person. On 30 November, there is a St, Andreas day so we meet all together, everyone have written their own name on the card, we put all the cards into the jar and everyone took one card. After some years we also put an object that we would prefer to get up to some amount of money like up to 50 dollars. That is how everyone spend 50 dollars only for all the presents and got 50 dollars present back. Also when we were childreen we did not get extra present from our parents etc, we needed to play with the rules. TRy it out, I would like to do it with my parents family, but there like spending this tremendous amount of money for christmas wrrr.

    • Oh, that is so great! I love how your family came up with a solution to enjoy gift-giving more reasonably. I’m going to suggest something similar with my family. 🙂

  4. Hey there 🙂 my solution to reducing the gifts I give out is giving practical and useful “gift cards” for lessons and workshops I think the person would like or a self caring gift card such as massage or theme park! At the moment it may *look* small but the size of the present is much greater and better then any physical gift!

    On the other hand when it comes to receiving gifts, in addition to everything you have said above I make a list of the things I am in need and give the to list my closest friends and family so I actually end up receiving things I will use or consume.

    Happy holiday season!

  5. When my son wasn’t working or when he switched jobs to a lesser paying one, I would put a certificate for a couple of haircuts in a card. I think if you look good you feel better.

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