This post is part of Minimalist Holidays, a series inspired by the idea that you can enjoy the holidays more when you do less.
A version of this list appeared on Parent Hacks a while back, but upon re-reading it, I realized it was a perfect candidate for a refresher.
It’s Cyber Monday — the National Day of Online Buying — so it’s a good opportunity to knock off a chunk of your holiday shopping. But before the frenzy of deals and time-limited offers gets the better of you, why not shorten your gift list?
Holiday shopping can be delightful, especially early in the season. But soon enough, crowds, traffic, time and budget limits (not to mention the increasingly frenetic noise of the advertising machine) ratchet up the stress until the whole process feels like a burden.
Let’s take back the joy of giving presents! Let’s leave behind the feelings of obligation and desperation and replace them with the genuine joy of the holidays!
Mind you, when I encourage you to give fewer gifts, I’m not suggesting you tamp down your generosity; I’m just inviting you to consider if tangible gifts are the best way to express it.
If you’re not sure how to begin culling your gift list, ask yourself these questions:
Might some of your giftees feel awkward if they don’t have a reciprocal gift for you? Spare them the discomfort, and let a greeting or phone call be your moment of connection.
Does every service provider in your life need a gift? Perhaps a generous tip would be more helpful.
How about a handwritten, heartfelt card instead of a gift? Teachers, especially, appreciate this. I know I would.
How about a donation instead of a gift? Good for everyone who already has everything they need and may even be trying to declutter. Especially in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a donation is a good reminder that others are struggling with need. You even have an official opportunity: tomorrow is #GivingTuesday.
How about one special present instead of multiples? Those tantalizing pictures of glittering Christmas trees surrounded by perfectly wrapped boxes are so beautiful, aren’t they? But the reality often plays out differently. For kids, especially, the initial WOW of piles of presents can turn into overwhelm or lack of interest (and possibly, greed and entitlement).
It’s not Grinch-like to say that one or two gifts (or one plus a stocking) is plenty. Plus, the fun is in the anticipation and the opening! Extend that moment with music, fancy hot drinks, a fire in the fireplace, and focused attention on each unwrapping.
How about a small gift instead of a big one? Some people feel uncomfortable when presented with extravagant gifts. It’s fun to make a big splash every now and then, but usually, the most memorable gifts are small treasures that demonstrate how well you know someone.
How about an experiential gift? Membership to a local museum, theater or performance tickets, a massage, a night in a hotel? A massage? A week of home-cooked dinners?
Paring down your gift list will save you money and time, and will help you feel calmer during the holidays. But, most importantly, it will help you express your love and gratitude to friends and family in ways everyone will appreciate.
Christine Koh and I are the co-authors of Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More By Doing Less. We’re sharing ideas for simplifying the holidays so you can focus on what’s important: enjoying the season with your family.
Visit the Minimalist Holidays page for links to the entire series.