Friday, January 22, 2016

Minimalist Christmas

Well there are two words that seem like they wouldn't be caught within ten paragraphs of each other...
Minimalist Christmas. 

It's true that they don't exactly go hand-in-hand. Christmas is one of the hardest times to be a minimalist, especially if you have children. People LOVE to buy your kids gifts whether its something they need or like or not. We once had someone give our child a gift and later ask, "So what does it do?" That's right. They had no idea what they had even given her. They just saw that it had princesses on it and bought it. Luckily it was actually a useful toy and has been well-loved ever since.  It's also hard to be a minimalist parent at Christmas time because you don't want to disappoint your own kids - on Christmas of all days. They see all the toys in the stores, the commercials on tv, the sale ads that arrive daily in the mail. Everyone everywhere is sending them the message that they should wake up on Christmas morning to a mountain of gifts. It's easy as a parent to fall into the same trap and feel like that is necessary for kids to have a fun or exciting Christmas. But I've found that it really, truly isn't.

{because seriously... who really buys a car for Christmas!?}

The hubby and I decided several years ago that we wanted our little princesses to grow up with a certain concept of Christmas, what we felt was the "right" concept. First and foremost for our family it's a celebration of the birth of Jesus, our savior. We spend all of Advent talking about how exciting it is that it's almost Jesus's birthday. But let's be honest, even if I was the most hardcore minimalist, I'd be giving my children presents on Christmas. So how do we avoid the "mountain of gifts" expectation? 
 - First, our kids are still young, so we've started by not presenting them with a mountain of gifts on Christmas. There's that. Instead of going on Amazon and picking up everything we think they'd like, or grabbing every hot deal on Black Friday, we carefully discuss (well in advance) the kinds of things each child could really use and a few items we know they'd really love to have. They thrill and excitement is there because of what we give them, quality over quantity. 
 - Second, we set a budget and stick to it. This is another key aspect of being a minimalist at Christmas time. It's very easy to get carried away and overspend. We don't have that kind of money, so it's really not a mistake we can afford. We have a savings account that we contribute to automatically all year long and that is the Christmas shopping budget when the season arrives. We decide what to spend per child and shop accordingly. I keep a spreadsheet that indicates budget, gifts, price, retailer, and method of payment for each gift I buy. I can easily see how much I've spent and what I've bought.
 - Third, we set clear expectations with others. Our parents and siblings know that we don't go overboard on gifts because it's not what we want our children to think Christmas is all about. When the Christmas shopping season approaches, we share ideas for things the kids could use as well as the things we have plenty of. 
 - Lastly, we donate things before and after Christmas. As the Christmas season approaches, we sort through our toys and books for things we don't use. There are always plenty that can be donated. The same goes for after Christmas. There is always something we were given that we don't need or that the kids won't use. We're happy to pass that along to someone else who would be delighted to have it. 

Every year I like to take a photo of our lit tree on Christmas eve with the presents around it. This year when I looked at Facebook I was briefly embarrassed by our photo. Others had posted their photos of more gifts than could be counted, piled high, nearly filling the room. To them, our photo would probably look rather pitiful. 

And then I felt extremely proud. I'm a minimalist, dammit. I LOVE that my children will wake to find half a dozen gifts for each of them to open and they will be over. the. moon. about it. They are positively delighted with their little piles of gifts because rather than the number of gifts, or the spectacle of a room piled high with presents, it's actually what's inside that counts. We have neither the space, nor the need for 50 new items in our play room. Instead, they got a few new things to play with, some books and some clothing. We did splurge and give them a playhouse for outside, but otherwise, what you see above was it. 

See, it is quite possible to be happy with less. In fact, I'd go so far as to say having less makes us even happier. One of the most valuable lessons I try to teach my children is that you don't need "stuff" to be happy or have fun. We have a few fun things, and we have each other, and we appreciate what we have. It's a simple kind of happy :)

Cheers!
Em

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