The gift of giving

December 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’ve been reading on many minimalist blogs about how we should all just stop giving gifts and we should tell everyone not to buy gifts for us.  Maybe I’m just not a minimalist person by nature (this is true), but I think the BEST part of the holidays is having the opportunity to give.  I get giddy when I send money to good causes (which I seem to do more of during this season).  My family loves to “adopt” a few kids to buy gifts for.

Some of our best life lessons have come from these opportunities.  One year when my oldest DD was small, I told her to pick a request from the “Santa Tree” (Charities bring them to our office with paper Santa “ornaments” that list a child’s name, age and gift request,) and she came home with a request from an 16-year-old boy who wanted socks.  I told her I thought that was a really boring one.  I said it would be so much more fun for us to shop for a little girl who wanted dolls.  She replied, “But, Mommy, it’s so sad that he’s asking for socks for Christmas.”  And that was it.  A HUGE life lesson for me about how a little gift can to make a big difference to someone else.

So we’re definitely going to keep on giving and enjoying the heck out of it.  We have changed what we give over the years so that our giving aligns with our values.  We try to give gifts along these guidelines:

  1. Experiences (memberships, concert tickets, conference registrations)
  2. Consumables (cash is always good as well as locally made food or personal care items)
  3. Hand-made gifts (either locally or by microbusinesses in emerging countries)
  4. Gifts made in the USA or made using sustainable manufacturing (ideally both!)
  5. Gifts purchased from a local small businesses

And we’re also reducing gifts when we can.  This year when a family member called to ask what we wanted for Christmas, we told her, “nothing,” that we already had more than we could ever hope to need and that we would love it if she would make a donation to a charity of her choice as our “gift.”  She sounded a bit skeptical and I felt bad — like I might be cheating her out of the joy of giving — but she called yesterday and told us that not only had she found some good charities (she’s retired and volunteers with several), but that the rest of the adults in our family had opted to do the same when she told them our request.

I’m pleased with this progress and feel like I’m enjoying the holidays even more this year!

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§ 2 Responses to The gift of giving

  • I love your list! I think it’s important for us not-quite-minimalists to give the anti-minimalists in our lives gift options that make everyone happy. Sometimes I feel like it’s almost counter-productive for us to say “oh, we don’t want anything!” because it can backfire.

    We tried that for our wedding (we suggested five charities that people could donate to instead.) But then a bunch of people decided they didn’t like that idea and gave us stuff. Junk, to be more specific! Junk that then took up more space than if I’d actually said, “get us some nice bottles of wine or something else we can eat!”

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