My husband and I don’t own a Christmas tree. We don’t attend a multitude of holiday parties. We don’t travel very far to be with family, especially since we live in the Midwest where the weather can be unpredictable. I even have a personal rule that I will not go to a shopping center between Thanksgiving and December 27th unless it’s before 3 pm during the weekdays.
At my house, we prefer to keep it really, really simple, not only during the winter holidays, but also during the entire year. For me, the months of December and January are more a time of reflection of the past year and planning for the next rather than what most think of as “celebrating”.
Several years ago, I started to mute the commercials during my TV shows and change the radio station if a commercial came on (this was pre audio and video streaming — wow, has that ever changed our lives!). It was incredibly interesting to observe how, as I continued this habit of disconnecting from the noise of aggressive marketing, the number and types of items I was bringing into my own home began to change.
When I moved in with my husband about five years ago, he was adamant that there would be no cable or other “live” television service hooked up to the house. Even though I only had basic cable (12 stations), I was still mildly resistant to giving it up completely. Looking back, I never missed it at all. And, since I’ve stopped listening to advertisements on television, my shopping habits have continued to evolve in a positive and more thoughtful way.
We spend a lot less money on stuff, too, which leaves us more money for the things we really enjoy, like a fancy meal out or going on a weekend trip to the city. This is another way we keep it simple for the holidays – we focus on the experiences rather than the stuff. Time spent together and with friends and family is what is most important to us. Other clutter-free gift ideas include certificates for favorite restaurants, vouchers for taxi rides, and other useful services the receiver will likely use, like a home cooked meal together or even offer to babysit so that the parents in your life can spend some quality time together. Do we cherish these memories or is it the stuff we purchase?
As you wrap up your holiday giving (just a few more days left!), consider being more mindful about what marketing you’re allowing into your life, and see if your perspective changes over the long term. Of course, you may have a different approach that works well for you and your family. But, if still have a few last minute gifts you need to get and you’re looking for ways to keep things simple, think about giving a clutter-free present that’s sure to bring lots of wonderful memories for years to come.
Not sure what to get? I have a few uncluttered gift ideas for Father’s Day (coming up on Sunday, June 17th, by the way), like hiring a chef to make a special meal, doing something fun outdoors, or even giving a year of oil changes. They seem more interesting, don’t they? …and will probably be very much appreciated. The best thing about these types of gifts is that they also work for just about any occasion AND they don’t pile up in the corner of the bedroom.
What’s the best uncluttered gift you’ve received?
Recently, I shared a few tips on how to control the clutter at this time of year with the readers of the blog, Simpler Living. I’ve listed two of those tips below and you can find all five here. Btw, you might remember that the author of Simpler Living, Naomi Seldin, wrote a guest post for OTR – From Cluttered to Organized. It’s a very motivating account of her journey to living well with less.
Holiday Clutter Survival Kit
Are your purchases sneaking up on you? Do you find yourself shoving them under beds and sofas? Check out these tips on how to get them under control.
#1 – Get on the List. Before you grab your purse or wallet and walk out the door, make a list of all the things you need to buy. This way, you’re focused on what you need and you’re less likely to bring home extras (you know, the stuff that you don’t need or have a place for).
#4 – Gather the Troops. When the wrapping and prepping is all over, you’ll need help to clean up and reclaim your space. It’s no fun doing this alone, so get some friends and family to join in.
Everyone has a wish list, right? Many days I am wishing for more sleep, and a clean house for more than 4 minutes, but there are certainly some tangible things on my list as well. This week’s “Jem” allows you to do just that ~ WISH! And share it with everyone!
The Things I Want is the prefect website for creating a wish list of any kind, for any reason, or quite frankly, no reason at all. It works in a similar way that a baby or bridal registry would, but the difference is, you are not restricted to one store, and it’s all conducted online. All you need to do is go to the site, The Things I Want, and download the application. Then you can add any item to your list, from any website. If it has a website, you can wish for it, and share it with anyone you choose. You can make your list private, even password protect it, or you can make it public for everyone to see. Hey, you never know if there’s a secret admirer out there that wants to give you little something special. You can also create multiple lists for multiple events, and sort them by date of occurance ~ how convenient!
Personally, I use it most for Christmas and birthday lists for my kids. How many times have family members asked what to get the kids? Not to sound ungrateful, but wouldn’t you much rather have something that will get used and not stay in a box or collect dust? If they ask, chances are they don’t have a clue and are looking for guidance, so why not make gift giving easy? Take the guess work out of shopping for gift givers, where they can even “reserve” the item anonymously. It’s a great site for bridal and baby registries too, and perfect for gift givers who shop online.
What’s on your Wish List? Check out The Things I Want and star wishing.
On my way home today, I listened to All Things Considered on NPR and heard about a story that had a direct connection to my recent blog post, The Gift Giving Conundrum. There seems to be a mystery gift giver who has caught the attention of some people in the gift giving business. In the “People and Places” segment, host Michelle Norris talked with Megan Spears, who’s with the Salvation Army in Lee County, Florida, about an anonymous gift they received.
It turns out that for three years running, a Liberty Eagle coin that’s worth about $1000 was left in a Lee County Salvation Army kettle. As in the previous years, it was accompanied by a note that said “In Memory of Mimi.” It was not signed and no one from the Salvation Army knows who’s behind the show of generosity. A random act of kindness. Giving without the expectation of anything in return. Not a novel idea but certainly a good one.
So, how do the folks at the Lee County Salvation Army feel about this? Here’s what Ms. Spears had to say:
“There’s such a good heart inside this person to continue to do something for so long and I don’t think there’s any more to say than thank you so very much, and just to tell them how appreciative we are…thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
So moved by the gesture was Ms. Spears that she offered up a gift of her own…a hug.
It’s the time of year when everyone’s getting ready to spend time with family and stocking up gifts. I’m all for spending time with loved ones, and who doesn’t like getting presents? Still, the gift giving tradition has me a bit conflicted for a couple reasons.
As an organizer, I see so many homes that are cluttered with lots of gifts that have been bought over the years that have yet to be given to the intended recipients. Some people get very stressed out and overspend on gifts/decorations, especially when they are hosting a holiday dinner. It’s curious that this happens only at select times of year.
Even more curious, why isn’t every day a celebration? Why isn’t “family time” all the time? Why not just give a gift for no reason at all? Personally, I’m just more apt to give a gift “just because,” and I’m not the only one who does this.
Did you know that there’s a group in Japan’s Shinjuku district, that gives free hugs as mini-gifts to people just to cheer them up? These random acts of kindness are done with no expectation for what they will get in return. How cool…and nice…is that?
It doesn’t cost to give hugs, so it’s easy, right? Well, some people give large amounts of money without being named. Here are a few…
Back in February 2008, someone anonymously gave $5 million to the Opera Santa Barbara. The donor will be identified only after his or her death. Here’s another…In 2007, the University of California at San Francisco received $150 million for cancer care and research. Still one more…back in 2001, someone gave $100 million to Johns Hopkins University to create a malaria institute. In fact, a recent article in the LA Times mentioned that anonymous donors in 2007 made 87 gifts that totaled almost $1.1 billion.
Ok, so maybe some of the folks giving away all that money might have one or two ulterior motives. Really though, the point I’m trying to make is that gift giving should be meaningful, not based on what will be gotten in return nor dictated by tradition. This may sound radical to some and you might really enjoy giving presents during the holidays.
So, perhaps you might reconsider the type of gifts that you buy. Check out Clutter Free Holiday Gift Giving That is Both Meaningful and Useful by fellow organizer, Scott Roewer. The title says it all. Also, take a peek at 2008 Gift Giving Guide: Gifts of Clutter on Unclutterer.com. It tells you exactly what to leave on the store shelf.
Happy shopping…or not.