A Clutter-Free Christmas

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“Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot.
But the Grinch who lived just north of Whoville did not!
The Grinch hated Christmas, the whole Christmas season.
Please don’t ask why, no one quite knows the reason.”

-Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Of all the characters in all the Christmas specials I watched every year as a child, I feel a certain kinship to the Grinch. Both of us desperately want to stop Christmas from coming. After celebrating Thanksgiving, I find myself wanting to second the Grinch’s lament, “must stop Christmas from coming!  But how?” 

Everyone suspected that the most likely reason the Grinch hated Christmas was that his heart was two sizes too small. Hopefully my reason is very different. While the Christmas season brings with it many wonderful things (lots of time with family and friends, special celebrations, delicious food, etc.), it also brings with it a slew of items to add to my already full To Do List (mailing out Christmas cards, shopping for gifts, baking, etc.). During the holidays, it can feel like we are taking on an extra (albeit unpaid) part-time job, a job that we might not have really wanted in the first place.

Purchasing Christmas gifts is the toughest part for me. I want to be sure that I am buying something the recipient will be able to use and enjoy. I try to get to know the person well enough that I can make an intelligent choice. I often ask for gift ideas to aid in my search. But sometimes, try as I might to find the perfect gift, I know that I might not be successful. I can’t stand the thought of my gift adding to the volume of clutter in a person’s home.

Let’s face it. Most Americans have far too much stuff. Our drawers, cabinets, closets, garages, attics, and storage units are likely bulging with the vast array of items we have accumulated over the years. At least some percentage are items we no longer need or want but for whatever reason, we haven’t yet gotten rid of. Then when the holidays roll around, we get more stuff! As a gift giver, we don’t want to add to someone else’s clutter. As a gift recipient, we don’t want to add to our own clutter.

So what’s the answer? Is there hope? I believe I have some ideas that will help. This blog post focuses on our role as a gift giver, and offers 3 solutions for how to avoid adding to someone else’s clutter at Christmas. My next blog post will focus on our role as a recipient of gifts, and will offer solutions for how to avoid adding to your own clutter at Christmas.

How can we ensure that our gifts don’t end up as clutter? I have 3 suggestions that might help:

  1. Value experiences over things. The vast majority of gifts will soon be forgotten, but the memory of a special experience might last much longer. Try giving a ticket to a concert, play, movie, or other performance that your friend might enjoy. Better yet, let them share that experience with you or with someone else who is special to them by gifting them with 2 tickets. Give a membership to a gym, a zoo, or a museum. Give money towards a special vacation. Contribute toward art or music lessons. Cater to their interests. Help them participate in something they might not otherwise get to experience.
  2. Let them pick out their own gift. Find out what stores, restaurants, or websites they like, and get them a gift card for it. Although it may not seem as rewarding as giving a physical item, with a gift card, we are giving the recipient the power of choice. If we choose the right place, they should be able to find something they like. In some situations, giving money can be more practical. There are plenty of creative ways to present it, and the options for using it are endless.
  3. If the recipient has everything they need and feels strongly about a charity, donate to that charity in their honor. This not only benefits the recipient because it supports their cause, but it also enables others to benefit as well. This donation can be in the form of money, time, or a gift of yourself, such as a blood donation.

These suggestions can be used for an individual or for a group. For instance, an extended family might decide that instead of giving gifts to each other, they will use that money to go on a trip together. The time they share during that trip can make lifelong memories. A group of coworkers or a club might decide that instead of giving gifts to each other, they will donate that money to a local organization that serves the needy. Or they could participate together in a service project to benefit a local charity.

We will never be able to stop Christmas from coming. And we may not be able to pick out the perfect gift every time. But if we make the effort to be more thoughtful and intentional in our gift giving, I believe we can make our Christmas a little more merry.

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