Each year, as Christmas rolls around, I get a mixed feeling. Excitement, comfort, nights spent snuggled in front of a crackling fire, tidings and joy and trees and carols.
But I also feel a creeping pressure starting to build. The season of giving is approaching quick sharp and I feel like I have to get into thinking, and spending, mode, to buy something, anything, for the people I care about to show that I do actually care. Emotion embodied in consuming. I listened to a colleague reel off the list of presents they were expected to buy a younger member of family this christmas. It amounted to over £1000. And just because we are expected to spend. Aren’t we losing sight of something?
This Black Friday was the ultimate in consumer hell in the UK. Having previously looked on with curiosity at the goings on over the other side of the pond, this year the UK inexplicably decided to jump in with both feet. Fights, injuries, smashed goods, arguments….the event brought out the worst in consumer behaviour. Are we so blinded by having to purchase more and more we’re willing to risk our safety, and our reputation?
It’s the enforced buying I’m having trouble with. Generally, as a rule, I don’t really buy much myself or for others. I’d rather have a chat and a drink and an adventure. But in December? I have to buy something to give to someone, usually in a rush and without the degree of thought I believe a gift deserves. I don’t usually buy stuff because I don’t usually come across stuff that people or myself would really love or find useful. When I do, it’s a treat and a treasure. In the words of The Minimalists, all of my things are my favourite things.
I want to give something that adds value. I want people to enjoy the things they have. I don’t want to just buy stuff because I’m being told to buy stuff. I think of the after christmas queues to return unwanted gifts. I think of the invention of the saddest of all things, the ‘gift receipt’. You’re buying things almost certain that the recipient is going to exchange or return them. It makes me feel hopeless inside. The pressure of hoping they’ll like it. I’m usually boring and ask what people want or need, so at least I know they will get value from it.
The best things in life aren’t things. Think back one, two or three years. Can you remember what presents you received? Can you remember what you bought your loved ones?
Think back again. Can you remember the events of a few years ago? The laughs, the smiles? Did you go for a walk? Were the sprouts mushy? Chances are, it’s easier to remember what happened rather than what you got. Emotions, memories, good times stay with us forever. But nowadays the season is changing, focusing more and more on endless shopping, late night opening, buying, spending, credit cards, pressure.
So my dilemma still remains. I don’t want to enforce minimalism on anybody. Everyone’s life is their own. So should I buy gifts? Should I give experiences? Should I just take a back seat and go gift-free?
I feel a bit Scrooge-like even asking myself the question. And I feel sad that I live in a world where I feel guilty for questioning whether or not to buy more ‘stuff’ for people. It’s nice to give a gift. It’s normal. What’s wrong with me? Am I that much of a miser?
Let me know how you deal with minimalism at Christmas-do you refrain from buying, or just from receiving gifts? Do you buy and get gifts? What type of things? Share your top tips…
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