With the holidays a few weeks away the yearly "what am I going to do with all those gifts" anxiety is settling in. Being an interfaith/inter-tradition family we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. To my kids' delight and to my dismay that means double the gifts. As a Professional Organizer and semi-minimalist you can see why this stirs up anxiety.
Don't get me wrong, I love giving and receiving presents but I also firmly believe that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing and that children tend to play more creatively and better when there are less toys around them. I see it over and over again with my clients and in my own home, after we have cut down the number of toys kids play more productively with what they have left. The same tends to be true with adults.
Less stuff = less clutter = less upkeep = more time to live your life and focus on what matters. Now, I'm not advocating everyone to get a green suit and be all Grinch-like for Christmas this year, but I do think we can shift our focus.
So, here are some of my tips for a clutter-free (or at least a reduced clutter) holiday season.
Secret Santa: An oldie but a goodie. This is not just for your office gift exchange anymore! We are a large family (10 adults and 6 children with another on the way) and we started this a few years ago for the adults, with great success. It cuts down on the crap, excuse me, gifts you receive and if you add a wish list to your exchange you may actually get something that you want. There are tons of online programs and apps out there but we have been using DrawNames.com for a few years. It's free, allows for restrictions (so couples don't get each other) and you can post your wish list so that it's visible for the group.
Experiences: This one works for adults and kids alike. I much prefer to get something I can do than something I can use. A gift certificate for a favourite restaurant means a future date night for me and the husband. You can have a group chip in for tickets to an upcoming event (sports, a concert, a play, etc). The same theory applies to kids; I love giving and receiving movie theatre gift certificates. Kids love going to see movies on the big screen (at least mine do) and it's wonderful to have that time out with them. The same goes for gift cards for a local indoor play area (especially great when it's too cold to play outside), a kid-friendly museum, a local zoo, etc.
Donations: The answer to what do you get for the person that has everything. A donation to their favourite charity and a beautiful handwritten note to go with it. This can be especially helpful if you send gifts to relatives that don't live near you. Save on shipping a heavy gift and do some good. Double bonus! I have a friend who asks for donations for a local animal charity in lieu of gifts for the children at their birthday party. It's a hit every year.
Time: A good one if your budget is a bit stretched this year too. Offer to babysit their kids, take your mom out for lunch just the two of you, prepare and deliver a delicious meal to the busy family, take your BFF to get her nails done, treat your brother-in-law to a round of golf with you. Try to use your skills or common interests to spend time together.
Consumables: This one works for people who like to eat (and really, are there those out there that don't?!) Give a box of their favourite candy or chocolates that are too decadent to buy for yourself but are great to receive as a gift. A make-your-own kit: all the fixings for delicious hot chocolate, fancy cones and toppings for ice cream sundaes, take a few minutes to search on Pinterest... there are so many great ideas out there. For non-food items you can get some yummy smelling hand soap, favourite beauty products, a membership to a shaving club or an e-book.
If these ideas aren't for you and you would rather dip your toe into clutter-free holidays instead of doing a cannonball try talking to your family and friends about limiting the number of gifts that are given. I know this can be tough when it comes to kids. Grandparents, aunts and uncles all love to buy gift after gift for the children in the family. But having a conversation with them about how you want your children to focus on appreciating what they have instead of how much they are given can go a long way. The advice I give to a lot of my clients is to blame it on me. Just tell them that "my Professional Organizer has asked me to limit the number of new things that come into my home". Blame comes off of you and onto me, another win-win.
Do you have an organizing question? Contact me with your organizing dilemma or question and you may see it in an upcoming post!