A Consumer’s Christmas

brown pinecone on white rectangular board
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I’ve always found an immense amount of joy in the Christmas season. From the carols, to the beautiful twinkling lights, to the holiday gatherings. I reveled in the whimsy of the holiday season. Now, seeing the season through the eyes of my children it heightens my pleasure even more. There is an unspoken magic to Christmas. I think back to my days as a child, the wonder, the curiosity, the mysterious blinking lights in the sky that was obviously Rudolph pulling Santa’s sleigh. It was all so extraordinary.

I’ll admit that that childhood magic is still very much awake in me during this season. However, this year I’ve been met with many challenges. With our intentions of moving into an RV to live full-time Christmas has become a little tricky. Each gift has been selected with much thought in regards to space and need vs. want. Yet still the gifts are out of control.

You see, I was that person that was attempting with mighty effort to keep up with the Joneses. I wasn’t doing very good at it, but I was trying. I filled our little home with useless baskets of fake fruit and decorative towels that no one could use. I was wasting money to please people other than myself. I’m not quite sure how I got to that point or when I realized what was happening. I currently sit in my home and look around and think, all of this stuff used to be money. The fake plant in the corner or the useless decorations could’ve all added up into a vacation, an experience, a memory that I would never forget. The truth is, those items likely wound up on a shelf, created more area for me to dust and will eventually be sold in a garage sale for 3% of its value. Then, I’d move on to what’s new this year. Is it boho chic, farmhouse shabby? Who knows. Trends are another reason for me to work my ass off to buy things I don’t need.

That brings me back to Christmas. Over Thanksgiving weekend I sat at the kitchen table and wrote my list of people that we should buy gifts for. I love giving. It feels so great to find the perfect gift and see someone light up at your thoughtfulness. However, I’m beginning to think that things have gotten out of control. My list was at least 35 people long and included friends, family, garbage men, postal workers, teachers, fellow students, neighbors, co-workers, and so on and so on. Do we really need to give a gift to everyone we encounter in our daily lives? It’s not like you can really afford to give them a gift that is “something they always wanted” but rather a dish of cookies or a coffee gift card. We are so wrapped up in this need to consume and to meet expectations that we’re going broke and racking up credit card debt to make sure the mailman is acknowledged on Christmas.

The pressure of this is all is overwhelming. I’m feeling extremely challenged this season with trying to adopt this new mindset of minimalism while in the center of the consumption hurricane. Finding balance in this paradox has not been easy.

Aside from all of the outside parties that I feel the need to please with gifts of homemade salsas and gift cards, I have my wondrous kids who are anticipating a fully loaded Christmas tree. They’ve been bombarded with the chatter at school of Santa’s bounty and have this vision of basically the entire Target toy aisle stuffed in our living room. How do you practice minimalism with children?

I think it’s especially hard for the parents. In my case, I peek into my 2-car garage which I can hardly pull my car into because it’s stuffed to the brim with discarded toys preparing for a future garage sale. Us parents know the fate of these costly dolls, trucks and poorly made games. If it’s not in next years garage sale, it likely wound up in the garbage before it could even make it that far.

I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t found a solution this year. I bought gifts for everyone I know even though I’m trying so hard to be frugal and save. I bought the kids useless crap that will wind up in the garage sale this spring. I consumed. I did exactly what the marketing companies wanted me to do. I think the key here is that this year I was aware of what I was doing. It came with a feeling of disdain. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to give, it was that I felt trained to feel obligated to give. I believe this is a keen awareness that will bring me so much enlightenment in the coming months.

I wasn’t mentally ready for Christmas yet. Not in this new mindset anyways. My growth with minimalism has been, and will continue to be an evolution. This evolution is usually provoked by many mistakes that provide me with the opportunity to learn what I should’ve done. Hence the saying, “you live and you learn” I suppose. What I’m learning is that minimalism isn’t easy. It’s thoughtful, intentional, and full of discipline. I need to strengthen these muscles this year and I will consider this the kick off to my long list of impending mistakes…er…I mean, opportunities to learn and evolve.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays!

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