December 9, 2017

Trying to do the Holidays without Consumerism

I love buying gifts.

I love picking out just the right thing for so-and-so, or the perfect surprise gift for the hard-to-buy-for person on your list. I love walking into a store and looking at all the wee gift options, all the visual stimulation of pretty things. I love scouring webpages online until I find exactly what I'm looking for. It's exciting and it really puts me in the spirit of thinking of others for the holidays.

This is in direct contrast to how much I take issue with consumerism. As you know if you've been following along for a while, I am all about the thrifting and the handmade/small business shopping. Not only is it nice to support smaller companies, it also contributes to helping the environment (reuse recycle!) and not "buying in" to big chain businesses that almost definitely come with a bundle of ethical concerns.

So, how do I give gifts and not buy into buying?

I'm not very good at it. I bought most of my gifts this year, and I ended up buying for myself too. Oops. I wrote here about a Good Gift Guide a couple of years ago, and it's still true. But I feel conflicted even in so doing. I love making gifts, but for one, that takes buying materials, and two, there are only so many scarves I can knit for loved ones before they run out of room on their necks and in their closets!

Here are some of my brainstorm ideas for how else to cut back on consuming this holiday season:

1. Do a "Secret Santa" or Gift Exchange with your family
Talk to your famjam and see if they're down for a Secret Santa or similar gift exchange this season. My cousins/aunts/uncles/grandma on one side all decided that we would do a Secret Santa where we each buy a gift for only two people. It is insane that we've been buying gifts for everyone for the last 25 or so years - the family is huge! We are spending and buying and receiving way less if we do it this way, and I think we, the universe, and all of our bank accounts are happier for it!

2. Donate. Donate. Donate.
This one was on my Good Gift Guide too, and I'm still into it! I really learned this in the last few years from my fella and his family who all have a strong belief in giving back, especially during the holidays. It is inspiring and I realize that it can mean a lot to some people. I was looking for the perfect final piece of a gift for a friend, and everything I found felt repetitive and useless. Then it clicked! A donation to a cause that is of great importance to her. Perfect cherry on top.

3. Gift experiences.
In my schooling I've come to realize that "experiences" are also a huge part of consumerism: we work to make money, we then use our money to 'better' our leisure time. Leisure and recreational activities are damn expensive. But offering them as gifts doesn't have to involve experiences that cost you anything. Gift a family member an afternoon at a gallery with you, and go on the free day! Your presence and time is the gift. Gift your lover a weekend together at one of your places (if you're like me and don't live together yet) when you can spend dedicated time just the two of you. Maybe throw in some free massage coupons and a home cooked meal ;)


I suppose a lot of this involves having the receiver of said gift be into the idea, for it to have the same effect. This is the part I stumble over a lot. I want the gift to feel good for the recipient, and not impose my beliefs on them when it should be all about them! But at the same time, you've got to start somewhere, and who knows when you might plant the seed for change on their end, too. It's all a balance, one that I haven't really perfected yet. But here's to trying!

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