Help! Too Much Stuff !! (Christmas/Holidays Unplugged)

By , December 10, 2007 11:41 pm

So how do you reduce the sheer VOLUME of gifts? Giving fewer gifts to the children is a great start (Dawn had a good idea: Jesus only got three presents on his birthday, so kids shouldn’t get more than that either).

Whatever your reasons or rationalizations, the sooner you start with fewer presents the better. If kids have been having 20 Christmas presents a piece their whole lives and you suddenly cut them back to 3 at age 12 or 13, you had better have some REALLY GOOD REASONS. So remember: Get your gift quantity issues settled sooner rather than later.

How to cut down on other family gift excesses and commercialism? Here are some ideas, a few thanks to Unplug the Christmas Machine: A Complete Guide to Putting Love and Joy Back into the Season , but most thanks to me!

** Agree to no adult gifts.

** Give (or request) a family gift instead of individual gifts (for example: a game, puzzle or craft that everyone can do together)

** Agree to an all handmade Christmas. Either make simple gifts for each other, or buy only homemade gifts from local craft fairs or Etsy.

** Decide to do only funny gifts. For example I know a family who spends all year checking garage sales and thrifting for those little shell covered animals to give each other as a joke. Each has to cost less than $2. They all have a good laugh (priceless, right?) and display them proudly on a shelf in their home. It is quite funny!

** Do a lottery: Each family member picks a name and finds a gift for that person only. My best friend growing up was from a very large family and that is what they did. This is a very good solution for big families.

** Give coupons as gifts. I know that the most precious gift that anyone could give me would be a few hours of babysitting. Think about your talents. Do you knit? How about a coupon for a sweater. Do you cook? A dinner for two, or four or six. You get the idea.

** Christmas ornaments? How about having adults exchange only ornaments, either handmade or store bought. That way, each year when the ornaments come out, you will think of the family member who gave it to you.

** Books only. Each person makes a gift of the book that they enjoyed the most during the past year.

** A recipe exchange? Everyone gives their favorite recipe of the year.

** Christmas Stockings only? Honestly my favorite part of Christmas giving is the stocking. I love the challenge of finding presents that are small enough to fit in a stocking, but that the person would genuinely like to receive! A bunch of small, little things can be really fun.

** Give all living gifts: Plants only (indoor or outdoor depending on what your climate is like in December). Every time someone sees the plant that you gave, they will think of you.

** Do all charity gifts. Make gifts to a charity in a family member’s name. Usually you get a certificate or something tangible to present to that person.

** A family “Wildlife Christmas” – Ideas: gifts of donations to wildlife charities, bird feeders, bird houses or bird baths (especially heated ones if you live in a cold climate), live butterfly kits (if you live in a climate mild enough to release them in winter, otherwise wait until spring to order the larvae), ladybug or bee houses, bat houses, or butterfly houses.

** “Pick a Charity Christmas” where everyone agrees on a particular charity or cause that they would like to support. Everyone tries to be creative in giving gifts related to that cause: shopping from a specific charity’s website, buying crafts from a particular country to benefit local craftspeople if that is related to the cause, donating in someone’s name, agreeing to donate a certain amount of time for that cause (in the form of a coupon?), etc. etc. etc.

** How about for an elderly neighbor: A coupon good for a fall leaf raking, a lawn mowing or a driveway shovel, or a batch of cookies made by the kids?

Any other ideas??

(Read all the Christmas/Holidays Unplugged posts here.)

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15 Responses to “Help! Too Much Stuff !! (Christmas/Holidays Unplugged)”

  1. Lizz says:

    Great ideas! I support this very much.

    Our family gives gifts to each other all year (things that we really need) coming as surprise packages in the mail. The expense of December just doesn’t fit in my budget (no credit cards) at all. We reconcile that fact, by being honest and open and celebrating all through the year.

  2. EdibleEducation says:

    Our Christmas is not excessive. I shop for gifts throughout the year and sometimes do “family gifts” and sometimes buy for individuals…the key is spreading the cost and time throughout the year.

    The presents for our kids are relatively inexpensive – they do not receive a lot of gifts from other people either, so I don’t feel like it needs to be curtailed.

    I do like “consumable” gifts – not money (too easy) – but like concert tickets, children’s museum tickets, magazine subscriptions an the like. My FIL loves any and all kinds of sweets -so his gift this year is a large container of mixed candies/chocolate bars/licorice.

    I don’t feel compelled to have a certain type of Christmas – I usually do what I do – b/c I want to do it and enjoy doing it.

    Tomorrow I am having some of the children’s friends over for a cookie-decorating party…I could go real simple if I wanted to – but I’ve decided to do some extras b/c I ENJOY being creative.

    Everyone just needs to do Christmas the way it works best for them…don’t worry about what Aunt Sue is doing or sister Sally or your neighbor (our home has very few Christmas decorations inside and none outside – sure we could do something more – but we’re not in competition with everyone else.)

  3. Becky @ Boys Rule My Life says:

    Love these ideas. In fact, we are doing several of them this year. Just a few gifts for the kids, exchanging with the cousin children – not the cousin adults, just paring down in general. We’ve just got too much stuff!

    I did have an idea while reading through your list when I came across “coupons”. One could give actual coupons… diapers, wipes, Silk Soy Milk, coke or pepsi, etc. Something that might be consumed often. I just bough 12 $2.25 off coupons for the Silk off of ebay yesterday for $4.00. That will save me a ton of money. I love coupons anyway… maybe more than some… :) I’ll stop rambling now.

    Good post. :)

  4. Deana at Friday Night Fish Fry says:

    We did charities this year for all adults except our parents…because they do need and enjoy things. The kids got fewer gifts but a bigger gift. And they too did a charity out of the child budget. I think Christmas shouldn’t be so stressful, that isn’t what it is about. Great post. This year has just been a blessing already in the good things we have gotten to do!

  5. dawn224 says:

    I have a friend who is all excited for her husbands family’s white elephant Christmas:

    Everyone brings two presents valued between $15 and $20. None are labeled. (We bring one good one and one stupid gift). You pick a present and open it. Once you see what it is you can either trade someone for their gift (and they can’t object) or you can keep what you have. After a present is traded 3 times, the last person holding it has to keep it.

    They do two rounds. It is really funny.

    Which I know could be a little clutter if the white elephant really sucks – but if it’s a tradition it could always get reused the next year :)

  6. Erica says:

    Thanks for sharing! I’m new to your blog. We do the 3 gift thing, but my husband and I don’t do gifts. We make gifts for family members too. Since we don’t do santa, that helps too!

  7. Mom Unplugged says:

    Thanks for all the interesting comments and ideas. And welcome to Erica and Edibleeducation! I hope you enjoy the blog and will stop by again!

  8. CelticMommy says:

    Wonderful ideas! I need to go back and reread that again to take it all in.

    Quick story: We visited Santa this weekend and it was Em’s first time talking to Santa and not just posing with him. Santa asked him what he wanted and Em said “Oh, I would love a train set please!” Santa then asked him which one… Thomas or some other one I’ve never heard of… and Em gave a blank look — “uuum, just some tracks and an engine and a passenger car” he said back. At that point I explained that Em doesn’t watch TV and he doesn’t know those characters. “Hmmmm” nodded Santa. And then he said “What else would you like?”
    “That’s it! Thank you!” was the reply– to which I explained that “My son knows you give one gift so he just wants to tell you one so you don’t have to choose.” Santa gave me this look that he was clearly surprised with my reply. He told Em that he was a very good boy and to look for a wonderful train set on Christmas morning.

    I could not have planned that any better! Okay, that wasn’t so quick… but I wanted to share it.

  9. NutMeg says:

    For several years now for CHristmas, I have asked my kids to list only 4 items:
    Something you want
    Something you need
    Something to play with
    Something to read

    I read this in a magazine article and thought it was a great idea. It has spurred many interesting discussions about the difference between a want and a need … is something to play with also something you need? … what are the things that they actually need?

    They work so hard to parse all this out and they come up with some fantastic ideas. I usually buy them some other gifts too but those gifts are the priority.

    My husband and I long ago stopped giving each other expensive gifts. Instead, we do something for our household, like paint a room or purchase needed furniture.

    I come from a family with a Christmas tradition of giving lots of gifts, but we just don’t have the means to continue it and I am surprised and delighted by the joy we find in a “simple” Christmas.

  10. mom says:

    Wonderful list here! Excellent.

    Edible education – I agree in theory, but am also bound by a very real set of social expectations, norms, and meanings that citrculate in my extended family. My MIL never got a Christmas gift (grew up very very poor) and goes over the top, imbuing the gifts with all this meaning. To her, rejecting her gifts or not buying a gift is a powerful gesture. yes, yes, of course we could deal with it if we really wanted to, but I’ve decided that accepting and giving gifts is something we need to do for her. KWIM? In other words, I don’t feel I can “just do what I want to do” because I care about her as well. It’s complex.

    So, instead, we make “secondary adjustments” such as many listed in this great post. Asking for consumables, scaling back gently, giving more handmade than in years past… for us it’s about compromise and small adjustments. We’re proposing alottery for necxt year — 5 years ago this went over like a lead balloon, but we’r egoing to try again. We’ll see.

  11. Jenny says:

    I am so glad that you’ve started these posts this year. I love reading your thoughts and all the wonderful comments too, esp. since CJ is still young enough that I can make some rules without having them be a big change for her later on. I thought Nutmeg’s list was great, and I may use that for myself when I’m asked for gift ideas!

  12. Nutmeg says:

    I agree with mom’s post that sometimes you can’t impose your own principles on others for lots of complex reasons. We once gave a gift to a family member of a charitable donation in her name. She was clearly disappointed in not having something tangible for herself. We thought it was a nice way to honor her, but she felt that it was somehow “less”. I am not sure why she felt that way but I am sure that she has her reasons and I can respect that.

    I think they key is to establish Christmas as a holiday not so much about the presents but as a holiday that celebrates some very special ideals. I am not a Christian but I celebrate Christmas wholeheartedly because to me, the most powerful message about it is the power of a child to change the world.

  13. Mom Unplugged says:

    Hi Nutmeg,
    Welcome to my blog! Thanks for your great comment. I really like your idea. It is very original and as you say, must spark some interesting and valuable conversation of “want” vs. “need.” We may try this next year, thank you!

  14. jasi says:

    Outstanding post.

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