The Minimalist Guide to Christmas

060 And suddenly, it's here ... December, holiday season, party time ... and for many of us, stress.

Over the past couple of years I've "minimalised" many aspects of my life in an effort to focus on what matters and to lighten my load - both literally and figuratively. I've made a capsule wardrobe, decluttered and KonMari'ed my way through our flat with surprising yet beautiful results. I feel lighter, more spacious, more joyful, more abundant and able to see and spend time on what's important to me.

And with this effect in other areas of my life, I, of course, wanted to minimalise Christmas.

I love buying, making and giving gifts, and although I'm very organised and start planning gifts from about July/August, I always seem to have a last minute dash around in December, frantically sewing or shopping right up until Christmas Eve. And it takes away from, for me, what this time of year is really all about - spending time with loved ones, remembering what I'm grateful for, and experiencing and living, rather than consuming and shopping.

A few ideas for minimalist Christmas gifts:

  1. Gift exchange A. This will be the second time we do this on my husband's side of the family - each person draws a name and buys one gift. We've gone with a book theme this year, which I love, because a) books are beautiful and contribute to learning b) they are affordable and keep the playing field even c) there is a book out there for just about everyone.
  2. Gift exchange B. This is what we're doing on my Mom's side of the family this year (still with the book theme - what can I say, we love to read!). Each person brings a book that is special to them or that they enjoyed (used or new) wrapped up so no one knows what it is. Everyone draws a number and the first person chooses their present and opens it - the second person can either steal the first gift or choose a wrapped gift. This continues until everyone has a book. I love this idea because it makes a game of opening presents (fun in and of itself), but is also incredibly inclusive - if you have a last minute guest, it's very easy for them to bring something and be included in the gift game.
  3. Food gifts. For friends, clients or hostess gifts, I love making a few simple healthy treats. My favourite food blogger has some amazing recipes which make incredible and delicious gifts which people can enjoy without feeling icky. My favourites are her infused syrups, a batch of gingerbread cookies, a jar of chai spices for tea (just add fresh ginger and water) or a jar of spiced hot chocolate (just add honey and the milk of your choice).
  4. Experiential gifts. Theatre tickets, movie tickets, concert tickets, art exhibition tickets, a spa day, a fancy dinner out ... whatever you enjoy - spend money on something that allows you to make memories and experience life together.
  5. Vouchers - but not for a store! I like giving vouchers to friends and family for a special, personalised gift. I have given babysitting vouchers to new parents for a night out, a series of Pilates classes, a week of dish-washing, a batch of home-made cookies, a 1-2-1 yoga class ... or anything else I think the recipient might enjoy. Generally this means that I get to spend time with the recipient, and again, make memories rather than accumulate things. I love this for kids too - where possible, instead of giving toys, spending an afternoon at a museum or park, and building a relationship.
  6. Charitable donations. It is likely that if you're reading this blog, you are among the people who have more than they have not. There are many people in the world with very little, and a charitable donation in your loved one's name can be a fantastic gift. In the past, I've given these donations through Oxfam, and themed it to something I thought the person would appreciate (i.e. for teachers I've given the "educate a child" gift, etc). There are many worthy charities, so find one with meaning for you

And with these guidelines in place, shopping is very easy, almost enjoyable even. It's not quite December, but we've finished our gifts and can now spend the rest of the month enjoying friends, family and festivities!

I'd love to hear your ideas for a minimalist Christmas. What kind of gifts work for you? Do you have any minimalist traditions? Let me know in the comments or use #minimalistXmasgifts.