“The greatest gift you can ever own is not found in the shops or under your Christmas tree, it is found in the hearts of your loving family and your true friends” – Unknown
Since embracing minimalism several years ago, I see the benefits, especially during the holidays.
Last Christmas I announced to my family there wouldn’t be an abundance of gifts under the tree, instead, we would start the tradition of Want, Need, Wear, Read…and Feed https://tinyurl.com/v4fufnw -it was a nice way to step back from the craziness and rushing around buying gifts to buy gifts. I wasn’t quite sure how it would go, but when my kids announced, “Best Christmas ever!” I knew it was a good choice.
This year we discussed what we want our Christmas to feel like for our family and we all agreed: we didn’t want a pile of gifts under the tree and that bringing back “Want, Need, Wear, Read” would make everyone happy.
My older son needs a new laptop, his current iMac is eight years old and is painfully slow. At some point, he will need a new one he can take with him when he goes off to college next fall.
My older son’s pitch goes like this:
“Mom, it’s a want, a need, and a read. I want a new iMac, I need a new one because my current one is too slow, and the “read” is the screen – which just leaves ‘wear’ – and I really don’t need any new clothes, I have enough” he tells me in one fell swoop.
On Friday night, we went to Hillsdale Mall, not to shop, but to have dinner at California Pizza Kitchen where my older son is working. On the drive over, I asked my younger if he had figured out his “Want, Need, Wear, Read”.
“I just want to go to London,” he says from the back seat of the car.
It is the same gift he has requested every year for the last four years. I sigh.
How does that fit into “Want, Need, Wear, Read?” I ask him.
“I want to travel and see Big Ben, so there’s my want. I need to learn about my heritage, so there’s my need” he says. There’s a slight pause before he continues, “I will get to read maps, street signs, and the underground schedule, so there’s my ‘read, which just leaves ‘wear’”. “You can buy me a t-shirt at the Supreme store in London,” he says.
I sigh again.
When we got to California Pizza Kitchen, my older son was at the host station; we put our name on the list, an easy 20-minute wait, and then he set us up at a table next to the window. Our placement gave us an opportunity to watch the rain outside and secretly observe him as he seated diners and talked to restaurant staff via his earpiece and mouthpiece; when he spoke into the microphone, My firstborn’s actions were like those of an undercover agent.
After dinner, my husband, younger son and I strolled through the mall. It wasn’t packed with shoppers, but it was busy and loud, it was busy with carolers, music and a performance by the Tap-Dancing Christmas Trees. The atmosphere was happy and festive.
We wandered in and out of stores for about an hour as we walked off our dinner, and then left the mall empty-handed. This was another benefit of minimalism: despite the sales, the promotions, and the “buy, buy, buy” energy, there was nothing we needed. My younger son didn’t ask for anything and I didn’t feel the need to buy something, just to buy something – we were content and happy after a meal, a stroll, and some entertainment. Minimalism has helped me to embrace and bring in only the things we need in our home.
The impact was noticeable again this weekend when I went to put a bag together for the Second Harvest Food Bank. For the first time in a long time, I went out to purchase non-perishables specifically for the food drive barrel, I didn’t have enough in my pantry to fill a grocery bag.
In previous years, before adopting a more minimal lifestyle I would take whatever I had extras of – soup, chili, granola bars, and pasta – that filled the shelves in our pantry and fill several bags for Second Harvest. I always felt guilty for having so much. I had had a stockpiling mentality, getting caught up in the “buy two, get one free” or simply because items were on sale.
Minimalism drastically changed how I shop: I only purchase what we need and will use in a short period of time. The upside, little goes to waste, and there is far less guilt. As a result, I have learned to appreciate the gifts of the holiday season weeks before Christmas: baking chocolate chips cookies for friends on my cookie list; watching movies with my kids, and sitting by a cozy fire with a book while my kids peruse the comics in the Sunday paper.
I am also enjoying the gift of improved health, a close relationship with my Dad, and a calendar full of coffee dates and outings with friends.
These gifts are meaningful and appreciated; they cannot be purchased, wrapped, and placed under a tree.
Sitting in the family room with my feet propped up, I put down my book and look at my boys: both their heads are now tipped downwards at their phones; my younger is texting his friend in the Netherlands, my older is learning about the Global Seed Vault.
As I observe them, I decide that on Christmas morning, one will open a box with a Red Delicious apple, the other will open a box containing only his passport and think about their “Wear”: their smiles that light up the room – once they decipher the obvious clues.