How I maintained minimalism on Christmas in a way that satisfies even non-minimalist

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

I've progressively worked hard to control how much my family consumes and wastes. We've also increased how often we donate and declutter. It's been quite refreshing.

"Just because" or Living in lack.

I've noticed poor habits in how much I buy from being unorganized and failure to locate what I need right away. I couldn't believe how many products I purchased again without going through the first bottle.


I also noted how frequently I accepted items from others "just because" or living in lack. As a mother, especially a single one, sometimes you feel like you can never have too much of something for yourself or your children, or it's completely harmless to accept what others donate to you even when you never asked for it.


It's overwhelming. Items become items you move around the house, dust, lose or never find a designated spot for. It feels wrong to own it, especially when you see others going without what you have an abundance of & probably never needed in the first place.

Lack of decision making and standing firm on minimalist beliefs.

Every year, Christmas is emotional and out of my control due to things and people I choose to tolerate. But it's nothing compared to the anxiety that comes from my lack of decision-making and standing firm on my minimalist beliefs -- despite what it looks like to others.


During these times, my anxiety is typically shot through the roof, like you couldn't imagine, and I feel overwhelmed with just "things," "food," "emotions and conversations."


Sometimes, I feel like I am walking past zombies while doing my regular shopping in the stores. Unless it's a minimalist group that understands minimalistic perspective, it's challenging to voice it while others wonder, "What's her issue? It's Christmas!"


Everything you say seems ungrateful, and you tend to come off as Scrooge or The Grinch, in their opinion.


Yet, many minimalists have to accept others' way of thinking and choose to stand firm every day. It just gets -- weird during the holidays.

Gift exchanges, impulsive shopping, and consumerism.

I feel forced to communicate with others about what I think all year regarding the excessive holiday gift exchanges, impulsive shopping, and consumerism.


By Monday, in their world, it's all back to normal. They couldn't care less about why, nor do they care about the same item that was such a significant bargain just a couple of days ago.


After Black Friday and Christmas, while walking to a dumpster to take out the trash, I spot an overflow of used wrapping paper, clothes, TVs, furniture, handbags, etc., which always saddens me a little. Almost everything I see that's considered trash isn't trash - depending on who you are or where you are fortunate enough to live.


If you wait long enough, you'll notice less fortunate families rushing to claim items to use in their own homes or resale. The items might be "out of sight, out of mind" for us, but all trash must go somewhere, right?


This is an entirely separate topic yet vital to point out. But I digress.

I often feel guilty that I'm not allowing my girls to enjoy the holiday as a child the way I did.

Leading up to the holidays, as I try to gain control and manage what comes into my household, I often feel guilty that I'm not allowing my girls to enjoy the holiday as a child the way I did. After all, most kids aren't thinking about a cleaner environment, protecting our planet, consumerism, or waste. So why force it?


My approach when buying gifts for my girls is typically one thing they want, something they can wear, an item they need, and a book to read.


This year, I thought back to my childhood and placed myself in my four and six-year-old shoes during Christmas.

Most adults thought I was nosey. But I was curious.

As a child, my siblings and I always had a great Christmas. Even though we were less fortunate, I didn't feel like I missed out on anything; I never felt like I didn't have enough.


As I grew older, my family would remind me that as a child, I always asked what everything cost and where it all came from. Most adults thought it was nosey. But I was curious. Sometimes I thought a lot of it was unnecessary, especially after hearing the sermon from my pastor about Christmas. It was a huge disconnect for me, and I needed understanding.

It's a very unhealthy behavior.

My girls receive multiple gifts from family for holidays and birthdays. Every year, they instantly expected more out of habit.


They've grown addicted to their tablets and other gadgets that I didn't plan to purchase unless they asked or needed them for school. I understand that times are changing, and children are exposed to them much sooner than I was, so I just embraced the gifts from family. I didn't want to come off as unappreciative that someone was willing to buy them for my children.


When it's time to put the tablets away, they scream and throw tantrums like you've never seen. Once the tablet dies, I've witnessed my child throw it across the room, as if she didn't know the battery was low before even turning it on.

I've mentioned the consequences if the tablets ended up broken due to their actions, and my daughter once stated that her grandmother would buy her another one if it breaks. I couldn't deny how true this statement was. It's a very unhealthy behavior.


It bothered me that this was the way she thought about all of her gifts. But it frustrated me more that I allowed it into their life without giving permission. And I can hardly gain control of it now.


Similar to public schools that introduce students to Santa. I never mentioned him before, and I never planned to. They just came home excited, talking about all the presents they'll receive from him. I didn't want to kill their joy. But I would've loved the opportunity to discuss Christmas, our way, with my family first.

Sometimes, this makes me look and feel like the bad guy.

All the gift giver knows is that it sparks joy for the child and feeds their emotion to gift it to them. After all, most family members don't see the children but once or twice a year. I suppose in the eyes of a non - minimalist; it feels like the obvious choice to express love and spoil them. Most people aren't necessarily thinking about what the child needs, how we live, or what's best.


But as a mother, I am the only one that witnesses what else sparks over time and the spiraling down behavior every day. I have to determine where we draw the line. So I have to be the one that makes the tough call on what's harmless or needs attention before it's out of hand.


Sometimes, this makes me look and feel like the bad guy, but I'm growing and understanding that parenting will often feel this way, especially during teaching moments for our children.


It's essential that children understand the value and what this holiday represents. I've requested gifts that make sense, gifts that educate them and provide experiences. But I have to remember requests aren't always honored.

Not everyone is a minimalist, and our values are different.

I share what my children picked out on an Amazon wishlist too. However, people still prefer to buy the child only what they can afford or what they want instead of what they need. It's a reasonable, standard way of thinking. Before becoming a minimalist, I had a similar thought process.


So what have I learned? What makes minimalism less of an emotional battle for me?


First, I had to understand that not everyone is a minimalist, and our values are different. Just because I disagree, it doesn't mean that others will gift us according to our beliefs or accept that we prefer no gift at all.

You have every right to do what you feel is best for your household without explanation.

If you're practicing minimalism, consider that people are allowed to spend their money & gift items as they see fit. It's how they choose to show their love.


Once gifted, you're furthermore entitled to do with it as you see fit, whether it's donated, regifted, or taken back to the store - you have every right to do what you feel is best for your household without explanation.


You should not feel any guilt, specifically after they've heard your request. This is what makes it a battle when it doesn't have to be. This is what takes away the joy in living with less. No one should have that much control over your life. Christmas is supposed to be a joyful time full of love for everyone.


When it comes to minimalism, you have a choice to respect others' desire to do what they please as they understand your decisions to live in a way that brings you and your family joy, clarity, simplicity, and fulfillment.


Everyone can win. All things can stay simple.


How does your family practice minimalism during holidays and birthdays? In what ways do you keep it simple for everyone involved?



If you're located in DFW, Texas, and considering downsizing, decluttering, and donating to a local charity, please check out Manos A la Obra on Facebook and Instagram.


This small, reliable organization accepts donations for children, families, and seniors in Central America.



Extreme 20/20 Visionaries is still accepting donations for medical research, discovery, and education purposes. Give hope & be the gift this season. We are accepting contributions as low as $1. Thank you for making an impact!


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