living with less: the four Rs of navigating holiday gifts

bigstock-No-presents-red-warning-signs-42230704The holidays can be tricky for those of us who are attempting to live with less. Our society has led us to believe that giving a gift to loved ones, friends, coworkers, etc., is a necessity of the holiday season and we also must be a willing and grateful recipient of presents that come our way.

On the giving end, you obviously have more control and can still give while cutting out the stuff. I have a long-standing tradition with my sister’s kiddos that we enjoy an experience together for Christmas and I’ve not once heard them complain of the lack of a physical present. This year, we took the entire family to “Elf — The Musical” and had an excellent time. I’m certain those memories will last far longer than the latest and greatest video game, newest fashion or whatever else they may have asked for had they gotten the chance.

Other ideas for gifting include donating to a charity in the recipient’s name, giving consumables (bonus points if it’s something you made yourself), purchasing services (e.g., massage, house cleaning), membership gifts (something like the Denver Tool Library for those who might need to borrow tools) and exchanges (cookies, books).

So, now that you have the gifting part down, let’s move on receiving where things can be a bit trickier. When it comes to gifts, often times we attach feelings to the gift — usually in the form of our own expectation as to how the recipient will act upon receipt. And feelings these can be hurt and, potentially, relationships damaged, if we don’t act accordingly to how our friend, loved one, coworker, etc., expected we would.

In the tradition of the six Rs typically followed to live a more sustainable + zero waste lifestyle — refuse, reduce, reuse/repair, repurpose, recycle and rot — I’m hoping the four Rs of navigating holiday gifts will help you have a holiday season filled with love, joy and happines — not more stuff.

Refuse: If you have the type of relationship with the gifter where you can refuse the gift, do just that, gracefully. Take it as an opportunity to share a bit about your quest for less (stuff, waste, etc.), which will hopefully help them see the refusal isn’t about them. With all of that being said, refusing can be tricky and the potential cause of those aforementioned hurt feelings. Proceed down this path with caution per the relationship and personality of the gifter.

Regift: While not ideal, because you’re essentially just passing on the stuff to someone else, regifting is an option if refusal is not possible for whatever reason. Accept the gift and then repurpose as another gift for someone else.

Rehome: Rehoming is essentially donating the item — and sending to a new home. The issue with both rehoming and regifting, however, is that you’re potentially welcoming the gift-giving to continue in the future by not letting the gifter know of your desire to not receive presents.

Remind: Make your quest for less known to those in your circle. Don’t be annoying about it (aka, preachy) but the more your people are reminded of your goals and lifestyle, the more likely they’ll think twice before purchasing stuff for you. You can send a note to those who typically give gifts and let them know you’ll be going gift-less this year as it relates to stuff. Perhaps they’ll even be inspired and adopt a few practices for themselves. Also, in the realm of sharing, if there is something you actually need that would be appropriate for a holiday gift, share that information.

“Christmas is about giving from the heart more than giving from the store.” Toni Sorenson

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