Last Christmas we were only dipping our toes into minimalism and so we were naturally curious as to how our new lifestyle would impact on the festive period. I won’t lie, we loved decorating our home at Christmas time. Singing Santa’s, butt-shaking snowmen, if it was loud and glittery then we probably owned it. Each year, on the second weekend prior to Christmas, we’d spend an entire day putting up our tree, arranging our decorations and hanging the Christmas lights outside our home.
This year however, we dived headfirst into a minimal Christmas. We have spent the entirety of 2019 living a more deliberate lifestyle. A lifestyle that consists of more experiences, updated values, more time spent in each other’s company and less money spent on consumables. We therefore deliberately wanted to continue our momentum into the Christmas period. So, in order to have a more minimal yet meaningful Christmas, this is what we did…
We bought a much smaller Christmas tree
Owning a smaller tree forced us to part with many of our tree decorations. Reducing our tree from a standard 7.5ft pine tree to a 5ft slimline tree meant we donated around 30–40% of our tree decorations to charity. The smaller tree also reduced the amount of Christmas tree lights required — from two packs to one — so we also donated these along with our Christmas tree star topper.
A positive result of downsizing our tree was the reduced time and stress required to hang and decorate our tree. We were gifted more time to spend in each other’s company and less time spent sorting baubles and unravelling Christmas lights.
We halved our ornamental decorations
Last year we probably owned around 12–15 Christmas ornaments. These ranged from singing Santa’s to fluffy reindeers. Each shelf or cabinet was occupied by 3–4 ornaments fighting for their position amongst many Christmas cards.
This year we decided to keep only those ornaments that really made us happy and donated all others to charity. We also created a rule that no more than a maximum of two ornaments per unit or cabinet were allowed.
The positive result from this was the warmth we felt by donating many items to charity. We realised that the ornaments we donated we did not miss but we also gave others the opportunity to experience the joy from them while also benefitting our local charity.
We chose not to put up outdoor Christmas lights
Christmas lights look special and they symbolise the Christmas spirit throughout the winter months. However, you can’t see your own lights when you’re sat indoors. I’ve always found hanging outdoor lights to be a stressful experience and one that doesn’t provide me any lasting joy. So, this year I took back that time and avoided the stress I would usually experience trying to hang our lights.
The positive result I’ve experienced from this is that unless for the brief moment when I arrive home from work, I know no difference. I did, however, spend an extra 30–40 minutes enjoying a Buck’s Fizz and mince pie with my wife at the time I would have ordinarily hung our lights. I’ll also look forward to spending the next 30–40 minutes more deliberately when I was due to take down our lights.
We asked for experiences in place of gifts
Buying gifts can be an incredibly stressful situation. Deciding what to buy, questioning if the recipient will like it, questioning if they’ll use it — are all decisions we consciously consider before making a purchase. With the greatest of intentions, gifts may not always be practical or useful and they either find their way onto sites like Amazon or eBay or worse still, they end up at the back of a wardrobe and fail to see the light of day for several months.
This year we wanted to ensure the gifts we received would be useful. We wanted to guarantee that if people are happy to spend their money on us, we ensure it's spent correctly. So, we asked for experiences and the beauty of experiences is that they create memories, and memories are free.
We bought our own gifts
Parents may also find it difficult purchasing gifts at Christmas, especially if contact throughout the year is not as frequent as it once was when living at home. My own parents were happy to buy me an experience, however they were also insistent on purchasing me some consumables. They set me a budget and told me to buy some gifts. Instead, I chose a different option. I recognised the items that I needed and purchased these. These items fell below the budget set by my parents, however, the items I needed would prove to be useful and I would be grateful for having these in my life.
The positive of buying our own gifts is that we only purchase those items necessary to us. This makes the gift more valuable and is a better use of the money spent by the buyer, in this case my parents.
It also allows the buyer to feel confident with the knowledge that their gift will be truly appreciated.
I can imagine that upon reading the above we may appear very Bah humbug, but this has definitely not been the case. Christmas, in my eyes, is about the time you spend with family, friends and loved ones. It’s not about the gifts we buy, the money we spend or how well decorated our homes may be. By having less decoration and less things at Christmas doesn’t make our Christmas less special.
We’ve definitely reduced our Christmas decorations and our Christmas spend this year; however, the value of our time spent together has massively increased. Our gratitude has been greater, and the enjoyment of each other’s company has been warmer than any other Christmas we’ve experienced to date.
Our positive experience this year will certainly lead to an even more minimal Christmas next year.