Thursday, 27 October 2011

A Minimalist Christmas

Its that time of year again!  I'm seeing signs everywhere...decorations in the stores, songs on the radio, people starting their gift shopping... Christmas is coming.

With all the hype and good sales, what's a minimalist mommy to do?  It is so hard not to get caught up in the glitzy wrapping paper and latest toys.  We all love to spoil our babies and isn't this the perfect time to do it?

I believe that it is possible to have a great minimalist Christmas without anyone feeling like they're missing out. Here's how we do just that.

About a year ago, my husband and I decided to make the switch to a minimalist lifestyle.  Since then, we've donated a ton of stuff, shopped less and loved more.  Its amazing how much your focus shifts to each other when you aren't surrounded by stuff!  We have never regretted our decision but with the Christmas season approaching, the old me has started nagging!  I'm feeling guilty because we aren't buying our kids a bunch of toys.  What will happen when they come down on Christmas morning and there are only 10 presents under the tree?!

The funny thing is, they'll be stoked!  They're all under 5, they have no expectations.  Now is our chance as parents to set those expectations and let them know that Christmas is NOT about 2 hours of unwrapping.  Now is the time for us to teach our kids that material wealth doesn't bring happiness and that time spent with family is much more valuable than time spent at the mall.  When they're all grown up, will they remember which gifts they got or will they remember the time we spent together? 
So with all that in mind, my husband and I have come up with some minimalist holiday traditions and rules.

The day before Christmas, we will go through the kids toys with them and pick out a few that they'd like to give away.  Before bed on Christmas Eve, we will wrap those presents and leave them with the milk and cookies so that Santa can take them to other boys and girls who don't get a lot of gifts at Christmas (in reality, we will drop them off at the local women's shelter). We have a one bag in, one bag out policy so this helps make room for the new toys.

Each child will get 3 presents from us.  We will buy quality toys made out of natural materials because those are important qualities for us. 

Each child will get one gift from their siblings (as opposed to each kid choosing a gift for each sibling...that adds up when you have 3 kids!).

Stockings...oh how I despise stockings!  What the heck are you supposed to put in those things?!  This year we're doing tooth brushes for each of them.  Then we'll put one toy/ activity that the whole family can use in each stocking (puzzles, craft supplies, etc.).

As a family, we will give a gift to our community.  This will probably come in the form of volunteering somewhere together.  

I'm always looking for new ideas! What are some of your holiday traditions? How do you stick with your minimalist ideals while enjoying Christmas?


  1. Great thoughts! I would definitely not say that we are minimalists....but we do go through our things constantly and donate at least a big box worth of stuff a month (I have no idea how it all accumulates so quickly....probably my garage sale addiction lol).

    Zak and I decided early on that the kids weren't going to get a ton of presents. We also do 3 gifts each. Actually this year Annabelle will only get 2 (one is a huge amount of things). I was able to find all of their gifts at garage sales this year!

    Anyway, my favorite part of Christmas morning is stockings. lol We don't do Santa, but stockings are my favorite memory as a child (my parents did the BEST stockings). We put a variety of things in them: new pjs is always on the list, toothbrush, dot markers, art supplies like you, last year we did some math counters, Annabelle will have some Kelly dolls in hers this year (from a garage sale)...etc. Mainly I try to find fun things that they need or are used for educational purposes to stick in there...also a fun little toy that represents them. I think it's a lot of fun to see what and how much stuff I can put in there.

    We always watch a Christmas movie during the day sometime.

    We let them take their time opening presents. If they want to play with what they just opened we let them. No reason to rush through it all.

    There are other things that we do or do not do, but I don't want to write a whole blog entry in your comments. :)

  2. What great thoughts on the idea of Christmas gift giving. We are far from minimalists but do try hard to keep our kids to give to those less fortunate and that Christmas is not about presents but family/friends.
    One thing I will be trying this year is helping my kids re-discover things they already have! I saw cute idea on Pinterest where the person wrapped 12 books they already owned and opened/read one each night.

  3. What a great idea!

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  4. Wow I really love what this post is about. I want to do that with my kids, with the donating the toys. That is a GREAT idea. We have too much stuff around here and something needs to go!

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  5. You are "spot on" with this. The last two Christmas seasons have been very toned down for us too. Mainly out of financial reasons because spending so much for a holiday is crazy, the other reason - because too many new toys is overload.
    I love that you do about picking out toys to give away and wrapping them up the night before. That is a lovely idea.

  6. We also only do 3 gifts (3 wisemen). Great ideas.

  7. What a brilliant post and what fabulous traditions you are setting for your children. At my blog I post my five favourite links of the week each Friday. This week has been a pre-Christmas prep week and I will definitely be linking to this post this week.

  8. Sweet! I know my little ones got more overwhelmed the more gifts they got, and thankfully I have realized that while they are still young enough to ease back without it being such a shock. A few well chosen gifts are much more appreciated! We are going to take some old but nice board games we had that our children are now old enough to play but don't know we had in the closet. We will wrap them up as family gifts and have a blast playing games!! Usually we buy a new game for the family each year, but these make up for that without the need to waste a dime!

  9. I am going for quality over quantity with my three kids this year. Books are always great gifts for two of mine, but the third one doesn't like to read so he's harder. He will probably only have three gifts to open, if I can stick with my quality over quantity thing.

    Since they are getting older, they understand better how much things cost and how much "stuff" we have accumulated. I have donated boxes and boxes of stuff over the course of the last year after discovering Colleen's 365 less things blog and it feels really good to have fewer things taking up space in my house. I am even making headway in our "hoarders" basement.

    Christmas is a tough one when you are trying to keep your "stuff" to a minimum. The world bombards you with the urge to buy, buy, buy. I am trying to withstand that onslaught and only use the money I have saved this year.


  10. Shannah, our Advent countdown is 24 Christmas books, wrapped and numbered. My kids (5 & 2) get to open one a night, starting with Dec 1 and ending Christmas Eve. It's a great family activity and gives each book a special turn to get read. Sadly, I had no problem finding 25 Christmas books, even though most were not favorites!

  11. Colleen- Thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing my post! I'm super excited to explore your blog some more! I'm always looking for tips on decluttering...we still have so far to go!

    Shannah and Lynn- I LOVE the book idea! That is wonderful!!!

    Chelle- I completely agree it is so hard! The marketing people are working extra hard this time of year (and I would know since my husband works in the industry!). You really have to stand your ground and remind yourself why you chose this path! :)

  12. I couldn't believe how Christmas decorations were out way before Halloween this year. I think the retailers are worried. We aren't doing a lot this year. I have been working on getting rid of stuff all year and don't want to bring more in. I am giving cash to the older 3 kids since they won't be here for the holiday. I don't know what we will do for the younger two yet. I just want to do things very simply and I am spending about 1/4 to 1/3 of what I usually have spent in the past. I am a little concerned about how the kids will feel, but I want Christmas to be more meaningful. I don't want it to be about the presents. It is an enjoyable part, but it can easily take over everything.


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