Gentle Minimalism at Chirstmas

With Christmas can come the feeling of dread for all the unwelcome “gifts” that can be bestowed upon us. Statistically many of us will spend more than we budgeted on our children as will their grandparents. I hear from so many mothers that grandparents don’t know when to stop with the huge expensive gifts, or refuse to acknowledge parents preferences or suggestions.  In less than a month there will be more toys, more games, more stuff for every room. Sometimes the feeling is extremely overwhelming.

Start Proactively

In preparation for the gifts that will inevitably be added to our life, I evaluate what we have and are using. The first step is to try to rid ourselves of what we do not need or use. This allows me to be aware of what we do need and use, and to be able to give grandparents informed gift ideas if they want them. Logically thinking through it also helps me to make sure we are not getting carried away with the sales pitches that bombard us from every side. Best of all it helps me to buy what we really want our children to have.

The Purge

I start by analyzing what space we have for things. For the children we have one cupboard in the main area for their toys, and one shelf in their room. Ideally this is all the space we keep for toys. I take everything from these spaces and pour them out onto the bedroom floor (this is the kid’s favorite day of the year). They happily play around me while I pitch dollar trinkets picked up at birthday parties, torn art projects, and broken toy. All the toys in good working order go back into their proper buckets. The whole process allows me to also think back onto what they’ve been playing with.

  • Can I make something they haven’t used in a while more accessible?
  • Is this toy a good fit for them?
  • Should I keep these for another stage, or is it just not a good choice to have at all?

I also look through our books and ask myself

  • Which books that need to be repaired?
  • Are there any that I can think of while we are cleaning up that I’ve intended to pick up for them because they are difficult to access at the library due to popularity? (Here is one we want)
  • Could they ready for books that are more challenging?
  • Which of these are low quality and not being read at all?

Good Communication with Grandparents

I have also tried to be very clear in communicating to grandparents what we need for the kids. Treat them as your ally, not the enemy. Let them know what gifts your little people would LOVE to see under the Christmas tree. I find if you frame it in a way where THEY are the ones capable of bestowing joyful gifts on their grandchildren. If necessary remind yourself of that same thing. We always get much further by being kind, than by informing them how their gifts make your life more difficult. Here are a couple sample scripts….

Bad Example

“Mom I wish you wouldn’t buy battery operated toys. It’s just so annoying for me to have to listen to all day long. Also, the kids just have so much stuff, maybe you should just skip it this year.

I’m sure you can think of more conversations gone wrong in this department, so I’ll spare you the cheesy lines.

A Different way to Frame the Conversation

“Hey, Mom, there is something I’ve been thinking that the kids would LOVE to get this year for Christmas. We thought about getting it for them ourselves, but I thought you’d like to be the one to do it. I’ve been watching them play and they’ve used their blocks (or whatever your kids love) to death this year. They would get a TON of use out of some farm animals and people to go with the set.”

Or… “Mom, the kids have so many toys they’ve started breaking them on purpose because they aren’t valuing what they have. We are trying to cut back on what we are giving them this year. I was wondering if you would be willing to help me create a scavenger hunt that leads to zoo passes for them this year. It could be set up so they have something to open and it would be really memorable gift. They would love to go to the zoo so much, and we haven’t been able to take them much before this year.”

Be sure what you are saying is truthful. Anyone can see through lies a mile away, and you’ll lose credibility. By treating grandparents as part of the team rather than creating an “us against them” situation I think we will all have a much more successful time coming to agreement on gift ideas.

What did I miss?

I would love to hear your ideas. How do you promote minimalism during the holidays? Is everyone on your parenting team supportive of the way you are doing it, or have you run into this problem? How did you deal with it?

 

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