Like many people around the world, I woke up to a large pile of trash—and more stuff in my house than I had before. And I am one of the lucky ones.
Gifts Don't Have to Mean More Stuff
My wife's family, whom we hosted for Christmas, are awesome people. There's long been a discussion about ways to reduce the gift buying. And there's been a steady increase of reusable and/or reclaimed gift wrap; homemade presents; presents from artisan craftspeople (both local and via Etsy); and a genuine effort to find gifts that folks will use and love. Re-gifting is not (I think!) frowned upon, and time-, experience and/or charity donation-gifts are often the ones that get the most oohs and ahhs. (I myself scored a donation to Solaraid, one of my favorite charities, as well as the promise of some shiitake mushroom spawn once the Spring rolls around.)
And yet the conversation came up again that many people still feel overwhelmed by the amount of gifts they feel obliged to buy, and bored by the long ritual of unwrapping them. Luckily, this was the perfect time to discuss that to do about it. The effort of Christmas-shopping was still fresh in our memories. We were still gathered together and able to discuss what we really cherished. (Yes, many of us do love buying things for those we hold dear - and that's OK too.) And we were able to voice our opinions, concerns and even frustrations face-to-face. Best of all, we were able to get creative about what to do next year.
Talk To Each Other About What You'd Like to Change
From restricting our "Secret Santa" gifts to something we make ourselves; to reducing the amount of money we spend; to asking folks to buy used goods and/or to buy experiences instead of things (my kids already received a number of pre-loved and homemade items, much to my delight), the ideas were coming thick and fast. Rather than somehow spoiling the joy of Christmas, I think many of us found it the perfect opportunity to think hard about what the holiday means to us—and to have fun dreaming up new traditions and new ways of showing our appreciation.
So if you're waking up this morning with a "stuff hangover" and a huge pile of recycling (please tell me you are recycling all that gift wrap!), then why not channel your frustration into a conversation about what comes next. Given the hard economic times, chances are that even the most ardent of shoppers may be harboring similar thoughts and is just waiting for someone else to voice them.
I've said before that green lifestyle choices will never save us. But when we engage our families in a discussion about lifestyle choices, and start reexamining some of our most cherished cultural traditions, we move from individual virtue and into the realm of cultural change. And cultural change is a gift we could all do with.
I, for one, can't wait till next year.