'Tis the Season: How to Handle Gift-Giving Relatives as a Minimalist

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Maybe you’ve been on your journey to a more minimalist life for a while now, or maybe you’re just starting out.

Either way, chances are you’ve thought about a scenario that goes something like this:

Says mother: “What do you want for Christmas?”

Says daughter: “Oh, nothing. We have everything we need.”

Says mother: “Well I have to get you SOMETHING.”

Says daughter: “No, really. It’s okay. We’ve just decluttered a bunch of stuff and it’s been nice.”

Says mother: “Oh, too bad. I can’t not get you something for Christmas. You deserve a treat! You’re so frugal.”

 

Maybe you’ve even had this conversation (I know I have, and I hear from the folks in the Facebook group for my 7-day course that it’s a pretty common conversation these days). Maybe you’ve even been the ‘mother’ in this conversation.

Even though I’m committed to not letting extra junk come into my life, I understand the mother’s perspective. Giving is a beautiful act. It makes the giver feel good, and typically, it makes the receiver feel good too (unless the giver is trying to give you a) a horrible set of clown figurines or b) a gift you’ve already received from someone else, and so you’re now stuck wondering which one you should return and who you would rather offend least).

I think giving is so important, in fact, that I recently said that mutual generosity is the thing that holds a good relationship together (okay, and wine).

But it’s even more important that this giving is not bringing you stress and unhappiness. The other person’s intentions are undoubtedly good. It could be that they think they’re doing you a favour because they see your lifestyle as a life of deprivation, rather than a lifestyle of abundance, or it could be because they simply don’t understand, or they think you’re too afraid to ask for what you really want. Whatever the reason, first know that they’re coming from a good place no matter how frustrating the situation is.

If you’ve got someone (or a couple someones) in your life that are making this situation a reality, here are a few ways you can make the holiday season a little bit easier.

 

1. Explain your situation

There’s a good chance if minimalism is new to your life, they might simply not know, or not understand the changes you’re making. Take a few minutes to explain in a cheery, light conversation this new journey you’re on, why you’re taking the steps to simplify your life, and how happy it’s made you. Try to keep it positive, but if they are very insistent, let them know how much stress and unhappiness the clutter is bringing to your life, and why you’re making the change, i.e.: to spend more time doing the things you love/hanging out with your kids/dog/spouse/hamster, etc.

 

2. Live by example

The best way to show people how great any lifestyle is, is simply by showing them— not telling them— how it’s changing your life. Show them how happy you are. If they’re not convinced by what you’re saying, they may someday be convinced by how happy you are. They may look at you and think: “Man, what is going on in this girl’s life? I’ve never seen someone so happy.” And then you can wink, and say “It’s Minimalism.”

 

3. Suggest alternatives

Often when relatives and friends are insisting on giving you something, it’s not because they’re desperate for you to have a salad spinner— it’s because they want you to be happy. When you protest, it’s easy for these people to feel as though you’re just trying to be humble or selfless, or are depriving yourself in some way, similarly to how some people deflect a compliment.

If someone you care about desperately wants to throw money and affection your way, direct it away from non-material goods. Ask for a certificate for the spa, or suggest that the two of your go out for dinner together— that way you’re getting meaningful experiences over things. If that’s not your bag, you could also request they make a donation to a charity you support in your name.

 

4. Put your foot down

No one can actually give you something if your hands are closed. They cannot force objects upon you. They cannot insist that you take something, and they cannot force you to keep it. If you’ve done steps 1-3, and you’ve made a sincere effort to explain your position and the other people is still not responding, you’re not being respected by your own family or friends. Plain and simple. Those people that respect your decisions will follow along, even if they don’t quite understand what the hell is up with you.

It’s like telling your family members you’re vegetarian. They may not get it, but it’s totally not cool for them to continually insist you eat meat.

It’s up to you to decide which things belong in your life, and what quality of life you want to have. You’re the only one who can stand up for your values and uphold your lifestyle choices.

 

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Have you ever had to deal with relatives and friends who insist on giving you things you don't really need? How did you handle the situation? Let us know in the comments!

 
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'Tis the Season: How to Handle Gift-Giving Relatives (and friends) as a Minimalist. // It's that time of year again and your loved ones are insisting you need a few more possessions in your life. Here's how to tactfully handle the situation when you know fewer possessions = fewer worries.