Does the thought of the influx of stuff at Christmas time fill you with dread? Are you worried your decluttering progress so far will unravel? Read on for some practical tips to reduce or even eliminate the festive excess and accompanying stress:
1. Try and talk to relatives ahead of time – this is the biggie, the one single piece of advice I give anyone who really doesn’t want a deluge of gifts for themselves or (more commonly) their children. For many relatives, giving gifts is an expression of their love and they may not be aware that they are adding to the burden of your clutter. Take time now (before gifts are purchased) to explain your attempts to declutter, and how they could help rather than hinder them. The rest of my tips may give you some ideas of what to include in that all important ahead-of-time discussion.
2. Suggest experiences rather than items as gifts. This can be such a win-win for all concerned. Vouchers can be purchased for days out, craft lessons, leisure activities, play sessions, the list is endless! If you can state a preference for this kind of gift, perhaps even involving the giver in the experience itself, it will take up no space in your home and give lots of pleasure later on in the year when the Christmas-crazy has become a distant memory. (Don’t forget to thank the giver once you’ve used the voucher!)
3. Consider buying less (or nothing) for adults. For a few years now, our extended family has been giving gifts to the under 18s only. Our reality is that most of us grown-ups have what we need in life and so can prove hard to buy a gift for at the best of times. Since agreeing ‘no gifts for adults’, the Christmas shopping burden for all our family has been lifted and the focus has been on the children. If this seems too harsh for your tribe, consider introducing size limits, budget constraints, or a system such as Secret Santa to avoid any one person being inundated.
4. Avoid joke and novelty gifts (unless you are sure they will be loved and/or used.) It may get a laugh on Christmas Day but by New Year it is likely to be found in the pile of unwanted items. Charity shops are full of them, so do your bit to stop the waste by steering clear in the first place.
6. Make your own gifts. If you are crafty, or handy in the kitchen, try and find some time to get creative. Involve kids if you have them. Make a batch of jam / chutney / biscuits / cakes or craft something practical like cards / bookmarks / photo frames / gloves / mug-warmers / dishcloths etc. In my experience hand-crafted items are often treasured (because they spark extra joy!) and consumables, especially food, are usually scoffed therefore not adding to anyone’s clutter. 😉
7. If in doubt, ask. If you really don’t know what to buy for that tricky relative, try asking them. If you state your intention (not to end up buying something that they don’t want or need) they may even be pleased you did. In the case of children, ask the parents for ideas. I realise this may spoil some of the ‘surprise’ element of Christmas but for me this is preferable to adding to the waste element, both in terms of the item itself and the time and money you spent buying it.
8. And when it’s all over, be prepared to do some letting go. Marie Kondo is famous for her attitude to gifts. She says, “The true purpose of a present is to be received, because gifts are a means for conveying someone’s feelings for you. When viewed from this perspective, there is no need to feel guilty about parting with a gift that ultimately doesn’t spark joy.”
So if an item you’ve been given isn’t something you like or would use (and you don’t have the receipt to return or exchange it) then find the courage to let it go with gratitude. Keeping things purely out of guilt or obligation serves no-one. When I let an item go, I always visualise someone for whom it’s ‘the perfect thing’ discovering it in a charity shop and it making their day. The charity raises much-needed funds and my home gets to remain a joy-filled haven. <3
I hope these tips have been helpful. Do let me know if you manage to find the courage to have those tricky-but-worthwhile conversations. Of course if your family don’t have a problem with Christmas excess, that’s wonderful. Whoever you’re with and wherever you are celebrating, my dearest wish is that you create the Christmas experience that sparks joy for you!
Decluttering Coach and Certified KonMari™ Consultant