November begins this week and that means the holiday season is almost upon us! I’ve written before about taking on a more minimalist approach to gift-giving (you can read those posts here and here), but today I want to address talking to friends and family about this sensitive topic. If you are trying to reduce the number of gifts you’re exchanging or focus more on experience gifts to cut down on household clutter, you will need to discuss this change with the people in your life. These can be tricky conversations to initiate, so here are some ways to ease the transition.
1. Acknowledge their generosity - Recognize their past thoughtfulness with regards to the gifts they have given you (or your children) in the past. Some people use gift-giving as their love language, and if that is the case make note of it as well to show you understand where they are coming from. For example, “I know you like to show the kids how much you care by giving them a lot to unwrap at Christmas.”
2. Explain your perspective - If you are making a conscious decision to minimize material belongings, reduce spending, or to teach your children about living with less, make this clear to the people in your life. Let them know this is an important issue for you. You may find others share your view and are relieved that you spoke up about it.
3. Ask for support - Instead of imposing your view on others, ask them to help you in reaching your goals. With grandparents you might say, “We are trying to teach the kids to appreciate their things and when they have an excess number of toys they get overwhelmed. Can you help us out by limiting the number of gifts you give them?”
4. Provide alternatives - The best way to get others on board with minimizing gifts is to present alternatives that they can get excited about. Maybe it’s a family trip or outing they can contribute to, or providing lessons or supplies for an activity your child enjoys. If you are trying to reduce gifts exchanged among adults in the family or at work, propose everyone contribute to a special meal that you can enjoy together or chip in to make a charitable donation instead.
5. Set boundaries (and stick to them) - Set some clear boundaries with the people in your life around gifts. It could be a maximum number of gifts per person or that gifts will only be exchanged for children and not adults in the family. You may get some resistance to this and some people might not stick to the agreement, but try to not give in to the pressure. Change is difficult and you may need to revisit this conversation more than once to get them others on board.
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Make it fab!