Minimalism and the Holidays: Finding Meaning (the best we can) in Consumerism

While I’ll be the first to admit I am one of the world’s worst minimalists (do you think there is a coffee mug that says that?), I do try. At the least, trying is better than not attempting to live a minimalist lifestyle at all. I no longer have a CD collection, which makes me at least a level one minimalist, right? The holidays are a racket that is great for businesses, sparks the greed of consumers, sets off hardcore minimalists all over the nation, and leaves minimalists-in-training (that’s what I’ll label myself, even though I’ve been at this well over a year now) wondering if they can survive it all.

If you know me at all, you know I (once again) try to live a fairly judgment-free life. I try, try, try not to judge others, but I fail, fail, fail a lot at that too…just like minimalism. The point is, if you have a thousand gifts under your Christmas tree already, which you purchased in a mosh pit at the local retailer of your choice on Black Friday, well, I’m not judging you for that. You do your thing, and I’ll (try) to do mine. You’re a lot braver than me, anyway, if you went out on Black Friday.

Recently having a kid has made it even more difficult to continue pursuing a minimalist lifestyle. I am making due there, but that’s another post for another day. However, the holidays are extremely difficult for a minimalist, especially one in training such as myself, because the holidays have become so starkly focused on consumerism (I say become as if it hasn’t been this way for a decade or more already).

Gifts, gifts, gifts.


Yesterday, I shared a post on Facebook I saw on Joshua Becker’s page. I’ve included it here for you to see. Along with this, I typed up a post about how we as a family are trying to bring a little meaning back into consumerism, and how I am trying to find meaning outside consumerism for the holiday season. As is usually the case in this kind of situation, only two people “liked” it. That’s alright—I’m not out to grab as many likes as I possibly can, but the truth is not a lot of people generally “like” anything with substance on Facebook. The feed is meant to be quick, easily scrollable, and easily digestible with little to no affect on ourselves. I am guilty of this superficial attachment to Facebook myself, so please, put those typing finger guns down.

The minimalist road is a multi-layered struggle for me. My wife is not a minimalist nor is she interested in being one. She does her best to support my own efforts, but it simply isn’t important to her in the same way it is to me. My kid is a kid (I continue to blow you away with my wit and intellect, don’t I?). She isn’t old enough to know what minimalism is, much less take stock of whether the thirty toys scattered across her playpen are making her any happier as a person. Geez, she’s not even one, yet. I plan to be open and honest with her about this as she gets older, though, keeping her focused on being minimal with possessions without stepping on my wife’s toes.

My extended family is also into the “big” Christmas deal. Lots of gifts, especially when it comes to the kids. These kids, my niece-in-laws, I’ll call them, enjoy getting gifts, the family enjoys buying gifts for them, and that is all their prerogative—there is absolutely nothing wrong with that if that’s what they want. It’s simply how they show one another love. Here I stand, though, with almost ten people wanting to buy me gifts and a wife that wants to buy each other gifts as well as gifts for her nieces (how dare she want to buy Christmas gifts for children!?!?). What is a poor, struggling, minimalist-in-training to do?

I know I can’t escape consumerism entirely given my circumstances, so I’ve taken steps to make the consumerism as meaningful as I possibly can (hardcore minimalists everywhere are throwing rotten tomatoes at their screens now). I asked my wife if we could do the Christmas challenge:


Thankfully, my wife agreed. Now the presents my nieces receive will fall into these four categories, and we will only purchase one present per category. Yes, the nieces will only receive four gifts (measly, really, right?) from us for each of them, including something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. While it isn’t the best situation for a minimalist-in-training to be in, it is much better than buying twenty toys for each of them that may never be touched or may be so cheap they fall apart within the first few days. Each niece will come away with something a little more meaningful, and I am thankful to my wife for allowing us to do it this way.

What makes my wife even more awesome is that she agreed to take it a step farther. I know my wife. She would be miserable if we could not buy Christmas gifts for one another, and knowing this, I suggested we extend the Christmas challenge to ourselves. Four gifts each: something we want, something we need, something to wear, and something to read. Again, not the most desirable position for a minimalist-in-training to be in, but since my wife is not a minimalist and I need to respect that, this is a fair compromise that adds a little meaning back into the holiday season (plus my wife is frighteningly big and strong—seriously, she could kick my butt in a second if I crossed her).

More so, I’ve asked the people in my life to either refrain from buying me gifts or to buy me gifts I can use to spend time with my family. Gift cards are good for this—gift cards to the movies, to restaurants, to exhibits, etc. These are things we can’t always afford to do considering the majority opinion is that we need to feed and clothe our baby (honestly, people are SO demanding).

Given the multiple layers of my minimalist struggle, I think I am doing alright this holiday season overall.

I can ask you to become a minimalist if you aren’t already one. That can be your Christmas present to me. I suggest you check out what The Minimalists have available to read if you’re serious about gifting me in this way. However, that might not be for you (Not your cup of tea? Here, have a coffee instead). Instead, I ask you, at the least, to consider how you can bring some meaning into your purchases if you are bent on making those purchases. Maybe the Christmas challenge is something your family can try out. Perhaps your spouse or kids are open to the idea of minimalism, after all. Have you ever asked? If nothing else, consider whether or not the person you want to shower with gifts even wants the gifts you’re buying. They might be a minimalist-in-training or a hardcore minimalist and you don’t even know (*sings tune to secret agent man*)!

In short, take a little time to find a way to make the often superficial portions of the holiday just a touch more meaningful…if you can.

2 thoughts on “Minimalism and the Holidays: Finding Meaning (the best we can) in Consumerism

Add yours

  1. Love this. So many of the blogs I have read on minimalism are much farther along in the journey. It is refreshing to see someone else struggling to determine what minimalism means to her and her family.

    This journey is not an easy one!


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