December is a time that really tests me. I committed to this conscious consumerism journey about 10 years ago. I was living in Mexico and started to see a pattern in my living situation that both shocked and scared the hell out of me. The last three places I had lived in were progressively larger, and yet the amount of “stuff” seemed to keep growing.
Living in Mexico was a test in a lot of ways. Many things are more expensive there than you would think – electronics, clothes, house furnishings, etc. What I found myself doing was on trips the US I would “stock up” on whatever items were cheaper here in a way to compensate for what I felt were ridiculous prices in Mexico. If you know anyone that lives or has relatives in Latin America, you know this story. It’s incredibly common, although cumbersome!
This practice in and of itself was not an issue, by any means. However, it was a trigger for me. Hoarding runs in my family, dating back to my dear grandfather on my mom’s side – and probably even further back if we could trace it. When my grandfather passed, there were three LARGE garages to go through – in addition to his home. Anytime he would see something for free or for a discount, he would store it away for later use. Yet that later use rarely comes.
In many ways, I’m grateful for this lineage issue we all work with. When it gets triggered, it forces a deepening of my practice. Ten years ago, that looked like a massive downsizing. I went from a 1,600 sq ft house to a 750 sq ft apartment. I had a huge garage sale, which was a whole experience in and of itself in Mexico, and sold off the things that were weighing me down. It was an incredible feeling!
December of that year was the first test of my commitment, and each year it continues to challenge me. Some years are easier than others, yet the key to navigating this season comes back to one thing. How can I honor the gift that the people in my life truly are, while bringing consciousness into every purchase or exchange?
Here are some of the ways that have shown up over the years. I share these in hopes it will help you with your journey!
- Create a gift exchange within your family so that each person can focus their energy and resources on a more meaningful gift. We implemented this with my immediate family two years ago, and it’s such a joy to narrow down the Christmas search for that one person on my list!
- Discuss an alternative approach with your family. In my husband’s family, gifts are designated for the grandchildren. Adults exchange cards or possibly a small token such as a bottle of wine brought to dinner.
- Ask each family member to create an Amazon wish list of things they actually need. This will give you a good idea of what’s useful, that you can then take into your shopping plan and possibly find a creative version for them.
- Gift experiences instead of things. A gift card to a favorite juice bar or local restaurant. With that small gift, you are giving your loved one an excuse to go to their favorite place.
- When possible, buy local. This simple act helps keep the money earned in a specific area local to that area longer, enhancing economic growth. For example, you make $20 through your job, you then use that $20 to buy a gift card to your juice bar that purchase from local farmers, they in turn use that $20 to pay employees who use that to pay rent. That $20 has just cycled your community 4 times, where as if you were to purchase a $20 candle from a store or a book from amazon – that $20 leaves your community immediately.
- Donate to a charity in honor of your loved one. One year (pre-gift exchange), I donated to Heifer International in honor of each of my family members. They were thrilled that I had been able to buy a goat for someone who had no economic access, and it really got us into the true essence of the holidays – wonder. The life changing work that these organizations do for the forgotten place in the world brings so much hope to the holidays!
This year brings new challenges for me. I’m both recently married, and I have a brand new nephew in the mix! My game plan is to really focus on experiences and practical gifts. My nephew is growing, so that’s quite easy. He needs clothes that fit! My husband and I are working on a list of things that we truly need, and we’re both committed to the no extra stuff idea.
Wherever your consumer journeys take you this year, I hope it’s inspired and fun! Gone are the days of dreadful shopping experiences. There are so many ways to get creative with your resources.
Wishing you the very best for this holiday season!